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"Crusades - Heraldry?" Topic

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RogerThat Inactive Member27 Feb 2006 8:04 a.m. PST

Looking for ideas/ references for heraldry for the third crusade. Specifically – the banners carried; the shield patterns and the over-armor garment design pattern. Did troops carry their own personal shield markings and wear crosses (signifying they were on crusade) on their garments somewhere? Did the troops of the leaders carry their coats of arms or wear their masters' colors? Did the royalty of each county have a distinct coat of arms/ banner for that specific county (i.e Edessa, etc.).

I would appreciate any suggestions/ information as I have an Essex 15mm Third Crusades Army awaiting a paint job…



Mulopwepaul Inactive Member27 Feb 2006 8:48 a.m. PST

Wearing the cross on one's clothing while on crusade was a practice from the 1st Crusade which endured throughout the period, again sustained by the visible example of the military orders.

The English lions are supposed to have their origin from Richard's use at this time (although we don't see all 3 on a royal seal until 1198), but there is very little documented about which blazons were associated with anyone other than the higher nobility. The importance of seals from the time of the Norman Conquest tells us that knights had their proper devices, but the probable linkage between seals and blazons is not definite until the 13th Century.

For royal banners, we know that the Oriflamme was in use from the mid-12th century, although its form prior to 1225 is debatable: (

The English banner was either 2 or 3 lions on red, depending on the source you want to believe.

The Imperial banner was the Black Eagle on gold.


No Name02 Inactive Member27 Feb 2006 9:10 a.m. PST

Yep, apart from the military orders, its personal designs with a cross around someplace (if you are on Crusade, rather than having settled there).

RudyNelson27 Feb 2006 9:30 a.m. PST

Several sources that I have seen had regular family crests on shields with a cross or X painted over the crest to show being on crusade.

Another unique aspect of contemporary painting showed that the crosses were in a variety of colors. red, green, blue, yellow and brown among others.

Ridethelightning Inactive Member27 Feb 2006 9:56 a.m. PST

It seems that even the notion of family blazons started only in the mid 14th century. The only real heraldry apparent before that is royal only and then still sporadic. Choice of decoration on shields seems to have been whimsical (aesthetic or even just lucky charm) at best. However some sources point out that the notion of retainer did already exist and that they wore either similar colors or emblems as that of their overlord. This is sort of contradictory so I follow the aesthetics of Ridley Scott in "Kingdom of Heaven" and make groups of soldiers with a cross on their shield and/or tunic and a single background color (i.e. white crosses on blue or gold crosses on green). Using different styles of crosses also helps differentiate the groups. This, though probably not entirely historical, makes for an aesthetic army.

Mulopwepaul Inactive Member27 Feb 2006 10:19 a.m. PST

It seems like a big impetus to heraldry was the introduction of the face mask for the helmet around 1200 AD—not really seen in the 3rd Crusade. Until the helmets routinely hid the face, the use of blazons on the shield was not so important or regulated.

Nonetheless, there are some powerful families whose heraldry does go back into the 12th century, but the importance seems mainly idiosyncratic until about 1200, when suddenly everyone is doing it.

link is a good source with which to get started online.


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Feb 2006 11:50 a.m. PST

I agree totally. d10s have to be bought, d6s can be aquired from a quick raid on the Yahtzee box.

Chthoniid Inactive Member27 Feb 2006 12:30 p.m. PST

There is some stuff on heraldry on my Crusades website

The links page has some useful links to some heraldry website, including the useful Armoiries des Salles des Croisades link

The Itinerarium is also a good source- the Nicholson translation is good value. This describes the lion used by Richard, and mentions lions and dragons (another of Richard's fashions) being widely adopted by troops in imitation.

Mulopwepaul is also perfectly correct when he mentions that 12th C blazons are not particularly stable yet.

Chthonic regards


Mulopwepaul Inactive Member27 Feb 2006 1:01 p.m. PST

"This describes the lion used by Richard, and mentions lions and dragons (another of Richard's fashions) being widely adopted by troops in imitation."

Similarly, in the Empire, Ghibelline cities and nobles would be rewarded for loyalty by being permitted to add the Imperial eagle to their seals and blazons.

So there is an idea of hierarchy or uniformity being developed in the heraldry of the times, but there was a long way to go before it would be routinely manifested in practice or anything as visible as a colour scheme for clothing.


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Feb 2006 1:15 p.m. PST

I hate these mixed up posts, that's not what I posted – again.

There is evidence (from the rolls of arms of the Scottish wars) of family arms – the same arms borne by father and son – up to a century before the mid 14th century. Regulation of armigerous issues comes in about 1340 in statute but was probably done under 'rules of thumb' by heralds long before that.

There are examples of arms that were considered 'Ancient' – usually meaning that they had been borne by at least three dead predecessors – in very early descriptions of family arms and some can reasonably claim continuance back to the times of the 3rd crusade or before.

In Europe it is more confused but there are examples of devices, badges and symbols and a few of simple coat colours that date back even further – some to early feudal times.

In Italy urban arms are known to have a very early history, possibly to the 8th century and one or two, less certain, claims to even longer lineage.

Certainly the introduction of the closed helm made heraldic recognition more important and was undoubtedly one of the spurs to the development of formal heraldry but I doubt it was the only one. The revival of the 'romance' and 'honour' of knighthood dates back to the 12th century and arms were certainly a feature of this – lineage had always been important and armigerous individuals could always prove their lineage more easily.

Tony H

shurite727 Feb 2006 11:48 p.m. PST

Another area to review are the original depictions found in various books. Granted some of them are not in color but at least give a nice insight to patterns. For instance there is a depiction of a Templar that show's half of his shield. There is a cross on it plus other heraldry.

From what I've read on Richard I the 3 lions do not appear until after the 3rd crusade as stated above. Some modern interpretations of Richards heraldry during the 3rd crusade are 2 lions facing the center of the shield "standing" on their hind legs.

The website posted by chthoniid is a good one to review.

During the 3rd crusade the cross was sewn on the individuals clothing, Flemish wearing one color, French another and the English another color. I'm going off of memory but I think the Flemish had a green cross. The French or English had red and I believe white was the other color.

The banner for the Kingdom of Jerusalem had a blue background with a large gold cross and 4 little gold cross' in the corners.

If you can dig up some old Slingshot issues from the 80's there are articles (with drawings) regarding the heraldry during the crusades.



Mulopwepaul Inactive Member28 Feb 2006 11:24 a.m. PST

Here's a question I've been researching a while for Crusades heraldry:

Is the blazon for the Embriaco family—Lords of Gibelet (Byblos):

or, three lions sable? or is it
or, seven lions sable? or
neither of the above?


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Mar 2006 12:27 p.m. PST


This is not an uncommon problem in early heraldry. The field colours are often the same and the charges the same but the number and position of the charges varies.

Realsitically these arms could be described as …

Or, 'lions' sable – Embriaco family

Fixing this rather haphazard variation in details was one of the tasks attempted (not always successfully) by the first few generations of heralds at the colleges of arms in many European countries.

Another possibility is a factor called 'differencing'. The field colour remains the same, the charge remains the same but its position or number changes for different members of the same family. Even in English heraldry (probably the most closely regulated system in Europe) this was never entirely fixed or regulated by the College of Arms.

So you might have ….

Or, 3 lions sable – Gilbert Embriaco

Or, 5 lions Sable – Hubert Embriaco (1st son)

Or, 7 lions sable – Guilliame Embriaco (2nd son)

Or, 3 lions sable in bend sinistre – a bastard son

etc, etc

Tony Hughes

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