Heraldry - Knebworth House

When you visit Knebworth House, the children will see many beautiful and
interesting things including the fierce-looking heraldic beasts outside the
House and coats of arms sculptured into the walls. Inside, ask them to look at
the patterns and pictures in bright colours on the stained glass windows. In
the State Drawing Room, Henry VII with the arms of Tudor and Beaufort are
depicted on the long window at the end of the room. On the ceiling, look at the
armorial quarterings and the children could count how many there are.
Nowadays, heraldry is a record of family history. It developed over hundreds
of years from the “devices” painted on shields so knights could be identified
when they went into battle. These devices were first used in war and jousting
tournaments in the 12th Century. The earliest arms were plain and bold.
Bright colours were used so that they could be seen clearly from a distance
on the battlefield. In time, they became more elaborate. Knights started
putting pictures of powerful animals and birds on their shields to show their
importance. Some chose to illustrate their names and show pride in their
Knights wore helmets that covered their faces completely. The visor covered
their eyes and they only had narrow slits to see through. This meant that
vision was limited. It was a matter of life and death that they could still be
recognised by their friends and followers and not mistaken for enemies. So
began the distinctive markings on shields and pennons. Each knight chose a
device that was unique and always used the same one.
In the 14th Century, knights began to wear sleeveless tunics called surcoats
over their armour and put their arms on them as well. The surcoats became
known as Coats of Arms.
It is a long time since Knights have gone into battle on horseback but
sometimes people dress up as knights and joust at tournaments for
entertainment. This sort of tournament is sometimes held at Knebworth Park.
Arms are still granted today to people who have not inherited any but who can
satisfy certain rules. Councils of towns and counties are also granted arms
and so are colleges and schools. Your school probably has a coat of arms
and it may be on the school badge. Arms are used on seals, documents,
flags and buildings. Ask the children to keep an eye out and see how many
they can find in your town or village.
Designing A Coat of Arms
The design should comprise “clues” about them so that their friends would
recognise it as being belonging to their family. Children could use the outline
of the shield included in the pack.
COLOURS - choose two favourite colours for the background of the
shield. They could include some of the patterns on the previous page
on the shield.
SHIELD - this should include something about what they like to do
(hobby, sport or other pastime) or maybe what they would like to be
when they grow up.
SUPPORTERS - these appear either side of the shield and can be
animals, people or mythical beings. They may choose a different one
for each side, or have both the same. Choose their favourite/s.
CREST - this appears at the top of the coat of arms and shows
something associated with their name however loosely. It could be an
animal that rhymes with their name or something that depicts it. They
could even choose an animal that says something about their
MOTTO - this appears at the bottom of the coat of arms and would
normally be three words describing why the knight would be a good
ally. Think of three words that sum up their strengths or one of their
strengths. They could think of the best comments they get on their
school report, or how their friends would describe them.
Here is the Coat of Arms the first Lord Cobbold designed when he was
knighted in 1960.
The crowns are taken from the Lytton coat of Arms. The gold
circles represent money as Lord Cobbold was Governor of the
Bank of England and Lord Chamberlain to the Queen.
The lion was already associated with the Cobbold family. Its
crown is cobalt (Cobbold) blue.
Supporters: Lord Cobbold’s favourite pet labradors, Bella and Lena. They
were both bitches but the laws of heraldry decreed that on the
Coat of Arms they had to appear as dogs.
“Rebus Augustis Fortis” means “Strength in Adversity”.