Posted By:Patrick Manly
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Subject:Characteristics of German coats of arms
Post Date:October 12, 2012 at 06:26:26
Message URL:http://genforum.genealogy.com/coatofarms/messages/3939.html
Forum:Coat of Arms Forum
Forum URL:http://genforum.genealogy.com/coatofarms/

It should be interesting to students of heraldry that some typical characteristics of German coats-of-arms are that differencing is often done simply by using different crests above the helm rather than altering the shield in any way, that the torse or twisted wreath between the helm and crest is not always used in German Heraldry, that supporters are not always used by persons of a rank that would usually use supporters in other countries, and that princely German families who were princes of the Holy Roman Empire have the option of using the black double-headed eagle as a supporter, though they do not always. In fact, some very ancient German families use a very simple form of arms, sometimes even without any crest above their helmet, if the arms are so ancient as to pre-date the invention of the crest, and display their arms proudly with just the ancient barrel-helmet and without any extra frills such as supporters. This ancient type of nobility is often described as "Uradel" if they have no other specific title such as Graf (Count) or Fuerst or Prinz (both of which mean Prince). This type of coat of arms resembles nothing so much as the simple arms of a Scottish gentleman, though the German nobleman bearing arms such as these may be of considerably higher rank than a mere Esquire.
Another characteristic of German Heraldry is that multiple helmets are very often used for quarterly arms;whereas, in other countries' heraldic systems, just the paternal crest would be represented on the single helm, no matter how many quarterings the shield may display, in German arms one will frequently find that every quartering in the arms has its corresponding crested helmet sharing space above the shield. Of course, this design would be impracticable in terms of actually bearing such an enormous shield, let alone the fact that a bearer of such arms would have only one head, and therefore it would be impractical to have more than one helmet. This would be the argument of an heraldic "purist" such as the late Leslie Gilbert Pine;however, such is in fact the actual practis of many a German noble family.