More About Heraldry

Coats of arms arose from the need for identification during battle. In other words, it was used to let the fighters know which who was who. The leader of course, adopted the insignia; over time the shield's design became standardized as society became more organized and "civilized". Eventually, the College of Heralds came into being as the arbiter of how the insignia was defined. While there is a strict definition of what constitutes a cost of arms, there is still a great deal of leeway in the design of an individual's personal coat of arms.


  • The Helm indicates the rank of the bearer of the arms from the gold full-faced helm of royalty to the steel helmet with closed visor of a gentleman. The latter may also be denoted by a stylized hat. Either may be affixed with a device on top, such as an animal or bird, with or without its prey. The Yarbrough helm may be either, denoting whether or not one is believed to be a direct descendent of the recognized English head of the Yarbrough house
  • The Crest is used to help distinguish the helm, similar to the device on the shield. It may be made of feathers, leather, or wood. It the case of the depicted arms, it appears to be a twisted rope.
  • The Shield, or escutcheon, is ornamented with various devices in order to identify the bearer to friends in the midst of battle. It displays the unique colors and charges (lions, designs, etc. that appear on the shield) that. Shield shapes vary according to their geographical origin as well as the time period, not to mention the personal whims of the designer.
  • Devices:
    • Colors - either a single or at most two in number, with the primary color being the first named. The shield may be divided into halves (horizontally,vertically or with a diagonal), three parts (by a line or chevron, or quadrants. Colors may alternate between parts or between sides of the shield.
    • Emblems - are the various designs within the parts of the shield and which may or may have some significance to the bearer.
    • Chevron - the chevron's shape represents the roof of a house. It was awarded for the achievement of some notable enterprise such as the building of churches or fortresses, or for some work of faithful service.
  • The Mantle was intended to shield the bearer from the the sun and rain. It is a piece of cloth placed over the helmet, draping down the back to the base of the helm. The mantle, contoise, or lambrequin is often embellished on the artistic coat of arms to give prominence to the arms and crest, and is usually presented as ribbons over the helm.
  • The Wreath is a twisted silken scarf which covers the joint where the crest is attached to the helmet. Modern heraldry depicts the wreath as two colored scarves braided together, the colors showing alternately.
  • The Motto may or may not be present on an individual coat of arms. If present, it is normally below the shield but may be placed above the crest. Not officially granted with a coat of arms, a motto may derive from an ancient family war cry. It may also reflect the family virtue or slogan.

    Using the Yarbrough coat of arms, one may infer the several attributed meanings:

    • Colors - Azure (blue): Truth and loyalty;
    • Argent (silver) - Peace and sincerity;
    • Falcon - persistence;
    • Mallard - person of many resources;
    • wreath: - triumph or one who performed an act of valor
    • chevron - notable achievement.
    * – Source: Fleur-de-lis Designs.

    © Yarbrough National Genealogical & Historical Association, Inc. 2017.