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Middle Ages

A Knight's Coat of Arms

History >> Middle Ages for Kids

Knights and nobles in the Middle Ages often had a coat of arms. This was a special symbol that represented their family. Having a special symbol or coat of arms is often called "heraldry".

How did having a coat of arms get started?

The first coat of arms was used to distinguish one knight from another. When a knight had on his full armor, including plate mail and helmet, even his friends couldn't recognize him. Because of this, knights began to paint symbols on their shields. They eventually began to put the symbol on their banner and the coat they wore over their armor. This is how it got the name "coat of arms".

England's royal coat of arms
Royal Arms of England
by Sodacan of Wikimedia Commons
The Herald

Each coat of arms needed to be unique. However, there were so many knights that it was tough to keep track of who had what symbol. It became the job of people called heralds to keep track of the different coats of arms. They made sure that new coats of arms were unique. They also kept track of who each coat of arms belonged to.


Over time, there became strict laws in applying for a new coat of arms. Each new coat of arms needed to be registered with the government. A coat of arms belonged to the family of the knight. He would pass the coat of arms down to his eldest son.

Designing a Coat of Arms

The original coats of arms had fairly simple designs. As there became more and more coats of arms, the designs became more complicated in order for each one to be unique. All coats of arms have certain elements, however.
Different shapes used for the escutcheon or shield

What did the color mean?

Different background colors came to have different meanings. Red was the color of a warrior and nobility. Other colors included blue for truth and sincerity, black for piety and knowledge, and green for hope and joy. The colors in heraldry are called tinctures.

What did different charges mean?

The charges used as the main figure in the coat of arms had different meanings as well. For example, the lion stood for majesty and strength, the elephant for wit and ambition, the boar for courage and ferocity, and the sun for power and glory.

Interesting Facts about a Knight's Coat of Arms Activities

More subjects on the Middle Ages:

Feudal System
Medieval Monasteries
Glossary and Terms

Knights and Castles
Becoming a Knight
History of Knights
Knight's Armor and Weapons
Knight's coat of arms
Tournaments, Jousts, and Chivalry

Daily Life in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages Art and Literature
The Catholic Church and Cathedrals
Entertainment and Music
The King's Court

Major Events
The Black Death
The Crusades
Hundred Years War
Magna Carta
Norman Conquest of 1066
Reconquista of Spain
Wars of the Roses

Byzantine Empire
The Franks
Kievan Rus
Vikings for kids

Alfred the Great
Genghis Khan
Joan of Arc
Justinian I
Marco Polo
Saint Francis of Assisi
William the Conqueror
Famous Queens

Works Cited

History >> Middle Ages for Kids

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