An Alphabet of Heraldry: Part Two


Now, where were we? In our last instalment, we took a look at some of the popular creatures who have appeared in heraldry for hundreds of years - and took a cooling dip into their symbolic meanings, from the legacy-nourishing pelican to the fiercely wealthy dragon. However, these magnificent creatures are not the only symbols that appear on crests and loving cups, carrying meaning with them. The alphabet of symbols continues here…


F is for Flames

One of the most passionate symbols that can feature on a crest, flames can appear when an individual has undergone severe trials and come through them stronger, like the phoenix which often appears alongside them. At the height of heraldry, flames were often used as a method of torture, but also came to symbolise rebirth and purification - so to feature them on your coat of arms often signified zeal.


G is for Gyronny

You’ll find this decorative pattern on many coats of arms, because it stands for unity. A single gyron is a line that divides a square compartment of a coat of arms, stretching from corner to corner. If the entire shield is divided like this, it’s an example of gyronny. Usually these appear in two alternating colours, and the shield will be divided in a cross and then diagonally, so the shield is split into eight sections.


H is for Heart

In ancient heraldry, the heart was sometimes a mark of sincerity - someone who was known to speak the truth. It was more commonly used as an emblem of kindness and charity - and can also appear ‘flammant’ or crowned. A flaming heart stands for enthusiastic affection.


I is for Instruments

You’ll often find examples of musical instruments appearing in heraldry - they’re often used to signify festivity and rejoicing, but also have a military meaning - perhaps the bearer of the symbol wanted to signify a call to crusade, or perhaps they represent an individual who would gladly follow a sound into battle. A hunting horn represents - you guessed it - a hunter, and a bugle was eventually adopted as a symbol of the chase, an individual fond of high pursuits.


K is for Key

A symbol with dual meanings and many different methods of representation. A key on its own can be a symbol of knowledge to be unlocked, or guardianship of something precious. If two keys appear, and they’re crossed, they can represent St Peter, who holds the keys to the gates of heaven - the Pope’s insignia features this emblem.


Discover more about heraldic symbolism as we continue moving through the alphabet of symbols next week, and feel free to find out more about the work we do for the City of London by exploring our website.

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