What Are Escutcheons?

In the discipline of heraldry, an escutcheon is the shield bearing the coat of arms. It displays designs that are unique to a family and is a means of identification. The escutcheon forms the centerpiece of the entire heraldic achievement. Heraldry is a practice that dates back to the early 12th century in Northern Europe. It takes its name from the heralds, whose job it was to keep meticulous records (known as rolls of arms) of the arms used by lords and their vassals. It started off as a way to recognize people on the battlefields, but over the ages it became a fundamental piece of a noble family’s establishment. The system saw a great boom in popularity with the advent of the tournament system in the 13th century, whereby knights would hone their skills in jousting or mock battles. As the 16th century drew onwards and firearms became more widespread, the age of classical battles came to an end. The use of guns (from a distance) obviated the need for heraldic identification on the field. Following this, the use of arms has come to represent the bloodlines and degree of families.