Heraldry began as a mark of identification in social
interplay and became a useful "art" in the Middle Ages when
it was used to distinguish warriors from one another on the
battlefield. While the use of distinguishing symbols have
been adopted by the world's tribes and nations stretching
back into ancient history, heraldry first became established
in Europe following the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066.
It rapidly gained in popularity during the end of the 12th
and beginning of the 13th century.
More commonly referred to as armory, heraldry is a
system of identification that uses hereditary personal
devices portrayed on shields and later as crests, on
surcoats (worn over armor), bardings (armor and
trappings for horses), and banners (personal flags
used throughout the middle ages), to assist in the
identification of knights in battle and in tournaments.
These distinctive devices, marks, and colors, most commonly
referred to as coats of arms for the display of
arms on surcoats, were first adopted by the noble
Originally, knights were free to choose their own device, but by the
15th century, the sheer number of arms resulted in the creation of a
system to control the practice. It was during this period that
heraldry became an exact science. All armorial bearings (art)
came to be granted by the King, and all arms, both the recently
granted and those established by right of ancient usage, were
registered with the College of Arms (in England), or with
similar agencies in other countries.
Heraldry is the science of fools with
James Robinson Planché,