Book: Manners, Customs, and Observances: Their Origin and Significance
Author: Leopold Wagner

Manners, Customs, and Observances: Their Origin and Significance By Leopold Wagner

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 199
Publication Date: 1894

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As the title suggests, this is a book about the origin and significance of certain manners and customs. An interesting book that takes you through subjects such as festivals, death, legal matters and military customs and tells you things you never knew about the customs associated with them.

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1. Heraldry is in all respects a complicated science; only those who are officially connected with that sombre looking building known as Heralds' College, in Queen Victoria Street, or who have made armorial bearings their special study, can be expected to boast of something more than a superficial acquaintance with a subject so vast. Nevertheless, a few broad principles may be here laid down with advantage. It was Charlemagne who introduced heraldic devices--which had their origin in the military standards and symbolical marks of distinction on the bucklers of barbarian nations--into the Western World (see 36). Up to the time of the Crusades, however, such devices were strictly confined to rulers and princes. During the Crusades, when each and every knight had his face, in common with the rest of his body, encased in armour, the necessity for some means whereby one knight could be distinguished from another early suggested itself. To engrave his name upon his shield would have been useless, for in those days very few people could read. On the other hand, everyone could distinguish an animal from a bird, and although several knights might make a choice of the same animal or bird, there were a multitude of ways by which confusion was to be avoided. Each knight, accordingly, chose his own device, with the exception of a lion, which from being the king of beasts, and therefore regarded as the emblem of sovereign power, was appropriated by royal personages. When, for example, Richard I. returned from the Holy Land, he bore a crowned lion on the crest of his helmet, and three golden lions on his shield. For greater distinction our kings at a later date wore their crowns on their helmets in the battle-field, and earls and dukes their coronets. At the battle of Agincourt, the Duke of Alençon hewed off with one stroke of his sword part of the crown worn by King Henry V.

Again, after the death of Richard III. on Bosworth Field, his crown was picked up out of a hawthorn bush by a soldier, who brought it to Lord Stanley; in memory of which incident Henry VII. chose a hawthorn bush and a crown above it for his own cognizance. Ordinary knights displayed their chosen devices on their helmets and shields; and as it was considered a great honour to have been a Crusader, the same devices were borne by their descendants, both in peace and war. Such was the origin of armorial bearings, or Coats of Arms as they were called, from being embroidered on the rich coats worn over their armour in the field, and upon their ordinary garments at home. When they appeared with their vizors down at tournaments, a herald sounded his trumpet and announced the name, family, and rank, as revealed by the devices upon the shield and horse-furniture, of each. At a subsequent period these devices became so complicated, owing to the union and "impalement" of the armorial bearings of different families, that it was found necessary to register and place them under official control. In this way Heralds' College was called into existence. The chief representative of the college in Scotland received the name of the Lyon King at Arms, from the lion rampant on the escutcheon of the Scottish kings; that of the English provinces north of the river Trent Norroy, literally north king; and that of the corresponding district south, at first Surroy, but at a later date Clarencieux, from the nomination of the Duke of Clarence to this office by his brother, Henry V. A very short period elapsed before the heralds overcame the difficulties presented by an over-blazoned shield, by means of an abridgment in the form of a crest and motto. The earliest Mottoes were invariably the battle-cry or parole in some memorable engagement; but as time wore on imagination was called into play to devise mottoes of an original character. The idea of Supporters of the Family Arms was derived from the pages or esquires who bore the banner of a knight in the field; and, generally speaking, these supporters were an imitation of the beasts represented in the arms themselves. What are known as Emblems in armorial bearings were originally the devices displayed on the livery or worn as badges on the arms of servants and retainers of the nobility. Even tradesmen who had the privilege of supplying goods or provisions to a nobleman were expected to wear his livery and display his badge in mediaeval times. From this custom the assumption of the royal arms on his shop-front by a highly-favoured tradesman took its rise.

2. The Royal Arms of Great Britain are familiar to everyone, yet those who understand the signification of their component parts are few. The Three Golden Lions on a red field in the first quarter are described in heraldic parlance as "gules, three lions passant gardant in pale or," i.e., gules, from the French gueles, the red colour of the throat, and the Latin gula, a reddened skin; passant gardant, walking with the face looking sidewise; in pale, impaled with the arms of Scotland in the second quarter; or, from the Latin aurum, gold. Rulers and princes always chose gules for their royal colour in ancient times, because it was looked upon as the symbol of valour. Scarlet is still the royal livery of England (see 5, 30). William the Conqueror and his successors had only two lions for their royal arms; these were derived from Rollo, Duke of Normandy, who bore the first in respect of his own province, and the second of that of Maine, after it was added to Normandy. The third lion was assumed by Henry II. in right of his queen, Eleanor, daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine. The Lion Rampant in the second quarter was the ensign of the Scottish kings from the reign of William the Lion--who received his surname on its account--down to the union of the two kingdoms in the person of our James I.; just as the Harp in the third quarter was that of the early kings of Ireland, having originally been adopted in compliment to their native bards. Gallant little Wales has never been represented in the British royal arms, obviously because it has never had any arms of its own; all it can boast of is an emblem, that of the Leek (see 421.).