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of the extraordinary phenomena of the wars of the
We shall first inquire into the right or authority for the display of the cross on national banners, on the principles of a system which men have formed for the regulation and decision of matters of insignia, of titles of honour, and of rank and station. Heraldry sprang out of the terrible wars which were carried on under the ensign of the cross, against the infidels with their standard of the crescent. Heraldry deals with the signs or figures, and devices which were adopted and displayed by the professors of chivalry, and, in later times, with the insignia of crests and armorial bearings, used by individuals and families as distinctive of their names and ranks. Heraldry, in its principles, embodied in some form or another, is almost universal, as it merely gives expression to that desire of distinction inherent in man, whether in a barbarous or civilised state; and, indeed, among people prone to war, distinctive marks and symbols are necessary for the various chiefs and officers in the turmoil of battle.
* James's "History of Chivalry," p. 272.
+ Porter's "Progress of the Nation,” p. 337.
Chivalry, in its highest type, was "Christianity in armour." There was a period during the middle ages of a darkness which might be felt. Law and social order gave place to anarchy and confusion. Violence, rapine, and lust, overspread a considerable part of Europe. Wherever property and the beauty of women were to be found, there the armed robber and the ravager threw themselves on their prey. The voice of the Christian missionary could not be heard, nor was his person safe; and religion and its ministers had to be confined within the thick walls and fastnesses of the monastery and the church. During this period of the triumph of lust and violence, men of ardent minds, moved by compassion for the misery around them, and animated by philanthropy, put themselves forward with the valour characteristic of the age, to arrest the evil and crush the evil-doers. They were men of piety and devout spirits, and, placing their swords on the altar, they made a solemn vow "to speak the truth, to succour the helpless and oppressed, and never to turn back from an enemy." All those generous, valiant, and devout men, gradually became leagued in a common cause of protecting religion, helping the oppressed, and putting down violence, and at length formed the order and institution of chivalry.* James, in his History of Chivalry, says that it is easier to form an idea of the "spirit of chivalry," than define what it really was. It is certain that the institution and its principles have contributed much to the civilisation of Europe. One grand development of chivalry was exhibited in the expedition of the crusades; and, to the surprise of the world, the leaders of the chivalry of Europe encountered in the chivalry of Palestine and Arabia enemies worthy * James's "Hist. of Chivalry," p. 12.
of their valour. The chivalry of the Bedouin Arabs and the Saracens was of a more ancient date, and of as heroic a character as that of Europe. Making allowance for their respective creeds and difference of race, Saladin and other Saracenic chiefs were as heroic and valiant as any of the noblest of the Christian warriors. Heraldry, as a system of arranging distinctive badges and coats of arms, was either borrowed from the Saracens and Bedouin Arabs, or it had its origin in the necessity of distinguishing in the line of battle and its confusion, the various chiefs and leaders of the different European nations engaged in the crusades. It is in its connection with the cross used as a banner, that we bring forward the principles of that singular art. It was not until about the middle of the twelfth century, that heraldic devices were used by Christian chiefs and their followers; and it was not till the beginning of the thirteenth century that they became hereditary as the symbols of families. Heraldry, as an art, is founded on the same principles in every European country which has adopted the system.
But in some countries, such as Germany and Spain, it is more strictly guarded by law and custom. In its devices, it is hieroglyphical of the names of families, that is to say, each patronymic or family name has its particular sign or badge. However grotesque and barbarous such signs and badges may be, or however irrelevant and far-fetched, still, as long as they are the recognised symbols of names, they answer the purpose for which they were designed; and also, with certain additions and modifications, denote the rank of families in the factitious scale of feudal institutions. A person, therefore, acquainted with the art, knows the family name and title from the heraldic hieroglyphic. Heraldry, as an art, is entrenched within a number of curious
defences, and its definition, rules, and phraseology are remarkable and peculiar to itself. It is extremely punctilious in all its forms: it is technical in devices, and pedantic in its style. But in its pretensions it is very lofty, and claims to be the supreme arbiter in all matters of nobility and rank, and is the court of honour in affairs of precedence between kings, princes, and nobles.
The accomplished living author of the History of England thus humorously describes the heraldic ceremonies at the proclamation of William and Mary at the Revolution of 1688-9:-"When at length the dispute had been accommodated, the new Sovereigns were proclaimed with the old pageantry. All the fantastic pomp of heraldry was there: Clarencieux and Norray, Portcullis and Rouge Dragon; the trumpet, the banners, the grotesque coats, embroidered with lions and lilies. The title of King of France, assumed by the conqueror of Cressy, was not omitted in the royal style."*
In heraldry there are two hieroglyphics for each family name; the minor, the crest, and the major, the full coat of arms with the motto. In the formation of those crests and coats of arms various natural objects are used from the animal and vegetable world, from the planetary bodies, and from articles of husbandry, trade, and war. The human figure is also much used in armorial bearings. The figures of the fierce animals, such as the lion, the tiger, the eagle, and the dragon, have been used as distinctive badges by almost every people since the world began. Among armorial bearings and heraldic devices, the prevalence of the figures of wild beasts, fabulous monsters, and of savages in a state of nudity, as supporters of the armorial shield, Macaulay's History.
unequivocally prove the barbarous state of society, and the consequent want of taste in the time of the invention of the art. The armorial bearings, or the heraldic badges, of a man were displayed on a shield, or an escutcheon, or on a banner. From what has been said of the punctiliousness of heraldry, and of its pretensions to decide questions of precedence, and to regulate ceremonies of public solemnity, it follows that its fundamental principle must be that of preserving each device, or armorial bearing, on shield or banner, exclusively to the person or family, or country to whom it belongs. Therefore no man or family can assume, carry or display the arms of another man or family. No king, or potentate, or nation, by the laws of heraldry, can assume and appropriate the arms and banner of another king or nation. To do so would be an act of pretension, which would lead to disastrous consequences, and to war and invasion. The most extraordinary case of this nature is to be found in the history of England and France. Edward III. of England pretending to have a claim of right to the crown of France, introduced the French armorials into those of England, and it was not until the beginning of the present century, at the end of a terrible war with France, that the King of Great Britain and Ireland was compelled to give up the arms, and relinquish his pretensions. Another case may be found in the history of England and Scotland. Queen Elizabeth never forgave her kinswoman, Mary Stuart, for assuming the arms of England.
Connected with the English banner of the cross carried by Richard of England in the wars of the crusades, there is an episode illustrative of the dangerous consequences from a deliberate insult to a national flag. After the capture of the city of Acre, the