Label (heraldry)

Label (heraldry)

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In heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

, a label is a charge
Charge (heraldry)
In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon . This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device...

 resembling the strap crossing the horse’s chest from which pendants are hung. It is usually a mark of difference
In heraldry, cadency is any systematic way of distinguishing similar coats of arms belonging to members of the same family. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person at once...

, but has sometimes been borne simply as a charge in its own right.

The pendants were originally drawn in a rectangular shape, but in later years have often been drawn as dovetails. The label is almost always placed in the chief
Chief (heraldry)
In heraldic blazon, a chief is a charge on a coat of arms that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the top edge of the shield. Writers disagree in how much of the shield's surface is to be covered by the chief, ranging from one-fourth to one-third. The former is more likely if the...

. In most cases the horizontal band extends right across the shield, but there are several examples in which the band is truncated.

As a mark of difference

In British heraldry, the label was used to mark the elder son, generally by the princes of the royal house. Differences, or marks of cadency
In heraldry, cadency is any systematic way of distinguishing similar coats of arms belonging to members of the same family. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person at once...

, are the distinctions used to indicate the junior branches (cadets) of a family. The eldest son, during the lifetime of his father, bears the family arms with the addition of a label; the second son a crescent
In art and symbolism, a crescent is generally the shape produced when a circular disk has a segment of another circle removed from its edge, so that what remains is a shape enclosed by two circular arcs of different diameters which intersect at two points .In astronomy, a crescent...

, the third, a mullet
Mullet (heraldry)
In heraldry, the term star may refer to any star-shaped charge with any number of rays, which may appear straight or wavy, and may or may not be pierced...

, the fourth, a martlet
A martlet is a heraldic charge depicting a stylized bird with short tufts of feathers in the place of legs...

, the fifth, an annulet
Annulet (ring)
In heraldry, an annulet is a common charge.It may allude to the custom of prelates to receive their investiture per baculum et annulum .In English heraldry it is also used as the difference mark of a fifth son....

; the sixth, a fleur-de-lis
The fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-lys is a stylized lily or iris that is used as a decorative design or symbol. It may be "at one and the same time, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic", especially in heraldry...

; the seventh, a rose
Rose (heraldry)
The rose is a common device in heraldry. It is often used both as a charge on a coat of arms and by itself as a heraldic badge. The heraldic rose has a stylized form consisting of five symmetrical lobes, five barbs, and a circular seed. The rose is one of the most common plant symbols in...

; the eighth, a cross moline
Cross moline
The cross moline is a heraldic charge. It is so called because its shape resembles a millrind, moline being the Old French for a mill, the iron clamp of the upper millstone. It is very similar to one of the varieties of the "fer de moline" heraldic charge , the forked tips of which however...

; the ninth, a double quatrefoil
The word quatrefoil etymologically means "four leaves", and applies to general four-lobed shapes in various contexts.-In heraldry:In heraldic terminology, a quatrefoil is a representation of a flower with four petals, or a leaf with four leaflets . It is sometimes shown "slipped", i.e. with an...

. On the death of his father, the eldest son would remove the label from his coat of arms and assume the unmodified arms.

The label's number of points did not necessarily mean anything, although the label of three points was supposed to represent the heir during the lifetime of his father; five points, during the lifetime of his grandfather; seven points, while the great-grandfather still lived, etc.

According to some sources, the elder son of an elder son places a label upon a label. However, A.C. Fox-Davies
Arthur Charles Fox-Davies
Arthur Charles Fox-Davies was a British author on heraldry. By profession, he was a barrister but he also worked as a journalist and novelist.Born in Bristol, he was the second son of T...

 states that in the case of the heir-apparent of the heir-apparent "one label of five points is used, and to place a label upon a label is not correct when both are marks of cadency, and not charges."

As a charge

The label appears as a charge in the coats of arms of several families and municipalities, often having begun as a mark of difference and been perpetuated. It has also been used in canting arms
Canting arms
Canting arms are heraldic bearings that represent the bearer's name in a visual pun or rebus. The term cant came into the English language from Anglo-Norman cant, meaning song or singing, from Latin cantāre, and English cognates include canticle, chant, accent, incantation and recant.Canting arms –...

The number of pendants varies from three to seven (see examples below). There are also several examples of the pendants bearing charges, especially in the coats of arms of the British Royal Family (see examples below).