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Lozenge (heraldry)

Lozenge (heraldry)

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The lozenge 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"...

 is a diamond-shaped 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...

 (an object that can be placed on the field
Field (heraldry)
In heraldry, the background of the shield is called the field. The field is usually composed of one or more tinctures or furs. The field may be divided or may consist of a variegated pattern....

 of the shield), usually somewhat narrower than it is tall. It is to be distinguished in modern heraldry from the fusil, which is like the lozenge but narrower, though the distinction has not always been as fine and is not always observed even today. A mascle
A lozenge , often referred to as a diamond, is a form of rhombus. The definition of lozenge is not strictly fixed, and it is sometimes used simply as a synonym for rhombus. Most often, though, lozenge refers to a thin rhombus—a rhombus with acute angles of 45°...

is a voided lozenge—that is, a lozenge with a lozenge-shaped hole in the middle—and the rarer rustre is a lozenge containing a circular hole in the centre. A field covered in a pattern of lozenges is described as lozengy; similar fields of mascles are masculy, and fusils, fusily.

The lozenge has for many centuries been particularly associated with women as a vehicle for the display of their coats of arms (instead of the escutcheon or shield). In modern English and Scottish, but not Canadian, heraldry, the arms of an unmarried woman and of widows are usually shown on a lozenge rather than an escutcheon, without crest
Crest (heraldry)
A crest is a component of an heraldic display, so called because it stands on top of a helmet, as the crest of a jay stands on the bird's head....

 or helm. An oval or cartouche
Cartouche (design)
A cartouche is an oval or oblong design with a slightly convex surface, typically edged with ornamental scrollwork. It is used to hold a painted or low relief design....

 is occasionally also used instead of the lozenge for such women.

Married women, however, always display their arms on a shield (except peeresses in their own right, who use the lozenge for their peerage arms even during marriage).

The shield of a married woman (and the lozenge of a widow) may combine her own arms with the arms of her husband, either by impalement
Impalement (heraldry)
In heraldry, impalement is the combination of two coats of arms side-by-side in one shield or escutcheon to denote union, most often that of a husband and wife, but also for ecclesiastical use...

 side by side or (in the case of an heraldic heiress
Heraldic heiress
In English heraldry an heraldic heiress is a daughter of deceased man who was entitled to a coat of arms and who carries forward the right to those arms for the benefit of her future male descendants...

 in English heraldry
English heraldry
English heraldry is the form of coats of arms and other heraldic bearings and insignia used in England. It lies within the Gallo-British tradition. Coats of arms in England are regulated and granted to individuals by the College of Arms. They are subject to a system of cadency to distinguish...

, but not Scots) in the form of a small "escutcheon of pretence" displaying the wife's arms over a larger shield (or, in the case of a widow, lozenge) of her husband's arms.

As a result of rulings of the English Kings of Arms
King of Arms
King of Arms is the senior rank of an officer of arms. In many heraldic traditions, only a king of arms has the authority to grant armorial bearings. In other traditions, the power has been delegated to other officers of similar rank.-Heraldic duties:...

 dated 7 April 1995 and 6 November 1997, married women in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and in other countries recognising the jurisdiction of the College of Arms
College of Arms
The College of Arms, or Heralds’ College, is an office regulating heraldry and granting new armorial bearings for England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

 in London (such as New Zealand) also have the option of using their husband's arms alone, marked with a small lozenge as a brisure
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...

 to show that the arms are displayed for the wife and not the husband, or of using their own personal arms alone, marked with a small shield as a brisure
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...

 for the same reason.

Divorced women may theoretically until remarriage use their ex-husband's arms differenced with a mascle.

The lozenge shape is also used for funereal hatchment
A hatchment is a funeral demonstration of the lifetime "achievement" of the arms and any other honours displayed on a black lozenge-shaped frame which used to be suspended against the wall of a deceased person's house...

s for both men and women.


Pretoria High School for Girls
Pretoria High School for Girls
Pretoria High School for Girls, also called Girls High or PHSG, is a public, fee charging, English medium high school for girls located in Hatfield, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa.-Second Anglo-Boer War:...

 in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

is one of the few all-girls schools that was granted permission to use the lozenge as part of its coat of arms.

Further reading

  • Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1909). A Complete Guide to Heraldry. New York: Dodge Pub. Co.(and ther more recent editions)
  • Canadian Heraldic Authority, Public Register, with many useful official versions of modern coats of arms, searchable online archive.gg.ca
  • South African Bureau of Heraldry, data on registered heraldic representations (part of National Archives of South Africa); searchable online (but sadly no illustration), national.archsrch.gov.za
  • Civic Heraldry of England and Wales, fully searchable with illustrations, civicheraldry.co.uk
  • Heraldry Society of Scotland, members' arms, fully searchable with illustrations of bearings, heraldry-scotland.com
  • Heraldry Society (England), members' arms, with illustrations of bearings, only accessible by armiger's name (though a Google site search would provide full searchability), theheraldrysociety.com
  • Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, Members' Roll of Arms , with illustrations of bearings, only accessible by armiger's name (though a Google site search would provide full searchability), heralrdry.ca
  • Brooke-Little, J P , Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, An heraldic alphabet (new and revisded edition), Robson Books, London, 1985 (first edition 1975); sadly very few illustrations
  • Greaves, Kevin, A Canadian Heraldic Primer, Heraldry Society of Canada, Ottawa, 2000, lots but not enough illustrations
  • Moncreiffe of Easter Moncreiffe, Iain, Kintyre Pursuivant of Arms, and Pottinger, Don , Herald Painter Extraordinary to the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms Simple Heraldry, Thomas Nelson and Sons, London andf Edinburgh, 1953; splendidly illustrated
  • Friar, Stephen (ed) A New Dictionary of Heraldry Alphabooks, Sherborne, 1987; sadly with very few illustration of attitudes