Cracroft's Peerage
The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage

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Heraldry and the Peerage



The Arms of His Grace The Duke of Wellington KG


At the top of each peerage article in this work is a description of the coat of arms belonging to the holders of the title.  This is called the "blazon" and is in technical heraldic terms, many of which originated from Norman French. Above the blazon on each article relating to current hereditary dukedoms there is a graphic similar to the one above. With other peerage titles we hope to compliment the blazon with a picture of some object emblazoned with the arms, e.g. a piece of porcelain, a piece of engraved silver, a stained-glass window, a stone carving, etc.


The full "achievement" (that is to say combination of arms, crest, supporters, etc.) borne by the Duke of Wellington is similar in format to that borne by other peers in that there are certain common elements.


In the centre of the achievement is the shield, on which are displayed the arms.  In this case the arms consist of the quarterly coat of Wellesley (the Duke's family name) and Colley, with a smaller shield or escutcheon at centre honour point charged with the Union badge of Great Britain and Ireland.  This is the augmentation of honour granted to the famous general, the 1st Duke of Wellington.


Above the shield is the coronet of rank.  Every peer or peeress is allowed to display his or her coronet of rank - these differ according to the rank of the peer.


Above the coronet of rank is the helmet.  The shape of the helmet varies depending upon whether the bearer of the coat of arms is a gentleman, a knight, a peer or a member of the Royal Family.  Peers are entitled to use a closed barred helmet shown in profile.


Around the helmet is the mantling.  This originated as a hanging cloth to shield the metal of the helmet from the heating effect of direct sun.  It is traditionally depicted as being cut and slashed.  In the case of peers the outer surface of the mantling is red and the inner surface is shown as being lined with ermine.  The mantling is attached to the helmet by the wreath or torse, a twisted piece of coloured silk.  The wreath is also used to keep in place the crest, which is affixed to the top of the helmet.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Dukes of Wellington, the wreath is replaced with a crest coronet.


Either side of the shield are the supporters.  These can be humans, birds, animals, fish or monsters.  There is no necessity to have the same supporter on either side of the shield.  The right to supporters is generally restricted to peers, holders of the top rank of the Orders of Knighthood and to corporate and civic bodies.  In Scotland the right to supporters is extended to certain feudal barons who are not already peers.


As a Knight of the Garter the Duke is entitled to encircle his arms with the Garter.


Last updated 23 Apr 2005



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