Escutcheon (heraldry)

In heraldry, an escutcheon (/ɪˈskʌən/) is a shield that forms the main or focal element in an achievement of arms. The word is used in two related senses. First, as the shield on which a coat of arms is displayed; second, a shield can itself be a charge within a coat of arms.

Escutcheon shapes are derived from actual shields used by knights in combat, and thus are varied and developed by region and by era. As this shape has been regarded as a war-like device appropriate to men only, British ladies customarily bear their arms upon a lozenge, or diamond-shape, while clergymen and ladies in continental Europe bear theirs on a cartouche, or oval. Other shapes are in use, such as the roundel commonly used for arms granted to Aboriginal Canadians by the Canadian Heraldic Authority or the Nguni shield used in African heraldry.

Though it can be used as a charge on its own, the most common use of an escutcheon charge is to display another coat of arms as a form of marshalling. These escutcheons are usually given the same shape as the main shield. When there is only one such shield, it is sometimes called an inescutcheon.

The word escutcheon (late 15th century) is based on Old North French escuchon "shield".[lower-alpha 1]


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