Heraldic Display in
Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild
'banner' and 'flag' are used interchangeably in this article.
Although the term 'banner' refers to a specific type of flag, it is
also commonly used to describe medieval flags in general.)
Heraldry was an
integral part of the medieval period, especially during the High
Middle Ages. Evolving from a visual method of recognizing friend and
foe, heraldic display developed into a complex system used to denote
personal identity, social status, family lineage and national
affiliation along with a myriad of other, more subtle, meanings. In
order to better represent the pageantry that was so innately tied to
the time, the MMCG has set aside several types of heraldic display as
officially sanctioned. While the shapes, symbols and sizes of
displays were often an indication of rank in medieval society, the
MMCG does not delineate so detailed a distinction.
The MMCG recognizes these categories of heraldic display:
- Shield display
- Shield display is recognized by the MMCG as any type of
heraldic display applied to a shield. Shield display is
permitted to any member of the MMCG.
- Badge display
- Badge display is recognized by the MMCG as any distinctive mark, token, sign, or cognizance, worn on the person. Only members who have been bestowed with specific ranks or titles may display badges. A knight or squire may display a white badge, and a yeoman may display a green badge. Badges may be decorated with the whole or any portion of the wearer's personal arms except in the case of squires. The Frostlord and Sunwarden may wear the designated Frostlord and Sunwarden badge for the year, regardless of peerage membership or the lack thereof. During Mercenary Wars, teams wear badges to identify allegience to a certain team.
- Surcoat display
- Surcoat display is recognized by the MMCG as any type of
display applied to a garment designed to by worn over armor (surcoat, tabard, jupon, etc...).
Surcoats are only permitted to squires and members of the peerage in the
MMCG, Knight-at-Arms and Knight of the Scroll. Heraldic symbols,
charges or mottos may not be applied to clothing in any other
fashion except where specifically permitted. Squires may only wear surcoats in their heraldic colors, but may not yet apply their charges.
- Flag display -
Flag display is recognized by the MMCG as a cloth with painted,
embroidered or applied heraldic designs. There are many
different types of flags; usage is based on the level of
attainment in the MMCG. There are flags permitted to all members
and some are more restrictive. Further clarification follows.
No member of the MMCG may use the heraldic charges, mottoes or any elements which are registered to other members without the consent of the owner. The following charges are consideed restricted charges within the MMCG:
Oak trees, oak leaves and acorns
Escarbuncles (snowflake shapes) (except as noted in rules for Seasonlords)
Suns in splendor (except as noted in rules for Seasonlords)
Both silver and gold chiefs embattled
These symbols may only be used by those designated to use them - if you don't know if you are designated to use the symbol, do not use it.
Special Heraldic Rules for Seasonlords
Any member of the MMCG who has attained the rank of Frostlord at least once may display argent an escarbuncle (eight-pointed snowflake shape) in the upper-right corner of their arms (in canton sinsiter) if so desired. If the member's arms feature a white field, then the escarbuncle may be displayed azure. This charge may be kept even after the title of Frostlord has been passed on.
Any member of the MMCG who has attained the rank of Sunwarden at least once may display or a sun of eight rays in the upper-right corner of their arms (in canton sinsiter) if so desired. If the member's arms feature a gold field, then the sun may be displayed gules. This charge may be kept even after the title of Sunwarden has been passed on.
Heraldic Rules for Bands and Companies
A Mercenary Band or Company within the MMCG may choose its own insignia. This insignia may be applied to a banner (as described below) or simplified and worn as a patch or pin affixed to clothing. An officer may display a chief embattled argent upon their shield and a captain a chief embattled or.
Band or Company heraldry may not be emblazoned upon surcoats, with the exception of a silver stripe embattled in chief for Officers and a gold stripe embattled displayed in chief for Captains. A stripe is defined as being displayed in chief on a surcote when it runs horizontally across the surcote at chest level or above, a surcote may also be designed with gold or silver (which ever is appropriate to your rank) covering the sholders and ending with an embattled line at chest level.
Heraldic Rules for the Order of the Oak
The Order of the Oak is an organization within the MMCG that is shrouded in mystery. Members of the order have special dispensation for certain heraldic displays which are known only to members. Some of these displays may contradict the general rules for heraldry but are rights granted to members of this order.
Recognized flag types
in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild
The oriflamme is square
or rectangular and must have three or more "tails" at the
fly. The oriflamme, as recognized by the MMCG, may only display
livery colors or the field colors of the bearer's arms and may not be
further adorned by charges, devices, mottos or arms. The oriflamme is
permitted for use by the general membership. Oriflames must be at
least 2 feet square and the tails must make up at least 1/3 of the
characteristic of a gonfalon is that it is supported horizontally and
displays the complete arms of the bearer. The use of the Gonfalon is
open to peers in the MMCG. Gonfalon's come in a variety of formats
and below are some (not all) examples.
The pennon is a small
flag that is displayed at the end of a spear or lance. Pennons
display the primary charge from the bearer's arms and are oriented so
that the arms are on display properly when the lance or spear is
"at charge." May be no larger than 8 inches at the hoist
and no more than 2 feet in length. The pennon may only be used
by peers and yeomen in the following ways: Knight-at-Arms: tapering
to a single point; Knight of the Scroll: tapering to one rounded
point; Yeoman: swallowtail.
many heraldic elements and, as such, are probably the most impressive
displays. Standards must display the flag of the MMCG at the hoist
followed by the primary charge of the bearer, and a motto and/or
secondary charges. Standards must be at least 20 inches wide at the
hoist and must be at least 5 feet long. Standards may only be
displayed by peers and squires. A squire's standard, however, may only display the arms of the MMCG at the hoist, and the squire's colors (divided, if applicable), but without a charge.
The banner is what most
of us think of when we hear the term "flag." Banners may
only be used by Bands or Companies, or other officially sanctioned groups within the MMCG, i.e.
the MMCG itself, the Black Falcons, the White Wolves . . . etc.
Some things to remember:
- The hoist is
always treated as dexter when placing elements on the flag.
Thus, the backside of the flag is always a mirror image of the
- Do not use
synthetic materials for flags. Stick to natural fibers; while
nothing can compare to the durability of nylon in this
application, many natural fabrics are still very resistant to
weather, look much more authentic and accept paint and dye well.
Methods of Banner
materials used in the Middle Ages varied based on the intended use
for the flag. Linen and canvas were likely the most commonly used but
silk was also used, although the cost would probably have meant that
banners of silk would have been reserved for ceremonial purposes and
would probably not have been taken into battle. For modern materials,
a lot of people recommend trigger cloth, because it is a lightweight
cotton cloth and flies well. Linen and silk are a bit expensive, but
very authentic. Duck cloth, trigger cloth and regular canvas all work
well and are stronger than the lighter weight fabrics but require a
bit more of a breeze to fly well.
Before cutting or
applying designs, be sure to wash and dry fabric before beginning.
This will ensure that the fabric is shrunk and will help with color
fastness. If you plan on painting your banner, it is a good idea to
choose the field color from the arms being used; if multiple field
colors are incorporated, use the lightest color, as covering a light
color with a dark paint is easier than vise-versa.
embroidery and appliqué are all period methods for applying designs
to banners. Of these three methods painting is by far the most common
found in existing artifacts. There are several reasons for this;
painting is far less time intensive, allows greater detail, is easier
to produce and, due to its lower cost, would have been favored when
marching off to battle, where banners could easily be destroyed. Even
in artifacts where one or both of the other methods is employed,
painting is often also present.
Embroidery and appliqué
are fairly self-explanatory, but there is a trick to successful
painting. Period banners would have been painted with oil based
paints. The disadvantage to oil paints is that they take days to dry
and you want to wait until one color is completely dry before going
on to the next color. Not historically accurate, but virtually
undetectable to the untrained eye, are water-based, acrylic paints.
You can purchase special fabric paints but these are simply normal
acrylic paints that have been thinned in order to allow them to
adhere to the fibers more easily. The same effect can be achieved by
watering down the cheaper, regular acrylics. Jones Tones makes a
stretch fabric paint that is supposed to never crack or peel; when it
is thinned, it is said to be an excellent paint for this application.
There are many
methods of laying out a pattern on fabric; pencil, washable marker,
chalk and, for the very confident, paint. One can freehand the
pattern on, employ stencils or use a projector. No method is better
than any other, it is simply a matter of preference, although paint
is irreversible while the others leave some room for errors.
Unless you feel
like adding a splash of color to whatever you are using for a work
surface, you need to put something under the fabric to catch the
bleed-through. Waxed paper, plastic and painter's drop cloth all work
well for this purpose. Do not use paper, it will get stuck to the
backside of the banner.
The paints must be
kept moist, but not too wet; dry paint will not adhere well and
watery paint will bleed excessively. Start in the center of the design
and work out towards the lines. Everything else involved with the
actual painting is fairly self-explanatory, if you want to get into
techniques, check out a painting technique book from the library. Be
sure to let the piece dry completely before setting the paint.
The paint can be
set by several methods you can iron the banner, toss it in the dryer
on high or put it in the oven at about 250 degrees for 5 minutes
(keep a close eye on it if you use this method). Heat setting ensures
that the banner can survive the weather and be washed without loosing
the design. The banner can be backed with another layer of fabric or
the other side can be painted as well. The former is typically used
for banners that are not intended to be flown while the latter reduces
the weight of banners meant to be flown.
arms - The pictorial symbolism used as a form of
identification by an individual.
charge - A pictorial symbol, used in heraldry. A device
may bear more than one charges (e.g.: animals such as lions or
eagles, objects such as crosses, swords, anvils or crescents, etc.).
fly - The edge of a flag that is opposite the pole,
thus it is free to 'fly.' When something is denoted as "at the
fly" it is this end that is referred to.
hoist - The edge of the flag that is opposite the fly,
the side of a flag that is bound to the pole. When something is
denoted as "at the hoist" it is this end that is referred
to. Always considered dexter.
Knight-at-Arms - The rank of Knight-at-Arms shall be
awarded to individuals who display above-average commitment to the
ideals of the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild, specifically as those
ideals relate to combat. (see resource section "ranks")
Knight of the Scroll - A Knight of the Scroll is a rank
awarded to individuals who display above-average commitment to the
ideals of the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild, specifically as
those ideals relate to scholarship and research of medieval history.
(see resource section "ranks")
motto - A phrase or word adopted as an individual
principle. It usually is particularly meaningful to the bearer.
peer - A peer is a person who has attained the rank of
Knight-at-Arms or Knight of the Scroll.
schwenkle - A very long streamer which continues along
the top part of a flag for a length, usually tapering. It is of
German origin; a red schwenkel was a mark of great honor.
swallow-tailed - A rectangular flag that has had a
triangular portion removed from the fly creating a double 'tail' of
Yeoman - Yeoman is a rank awarded to
individuals who display above-average commitment to the skills of
archery. (see resource section "ranks")