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In heraldry, a badge is an emblem or personal device used to indicate allegiance to or property of an individual or family.

Physical badges were common in the Middle Ages particularly in England. They would be made of base metal and worn on the clothing of the followers of the person in question. This might be in battle or in other contexts where allegiance was displayed. The badge would also be embroidered or appliqued on standards, horse trappings, livery uniforms, and other belongings.

Medieval usage


In the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, well-known badges were borne by the followers, retainers, dependants, and partisans of famous and powerful personages and houses, precisely because they were known and understood. (In contrast, the coat of arms was used exclusively by the individual to whom it belonged.)

Badges are occasionally taken from a charge in the bearer's coat of arms, or they have a more or less direct reference to those charges. More often, badges commemorated some remarkable exploit, illustrated a family or feudal alliance, or indicated some territorial rights or pretensions. Some badges are rebuses, making a pun or play-on-words of the owner's name.

It was not uncommon for the same personage or family to use more than one badge; and, on the other hand, two or more badges were often borne in combination, to form a single compound device.


By the later sixteenth century, allegorical badges called impresa were adopted by individuals as part of an overall programme of theatrical disguise for a specific event or series of events, such as the fancy dress jousts of the Elizabethan era typified by the Accession Day tilts.

Famous badges

Royal badges of English, and later British Monarchs

  • William II - a flower of five foils
  • Henry I - a flower of eight foils
  • Stephen - a flower of seven foils; a Sagittarius; a Plume of Ostrich Feathers; Motto: "Vi nulla invertitur ordo" (No force alters their fashion)
  • Henry II - the Planta-genista; an Escarbuncle; a Sword and Olive branch
  • Richard I - a star of thirteen rays and a crescent; a star issuing from a crescent; a mailed arm grasping a broken lance, with the motto “Christo Duce
  • John and Henry III - a star issuing from a crescent
  • Edward I - a heraldic rose or, stalked ppr
  • Edward II - a castle of Castile:
  • Edward III - a Fleur-de-Lys; a Sword; a falcon; a Gryphon; a the Stock (stump) of a tree; rays issuing from a cloud
  • Richard II - a White Hart lodged; the Stock (stump) of a tree; a white falcon; a Sun in Splendor; a Sun Clouded
  • Henry IV - the Monogram (cypher) SS; a crowned eagle; an eagle displayed; a white swan; a red rose; a Columbine flower; a fox’s tail; a crowned panther; the Stock (stump) of a tree; a Crescent:
  • Joan I of Navarre - an ermine or genet
  • Henry V - a fire-beacon; a white swan gorged and chained; a chained antelope
  • Henry VI - two ostrich feathers in Saltire; a chained antelope; a panther
  • Edward IV - a white rose en Soleil; a white wolf and white lion; a white Hart; a black dragon and black bull; a falcon and Fetter-lock; the Sun in Splendor:
  • Henry VII - a Rose of York and Lancaster; a Portcullis and a Fleur-de-Lis, all of them crowned; a red dragon; a white greyhound; a Hawthorn Bush and Crown, with the cypher H.R.
  • Henry VIII - the same, without the Hawthorn Bush and with a White Cockrel
  • Edward VI - a Tudor Rose; the sun in splendor:
  • Mary I - a Tudor Rose impaling a pomegranate, also impaling a Sheath of Arrows, ensigned with a Crown, and surrounded with Rays; a pomegranate
  • Elizabeth I - a Tudor Rose, with the motto, "Rosa sine Spina" (a Rose without a Thorn); a crowned falcon and sceptre; her motto, "Semper Eadem" (Always the same)
  • James I - a thistle; a thistle and rose dimidiated and Crowned, with the motto, "Beati Pacifici" (Blessed are the peacemakers)
  • Charles I, Charles II and James II - same as James I, without his motto
  • Anne - a rose-branch and a thistle growing from one branch

With the accession of the House of Hanover in the early eighteenth century, personal badges ceased to be borne by British monarchs (replaced by Royal Cyphers), though historical badges continue to be used for various purposes as part of royal symbolism (such as the titles of pursuivants in the College of Armsmarker).


Heraldic badges fell into disuse after the Middle Ages but were revived by the College of Armsmarker in 1906 by Alfred Scott-Gatty, and have since then often been included in new grants of arms, in addition to the traditional grant of the coat of arms. Whether or not they are so granted is at the option of the grantee, who pays a higher fee if they are. When granted, the badge is typically illustrated on the letters patent containing the grant of arms, and upon a heraldic standard (flag).

See also


  1. An example of a modern badge.

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