Development of Heraldic Arms
Armorial bearings came into use as a means of identification. They were important in both times of peace and war.
Centuries ago, few persons could read; nor had our ancestors the advantage of newspaper portraits, moving pictures, or the thousand other ways we now possess of recognizing and identifying people. Heraldry may be described as a form of picture-writing, worked out in the Middle Ages to afford a means of recognition. At that time, people had fine artistic perceptions, and utilized bright colours in developing a system of heraldry that was not only ingenious and practical, but also very beautiful.
Despite printing, photography and other modern inventions, we still make use of emblems, badges and other symbols. The maple leaf at once suggests Canada; the thistle, Scotland; the rose England; the shamrock, Ireland; the leek, Wales; the lily, France. Each one is used and regarded as an emblem. The people of the Middle Ages transformed this method of appealing to the eye into a system in which the coat of arms was the most elaborate form. In fact the system became a science.
It is curious to note that no country has abandoned the practice of using armorial bearings, emblems and symbols being important for preserving traditions and inspiring love of country. Of these symbols, the coat of arms and the flag are the chief elements. Although the flag is more frequently used, the coat of arms is the oldest and often serves as the foundation for the flag.