The term "coat-of-arms" comes from the knights wearing a cloth coat over their armor, a coat on which the identifying arms were sewn. Thus, they wore a coat-of-arms.
When the custom of having a coat-of-arms became popular, every knight wanted his own unique insignia. This caused some duplication, usually this dispute wasn't settled without some kind of fight. The fighting over coats-of-arms became so intense in 1419, Henry V of England issued a decree that there would be no new coats-of-arms. To get a coat-of-arms, an ancestor must already have one, or one was received as a gift from the Crown. Later in the century, Richard III, just to reinforce the decree, sent inspectors into the kingdom to authenticate coats-of-arms already in use and deny their use to anyone who trying to circumvent the king's order.
These inspectors, known as heralds, have full jurisdiction on any disputes over who is or who is not entitled to use a particular coat-of-arms. The heralds are still in existence today and preside over the heraldic lineage at:
The College of Arms
Queen Victoria Street
London E.C. 4V4BT
No outsiders are allowed access to their records so mail is the only contact.
Escondido CA -- Dec 15, 2001
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