Wednesday 4 March 2009

A very confused escutcheon.

I was asked today, what is the difference between an orle and an escutcheon voided and my answer used the difference between those armorial bearings displayed on a shield compared to those displayed on a banner. An escutcheon voided would look the same regardless of its mode of display whereas an orle would not.

I touched on this difference during my September talk where I illustrated the arms of Winnington and their Leftwich descendants.

Winnington and Leftwich arms.

 The Winnington blazon is recorded as being an orle, that of Leftwich is an escutcheon voided. In the illustration above they look the same.
Definition of an orle: Like a bordure but not reaching the edges of the shield.

Leftwich blazons.

The blazon of the Winnington arms (Visitations) states “an orle” – which – when illustrated on a shield looks like an escutcheon. However, in the illustrations of a quartered shield as shown above perhaps an orle ought not to look like an escutcheon but follow the edge of the shield. Imagine an orle on a banner; it would be rectangular and look nothing like a voided shield.


Above is an example of how an orle should be illustrated on a quartered shield when following the definition "like a bordure but not reaching the edges of the shield".


  1. What shape would the martlets form were Winnington rendered: Agent an orle within eight martlets sable? In the same way 2 and 1 is a default split for 3.

  2. What you suggest appears to be an incomplete blazon. It suggests that there is an orle within eight martlets but does not indicate how the martlets are set out. If we look at the problem you set in reverse and, in our mind, draw eight martlets the first problem is that it is an even number so the default 3,2,1 doesn't work and the blazon doesn't give us any clues. Even if the blazon stated, for example, eight martlets 4,2 and 2 (or any other combination) it would then have to tell us how the orle fitted in to the blazon. If the martlets were laid out 2,2,2,2 it may be possible to draw a decent shield with an orle in the middle but such a design would, I suggest, require a more accurate blazon. The blazon "Agent an orle within eight martlets sable" is unhelpful and therefore, I suggest, has to be incomplete.
    Compare this with the Winnington blazon. The Winnington blazon could be given to any number of armorists and they would all draw roughly the same achievement.
    The purpose of a blazon is to make the job of emblazoning a shield practically foolproof.


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