Pennington Research Association


This article was first published in 1999, Volume 31, No. 1 pages 91 & 92 of the Pennington Pedigrees.

Click here to read another article on heraldry written by Mary Trickel.


Written and submitted by Vance Pennington (Group 10).


The development of armor, and particularly the type utilized by the Romans to protect parts of le body during battle, continued in Europe during the Middle Ages and by the eleventh century a knight's armor consisted of a thigh length hauberk, or shirt, made from finely linked pieces of metal to form a flexible material known as mail. By the twelfth century the hauberk had developed to include a coif, or hood, and full length sleeves. This outfit although offering resistance against cuts from the sword was penetrable by both highly pointed spears and the bowman's arrows. With the further development f the knight's armor and the addition of the helmet visor, identification during feuds and battles became increasingly difficult so the nights had their banners and shields decorated with their family's insignia and in 1483 King Edward the IV established the Herald's College ) supervise the granting of amoral bearings. It was during this period that the practice of embroidering the family insignia on the surcoat, worn over the mail shirt, that gave rise to the name Coat of Arms.

The term Heraldry became associated with oats of arms as a result of medieval sporting vents when a herald (from the Latin word to blow') would present each knight to the King, Queen and spectators and would read out the knights achievements and describe his insignia. It was the responsibility of the herald to record the knight's coat of arms with the Herald's College, ensuring the knight and his family maintained protective rights to it.

With the passing of time and the introduction of more powerful and sophisticated weaponry the use of armor became less practical and with it the use of the coat of arms as a form of battle dress identification. However, these highly prized, decorative designs continued to be handed down from generation to generation and with increasing popularity many undeserving families designed and adopted their own. It was King Henry VIII of England's realization of the potential threat posed to the meaning and integrity of those owned by knights and their heirs that led him to address the situation in the hope of reinstating the true meaning and worth of the knight's coat of arms. To this end the King dispatched heralds into the homes of his subjects to seek out illegal users, a practice that took place at least once every generation for a period of approximately 200 years.

Coats of arms were not, and never have been, awarded to either a family or a name and it was only the first son of a knight who was permitted to bear the coat of arms of his ancestor. Younger sons were permitted to use only a version of the original with a female child having consent to combine it with that of her husband's. Examples of mixed heraldic insignia are in great abundance in the British heraldic archives. It is also interesting to note that the bearing of coats of arms is not regulated in most countries, including the United States. This lack of regulation has given rise to many family name organizations offering histories and coats of arms for a given surname. While there is no reason why we should not enjoy these colorful decorations associated with someone who long ago shared our surname, it should be remembered that is all they are; colorful decorations.


The subject of Heraldry is extremely interesting and exact and to assist in understanding it, it is worthwhile spending a few moments getting to know the composite parts that make up the full Blazon of Arms. It should be realized that these applications also apply to those of Scotland and Wales both of whom have their own heraldic registers.

A - CREST. The crest, which can be of many different designs and forms, appears above the helm although it should be noted that not all coats of arms carry a crest. It is the combination of this part of the blazon, together with the colors and patterns and shape of the shield that are officially applicable to one member of a family.

B - WREATH. This, too, is not part of the official blazon. The wreath usually consists of the primary color of the coat of arms and the color of metal.

C - HELM. Not a part of the official blazon. The helmet varies according to the bearer's rank, the century represented, or the herald's own preference or that of the artist.

D - SHIELD. The colors and designs that appear on the shield are known as 'charges' and these are part of the official blazon whereas the shape of the shield is not. These shapes vary according to geographical origins and time periods.

E - MANTLE (MANTLING). Again, not an official part of the blazon although, if used, the colors are sometimes specified, with designs varying according to the herald's or artist's preference. The mantle is said to represent the cloth that hung from the wreath and protected the back of the head and neck, even though it may often be depicted more similarly to the leaves of a plant.

MOTTO. The final embellishment to any coat of arms is the motto (no illustration).


The Pennington coat of arms, which in the United States is now allied with the Pennington Research Association, is proudly displayed on the front of this publication with the kind consent of the Penningtons of Muncaster, England, and it is only this consent which allows us morally to do so. The blazon consists of a motto, shield, mantle, helm, wreath and crest and it is the crest that seemingly casts doubts in the minds of some members as to the appliance of this blazon.

The Pennington name is widely accepted as having originated from England; therefore all members of the Pennington Research Association should, in theory, be able to trace their ancestors back to that country. Some would, perhaps, trace their ancestors back to the county of Essex in the east, some to the south western county of Devonshire and some to counties in the northern sector, where each family would be found to have its own individually styled crest standing proudly at the head of the blazon. The crest included in the blazon we utilize is peculiar to the Penningtons of Muncaster and to the Pennington family generally but certainly not to the Pennington family as a whole. So, those members believing that we may be using the wrong crest are technically correct. During my research in England I discovered five known Pennington crest each of which could be utilized in place of the infamous cat and this is a subject I hope to bring to these pages in a later edition.

With the use of family coats of arms being unregulated and the use of our coat of arms being endorsed by the kind consent of the Penningtons of Muncaster there is little doubt that we are neither committing an immoral act or an illegal one. But, having already stated that traditionally a coat of arms is owned only by one individual it could be considered that we are breaking the very ancient rules of Heraldry.

Copyright 1999 - 2002 Vance Pennington

The three words on the scroll of the Coats of Arms are "Vincit amor patriae"

"Vincit amor patriae" means "The love of my country prevails" or "Love of Country Conquers" which is the United States Army 28th Infantry Regiment's motto.   "Vincent amor patriae laudumque immensa cupido" means "The love of my country exceeds everything."

The following motto appears in English above the mountain cat of the original Baron Muncaster Crest.  "Firm, Vigilant, Active" -Virg. AEn. vi. 823 v. Muncaster b. Pennington

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