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In heraldry, an escutcheon (pronounced /ɨˈskʌtʃən/), or scutcheon, is the shield displayed in a coat of arms. The term "crest" is often used incorrectly to designate this part of the coat of arms. The escutcheon shape is based on the Medieval shields that were used by knights in combat, and varied by region and time period accordingly. Since this shape has been regarded as a war-like device appropriate to men only, British ladies customarily bear their arms upon a lozenge, or diamond-shape, while clergymen and ladies in continental Europe bear theirs on a cartouche, or oval. Other shapes are possible, such as the roundel commonly used for arms granted to Aboriginal Canadians by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

The word escutcheon is derived from Middle English escochon, from Anglo-Norman escuchon, from Vulgar Latin scūtiōn-, from Latin scūtum, "shield".[1] Derived from its meaning in heraldry, the term "escutcheon" can be used to represent a family and its honour. The idiom "a blot on the escutcheon" is used to mean a stain on somebody's reputation[2].

An inescutcheon is a smaller shield that is shown within or superimposed over the main shield. This may be used for heraldic style, in pretense (to bear another's arms over one's own), to bear one's own personal arms over the territorial arms of his/her domains, or as a simple charge.



Examples of escutcheons: 1: Old French, 2: Modern French, 3: Oval, 4: Lozenge, 5: Square, 6: Italian, 7: Swiss, 8: English, 9: German, 10: Polish, 11: Portuguese or Spanish, 12: Brazilian.

The following are the points of the shield used in blazons to describe where (and how) a charge should be drawn:[3]

  • A - Chief
  • B - Dexter
  • C - Sinister
  • D - Base
  • E - Dexter Chief
  • F - Middle Chief
  • G - Sinister Chief
Shield points.svg
  • H - Honour Point
  • I - Fess Point
  • J - Nombril Point
  • K - Dexter Base
  • L - Sinister Base
  • M - Middle Base (seldom used)
Simple example of incorporating an heiress's arms as an escutcheon of pretense


An inescutcheon is a smaller escutcheon that is placed within or superimposed over the main shield of a coat of arms. This may be used for style, in pretense, for territorial claims, or as a simple charge. Inescutcheons may be placed within the field of a shield as a choice of heraldic style, such as in the arms of the Swedish Collegium of Arms (pictured at far left below) which bears the three crowns of Sweden, each upon its own escutcheon within the field of the main shield. Inescutcheons may also be used to bear another's arms in "pretense",[note 1] In English Heraldry the husband of a heraldic heiress - a woman without any brothers - may place her father's arms in an escutcheon of pretence in the centre of his own shield as a claim ("pretense") to be the head of his wife's family. In the next generation the arms would then be quartered. Baron and Feme describe another iteration of the escutcheon.[citation needed] In similar fashion, one may bear one's own arms inescutcheon en surtout over the territorial arms of his/her domains,[note 2] such as in the arms of the Danish Royal Family, the greater coat of arms of Sweden, or the arms of the Commonwealth of England 1649-1660. Inescutcheons also appear in personal and civic armory as simple common charges (for example, see the arms of the noble French family of Abbeville, pictured at far right below).


  1. ^ The origin of the inescutcheon of pretense lies in the armorial representation of territorial property. A man coming into lordship by right of his wife would naturally wish to bear the arms associated with that territory, and so would place them inescutcheon over his own; "and arms exclusively of a territorial character have certainly very frequently been placed 'in pretense'." Fox-Davies (1909), p. 539. It is also worth noting that the arms thus borne in pretense represent arms of assumption, while those on the larger shield represent arms of descent.
  2. ^ Especially in continental Europe, sovereigns have long held the custom of bearing their hereditary arms in an inescutcheon en surtout over the territorial arms of their dominions. Fox-Davies (1909), p. 541. This custom, coupled with the frequency of European sovereigns ruling over several armigerous territories, may have given rise to the common European form of "quarterly with a heart".


  1. ^ "Escutcheon". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed.. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ Boutell, Charles (1914). Fox-Davies, A.C.. ed. Handbook to English Heraldry, The (11th Edition ed.). London: Reeves & Turner. pp. 33. 

Further reading

  • Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1909). A Complete Guide to Heraldry. New York: Dodge Pub. Co.


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