A coat of arms, however, does stem from a tradition in which a shield was wielded as a defensive weapon. In the class-conscious societies prior to the American Revolution of 1776, these were the exclusive right of a privileged few only: royalty, the titled nobility and the lower nobility. Merchants, farmers, burgers and peasants were generally excluded from the right of this sort of defensive weapon: the shield. In some societies, like the Netherlands, Switzerland, and even France, some individuals were allowed arms albeit not belonging to the nobility. These were called "armes roturiers" for yeomen and "burgher arms" when borne by common citizens.
It is this latter type of arms which all Americans are by law, entitled to assume. Why assume? Because unlike in England, Scotland or Canada - where the respective Colleges of Arms GRANTS you a coat of arms- in places where no authority holds that monopoly, arms are ASSUMED by the interested party.
To be fair, today the process of obtaining a blazon is less restrictive in Queen Elizabeth II's realms than in yesteryear. Whereas before one needed to prove to be a descendant with a proper claim to bear the arms once granted to an ancestor, or via a special grace from the monarch to even be eligible, today, any subject of those respective realms can apply for a new design. If you are a subject to one of these Kingdoms: that is still the only way to sport a coat of arms. It also doesn't guarantee that your application will be accepted.
Prelates, from a simple chaplain to the Popes themselves, are also by tradition entitled to use arms. This is especially useful in their clerical and magistrative capacities. When exercising these, their seal on official documents, and official letterheads should include the coat of arms of the emitting authority. This way, a relic, a baptism, marriage or death certificate can all be ensigned with a seal which can verify their authenticity for posterity.
All Americans, again, are free to design and use the ones they please... well, in a way. As with everything, there are rules and conventions which ought to be followed. For this reason, it is best to consult an expert in heraldry to either design one for you or advise you as to the correct way to go about it. People who proceed by themselves tend to overcrowd the field trying to represent every aspect of their life - a veritable curriculum vitae! - which defeats the purpose of a clear and concise depiction which can be easily distinguished from other samples. That is one of the essential aims of heraldic achievements: to identify you and your state without actually writing out your name. There is also a further problem to avoid: assuming the arms of someone else! Another would be: using external ornaments which belong to a hierarchy not one's own. So consult us directly if you would like to design a coat of arms for personal or official use. We can readily help you through the process ourselves, guide you to other reputable designers or the pertinent state agency if you live in one of the countries with a College of Arms or other such regulatory bodies. In any case, we do love embroidering these on vestments! Painting them on board-paper or canvas is also a possibility. Here are some samples of the ones we have embroidered for other armigerous priests:
You can see more at http://klavecentesca.com/gallery.html All we do is custom - and yet, affordable! For it should be accessible to those in the good service.
But without further ado, though, we leave you with the arms we've recently designed and illuminated for a local priest: The Reverend Father Mark Andrew Jones, BSG, as Rector of Saint Nicholas.
Father Mark Andrew's arms are canting his christian names by depicting the symbols of Saint Mark and Saint Andrew. The scales of justice recall his profession in the law before and beyond answering his priestly vocation. Over all, is the ecclesiastical hat which denotes his clerical state, and the two tassels that hang from the cords on each side, his hierarchy as Rector. The motto is an homage to the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory, to which he has made vows.
To close: the blazon itself. This is the coded language from which any other herald should be able to replicate his coat of arms henceforth.
SHIELD: Per fess I: Gules, St Mark's winged-lion passant Or, halo and book Argent;
II: Azure, Saint Andrew's cross Argent with a scales Or.
EXTERNAL ORNAMENTS: Galero with 2 tassels from cords on each side, Sable.
MOTTO: Soli Deo Gloria