Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cadency, The Marks of. Closely following upon the introduction of heraldry, and coeval with the commencement of its existence hereditarily, came the necessity of distinguishing between the different branches of a family and of marking the arms of the younger sons. Some of the earlier ways of "differencing" arms were by changing (frequently reversing) the colours of the charges or the field or both, by adding to the number of the charges on and outside the "ordinaries" appearing upon the shield, by adding a bordure, or by elaborating the lines of partition. The label as a mark of cadency is certainly by far the oldest of those which are now in use, but with regard to the olden time, different writers have recited such varied rules for observance that it would be of but little advantage to quote them here; and the present officially recognised series are of comparatively modern origin. These are for the eldest son a label of three points (borne during the lifetime of his father; and for the eldest grandson in like manner a label of five points), for the second son a crescent, for the third son a mullet, for the fourth a martlet, for the fifth an annulet, for the sixth a fleur-de-lis, for the seventh a cinquefoil, for the eighth a cross moline, for the ninth a double quatrefoil (i.e. of eight leaves). There are no special laws regulating their colour or position, and the tinctures and disposition of the arms are taken into consideration. They are never depicted of any great size. When the name and arms of a family are assumed by royal licence without any blood relationship, other differences (readily recognised) are introduced, frequently a canton upon the arms and a cross crosslet upon the crest. In Scotland different rules hold good. There the first junior branch of a family has a plain bordure added to the paternal coat, but all subsequent alterations to denote the cadency of the various branches are made in or upon the aforesaid bordure. In England the officials of the Heralds' College do not encourage the too frequent use of these marks, as tending rather to confusion than distinction when they become surcharged one upon the other; and (save and with the exception of marks to indicate the lack of relationship which must always be retained) a junior branch, for instance, assuming a double surname and coat-of-arms discontinues all previous marks of cadency, and starts afresh. The Royal Family are not governed by the foregoing rules. The Prince of Wales, as the eldest son of the Sovereign, bears upon his arms'-crest and supporters a plain label of three points argent; and all other members of the Royal Family are in addition also distinguished by a label argent of three or five points, each specially differenced under a separate royal warrant by charges upon one or more of the said points of the label.

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