Part of the Acorn Archive
THE CORNISH ARMS
Sable 15 bezants in pile within
a Bordure barry wavy of eight Argent and Azure
and over the Crest on a Wreath Argent and Azure
a Chough proper resting the dexter claw
upon a Ducal Coronet.
Dexter - A fisherman : Sinister - A Miner
The number of gold discs has been the subject of romantic guesswork, varied and all improbable.
Historians appear to agree, that there are no specific origins for the number.
The Arms originate from the time when Cornwall was an independant Earldom.
The earliest use known of the bezants, or “yellow” roundels,
is on the shield of Richard, Earl of Cornwall ( 1209 - 1272 ),
and can be seen in Westminster Abbey.
The first use of the bezants, in a more familiar form,
is to be found on a sword made for the Duke of Cornwall in 1470 - 1483,
in the shape of 4,4,4,1,4, rather than a 5,4,3,2,1 arrangement.
Heraldry was systemised in 1483, in the time of Richard III,
although the use of shields and decorations had been in use for many centuries.
In Heraldry, the term bezant can only be used up to 8, any more and the number has to be specified.
The number of bezants used on the Cornish Arms arose merely out of the convention
of it being the maximum number that could fit comfortably onto the shield, in a series of straight lines.
Camden, an Elizabethan antiquary and Herald, surveyed Cornwall and published his "Brittannia" in 1536,
in this he states that the Arms of Cadoc, the Earl of Cornwall, at the time of the Norman Invasion,
was a "black shield garnished with golden bosses or roundels - sable bezantee 11.
Bezantee, quite simply, means "fill the space".
It was not until the 1607 edition that Camden states that there were 15,
and then in the 1610 edition he describes the arrangement as 5,4,3,2,1, the present form,
which appears to have been first used in James I time.
[The later Albert Edward, Edward VII, Duke of Cornwall, 1841 - 1901, used just 10 bezants,
similar to the one shown in Norden's Speculae Brittanniae.]
The term bezant originates from the name of the gold coins of mediaeval times.
Other roundels of different colours have other names specific to the colours.
The Arms of Cornwall County Council has a special license,
which means it cannot be used for any other purpose, effectively copyrighted..
It has Special 15 bezants grouping and sizing in pile,
they are arranged in a triangle, but not filling the shield,
each roundel is different in size, depending on it's location on the shield, to form the triangle.
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