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Glossary

magpie

magpie

The magpie and its similar relative, the jay, also occur in heraldry, as for instance in the coat of arms of Otto de Cazeneuve, a participant at the battle of Falkirk in 1298. The magpie symbolized loquacity, confidence, and creativity.

marshalling

The process of marshalling is used when two or more coats of arms are combined in order to create a new one. The bearer of a marshalled coat of arms may express his marriage with a heraldic heiress, his inheritance of a domain or the employment in a particular office.

martlet

martlet

The martlet (Merlot, French; Merula, Latin) is a relatively common charge in European heraldry, and assumes some of its primary meanings from its specific physical characteristics: due to its extremely short legs, it relies on its wings for feeding and was supposedly unable to rise from the ground if it were to stop its flight. It is most commonly depicted in profile, with its wings close to its body, with no visible legs. Due to the idea that it was in perpetual flight, it was used as a sign for the fourth son: during the Middle Ages, in noble families, the first-born inherited the family estate and title, the following sons usually embraced a clerical career, while the fourth son was left in a seemingly perpetual movement in order to make something of himself. It was also used in the cases of individuals who claimed to have descended from a certain family but could not bring enough evidence to support their case: in this instance, the martlet would have indicated an indeterminate relationship. However, its symbolism was richer than the prescribed heraldic usage, dating back to the Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, when it was seen as an emblem of domestic bliss and contentment, due to the fact that it always returned to its home. It was also considered a symbol of fidelity, as for instance the English writer Gerard Leg.h suggests in 1612: "where-forever he breedeth, the good man of the house, is not there made cockolde, what day forever he be married on." The martlet was also held to signify maternal care, a meaning attributed to it by several medieval Church fathers such as Albert the Great, which was gradually disseminated into literature as well. The martlet appears for instance in the coat of arms of William de Valence, the first Earl of Pembroke, who played an important role in English politics during the 13th century and in the attributed arms (coats of arms attributed by posterity to legendary or important historical figures which predate rise of heraldry) to Edward the Confessor. These coats or arms have also been transmitted to the monastic foundations established by these figures: Edward the Confessor's five martlets appear on the standard of Westminster Abbey, while William de Valence's coat of arms, also containing five martlets, appears in the heraldic shield of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

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mascle

mascle

The mascle takes the form of a voided lozenge and has the shape of a diamond. It stands for virtue, persuasion and prudence.

masculy

masculy

A field described as `masculy' is patterned with mascle-like figures - bearings similar to voided lozenges and reminiscent of chainmail armor.

millrind

millrind

The millrind, represented in heraldry through an x-shaped figure, supports two millstones. It therefore symbolizes stability, support and protection.

moor / moor's head

moor / moor's head

A frequent charge during the time of the crusades and the Reconquista, the moor/ moor's head appears as a charge in order to symbolize the bearer's military victory against foreign powers which fought under the Islamic flag.

morne

morne

When a lion is described as `morne', it is depicted without tongue, claws or teeth, and therefore appears as an image of peace, obedience and temperance.

mottoes

Another component of the coat of arms is the motto, an expression in any language which is usually displayed above or under the shield on a scroll and which stands in direct connection to the symbolic qualities of the bearings on the shield.

mullet

mullet

Celestial bodies such as the stars, moon and sun have provided inspiration for heralds: the mullet represents a five-pointed star, and symbolizes virtue and piety.

mullet irradiated / mullet of six points

mullet irradiated / mullet of six points

This variant of the mullet or star has six points rather than five, which are emblazoned `irradiated' or wavy rather than straight. Another term for it is the French `estoile'. It symbolizes chivalry and virtue.

mullet of six points

mullet of six points

This charge was the French equivalent to the five-pointed star (mullet) found in English heraldry. It symbolized merit and honour.

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