Heraldic badge

Heraldic badge

In heraldry, a badge is an emblem or personal device used to indicate allegiance to or property of an individual or family.

Physical badges were common in the Middle Ages particularly in England. They would be made of base metal and worn on the clothing of the followers of the person in question. This might be in battle or in other contexts where allegiance was displayed. The badge would also be embroidered or appliqued on standards, horse trappings, livery uniforms, and other belongings.

Medieval usage


In the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries well-known badges were borne by the followers, retainers, dependants, and partisans of famous and powerful personages and houses, precisely because they were known and understood. (In contrast, the coat of arms was used exclusively by the individual to whom it belonged.)

Badges are occasionally taken from a charge in the bearer’s coat of arms, or they have a more or less direct reference to those charges. More often, badges commemorated some remarkable exploit, illustrated a family or feudal alliance, or indicated some territorial rights or pretensions. Some badges are rebuses, making a pun or play-on-words of the owner's name.

It was not uncommon for the same personage or family to use more than one badge; and, on the other hand, two or more badges were often borne in combination, to form a single compound device.


By the later sixteenth century, allegorical badges called impresa were adopted by individuals as part of an overall programme of theatrical disguise for a specific event or series of events, such as the fancy dress jousts of the Elizabethan era typified by the Accession Day tilts.

Famous badges

* Bear and ragged staff. The ragged staff and the bear, both badges of the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick, were sometimes united to form a single badge. The successors of that family, including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, bore the “bear and ragged staff” as a single device.
* Prince of Wales's feathers. The personal badge of the Prince of Wales derives from the "shield for peace" of Edward, the Black Prince.
* Roses. The Tudor rose badge adopted by Henry VII of England combines the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster, the two warring houses of the War of the Roses.
*Stafford knot.
*White Hart. A white hart was the personal badge of Richard II of England, and a white hind was the badge of Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor under Elizabeth I.
* White Boar. A white boar was the personal badge of Richard Duke of York, later Richard III.

=Revival= Heraldic badges fell into disuse after the Middle Ages but were revived by the College of Arms in 1906 by Alfred Scott-Gatty, and have since then often been included in new grants of arms, in addition to the traditional grant of the coat of arms. Whether or not they are so granted is at the option of the grantee, who pays a higher fee if they are. When granted, the badge is typically illustrated on the letters patent containing the grant of arms, and upon a heraldic standard (flag).


*Boutell 1914

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