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French Influences

English heralds were greatly influenced by the French tradition of heraldry. French was the language in which heraldic terms were expressed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the technical vocabulary of heraldry in England has continued to be partly in French ever since. Favored English noblemen were elected to the French King’s Order of St-Michel, just as the English Crown occasionally honored Continental monarchs by electing them to the Order of the Garter.


This collection of heraldic manuscripts (image top right), used by a series of English heralds, was perhaps compiled by William Harvey, Clarenceux King of Arms. It includes the statutes of the order of St-Michel, a French chivalric order which was modeled on that of the Garter.


In the 1530s, an English herald included in this reference guide a list of French marquesses, princes, cardinals, and bishops during the time of Henry VI of England (reigned 1422–61 and 1470–71), with sketches of many of their coats. The manuscript (image middle right) is full of densely-written lists and notes relating to both English and Continental kings and noblemen.


Claude Paradin’s massive work on the genealogies and coats of arms of the kings and queens of France provided inspiration for English heralds such as William Dugdale, who modeled his Baronage on it. This opening (bottom image right) provides essential details about the reign and family of King Henry II of France. His arms are shown on the left. Those of his wife, Catherine de Médicis, are at right in lozenge (diamond) form, as is customary for women—her arms are France (three fleurs de lis, on the left) impaling Médicis (on the right).

A miscellaneous collection of heraldic material. Manuscript, ca. 1540

Collection of heraldic manuscripts. Manuscript, ca. 1610

Paradin. Alliances genealogiques des rois et princes de Gaule. 1606

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