Register Ye Olde Weapons

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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If they could do it in the Middle Ages, why not today? Do what, you ask?


In days of old when knights were bold the primary method of personal or clan identification on the battlefield was the heraldic symbol. Originally, knights were free to pick whichever marks they so chose and their armies would mimic accordingly. But by the 15th century, the proliferation of small armaments forced monarchs to, if you will, take more direct oversight. Heraldry became a means of tracking—dare we say, registering—all weaponry. Permission to carry arms was granted solely by the King (or Queen), and they were all registered with the Colleges of Arms—an early kind of weapons control that would not pass through Congress today.


Marks and symbols such as these (above) were used to brand a warrior’s armor and his surcoat, which was the emblazoned garment worn over the protective coat of mail (and from this comes the term coat of arms). These marks were not hereditary in the beginning yet gradually became so. They were recognized as evidence of the wearer’s noble or gentle birth. So the right to wear a coat of arms and bear arms came became a privilege of nobility.


For more Steven Heller, check out Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility, one of the many Heller titles available at