Many family researchers begin their journey into the past having their their interests piqued by either seeing or imagining a coat of arms. Every
person has their pet peeves, and one of mine is people who hop on the internet, hammer in their last name, hit "Google Images," and print off a copy of the first coat of arms they find as being "theirs." Let me share this here, if nowhere else:
Not every person, and not every family, has a coat of arms.
If you're a Reeves, and you're here, you should read carefully. We don't all have arms. I don't. I'm not entitled to them, given what I know about my family lineage at this time. While it is likely I am distantly related to the Ryves that do
have arms - for more details on this, visit the "Reeves Origins" page
- without a definite link, the Reeves arms I describe here belong to other distant relatives.
If every family had a coat of arms, it would indicate that every family is descended from aristocracy. I am not being haughty, but I find the disillusion to be tragic. When people attach themselves inappropriately to the (understandably attractive) fantasy of being "royal," they often miss other critical aspects of their past that could be just as rewarding, if not moreso, and certainly would be more accurate. Even within a surname, some families have a claim to arms, and some do not. There are many Smith families in the world, but not all of those Smith families descend from a line that had a coat of arms conferred upon it. This is why it takes far more than a brief Google search to discover one's coat of arms... if any.
Genealogy is about the pursuit of your truth, not someone else's. The story of your family matters, because every individual human is innately deserving of identity. Seek your true story, and you will find far greater meaning than colors and shapes.
Preface concluded, on to the topic at hand:
A "coat of arms," or armorial bearing, is only one part of what is properly termed an "achievement." An achievement is the whole of a display of a coat of arms, including the illustrative creatures that "hold" the arms, and the decoration around it. The illustration below shows the parts of an achievement.
This page refers to the arms of the Ryves of Dorset, the line from which I originally but mistakenly thought I was directly descended - again, details are on the "Reeves Origins" page
- and to which there is a possibility I am distantly related. This coat of arms was conferred upon Robert Ryves, courtier of King Henry VIII, in the first few years of the 16th century. The design of arms is an art and a science, governed by strict and ancient laws, and the right to bear the arms tightly regulated.
The Ryves arms are described thusly, using the language of heraldry:
Arms: Argent, on a bend cotised sable three lozenges ermine,
Crest: A greyhound sejant sable, bezantee, collared or.
To translate, first we examine the shield of the arms. The term on a bend
describes the geometry of the field, in this case, indicating a diagonal line running from an upper corner down to the lower opposite corner. The line generally takes up a third of the shield. This is a fairly common charge, or central feature of the shield.
The term argent
is the ancient term for the tincture
(color) of silver, indicating the shield itself is silver in color. (This is where the chemical symbol Ag for the element Silver comes from.) The term cotised
means bounded or bordered, and sable
means black in color. The result so far is a silver shield with a black diagonal line (with smaller black lines on either side) running across it. A lozenge
is a diamond shape, and ermine
is a fur
, a representation of high peerage ranking that depicts the winter coat of the stoat, a kind of furry weasel. On arms, fur is used much as a tincture
, as a color or pattern. The heraldic way of representing the ermine fur is to use small symbols that resemble clubs on a deck of cards. So to our basic black diagonal line, we now add three diamond shapes of the ermine pattern.
If you refer to the diagram of achievement parts, you'll notice the helm
. The helm would be tailored to the type of peer the arms were awarded to. A peer is a person of the court. Robert Ryves was one such person, and in his case, he was of the class of peers we would consider a "knight." Many of his sons and grandchildren were also knights. This means that the helm
is a knight's helmet. Were he, for example, an Earl or a Duke, the appropriate crown for that rank would appear in place of the knight's helmet, and the wreath would be adjusted to match.
is quite specifically described. It is a greyhound sejant
, or sitting, which is black in color. (Remember that sable
means black.) Additionally, two more terms are included. Firstly, the word bezantee
means decorated with gold coins, or bezants
. This is a very important aspect. What it indicates, in heraldry, is that the Ryves served in the Crusades. It is a strong piece of tangible, provable evidence that the Ryves are an ancient family, having provided notable service to crown and country. The final aspect is collared or
. The tincture or
is the color gold, so the greyhound has a gold collar to match the coins it is spotted with.
The 17th century Ryves Almshouse in the family ancestral home of Blandford Forum, County Dorset, England bears the image of the Ryves coat of arms, seen below.
, or floral scrollwork around the arms, is particular to the artist rendering the arms. No motto is listed for this particular arms. The description of these arms has been documented for centuries in the most notable of heraldic scholarly works. A later heraldic scholar illustrated the arms directly from this outstanding architectural example, and the illustration is seen below.
Finally, using contemporary graphics tools and styling the arms in a modern interpretation, it was my privilege to undertake a current-day rendering of the arms that have passed through the generations to members of the Ryves family today. Each individual artist renders the mantling and styles the arms to his or her taste.
Again: I have no direct claim to these arms, but I have a great affinity for them, and the greyhound sejant has been a symbol of our extended family for some five centuries now, visible most prominently in today's modern world as the logo of the renowned Reeves art supply company
And the long-time symbol of this website and my genealogical research, of course!