Falcon (Faucon)


A falcon proper.

In heraldry a Charge is an object placed upon a coat of arms. Pretty much anything that is a noun might find its way into armory, but some few charges are common, while exotic charges may only occur once or twice in 100,000 coats of arms. Many charges have special rules about their use and unusual considerations about their placement and way they are drawn. In an effort to help students of heraldry better understand how the Falcon is used in heraldry, I have included remarks about the charge from several of the most prominent heraldic scholars.

Falcon (Faucon): . The Falcon is commonly met with in the arms of Europe. The picture of Falcon above is A falcon proper..

A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry (1894) states:

Falcon, (fr. faucon), is found as an heraldic bearing as early as Edward the Second’s reign, if not earlier, and with it it will be convenient to associate other birds of prey, such as the hawk and sparrow-hawk(fr. epervier), the goshawk (which has not been observed in French arms), the kite (fr. milan), of which the heads occur in one English coat of arms, and the merlion, of which the wings are mentioned(the emerillion being still a French term used for a species of falcon). The French names occur of gerfaut in the arms of LA VALETTE. Guyenne(old fr. girfauk), and the fauconnet in the arms of MOUCHET Franche Comté. A crowned falcon with a sceptre was the badge of ANNE BOLEYN, and was also afterwards adopted by her daughter, Queen ELIZABETH.

There are no conventional ways of representing the difference of the species of birds of prey in heraldic design, and they are frequently blazoned with the same descriptive terms as the applied to the eagle. They may be close, or preying(fr. empiétant), and this is also described as lolling, or trussing; they may be surgerant, or rising, overt, hovering, volant, &c.; also the wings are often described. When the beak and talons are of a different tincture, they are said to be armed of that tincture.

But more especially a falcon, as also a hawk, is represented with the appurtenances which belong to the art of falconry, that is, it is blazoned frequently as belled(fr. grilleté) and jessed of such a tincture.

The bird also may be represented hooded (fr. Chaperonné); whilst the hood itself also appears as a separate charge. The hawker’s glove is also found mentioned.

A.C. Fox-Davies noted about the Falcon on page 241–242 of his masterwork, A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909):

The Falcon (Fig. 461) naturally falls next to the eagle for consideration. Considering the very important part this bird played in the social life of earlier centuries, this cannot be a matter of any surprise. Heraldry, in its emblazonment, makes no distinction between the appearance of the hawk and the falcon, but for canting and other reasons the bird will be found described by all its different names, e.g. in the arms of Hobson, to preserve the obvious pun, the two birds are blazoned as hobbies.

The falcon is frequently (more often than not) found belled. With the slovenliness (or some may exalt it into the virtue of freedom from irritating restriction) characteristic of many matters in heraldic blazon, the simple term “belled” is found used indiscriminately to signify that the falcon is belled on one leg or belled on both, and if it is belled the bell must of necessity be on a jess. Others state that every falcon must of necessity (whether so blazoned or not) be belled upon at least one leg, and that when the term “belled” is used it signifies that it is belled upon both legs. There is still yet another alternative, viz. that when “belled” it has the bell on only one leg, but that when “jessed and belled” it is belled on both legs. The jess is the leather thong with which the bells are attached to the leg, and it is generally considered, and this may be accepted, that when the term “jessed” is included in the wording of the blazon the jesses are represented with the ends flying loose, unless the use of the term is necessitated by the jesses being of a different colour. When the term “vervelled” is also employed it signifies that the jesses have small rings attached to the floating ends. In actual practice, however, it should be remembered that if the bells and jesses are of a different colour, the use of the terms “jessed” and “belled” is essential. A falcon is seldom drawn without at least one bell, and when it is found described as “belled,” in most cases it will be found that the intention is that it shall have two bells.

Like all other birds of prey the falcon may be “armed,” a technical term which theoretically should include the beak and legs, but in actual practice a falcon will be far more usually found described as “beaked and legged” when these differ in tincture from its plumage.

When a falcon is blindfolded it is termed “hooded.” It was always so carried on the wrist until it was flown.

The position of the wings and the confusion in the terms applied thereto is even more marked in the case of the falcon than the eagle.

Demi-falcons are not very frequently met with, but an example occurs in the crest of Jerningham.

A falcon’s head is constantly met with as a crest.

When a falcon is represented preying upon anything it is termed “trussing” its prey, though sometimes the description “preying upon” is (perhaps less accurately) employed. Examples of this will be found in the arms of Madden [“Sable, a hawk or, trussing a mallard proper, on a chief of the second a cross botonny gules”], and in the crests of Graham, Cawston, and Yerburgh.

A falcon’s leg appears in the crest of Joscelin.

Below you can see the arms of John Barnwell, giving another example of the use of the Falcon in heraldry.


A falcon rising takes it place on the coat of arms of John Barnwell.

Often the symbols or charges used in heraldry were chosen because they sound like some word that has relevance to the bearer of the arms, a name, nickname, deed or battle, a place they lived, or traveled to; this kind of use of charges is called punning or canting arms. Parker gave us the following examples, “Thus were the castle and lion for Castile and Leon, the fers de cheval of Ferrers, the corbeau or raven for Corbet, the herons of Heron, the falcon of Falconer, the swine’s head of Swinebourne, the hammers of Hammerton and the swallows (hirondelles) of Arundel.”

Despite this, there are some good many “traditional” meanings for charges too. In the case of Falcon it can easily be seen to represent one who is ready for high pursuits.

W. Cecil Wade collected traditional heraldry metaphors in his work The Symbolisms of Heraldry (1898). On page 75–76 we find information on the Falcon, stating, “The Falcox or Hawk was an Egyptian hieroglyphic of the Sun god. In heraldry it signifies one eager or hot in the pursuit of an object much desired. (Sloane Evans.) It is represented either close, rising, or volant, i.e. flying. Guillim says of the bearing of a hawk seated on its rest, ” it may signify a bearer who is ready and serviceable for high affairs, though he lives at rest and unemployed. The latter bearing is found in the arms of the Hawkers, now represented by Col. W. S. Hawker, D.L., of Cornwall. As to the bearing of Hawks or Falcons’ lures, these are supposed to typify one who was fond of the highest pursuits, such as hunting and falconry were considered to be in the palmy days of heraldry. The ” lure ” was constructed of a pair of wings, so fashioned as to resemble a bird, and which was thrown up to call back the falcon when it had flown too far afield after the quarry. It would therefore be “a signal to recall the absent from afar.” It is borne on a bend by the Wades of Cornwall, and by some other branches of that family.”

The arms of Richard Bartlett of Newbury, Massachusetts (1634) showing three falconers' gloves.

The arms of Richard Bartlett of Newbury, Massachusetts (1634) showing three falconers’ gloves.

The Falcon can be found in following coats of arms:

  • Bolton :Sable, a goshawk argent, armed, jessed and belled or
  • Bradshaw:Sable, two bendlets between three hawk’s bells argent
  • Chester of Gloucester:Gules, a lion passant ermine, between three hawk’s lures argent
  • Shanke of Fife :Gules, on a fesse argent, a hawk’s lure of the first; in chief a cinquefoil, and in base a hawk’s leg, erased, jessed and belled of the second
  • Hawkeridge of Devon: Argent, on a bend wavy sable an arm issuing from the sinister of the last; perched on a glove of the first a hawk.
  • Faucon, Auvergne:D’azur, au faucon d’argent chaperonné de gueules perché sur un tronc d’arbre d’or accompagné en chef de trois tiercefeuilles du même.
  • Varlet of Bresse:D’azur, à un faucon d’or grilleté d’argent empiétant une perdrix aussi d’or, becqueé et ongleé de gueules.
  • Rapouel of Ile de France:D’argent à trois chaperons d’oiseaux liés de gueules.
  • Hawker of Wilts:Sable, a hawks standing on a perch argent, beaked and legged or
  • Weele of Devon:Sable, a goshawk perched on a stock argent, armed, belled and jessed or.
  • Hawdoe of Lancster:Argent, three sparrow-hawks close gules.
  • Michelgrove:Azure, a goshawk argent.
  • Atcomb of Devon: Sable, three marlion’s sinister wings displayed argent.
  • Mills of Kent: Ermine, a milrind sable; on a chief azure, two marlion’s wings or.
  • Dyne of Norfolk: Sable, a marlion’s wing in fesse argent, between four crosses formy or, two and two.

In heraldry, animals are depicted in an attitude. Different types of animals will be found in different attitudes, and occationally, the same body position might be called something differently between animals of differing sort.

The attitudes a falcon might exhibit in heraldry: Displayed, Rising, Volant, Trussed, or Close. See the post on Attitude for more information.

For more information see the original references:

Falcon is , used commonly in British heraldry. It traditionally represents one who is ready for high pursuits.

Originally posted 2015-01-26 13:41:10.


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