Historical insignia of the nobility
Heraldry emerged back in the early Middle Ages from the need to establish the identity of knights in battle by their armour and helmets. Marks of recognition were displayed on pennons or banners and by the knights’ subordinates on their shields. These marks of recognition – armorial bearings – were also used as seals for signing various documents. The first noble coat of arms found in Sweden dates from 1219.
Achieving noble marks of rank
In the letters patent, in addition to noble status, a person usually also received an armorial bearing in the form of a coat of arms. In the 1500s, the barred helmet began to be considered noble, and thus began the development of coats of arms into a display of rank. The nobility’s right to the granted coats of arms, open helmet, heraldic crown etc., has been protected by several royal decrees, the last dated 10 August 1762.
Three heraldic coronets in the Swedish nobility
There are currently three coronets in Swedish noble heraldry: the countly coronet with five leaves, the baronial coronet with (usually) eleven pearls and the untitled noble coronet with three leaves. The noble families that previously belonged to the second class as so-called privy councillors traditionally bear baronial coronets.
A wide range of uses
The coats of arms were used for much more than merely as a seal. They were placed on buildings, china, cutlery and fabrics, in ex libris on books and many other items, not to mention the funeral escutcheons particular to Sweden’s cultural heritage that can be found in many churches around the country.