|Historians once theorized that a coat of
arms enabled a knight to be recognized by his followers during battle.
Individual coats of arms became hereditary, just as a knight inherited
the right to lead or the duty to follow another leader in battle.
Later, historians disputed this theory because some knights did not have any followers. It is more likely that the depiction of arms on a shield was a form of individual vanity rather than a practical military device.
The oldest documented example of a coat of arms borne on a shield is
the one King Henry I of England is said to have bestowed on his son-in-law,
Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, in 1127 A.D. The azure shield
bore four gold lions rampant.
Family identification was practiced in northern Europe even before the Norman Conquest. Beryl Platts, author of Origins of Heraldry, believes that all heraldry in England is the derivation of the heraldic devices brought by the families who accompanied William the Conqueror.
The bearing of coats of arms is not regulated in most countries, including the United States. While there is no reason we cannot enjoy the decoration of a coat of arms associated with someone centuries ago who shared our surname, we should be aware that this is all it is - a decoration.
The O'Neal coat of arms portrayed on this site has been used as a decoration on the O'Neal Web Site since 1997. The coat of arms was researched by Kenneth O'Neal.
A coat of arms consists of several parts; the shield, the mantling (said to represent the bearers cloak), the helm (or helmet), the wreath, charges, and the crest (whatever appears above the helm - not all arms have crests.)
The official written description of the coat of arms is called the "blazon of arms." The blazon may seem like a foreign language, but it is simply a system of code words to denote colors, placement, and styling by using an economy of words.
The blazon of arms for the O'Neal coat of arms is as follows;
"Silver; Two Red Lions facing each other, holding together, a red left hand with the palm showing, placed vertically; All accompanied in top by three red stars placed side by side and in the base a naturally colored salmon in naturally colored water."
Scholars vary in their opinion concerning the reliability of any "commonly held" historic meanings for coats of arms and crests but the most commonly accepted meanings for the symbols and colors depicted on the O'Neal coat of arms are as follows;
Silver: Peace and sincerity (Background)
Red: Warrior or martyr; Military strength and magnanimity. (Stars, Lions, Hand)
Blue: Hope, joy, and loyalty in love. (Water)
Lion: Dauntless courage.
Fish: A true, generous mind; virtuous for himself, not because of his heritage; also unity with Christ, spiritual nourishment
Hand, Red: Mark of a baronet