Marshalling in the SCA

If you’ve read my previous article on marshalling in SCA heraldry, you’ll know that the appearance of marshalling is disallowed in the registration of armory in the SCA. However, the College of Arms actively encourages the use of both marshalling and cadency in armorial display. In this article, I hope to show you the various period techniques to combine existing heraldry to represent your relationships with family and loved ones, offices, and more!

To demonstrate these techniques, I will be using heraldry from friends and acquaintances who have volunteered their arms in exchange for immortality in print. Thank you to everyone who offered, whether your arms ended up in this article or not.

Content warning: The discussion of armorial displays of spouses is fraught with institutional misogyny. For most real-world heraldry, from its creation in the 12th century to the modern day, men are given preferential treatment over women. For conjugal displays, the husband’s arms are always placed to dexter (the viewer’s left) while the wife’s arms are placed to sinister (the viewer’s right). For much of this time, the sinister arms weren’t considered the property of the wife at all; rather, they were her father’s arms, carried in trust through her to her sons. Only recently has the College of Arms in England established how arms of same-sex couples should be displayed.

The SCA, however, supports no such outdated traditions. Each participant who registers a device owns those arms outright. In applying the techniques below to your own arms, each couple should feel free to choose amongst themselves which side of the field upon which to be displayed. For many of the conjugal exemplars below, I flipped a coin to decide which of the pair would be displayed in dexter, or else was guided by aesthetics.

As I mentioned in the previous article, marshalling is a series of techniques to combine more than one piece of heraldry into a single armorial display. The most common approaches are dimidiation, impalement, and quartering.


We find some of the earliest examples of marshalling in the form of dimidiation. Dimidiation takes the dexter half of one shield and the sinister half of another shield and combines them into a third design. This was typically done in real-world heraldry by married couples to create a display for the wife by combining the arms of her husband in dexter and her father’s arms in sinister.

For SCA purposes, dimidiation is a fun and creative way to display both arms of a married or otherwise paired couple, without involving a parent’s arms or submitting to gender norms.

As an example, let’s consider the arms of Maria Theresa Ipeñarrieta, Vert, a mullet of five greater and five lesser points argent within and conjoined at the greater points to five crescents in annulo, horns inward, Or, and her husband Bartholomew Marchant of Studley Green, Sable, a boar rampant contourny checky Or and vert.

Dimidiated Arms of Maria Theresa and Bartholomew
Figure 1: The dimidiated Arms of Maria Theresa and Bartholomew.

Relatively simple designs like these are recognizable, even with half of the shield missing. In this example, most of the identifying features of Bartholomew’s boar are retained, and the present half of Maria Theresa’s star and crescents mirror the absent half. The viewer can logically deduce the full designs of both arms.

Some combinations of arms create visually striking patterns when dimidiated. As an example, the foreparts of a lion in the dexter half combines with the hindparts of a fish in the sinister half, providing what some heraldic scholars believe to be the origin of the sea-lion as a heraldic charge.

In this second example, consider the arms of Snorri Hallsson, Gyronny arrondi of six Or and gules, an orle sable, and their wife, Gróa Úlfsdóttir, Quarterly arrondi azure and vert, an orle argent.

Figure 2: The dimidiated arms of Snorri and Gróa

The directions of the arrondi twists are exactly as they are registered to Snorri and Gróa  respectively. As with the first example, the pattern of the field divisions can be deduced with a little bit of concentration and mental geometry. While their shared orle gives the design cohesion, the reversed rotations of their fields provide a fascinating interaction of curves.

However, most designs do not lend themselves well to dimidiation. In our third example, let’s consider the arms of Marie de Blois, Per pale pean and erminois, and her husband Tanzos Istvan, Per chevron potent and gules.

Figure 3: The dimidiated arms of Marie and Istvan

In this example, only one half of Marie’s arms are present, without any context for the other half, which gives the appearance that her whole arms are a solid fur field. Likewise, it’s unclear whether Istvan’s arms are per chevron or per bend. This kind of ambiguity became so prevalent that dimidiation eventually fell into disuse, replaced by a more popular technique: Impalement.


Impalement is a display of two separate arms side by side on a single shield. Because each side has the full height of the shield but only half its width, both arms tend to be compressed horizontally so that they may fit in their respective half. As with dimidiation, impalement was typically done by a married couple so that the wife could display her husband’s and father’s arms.

Here again are Marie and Istvan’s arms again, this time impaled.

Figure 4: The impaled arms of Marie and Istvan

In this approach, we see that both Istvan and Marie’s arms are fully intact and recognizable, addressing the problems created by their prior dimidiation.

Some designs require little to no compression, especially geometric designs that repeat throughout. A great example of this is the paired arms of Iago ab Adam, Ermine fretty gules, and his wife  Æbbe æt Uuluic, Lozengy Or and azure, a chief azure.

Figure 5: The impaled arms of Iago and Æbbe

In this example, there’s effectively no difference between impalement and dimidiation.

Other designs must be more compressed. Ordinaries will frequently change their angles, and crosses in particular will have their horizontal limbs shortened, while keeping the identifying features intact. Both of these can be seen in the paired arms of Gregory de Munemuth, Vert, a key cross argent, and Emelyn Fulredy, Purpure, two bendlets Or.

Figure 6: The impaled arms of Gregory and Emelyn

Institutional Impalement

All of the examples above are of married couples displaying their arms together. Real-life heraldry also provides examples of armigers holding an office with arms associated with it (such as a Bishop and his diocese, a Mayor and her city, or a Chancellor and their college) impaling the two arms, with the arms of the office or institution in dexter. In this role, the armiger displays their arms as if they are “married” to their job.

In the July 1981 LOAR Cover Letter, Wilhelm Laurel ruled that “With regard to Baronial Arms, both the Baron and the Baroness may display the Baronial Arms, as they jointly own those arms…In addition, either may have a banner formed by impaling the arms of the barony with his/her personal arms, although this is a bit extravagant, as the banner becomes useless once they leave office.”

Following this allowance, consider the arms of the Barony of Glyn Dwfn, Or chaussé vert, a pantheon rampant azure mullety of six points argent maintaining a laurel wreath vert, and the arms of its first Baron, Piaras mac Toirdhealbhaigh, Per saltire sable and azure, a winged unicorn salient between three mullets of eight points argent.

Figure 7: The impaled arms of Glyn Dwfn and Piaras

The heads of other institutions within the SCA, such as the chancellors of kingdom universities or the heads of guilds, might follow the model approved for the baronage by Wilhelm, depending on the sensibilities of their kingdom and how long they hold the role. As an example, the charter of the University of Atlantia (Kingdom Law, Appendix C) states that “The Chancellor shall have the right to display the device of the University.” Here are the arms of the University of Atlantia, Or, an apple slipped and leaved within a wreath of apple blossoms slipped and leaved proper, on a chief azure a pallet wavy endorsed argent, impaled with the arms of its current Chancellor, Deirdre O’Siodhachain, Gules, a stag courant within a bordure embattled argent.

Figure 8: The impaled arms of the University of Atlantia and Deirdre

The designs above may be used as de-facto arms by Piaras and Deirdre in their respective capacities as Baron and Chancellor for as long as they remain in the role, at which point any and all displays of these impaled arms would need to be retired.

For displays of arms impaled with an office, it’s important that the office badge be unique and used exclusively by that particular office. Impaling arms with the badge of the Seneschal, for example, would be inappropriate as there are over 400 individual offices tied to that badge.

Generally, impaled and dimidiated arms were not heritable. They were a display of a single individual based on their marital status or role. The most recognizable form of marshalling, however, was heritable. In fact, it was almost always formed by combining a number of inherited arms owned by a single individual. That form is quartering.


Quartering is the display of two or more sets of arms on a quartered field. These sets of arms were generally owned by a single person. Often, they were the direct inherited arms of the armiger’s parents, or the arms of inherited titles.

In the SCA, a lot of people seek to register arms that appear quartered, because quartered arms are very common in period rolls of arms. While we don’t allow arms that appear to be quartered to be registered, we can register individual arms and badges and combine them in a quartered display.

Note: While the examples above showed impaled arms on an escutcheon (shield) shape, the examples below will show the quartered arms on a square banner to give more space for the arms in base. As with all armory, quartered designs can appear on any shape.

For our first example of quartering, let’s consider the arms of Keinvryd ferch Talan, Azure, a hand in benediction bendwise argent and in canton a duck rousant Or, and her husband Sigbiorn Sigmundarson, Gules, a bear rampant argent and on a chief Or the Futhark characters sowilo, isaz, and gebo sable.

Figure 9: The quartered arms of Keinvryd and Sigbiorn

When quartering two sets of arms, the arms will be duplicated, one in quadrants 1 and 4, and the other in quadrants 2 and 3. While neither Keinvryd nor Sigbiorn should bear the quartered arms on their own, it would be a perfect display for their daughter, who stands to inherit both arms but currently has none of her own.

But what if a second-generation SCA participant already has a device? Let’s consider the arms of Þorkell Palsson, Quarterly azure and vert, in fess two dice argent spotted sable, and his daughter, Þora Þorkelsdottir, Gyronny arrondi azure and argent, a domestic cat dormant gardant Or and in chief a cinquefoil sable between two cinquefoils argent.

Figure 10: The quartered arms of Þorkell and Þora

As heir to her father’s estate, Þora can display both her own arms and the quartered arms of herself and her father (the latter only with his permission, as he is still alive).

If the heir has two parents with their own arms, there are two options for display. For the first option, consider the arms of Nicaise Synger, Gules, in bend three roses between two bendlets Or, and their parents, Emma de Fetherstan, Quarterly per fess indented argent and gules, and Reis ap Tuder ap Wyn, Azure semy of escutcheons Or.

Figure 11: The quartered arms of Nicaise, Emma, and Reis

With their consent, Nicaise may display each of their parents’ arms as separate armorial quarterings.

Here we combine three sets of arms in a quartered layout. Typically when three sets of arms are quartered, the highest-ranking or most important arms are duplicated in quadrants 1 and 4. As this is Nicaise’s display, their own arms are the ones I chose to duplicate. The choice of whose arms to place in quadrants 2 and 3 can be a matter of precedence, preference, or personal aesthetics.

For the second option, consider the arms of Iulian Ilia syn, Purpure, two greyhounds sejant addorsed the dexter Or, the sinister argent, and his parents, Ilia Aleksandrovich, Per pale sable and Or, a bend dancetty counterchanged, and Vitasha Ivanova doch’, Gules, a dragon statant wings displayed between three Russian orthodox crosses argent.

Figure 12: The quartered arms of Iulian, Ilia, and Vitasha.

Assuming his parents’ consent, Iulian may quarter the already quartered arms of Ilia and Vitasha along with his own, showing the joint display of his parents as a single inherited set of arms. However, a more appropriate person to display this would be Iulian’s theoretical future heir, Ilia and Vitasha’s grandchild.

Personal Quartering

So far, we’ve discussed quartering the arms of separate individuals into a display by their heirs. However, we also have examples of quartered arms that do not require an inheritance.

As I note in my banner article, when a knight was elevated to a particularly prestigious knightly company, such as the Order of the Garter, and they only had a single armorial bearing to their name, the Crown would issue a writ to the College of Arms to bestow additional arms to the new knight so that their banner would be appropriately quartered, and thus fit in with the rest of the banners in the hall.

In the SCA, an individual may register up to ten pieces of armory to themselves, and may choose to quarter them for display purposes. For this example, consider the arms of Mary Dedwydd verch Gwallter, Quarterly gules and argent, an escallop counterchanged and for augmentation, a cross of Caid argent, and her three badges, Sable, a schnecke issuant from sinister checky argent and gules, (Fieldless) A mullet voided and interlaced within and conjoined to an annulet per pale argent and gules, and (Fieldless) An escallop quarterly argent and gules.

Figure 13: The quartered arms of Mary.

In this context, Mary’s badges function as secondary arms, and this design is entirely hers to own and display. Each quadrant has its own set of arms, with none repeating.

Mary may also allow any of her three children to display this quartering, in whole or in part, as her heirs. However, as they do not have augmentations of arms, they would need to remove the cross of Caid in the first quarter and use her base armory instead.

Finally, let’s take the idea of quartering personal armorial holdings to the extreme. I have nine pieces of armory registered to myself. While not all of them are intended for personal use, let’s see if we can incorporate them into a single display.

Consider the arms of Cormac Mór, Per fess with a right step Or and argent; his crest, (Fieldless) A brown bear’s head erased proper; the badge for Poore House, Per bend Or and argent; two personal badges, (Fieldless) Two torches in saltire Or and (Fieldless) An oak leaf Or; his maker’s mark, (Fieldless) A punner Or; and the three badges of the Company of the Tabard: (Fieldless) An escutcheon argent, (Fieldless) A banner argent, and (Fieldless) A tabard argent.

Figure 14: The quartered arms of Cormac

This design quarters my personal arms in quadrants 1 and 4, household badges in quadrant 2, and personal badges in quadrant 3. This is an admittedly garish display, intended only to demonstrate the potential of the form; usually, when I marshall my arms at all, I only quarter them with my punner badge.

However, it’s not nearly as complex and ostentatious as the Grand Quartering of every kingdom in the Known World!


In this article, we have looked at the common forms of marshalling, including dimidiation, impalement, and quartering. We used these tools to display the arms of married couples, officials and institutions, children and their parents, and multiple sets of arms owned by individuals. While these are far from the only forms or uses of marshalling, I hope that this primer inspires you to try displaying your arms marshalled with the heraldry of those you love.