Elephant (Period)

Elephant (Period)

The elephant is a gigantic beast characterized by its tusks, ears, and prehensile trunk; some early emblazons show it with cloven hooves as well.  It was considered a symbol of modesty and chastity by the medievals.  As an heraldic charge, the elephant dates from c.1340, in the canting arms of the Grafs von Helfenstein [Zurich 79].

The elephant is statant by default; its “proper” tincture is grey with argent tusks.  It is sometimes shown with a castle or tower on its back, such as recorded in the Visitation of Wales, 1530 [Woodcock & Robinson 149]; in such a case, the fact must be explicitly blazoned.  The castle is said to recall war elephants with howdahs, described by Alexander the Great when he tried to conquer India; if the elephant’s tower is actually drawn as a howdah, its use carries a step from period practice.

Tristan d’Alsace bears:  Azure, three elephants statant argent.

‘Abd al-Hakim ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman Shaddad al-Tomüki bears:  Argent, an elephant rampant sable maintaining in its trunk a coronet gules.

Edmund Foxe bears:  Sable, an elephant argent maintaining atop its back a tower, a bordure embattled Or.

Katherine Meade bears as a badge:  An elephant rampant ermine bearing on its back a howdah gules.

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