Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


You can trade them and seem to be somebody else, cover them and get into fights anonymously, or, if you are a damsel, show up at court with one and ask for a knight to finish the dead original owner’s quest. You can make veiled innuendoes on shields which you give knights to carry unsuspectingly.

Heraldry and Coat of Arms

Shields were emblazoned with unique heraldic designs known as coat of arms. These design consisted of various symbols, colors, and patterns that represented the knight’s family, allegiances, and achievements. Heraldry was crucial for identifying knights on the battlefield and during tournaments.

The coats of arms were often inherited and passed down through noble families, creating a visual link to ancestral lineage. Not infrequently, knights refer to having recieved their shields as gifts from their ladies. A young knight bore a blank shield until he had earned the right to a coat of arms.

Knightly Ideals and Virtues

Shields were often associated with the knight’s character and virtues. Knights adorned their shields with symbols or mottoes that represented their chivalric ideals such as courage, loyalty, honor, and justice. The shield acted as a visual representation of the knight’s commitment to these virtues.

Battle and Defence

Shields served as a crucial defensive tool in combat. They were made of wood or metal, reinforced with layers of leather or metal rims. Knights used their shields to block and deflect blows from weapons like swords, axes, and spears, providing protection in close-quarters combat. They were typically round or kite-shaped, though other shapes were occasionally used.

Shields were not only defensive tools but also used offensively in combat. Knights would employ their shields to block and parry enemy blows while using their own weapons, such as swords or lances, to strike back. A shield can even be used as an offensive weapon to finish a fight successfully after your sword has been lost or broken. Shields were also used to form a shield wall formation, offering collective defense against enemy attacks. Shield techniques and styles of use were important aspects of knightly training and chivalry. The uses of shields are limited only by imagination.

Symbolic and Narrative Significance

Shields often carried symbolic significance and served as narrative devices in Arthurian romances. They were frequently inscribed with prophetic or mystical symbols that foretold the knight’s destiny or served as omens. Shield motifs were also used to distinguish knights from one another, highlighting their unique identities and roles with the Arthurian world.

The design and decorations on the shield could reflect the knight’s personal beliefs, ideals, or allegiances. Additionally, the shield often became a canvas for further storytelling, as events and achievements were sometimes depicted on the shield’s surface, showcasing the knight’s valor and heroic deeds.

Tournaments and Jousting

Shields were prominently featured in tournaments and jousting events, which were popular in Arthurian romances. Knights would display their shields during these contests, allowing spectators to identify and cheer for their favored knights. Shields in tournaments were often decorated with elaborate designs, showcasing the knight’s skill in both combat and heraldic artistry.

Magic and Enchantment

In some Arthurian tales, shields were imbued with magical properties or were enchanted. These enchanted shields could provide extraordinary protection or grant the bearer additional strength and prowess in battle.

Quests and Adventures

Shields played a role in the quests and adventures undertaken by the knights of the Round Table. In some stories, knights would embark on quests to find or avenge a shield, often with magical properties. These quests served as tests of the knight’s worthiness and were integral to their character development.

Shield Loss

Losing or damaging one’s shield in combat was seen as a significant loss of honor and could be interpreted as a symbol of defeat. Knights were expected to protect their shields at all costs and losing one could bring shame and dishonor.

See also
Abbey of the Adventurous Shield | The Legend of King Arthur
Adventurous Shield | The Legend of King Arthur
Escu | The Legend of King Arthur
Escu Blanc | The Legend of King Arthur
Gawain’s Chessboard Shield and Ivory Pieces | The Legend of King Arthur
Gawain’s Shield | The Legend of King Arthur
Guenevere’s Shield | The Legend of King Arthur
Knight of Two Shields | The Legend of King Arthur
Knight with the Black Shield | The Legend of King Arthur
Maledisant’s Shield | The Legend of King Arthur
Morgan’s Shield | The Legend of King Arthur
Pridwen | The Legend of King Arthur
Queen’s Knights | The Legend of King Arthur
Shield of King Arthur | The Legend of King Arthur
Shield of Lancelot | The Legend of King Arthur
Three Silver Shields | The Legend of King Arthur