Coats of arms have, from their first appearance, been one of the primary visual expressions of a person’s lineage and indirectly of status. Individual members of a lineage had a choice: They could use the arms adopted by an ancestor with or without a mark of difference; or they could adopt one of their own design. Several systems for marking difference have been described, but evidence for a family tradition is usually sparse and spotty. The factors and forces limiting a choice are not known. The use of arms by the broader family of the Beauchamp, Earls of Warwick, is an example of how different branches used primary changes of design, as well as the use of smallish figures for secondary difference. The variants of the Beauchamp arms have previously been presented, but only documented in select individual cases. In this article, the problems of evidence, description, and assignment are discussed, in relation to anonymous or similar named individuals of different branches and generations. Seals and entries in armorials are reviewed, and marks of difference used by, or attributed to, individuals are documented.
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