An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2
by Ian Heath
22. MAMLUK HERALDRY
Only the sultan and his amirs could have coats-of-arms (called runuk), Qalqashandi recording c. 1412 that it was customary for every amir to have a special emblem ‘according to his choice and preference’, this to be borne on the caparisons of their horses and camels, on their shields, their ships, their swords and their property.
Such devices were hereditary only to such descendants as followed military careers.
They were probably originally granted by the sultan himself and at first usually represented the office which the bearer had either held or received at the time that he was made an amir, but during this period they were probably chosen by the amirs for themselves.
Abu‘l Fida, who died in 1331, recorded that ‘the emblem of the secretary is the pen-box, and of the armour-bearer the bow, and of the superintendent of stores, the ewer, and of the master of the robes the napkin, and of the marshal is the horseshoe, and emblem of the jawish is a golden saddle.’
Of the emblems depicted here 22a is the table of the jashnegir (food-taster), 22b the pen box of the davadar (secretary), and 22c the sword of the silahdar (armour-bearer), often borne in place of the bow recorded by Abu‘l Fida.
For further emblems see Armies and Enemies of the Crusades.
As with their European counterparts, as time passed Mamluk coats-of-arms became steadily more complicated.
By the first half of the 15th century the arms were normally divided horizontally into 3 compartments with different emblems in each, as depicted in 22d and e, becoming more complex yet and bearing a plethora of emblems in the period between the mid-15th century and 1517, as can be seen in 22f.
From the evidence of surviving examples it would appear that the colours used consisted of white, yellow, red, blue, green, brown and black, and clearly the formal regulations of European heraldry, forbidding the use of colour on colour or metal on metal, did not apply.
Indeed, the choice of colours for his coat-of-arms was entirely up to the individual amir.
16. MAMLUK 1366 in Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2 by Ian Heath
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