Helmet, (fr. casque, old fr. heaume, but applied to a close helmet): the covering for protection of the head in warfare has varied in form from the earliest ages onwards, but an account of the various shapes belongs to the history of armour.
In heraldry the Helmet assumed an important place as an appendage to the shield, for on this was fixed the crest(q.v.). Originally there seems to have been no special distinction as regards the forms of the helmet; they simply followed the customary shape of the period, and were drawn sideways; but in Elizabeth's reign it would appear that certain kinds of helmets were assigned to different degrees of nobility.
I. The sovereign's was to be of burnished gold, affronty, i.e. full-faced, with six bars, or grilles, and lined with crimson.
II. The helmets of dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons, were to be composed of silver or polished steel, with five gold bars, and lined with crimson. According to some authorities they should be placed neither affronty nor in profile, but between those positions; but there seem to be conflicting directions, and the practice varied.
IV. The helmets of esquires and private gentlemen were to be placed in profile, with the visor or beaver closed; to be of steel, but enriched with gold. These are drawn after various patterns however, the only point being that the visor should be closed, whence they are termed close helmets.
The French timbre includes the helmet and all that belongs to it. For the appurtenances it is supposed we are indebted to the tournaments, and they consist of the crest, the wreath, the supporters, the mantle, ribbons or feathers, and the scroll.
It should be added that helmets are seldom, if ever, found over the shields of bishops(except over that of the Bishop of Durham, to represent his temporal dignity), the mitre taking its place; or over that of women, except in the case of a sovereign. More than one helmet may be placed over the same shield, but it is rare.
Helmets, however, are also occasionally borne as charges, and generally the esquire's or close helmet is intended. In blazoning, however, there is frequently a reference to the visor(fr. viziere, or garde vizure), or beaver(old fr. beauvoir); the modern fr. mezail is also used. When this is up it is supposed to be a knight's helmet, when down an esquire's.
Sable, a close helmet between three spear-heads, points fessways argent--David DOLBEN, Bp. of Bangor, 1632; also John DOLBEN, Bp. of Rochester, 1666, Abp. of York, 1683-86.
Azure, two bars argent between three close helmets or--ARMIGER, Norfolk.
Sable, a lion passant guardant or between three helmets argent--COMPTON, Bp. of Oxford, 1674; of London, 1675-1713.
Argent, three helmets with open vizors adorned with plumes of feathers azure--MYNYOT, Kent.
Argent, three knight's helmets azure line gules--GOODACRE, Ireland.
Gules, three helmets argent, vizors and garnishing or--BASSET, [Lord Mayor of London, 1475].
Gules, three men's heads in profile armed with head pieces and gorgets argent--O'KENNEDY.
Or, three front-faced helmets proper--ELLICE, Herts.
Azure, a knight's helmet with snake entwined round it between three lion's heads erased or--ADOLPHUS.
Argent, a lion rampant gules, on his head a helmet azure--CLAPHAM, Scotland.