Label, (fr. lambel, in old fr. lambell, labell, and labeu): a charge generally considered to be a temporary mark of cadency, q.v. In the ordinary system of differences a label of three points(which has also been termed a file with three labels) is the distinction of the eldest son during the lifetime of his father. In the oldest rolls of arms the labels are all of five points; but labels of three points were at an early period used interchangeably. The theories respecting two extra points being borne to mark the surviving generations will not hold.
Labels have been supposed by some to represent the collar and cape of a garment, with several pendent labels of tongues, which were worn hanging from the back part of the neck, over the surcoat or tabard.
EDMUND Plantagenet, called Crouchback, earl of Lancaster, the second son of Henry III., bore England with a label, sometimes(as his seal testifies) of three points, and at other times of five points, as upon his monument at Westminster. In both instances each points is charged with three fleurs-de-lis.
The earliest instances on record of the use of the label in England appear to be following:--
England, with a label of five points azure--Geoffery PLANTAGENET, earl of Anjou, Poictiers, Britanny, and Richmond, fourth son of King Henry II., borne 1159, and died 1186.
After this date the label is frequently noticed.
Le ROY D'ANGLETERRE, porte goules trois lupards d'or.
Son fitz, teile, ovecque ung labell d'azur--Roll, temp. HEN. III.
Le Counte de LANCASTRE, les armes de Engleterre od le label de France--Roll, temp. ED. II.
Quarterly France and England, a label of three points ermine--JOHN OF GAUNT, third son of Edward III., created Earl of Derby and Duke of Lancaster, 1340. [In the roll of arms, however temp. ED. III., in the College of Arms the arms are thus given:--Le Count de Derby, port les armes d'Engleterre a une baston d'asure.]
Monsire Richard de GREY, de Sandiacre port les armes de Grey[i.e. barre de vj peces d'azur et argent] a une labell gules besante--Roll, temp. ED. III.
Besides being used as mere temporary marks of cadency, labels are also employed as permanent distinctions, this is to say, they are borne by every member of some particular branches of certain families, just as any other charge is borne.
Sire Hue de COURTENY, de or a iij rondeus de goules e un label de azure--Roll, temp. ED. II.
Or, three torteaux; on a label azure, three mitres of the field--William COURTENAY, Bp. of Hereford, 1374; of London, 1375; Abp. of Canterbury, 1381-96.
Or, three torteaux; with a label of three points; azure, on each point a bezant--COURTENAY, Devon.
Gules, a saltire argent a label of three points azure--NEVILL.
[Richard NEVILLE, Earl of Salisbury in Henry VIth's reign, as well as his son, Richard, Earl of Warwick, bore a label of three points, compony, argent and azure.]
Argent, three chevrons gules; a label of three points azure--SHUTE BARRINGTON, Bp. of Llandaff, 1769; of Salisbury, 1782; of Durham, 1791-1826.
[Several other families appear also to bear a saltire, with a label, e.g. BAFFORD; BARKSWORTH; BELESBY[or Helesby, spelt Halusby]; BEROUN; BOTETORT; BOUNCETER; CHARNELLS; CLYDEROW; COCKFIELD; GURNEY; FITZGERALD; KERDESTONE; MAXWELL; SHOULDHAM; TYPTOFT, &c.
In latter times the shape of the label was sometimes varied, nor was it confined to three or five points(or drops, as they are sometimes irregularly called). The labels were terminated also in other charges, e.g. bells. And one of three points, each formed as a plain cross and charged with five escallops argent, was borne by John de FOIX, Earl of Kendal, 1449. The label also was borne at times on an ordinary, or in different positions.
Or, a fesse gules and label of eleven points azure--Saher de QUINCY, Earl of Winchester[c. 1210].
Sable, three crescents; in chief a label of two drops, and in fesse another of one drop argent--FITZSIMON, Harl. MS. 1441.
Or, three files borne barways gules, the first having five points, the second four, and the last three--LISKERKE, Holland[Gwillim].
Or, a lion rampant sable; on a chief gules a label of five points argent--Thomas DAMPIER, Bp. of Rochester, 1802; of Ely, 1808-12.
Argent, a file of three points in bend sable--GOFFE, Ireland.
Argent, a label of five points in bend gules--MORTEN[ascribed in Guillim, 1632, to 'one MORIEN, an alien'].
Or, a five gules with three bells pendent azure clappers sable--BELFILE.