Proper, (fr. au naturel): when a charge is borne of its natural colour it is said to be proper; the word is sometimes used also as to shape, when there is a conventional or heraldic form of the charge, and when the natural form has to be adopted. It is not good blazon to say a rose proper in regard to tincture, because some roses are red and others white, and the same remark will apply to any object whose colour varies at different times, or in different examples.
The use of the term, however, often involves practically a disregard of the heraldic rules as to tincture. It is used to denote colours, and mixture of colours, and shading, and the like, quite unknown in all early coats of arms. A glance at the examples given throughout the present Glossary will shew how freely the term is used. Applied to the human figure it involves the use of flesh colour(fr. carnation), as well as of the colours of costumes of various kinds. It will be found that Kings, Bishops, figure of Saints and children are blazoned proper, as also each mythical being as Neptune, a Triton, and a Sagittarius. Limbs and parts of men are also blazoned proper, e.g. arms, hands, legs, eyes, and even bones. Numerous animals also will be found so blazoned, e.g. elephant, camel, panther, badger, otter, bat, &c., and of different kinds of deer, and of dogs. Birds are still more frequently so blazoned, and examples will be found of the following: peacock, parrot, kingfisher, finches of various kinds, includeing the canary and the linnet, owl, heron, stork, partridge, snipe, moorcock, heathcock, lark, eaglets, auk, blackbird, raven, magpie, cornish chough, swan, ducks of several kinds, seagull, and seapie. Of fish examples will be found of the salmon, the lamprey, the whiting, and the herring, besides the heraldic dolphin so blazoned. Amongst reptiles the alligator, snakes, serpents, and effets, the lizard, and even the chamelion; while amongst insects are found bees, ants, beetles, and grasshoppers, blazoned 'proper.'
That Tree, Fruits, and Flowers should be so blazoned is less extraordinary, but it is not easy to decide whether vert only should be used. Examples of the oak tree, the elm tree, the holly tree, the hawthorn tree, the hazel tree, the ivy and the rowan tree occur, as well as of the pine, the palm, the orange, the cherry, and the fig tree: and the Fruit also in some few cases is found separately blazoned as proper, e.g. apples, pine-apples, pomegranates, alderberries, and mulberries; while the term fructed proper is not unfrequently applied to several trees; and in one case 'a basket of fruit, proper' occurs. Amongst Flowers will be found the primrose, lily, pansy, marigold, columbine, pink, gilly-flower, silphium, marigold, bluebottle, and thistle, and in one or two cases the ground is blazoned or strewed with flowers generally. The term leaved or slipped proper is of frequent occurrence, and various kinds of leaves are blazoned proper; but for all these vert may be used.
The term is also frequently applied to the landscape generally, and to the objects in a landscape; especially to water under its various forms, e.g. the stream, the river, the ford, the sea, the waves, &c. When applied, however, to the fountain it probably implies the used of the conventional heraldic tinctures of that roundle. Example also may be found of the term applied to a mount, a rock, a mine, a cave and even to a mole-hill. Fire and flaming are almost always blazoned proper. Buildings, which are quite out of place in true heraldic arms, occur so blazoned, e.g. a Castle, a Monastery, Ruins, and sometimes special buildings, e.g. the Royal Exchange, the Bell-rock lighthouse, the Virginia College, &c. Ships again are blazoned thus, as in full sail proper, or with sails furled proper. Armour and various kinds of weapons are also frequently blazoned proper, e.g. the helmets, morions, &c., swords, daggers, muskets, guns, &c. Various tools also are found so blazoned, e.g. saw, wimble, fleam, cutting-knife, currycomb, &c. Also such household articles as mirror, hour-glass, globe, or astrolabe, books, rolls of parchment, cards, &c. Besides these, other devices, oddly introduced into later coats of arms, such as a rainbow, Noah's ark, a Caduceus, and a diamond, are all found blazoned 'proper.'