Supporters, (fr. supports and tenants, the former applied to animals, the latter to human beings): the figures placed on each side of the shield to support it. There is much difference of opinion concerning their origin. They are found attached to the arms of Edward III. and Richard II., but the only examples(e.g. in glass, &c.) are of later date, and cannot be accepted as authorities. Perhaps the earliest for which there is contemporary evidence are those supporting the arms of Henry VI. Not many supporters are found even for peers much before the reign of Henry VIII.
At present supporters are used in this country by.
Peers and Peeresses, the supporters being hereditary.
Some Baronets and untitled Gentleman have also the right of bearing supporters, either by patent, or because their ancestors bore them before their ordinary use was restricted to the peerage. In the case of baronets they are usually confined to the holder of the title.
Supporters have been granted to several cities and towns as well as to the principal Mercantile Companies of the city of London. They are generally of later date than the insignia which they support, and in some instances is very bad taste.