Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, 'army commander.' Historically, it has been variously described as 'the shorthand of history' and 'the floral border in the garden of history.'
The origins of heraldry lie in the need to distinguish participants in combat when their faces were hidden by iron and steel helmets. Truly heraldic devices seem to have been first used in Carolingian times. Seals and banners confirm that they were being used in the Flemish area of Europe during the reign of Charlemagne.