Achievement (heraldry)

Heraldic achievement forming the Garter stall plate of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset(d.1444), KG, St. George's Chapel, Windsor. The earliest garter plate with supporters.[1] It includes the badge of an ostrich feather, here shown as a pair, blazoned: feather argent pen gobonne argent and azure

An achievement, armorial achievement or heraldic achievement (historical: hatchment) in heraldry is a full display of all the heraldic components to which the bearer of a coat of arms is entitled.[2] An achievement comprises not only the armorials themselves displayed on the Escutcheon, the central element, but also the following elements surrounding it:

Coat of arms

Sometimes the term coat of arms is used to refer to the full achievement, but this usage is wrong in a strict sense of heraldic terminology, as a coat of arms refers to a garment with the escutcheon or armorial achievement embroidered on it.[3][4]


Garter stall plate of John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford (c.1485-1554/5), installed as a Knight of the Garter 18 May 1539, showing his "achievement", at that time termed "hatchment"

The ancient term used in place of "achievement" was "hatchment", being a corruption (through such historic forms as atcheament, achement, hathement, etc.) of the French achèvement,[5] from the verb achever, a contraction of à chef venir ("to come to a head"), ultimately from Latin ad caput venire, "to come to a head",[6] thus to reach a conclusion, accomplish, achieve. The word "hatchment" in its historical usage is thus identical in meaning and origin to the English heraldic term "achievement". However, in recent years the word "hatchment" has come to be used almost exclusively to denote "funerary hatchment", whilst "achievement" is now used in place of "hatchment" in a non-funereal context. An example of the historic use of "hatchment" in a non-funerary context to denote what is now termed "achievement" is in the statute of the Order of the Garter laid down by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) concerning the regulation of Garter stall plates:[7]

It is agreed that every knyght within the yere of his stallation shall cause to be made a scauchon of his armes and hachementis in a plate of metall suche as shall please him and that it shall be surely sett upon the back of his stall.


  1. Planche, J.R., Pursuivant of Arms, 1851, p.xx
  2. Boutell, Charles & Charles Fox-Davies, Arthur (1914), The handbook to English heraldry, Reeves & Turner, p. 100, Achievement, or Achievement of Arms. Any complete composition of Arms.
  3. A.G. Puttock, A Dictionary of Heraldry and Related Subjects, Exeter 1985. Blaketon Hall. ISBN 0 907854 93 1. P. 40
  4. Stephen Friar (ed.), A New Dictionary of Heraldry, London 1987. Alphabooks/A&C Black. ISBN 0 906670 44 6. P. 96.
  5. Collins Dictionary of the English Language, London, 1986
  6. Larousse Dictionnaire de la Langue Francaise, Paris, 1979: "lat. pop. capum, class. caput
  7. Round, J. Horace, Family Origins and Other Studies, Page, William, (ed.), London, 1930, pp.174-189, The Garter Plates and Peerage Styles, p.174

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