Baron and feme

In English law, baron and feme is a phrase used for husband and wife, in relation to each other, who were accounted as one person by coverture. Hence, by the old law of evidence, the one party was excluded from giving evidence for or against the other in civil questions, and a relic of this is still preserved in criminal law.


In heraldry, baron and femme are terms denoting the two-halves of an heraldic escutcheon used when the coat of arms of a man and the paternal arms of his wife are impaled (or anciently dimidiated), that is borne per pale within the same escutcheon.[1] The position of the husband's arms, on the dexter side (to viewer's left), the position of honour, is referred to as baron whilst the paternal arms of the wife are shown in sinister, referred to as femme. The resultant shield is used by the husband, as in general females are not entitled to display heraldry, unless suo jure peeresses. This is the normal way of displaying the arms of a married man. Impalement is not used when the wife is an heraldic heiress, in which case her paternal arms are displayed on an inescutcheon of pretence within her husbands' arms, denoting that the husband is a pretender to the paternal arms of his wife, and that they will be quartered by the couple's issue and later descendants. Where arms are impaled for reasons other than conjugal marriage, for example the spiritual marriage of a bishop to his see or the mystical marriage of King Richard II to Saint Edward the Confessor, the halves of the shield are referred to as simply dexter and sinister.


In Late Latin barō, barōnis, meant man (a borrowing from Frankish *barō). Later, in Western Europe, the word was used to refer to a ruler's leading henchmen (e.g. a baron was the King's Man). Later, it came to have a specific, legal definition as the tenant-in-chief of the early Norman kings, which class developed into feudal barons who held their lands from the king by the feudal tenure per baroniam and were entitled to attend parliament.[2] The Norman-French word feme/femme simply denotes "woman" or "wife".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Boutell, Charles (1864), Heraldry, historical and popular (3 ed.), R. Bentley, p. 106, Escutcheon: an Heraldic Shield See Chap III ... Femme: the Wife as distinguished from the Baron her Husband.
  2. ^ Sanders, Ivor John (1980), Feudal Military Service in England: A Study of the Constitutional and Military Powers of the Barones in Medieval England, Greenwood Press, p. 100, ISBN 9780313227257, Part I, The Baro and the Baronia


  1.   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

External linksEdit

  • "Baron and Femme". Florida Center for Instructional Technology. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 'Parted per pale, baron and femme, two coats; first, or, a chevron gules; second, barry of twelve pieces, azure and argent. In Heraldry, the husband and wife are called baron and femme; ... the shield is in heraldic language said to be parted per pale.' -Hall, 1862