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From Old French vierge escu ("virgin shield"). It was white because it lacked a background or devices, which celebrated accomplishments, of which the knight had none.



  1. (rare, historical) The white shield that was the mark of novice knights, especially in Arthurian legend.
    • Mid-16th century, Anonymous, The Harleian Manuscript[1], page 24:
      xxijth daye of Maie, there shall be a grene tree sett up in the lawnde of Grenwich parke; whereuppon shall hange, by a grene lace, a Vergescu Blanke, in which white shield it shalbe[sic] lawfull for any gentleman that will annswear this chalenge ensewing to subscribe his name.
    • 1940, Terence White, The Ill-Made Knight[2], page 186:
      "Do you mean Galahad? Was he bearing the vergescu?” “Yes, Galahad. It wasn't a vergescu. He had got hold of a shield somewhere which was said to have belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. It was argent a tau cross gules.
    • 2011, Lev Grossman, The Magician King[3], page 114:
      They should have been facing down bellowed challenges from black knights bearing the vergescu, or solving thorny theological dilemmas posed by holy hermits. Or at the very least resisting the diabolical temptations of ravishing succubi.