Armorial bearings, being for
distinguishing persons of, and within, a family, cannot descend to, or
be used by, persons who are not members of the family. The surname
indicates the family to which a family belongs. A person named
Macdonald cannot bear a Ross coat of arms, or any part of it.
The Chief's coat of arms fulfils within
the clan or family the same purpose as the Royal Arms do in a Kingdom.
There is no such thing as a "family crest" or
"family coat of arms" which anyone can assume, or a whole
family can use.
Armorial bearings, of which the Crest
is a subsidiary part, are a form of individual heritage property,
devolving upon one person at a time by sucession from the
grantee or confirmee, and thus descend like a Peerage. They indicate
the Chief of the Family or Clan, or the Head of each subsidiary line
or household descending from members who have themselves established
in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland a right to
a subsidiary version of the arms and crest, containing a mark of
difference indicating their position in the Family or Clan. This is
not a "new" coat of arms, it is the ancient
ancestral arms with a mark of cadency, usefully showing the cadet's
place within the family. It identifies where you, and your own
heirs, belong within the family. It is, as well as being
beautiful, a valuable system of identification.
The parts of the armorial bearings
It is illegal to assume and purport to
use your Chief's arms without a due and congruent recorded difference.
Anyone who does so merely publishes their own ignorance.
There is no such thing as a "Clan
coat of arms". The arms are those of the Chief, and clansmen have
only the privilege of wearing the strap-and-buckle crested badge to
show they are such Chief's clansmen.
One cannot have a crest without first
having a shield of arms, because the crest was a later addition.
Misuse of crests arises from misunderstanding of the badge rule under
which junior members of the family may wear in specified
manner their Chief's crest as badge.
The Crest of the Chief
is worn by all members of the Clan and of approved Septs and followers
of the Clan, within a strap and buckle surround bearing the Chief's
motto. This is for personal wear only, to indicate that the
wearer is a member of the Clan whose Chief's crest-badge is being
worn. The badge or crest is not depicted on personal or
business stationery, signet rings or plate, because such use would
legally import that the tea-pot, etc., was the Chief's property!
Grants and Matriculations of Arms
Those who wish to use
arms in any particular sense must petition for a Grant of Arms or --
if they can trace their ancestry back to a direct or, in some cases
collateral, ancestor -- a "cadet matriculation" showing
their place with the family. Forms of Petition and sample proof-sheets
relative to such application can be supplied if required.
When a grant, or
matriculation, of arms is successfully obtained, an illuminated
parchment, narrating the pedigree as proved, is supplied to the
Petitioner, and a duplicate is recorded in the Public Register of
All Arms and Bearings in Scotland and/or the Public Register
of Genealogies and Birthbrieves.
Application for such a
Confirmation, by Letters Patent or Matriculation, from the Lord Lyon
King of Arms is the only way to obtain a genuine coat of arms.
People normally wear
only the tartan (if any) of their surname, or a "district
tartan" connected with their residence or family's place of
origin. Check out our Tartans
page for more information.
This information was taken from a leaflet published by the Court of
the Lord Lyon, HM New Register House, Edinburgh, EH1 3YT.