Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Scottish Heraldic records now online

The Public Register of all Arms and Bearings from 1672 - 1907, which has previously been digitised and made available at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh, is from today also available online. The records can be downloaded at a cost of £10 each from the Scotland's People website at http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/. As with the wills and testaments on the site, there is a free search facility.

The Register, which consists of more than eighty volumes of parchment, records all the coats of arms ("personal achievements") as granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms since 1672, with the first arms depicted being those of Sir Charles Erskline, Baronet. Alongside a beautifully painted version of the design is recorded the "blazon" (a specific word description of the design as denoted in specific heraldic language) and a narrated pedigree, as could be proved at the time of the Grant of Arms.

Bear in mind, a coat of arms in Scotland is not a "family coat of arms" - here, there is no such thing. It is illegal for anyone in Scotland to use a set of arms that has been granted to a particular individual, even within the same immediate family. If a head of family has a set of arms, other members of the family have to apply to the Court of the Lord Lyon to have a "differenced" version designed or "matriculated" for them - in other words, a version of the coat of arms with a deliberate change in some aspect of its design, as decided by the Lord Lyon, the rules for which in Scotland are fairly scientific (i.e. a first son will have one particular standardised difference added, a second son another specific change made etc).

To use someone else's coat of arms is considered theft, as a grant of arms is considered to be heritable property. In other words, don't download an image and start plastering it all over your nice new front door as the so-called "family coat of arms" - the Court of the Lord Lyon's procurator fiscal just might have a few words to say, and you could find yourself in a lot of legal trouble! It is a real working court, with real working laws, with nice people happy to work you over legally if you break them!!! It should be noted that in Scotland, you do not have to be a member of the nobility to be entitled to a coat of arms, you merely have to be a "virtuous and well deserving person".

Rather than misusing someone else's coat of arms, if you wish to show some degree of fealty to a clan, it is however acceptable and perfectly legal to use a clan crest, the symbol as taken from the crest of a clan chief's coat of arms and encircled in a belt image.

For more information on Scottish heraldry, visit the website of the Court of the Lord Lyon at www.lyon-court.com , and for specific information on the Public Register visit www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk/register.html.


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