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 consist of:
- The Shield, bearing the basic device
- The Helmet, with its Crest, which sits on top of the helmet
- The Motto in a scroll
- The Mantling or cape, which kept the sun off the wearer's
armour in hot weather
- Very rarely, two Supporters on either side of the shield,
which are external attributes of the arms of Peers, Chiefs and a very few other
persons of special importance, including Knights Grand Cross of Orders.
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
Acquisition of 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
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.
Note: This information was
taken from a leaflet published by the Court of the Lord Lyon, HM New Register House,
Edinburgh, EH1 3YT.