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Society of Scottish Armigers

We are pleased to announce the formation of a new organization in North America consisting of individuals with Arms registered in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland at the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh, Scotland – The Society of Scottish Armigers, Inc.

The Society has been given the very great honor of having The Right Honorable Robin Orr Blair, LVO, WS, Lord Lyon King of Arms, agree to act as its patron. We are also most pleased to note that the former Lord Lyon, Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight, KCVO, WS, Orkney Herald of Arms Extraordinary, has graciously consented to serve as chairman of the advisory committee.

Lord Lyon and Major Randal Massey of Dunham
Lord Lyon and Major Randal Massey of Dunham
when he agreed to serve as our Patron

The Society was formed with the goal of assisting and helping to educate the Scottish American community and the public at large about Scottish Heraldry and Armory, and Clan Tradition. To this end, the Society as well as the Lord Lyon, encourages those Scottish that may have the right to bear arms to do so and join the Society.

Many Scottish Americans, male and female, may have the right to bear arms. If you can prove that you descend from an ancestor who has arms and bear the same surname, you may petition the Lord Lyon to matriculate your ancestor’s arms. The Lord Lyon may, at his prerogative, grant arms to well deserving individuals. Thus, if you cannot identify an ancestor who had arms, you can petition the Lord Lyon to grant arms to you, or to grant retrospective arms in memory of your Scottish ancestor and then matriculate those arms if you bear the same surname.

There are a number of privileges that come with having your own coat of arms, such as wearing your own crest badge consisting of your crest within a circlet (not strap-and-buckle as clansmen do) inscribed with your motto and one eagle’s feather in silver behind the circlet on your bonnet; flying your own personal flag bearing your arms; and your wife wearing your crest by itself, to name but a few. (Clan chiefs are entitled to wear three feathers while chieftains two.)

More importantly, just as the arms of the chief descend to his heir, so do the arms of other Armigers. Their arms become part of their own family's history and heirlooms, building a link across the generations with the symbols of heraldry and the genealogy of the bearers of those arms. We Scots take our traditions seriously, spending great effort in maintaining and celebrating them. The Society hopes to aid in both understanding and building upon that tradition.

Members of the Society are available to speak to groups, appear at Highland Games and other appropriate events, or to author short articles for publication in clan and society newsletters. For further information contact:

Major Randal Massey of Dunham.
PO Box 361924
Birmingham, AL 35236

What is an Armiger?
Captain Robert Jeffrey Urquhart, FSA Scot. 

An Armiger is a member of the Armorial Noblesse of Scotland, an embodiment of the living survival of the old medieval realm. Armigers  perpetuate the organization, traditions and concepts of the old clan or family organization of the kingdom. As such they are of immense interest and value to those of Scottish descent in America, especially at all Scottish games, gatherings and social events, where their use of heraldry maintains tradition - pride in, and loyalty to the family, and to the chief, who represents the family.

Every Fellow and member of the Society of Scottish Armigers has been recognized by Lyon Court in Scotland and has been granted “Ensigns Amorial”, their individual “monomark” or coat of arms. The Scottish system of armorial differencing distinguish chief, chieftains, and cadets of each such noble and organized name on scientific lines in order to give practical identification to the various lines of the family and to prevent cadets from assuming arms inconsistent with their actual position in the family tree. This splendid scientific system of individual differencing has been carried on in Scotland from the Middle Ages to the present time. The basic or undifferenced arms and crest, are the property, not of the "family" but of the "Chief".

A coat of arms is the outward indication of nobility (Edmondson, Complete Body of Heraldry, p. 154), and arms are officially described as "Ensigns of Nobility". (Nisbet's Heraldry, iii, ii, 65) A patent of arms is a Diploma of Nobility. (Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Scots Heraldry, p. 20)

Despite the popularity of recent merchandising campaigns, there is no such thing as a Scots "Family" coat of arms or crest. Since a coat of arms is a monomark (mono = one) ownership of an arms pertains to one individual and is the individual mark identifying that individual, it is strictly not open to anyone else of the same surname. If you use the arms of someone else you are usurping arms. If you make up your own arms you are using assumed arms. In Scotland, in both cases you are committing an offence and may be charged and tried in the Lord Lyons Court which is a court of law. Scots Heraldry is one of the most tightly controlled in the world, one of the few countries where heraldry is protected by law. That law is still strictly enforced in Scotland. Prosecution of offenders is conducted entirely at the expense of  the Crown, and the owners of arms invoke it very freely and at no cost to themselves.

Legitimate Arms for citizens of the monarchies of the (British) Commonwealth are heraldic devices which have been granted or registered by the Kings of Arms in England, the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland or the Chief Herald of Canada, and to which an individual has a right of use.

Assumed Arms are heraldic devices which have been adopted by the user as an identifying symbol without the warrant of a legitimate heraldic authority but which are not the property of another.  Usurped Arms are heraldic devices which are not the property of the user nor to which he has a recognized right but are the property of some other individual or institution. Assumed or usurped Arms have no place at Scottish events and indeed debase the splendid traditions of the old medieval realm and subject the user to scorn and ridicule.

Heraldry is the machinery for operating The Family - the most important community-organization in the world; and Scottish heraldry is the most scientifically perfected heraldic system for that purpose, because it came under statutory-control and administration. Heraldry appeared in the 12th century as a form of identification.  It appeared when visors were added to helmets making it difficult or impossible to recognize individuals.  A design was placed on the shield as a means of identification.  This system would only work if the design was unique to that individual.  If two persons could have the same design there would be a confusion similar to that which would occur if two or more hockey players had the same number on their sweaters.  This principal has been maintained in the heraldry of Scotland and of Canada.  European and English heraldry is not so pure."

To be strong the family must use heraldry. Chiefs, lairds, and chieftains - and the duaine-uasal gentlemen of the family, should also assiduously and carefully use heraldry. It maintains tradition - pride in, and loyalty to the family, and to the chief, who represents the family. The chief, chieftains and duine-uasal, use their arms on notepaper, invitation cards, marriage and other invitations, and on Christmas cards. Thus is "The Family" made a living and functioning entity, whose existence, embodied in the chief, is ever before its members with the inspiration of tradition, heraldic color, and sense of unity and strength, and so kept steadfastly before its children. Heraldry should therefore be used lavishly, as color with a purpose, the symbol of the noble patriarchate, and the glory and strength of a well-knit house and clan.

To preserve our ancient and noble heritage Scottish Armigers should be invited to attend all Scottish gatherings and events, and as part of the Noblesse of Scotland are eager, willing and qualified to speak at such events on a variety of topics such as heraldry, Scottish customs and traditions, clan history, etc. The authority and authenticity they bring to these gatherings, as well as their use and display of heraldry enhances the prestige of such events and provides Americans of Scottish descent an opportunity to obtain factual information on their heritage. Armigers can easily be spotted at Scottish events by the long feather(s) worn in their bonnets, or the silver feathers worn above their crest-badges. A clan chief wears three, a chieftain two and the gentlemen of the clan wear one. Their crest badges are round circles, rather than the belt and buckle style worn by the clansmen. The wearing of long feathers (as opposed to the bandsman’s hackle) by clansmen is not appropriate and indeed reveals the ignorance of tradition and custom by those wearing them. The colourful heraldic flags, banners, standards, guidons, pinsels, and gonfanons which are the personal property of the Armiger add to the glory of the event and instill pride in one’s Scottish heritage.

More information about armigers living in your area and how to arrange for their attendance at your event can be obtained by contacting this organization.

See the Society of Scottish Armigers web site


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