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Changes in Scots Arms
By W. Neil Fraser

The new Lord Lyon David Sellar, appointed in March 2008, has begun to institute changes in the Letters Patent (legal document) for new grants of arms in Scotland.  One change that would be less obvious is that he has revised the preamble of Letters Patent relative to the authority of the Lyon Court to reflect the legislation of the original Scottish Parliament in 1592 and 1672 that established the role of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland to “exercise His (Her) Majesty’s heraldic prerogative in Scotland”.  That authority remains in effect today, but is now more clearly stated in modern English.

Another major change made by Lyon Sellar is to eliminate the “nobiliary” clause that often confused people, especially those who assumed that a grant of Scots arms created “noble” status for an armiger, unlike English and Canadian grants of arms. 

Much has been written about the intended meaning of  the term “a noble in the noblesse of Scotland” that has been included in prior Letters Patent since the time of Lyon Sir Thomas Innes of Learney.  Such discussions are far too complex to recite here, but it is generally agreed that a grant of Scottish arms does not confer any special “noble” status.  It merely confirms that the grantee is a worthy and respected individual deserving of recognition by a grant of arms in Scotland. Those with titles of nobility from the Crown have the right to personal arms reflecting their noble status, and grants of arms merely confirm their noble status, with appropriate additaments such as supporters and appropriate mantling.

The change will no doubt disappoint some who thought that a grant of arms in Scotland allowed them to suddenly become “noble,” even in countries like the U.S. and Canada where the nobility was abolished many years ago.  Vanity has no limits, other than the cost and, if nothing else, has contributed to the coffers of the Lyon Office in Edinburgh and Her Majesty’s Treasury. 

Unlike the heraldic authorities at The College of Arms and Garter King of Arms in England, and The Chief Herald of Canada, the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland still deals directly with Her Majesty on heraldic matters as well as being a Judge of the Court of The Lord Lyon and Minister of the Crown.

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