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 by Gregory Lauder-Frost, F.S.A. Scot.
member of the Council of the Scottish Genealogy Society;
member of The Heraldry Society of Scotland.

(Note: clicking on the arms below will bring up a full-screen picture of them but a little patience is required while they load)

According to all the sources I have consulted, the ancient family of Lauder bore arms long before any established heraldic authority existed in Scotland. It is probable that, as Normans, they brought their arms – a griffin – with them when first entering Scotland in 1056. From about the year 1000, Normans were decorating their shields, especially with wavy crosses and with beasts. Alexander Nisbet, writing in his famous Systems of Heraldry in 1722, seems to think that the Lauders may originally have been Flemish or German and suggests this is where they acquired the griffin from, as in the 11th century only the Germans were known to be using this mythical figure.

Amongst the best authorities for early arms and crests are seals. Ancient Scottish Seals by Henry Laing (Edinburgh 1866) mentions five Lauder seals and illustrates one from the Melrose Charters – that of William Lauder, (died 1425) Bishop of Glasgow and Lord Chancellor of Scotland. The Bishop’s arms, identical to the seal, are to be found in stone in Glasgow Cathedral, large parts of which were constructed at his behest.

Scottish Armorial Seals by W.R.MacDonald (Edinburgh 1904) went further than Mr.Laing, listing some twenty four Lauder seals. Again, the earliest seal he has listed was one from 1417, again of William Lauder Bishop of Glasgow. All the seals mentioned herein show a shield with a griffin segreant.

Following the death of Alan Lauder of that Ilk circa 1407 the family split into two distinct branches: Lauder of The Bass, and Lauder of Haltoun.


Nisbet states that the original family of Lauder of that Ilk or Lauder Tower carried a griffin for their armorial figure, and it appears that the original Lauder arms were, (Burke [1842] lists erroneously as Lauder of Haltoun), Ar. a griffin segreant sa, with a tower as crest with motto Vivit post funera virtus (‘Virtue lives on after death’). The family based at Lauder descended from an Alan Lauder of that Ilk, a younger son of Sir Robert Lauder of The Bass (d.1425), who sat on a Retour Inquest in the Royal Burgh of Lauder on 30th April 1461, and whose seal is attached, showing the original arms only. His younger son, Robert Lauder of Murecleuch, who later became Robert Lauder of that Ilk (upon the demise without male heirs of his elder brother Oliver) used the same seal on 23rd May 1503 and this can be found on p.197 of MacDonald.

Lauder of HaltounHALTOUN

In Sir David Lindsay’s Heraldic Manuscript of 1542, he displays plates of Lauder of Bass, and Lauder of Haltoun, both with the griffin sergeant (Bass with a double tressure). The present Lord Lyon of Scotland also relies upon the Workman’s Manuscript for an authority. This manuscript is a little misleading as to Lauder pedigrees, however what it does tell us is that Lauder of Haltoun had a griffin in the arms but that "afterwards it was borne holding a sword in its for-paw, supporting a saracen’s head proper". The arms motto was Strike alike. (Nisbet and Stodart agree with this plate).

The original crest to the Lauder arms appears to have been a tower. However, after the addition to the arms for Haltoun which Workman’s mentions, above, a demi-griffin issued from the tower, which had a motto Vivit post funera virtus.

Alan Lauder of that Ilk (d.c1407), who was confirmed in the Haltoun estates in 1371, had fought the Moors in Spain, and his direct ancestor had been in the Third Crusade fighting the Saracens. Exactly when the shield was altered, therefore, we cannot say, but  it may be safe to assume that  George Lauder (d.c 1430), who established the separate House of Lauder of Haltoun after his father’s death, altered the arms to add the saracen’s head on a sword, as above.

Lauder of BassBASS

The next arms of this family which concern us are those of Lauder of Bass, a branch which became a separate entity at about the same time as Haltoun.

Henry Laing tells us that a seal of Sir Robert Lauder of Bass, Lord Justice of Scotland etc etc, appended to an Instrument dated 16th July 1425, has the griffin surrounded by a royal tressure. (Tytler states that this Sir Robert Lauder was "a firm friend of the King" [James 1st] and possibly the double-tressure dates from this time. Alternatively, his father "a renowned hero" [Froissart] had been at the battle of Otterburn). Mr.MacDonald also describes this seal the same way but adds that there was for a crest: on a helmet front face, a griffin head. This crest may have been personal to this Sir Robert as it does not appear after this time. Messrs Laing, MacDonald and also Workman’s state that these arms had supporters: two lions rampant guardant.

Since that time it would also appear that the background colour of the shield was changed by this branch of the family from white to red. All authorities (Stodart, Nisbet, Burke etc) now agree that the arms of Lauder of Bass are: gules, a griffin segreant, within a double tressure flowered and counter-flowered argent; motto (possibly added at the same time as the crest): sub umbra alarum taurum (the motto is taken from Psalm LXIII verse 8 – "because thou hast been my helper, therefore, ‘under the shadow of thy wings’ will I rejoice").

Alexander Nisbet, states that an old gravestone in North Berwick had two angels as supporters but he does not say that he himself actually saw it and does not quote the authority. Given what has already been said, above, such supporters may be disputed. It is also universally acknowledged that the crest of this family was, by the 16th century,: a solan-goose [gannet] sitting on a rock proper.

Lauder of Belhaven & West BarnsBELHAVEN or BEILMOUTH

Sometime after 1650 Robert Lauder of Belhaven & West Barns (later ‘of Beilmouth’), whose line commenced with a younger son of Bass c1500, registered arms based upon that descent: gules, a griffin segreant, within a double tressure flowered and counter-flowered argent, the same with Bass; and charges the breast of the griffin with a heart ensigned with an imperial crown, all proper, for his difference, his wife being daughter of Douglas of Standingstone; crest: the trunk of an old tree budding, proper. Motto: Repullulat (It sprouts forth again). This branch of the family were later Jacobites.


Next we come to Sir John Lauder of Newington (not displayed) [Edinburgh], and later Fountainhall [East Lothian], 1st baronet, who registered arms about 1672 as a descendant of a second son of Lauder of that Ilk: gules, a griffin segreant argent in dexter canton a tower, or. Crest: a balance equilibriated, or. Motto: Mediocria firma .

Lauder of FountainhallHis son, Sir John Lauder, Lord Fountainhall, 2nd baronet, registered arms on 15th June 1699: gules, a griffin segreant within a bordure argent. Supporters: two lions rampant argent, standing on a compartment on which is this motto: Ut migraturus habita (‘Live, but be ready to leave’). Crest: a tower embattled argent, masoned sable, with the porticullis down, on the top of the embattlement a man in a watching posture; Motto: Turris prudentia custos (‘careful watch over the tower’).

The Lauders of Fountainhall (today this family have the additional surname of Dick, therefore Dick Lauder with a quartered coat of arms) claimed descent through the lairds of Lauder who were, they said, of the Bass family. Thus their Lauder coats of arms’ colours are based on that of Bass (but see above, under Ancient Lauder.

Lauder of WineparkWINEPARK

John Lauder of Winepark, (an estate with a Pele Tower above the Mains of Lauder in Berwickshire, originally part of the Maitland of Thirlestane lands, then Lauder of Haltoun, reverting to the Maitlands as superiors but feud to the Lauders of Bass from a very early date, at least 15th century), registered arms in 1745 clearly claiming his descent from Bass: gules, a griffin segreant argent within a bordure of the last, charged with four hearts, ensigned with imperial crowns, proper, and as many crescents gules.

Crest: a dexter hand holding a scimitar, and on the point thereof a Saracen’s head, all proper.

The issuing authority, the Lord Lyon’s Office in Edinburgh, has the Winepark shield griffin as salient, clearly an error as all the ancient Lauder arms bore the griffin segreant. Also, the crest indicates a connexion with the House of Haltoun. Unless, that is, John Lauder is using the crest to indicate he too is a descendant of the Lauder ancestor who went on the Third Crusade.

In the above achievements of Haltoun, Bass and Fountainhall there is an error common to them all: their crests sit upon a helmet facing sideways. This is incorrect. It should be a full-faced steel helmet, with the visor thrown back, and without bars.

One last point. There are strict legal rules on sporting a coat of arms or crest. You should not "adopt" either until you have consulted the Office of the Lord Lyon and New Register House, Edinburgh, who can confirm whether or not you are a descendant of the the person to whom the arms/crest(s) were issued.

Some additional references:

The Science of Heraldry by Sir George Mackenzie, Edinburgh, 1680.
A System of Heraldry by Alexander Nisbet, Edinburgh, 1722; facsimile in 1984, two volumes.
Analecta Scotica Edinburgh, 1834.
Encyclopaedia of Heraldy or General Armory by Messrs. John & John Bernard Burke, London, 1844, 3rd edition.
Scottish Arms by R.R.Stodart, Edinburgh, 1881, two volumes.
An Ordinary of Arms by Sir James Balfour Paul, Lord Lyon King of Arms, Edinburgh, 1903, 2nd edition.

An extensive 20 page essay with full sources on Lauder Arms appears in the Heraldry Society of Scotland's journal The Double Tressure, no.,29, 2007, ISSN 0-141-237-X.

Return to Lauder Index Page


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