Wednesday 30 July 2008

And for my father?

I had the pleasure of visiting Edinburgh over the weekend in order to attend a Committee meeting of the HSS; it is usual that on the Friday evening a small number of us meet up for a "Chinese" or an "Indian" and immerse ourselves in the stuff of heraldry. Whilst never claiming to know it all, it is actually quite rare that I come across something which I consider to be a well kept secret; on Friday however, I believe that our conversation uncovered a little known gem.

One of my companions, who has recently become armigerous, informed us that he had petitioned for a grant of arms in his own name with the added clause that the arms should descend, with the usual due differences, to all the descendants of his father. This is not of course unusual except that his father is still alive. My friend the new armiger is the oldest son so, had the arms been actually granted to his father, he would, for the present, use those arms differenced by a label of three points. As it is, he is the actual armiger and uses the arms undifferenced but his younger brother, because of the destination clause, is entitled to matriculate arms differenced with a bordure; something he would not have been able to do if the grant did not have the "father" clause in it.
Nothing unusual here .... but the question was asked - is the father himself armigerous and if so, in light of the fact that he is not actually the recipient of the grant (his son bearing the undifferenced arms) , what arms can he bear, if any?

Before the question was answered, I added to the problem by stating that my English arms have been matriculated in the Lyon Register and although my own grant has no "father" clause, my own father is still alive; I asked what would Lyon Court do if my father were to petition for a grant of arms in his own right?

We all felt that there ought to be some sort of temporary brisure to indicate a father of an armiger and Romilly Squire, past Chairman of the HSS, let us debate the topic for some time before enquiring why we hadn't simply asked him?

It would seem that Innes of Learney invented a solution to the problem quite some time ago when in a grant of arms he stated that the father of the petitioner could, during his lifetime, bear arms courtesy of his son differenced by a label enarched of one point. Later in the evening we retired to Romilly's abode and he showed us a black and white photo copy of the very entry in Lyon Register and he has promised to send me a copy in the post.

So, it would seem that my father is entitled to courtesy arms bearing a label enarched of one point ... perhaps Innes of Learney had in mind something akin to a toothless grin when he came up with the solution!

Sunday 27 July 2008

Scot's arms under the hammer.

I bring to your attention two letters patent, one presently for sale and one recently sold on Ebay, both Victorian and both Scottish.

Presently for sale and with a required starting bid of £95 the letters patent of Alexander Dunsmure (1867) have, as I write, yet to attract a bidder with less than four days to go until the hammer drops. Would be bidders may already be aware that earlier this month, on the 11th July, the grant of arms to prominent politician Charles Cameron (1893) went to the highest bidder for £310. Both grants appear to be complete with their original tube.

The Cameron grant had three active bidders, the alias of the winner being "lynnthorpe" who seems to be a collector of such items having recently been successful in bidding for the Irish grant of arms to Humphrey Brooke Firman ($610 - approx. £307).

It is worth recording some of the details of these grants here, simply because Ebay does not retain its records of sales for long.

That of Alexander Dunsmure is said to be a Victorian Grant of arms dated 1867 complete with attached Scottish seal  in its original tin and black  "japanned" metal case. It is said, by the seller, to be a "fine heraldic illustration" stating that Alexander Dunsmure is living in Leith, the second son of James Dunsmure, Secretary to The Board of British Fishery. Complete with a blue "VR" stamp of 20th March 1867 and signed by George Burnett, Lyon. George Burnett, LLD, WS (1822–1890) was a long-serving Scottish officer of arms. He was the second son of John Burnett, Fifth Laird of Kemnay. He was appointed Lord Lyon King of Arms in 1866 and served in that post until his death in 1890. The Grant (Matriculation) is said to be in good condition having been rolled in its  original tin for years.

Matriculation - Dunsmure

Dunsmure Matriculation

Sold for £310 on the 11th July 2008 the grant of arms to Charles Cameron (1893); said to have a yellow stain on the bottom margin:

Grant of arms to Charles Cameron

Also sold to the same person who purchased the Cameron grant, the Irish grant which records that the petition was presented by Knox,  Lord Bishop of Down, Conner and Dromore, on behalf of a young man for which he was Guardian and Trustee - Humphrey Brooke Firman. This one was sold for $610 (approx. £306) on the 11th June 2008.

Brooke Firman Grant of Arms

Brooke Firman Grant of Arms

Tuesday 22 July 2008

A post card from home.

Issued between 1905 and (possibly) 1914/15 the "Ja Ja" series of heraldic postcards are very collectible and it is thought that over 650 were issued. Mainly illustrating the armorial bearings of Local Government but also including the arms of Scottish clan and family chiefs, there were at least four different designs for the post card front and, for the ardent collector, eight different reverse designs.

I have no information as to who designed the arms but there are some curious displays of heraldry to be found; the arms of the County of Cheshire being no exception.


I would love to know the design rational behind this postcard and can only make a guess as the County Council of Cheshire did not receive a grant of arms until 3rd May 1938. Broken down into its component parts, the Ja Ja Chester arms appear to be an attempt at the arms of The earl of Chester, the shield being Azure, three garbs Or. It is surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Garter which itself is surmounted by the coronet of an earl. The whole is supported by what I must presume to be dragons each one of which is holding an ostrich feather, presumably alluding once more to the heir apparent to the English Throne. I use the term supported quite loosely; if they were in fact properly supporting the shield they would honour it by at least facing it instead of which they appear to have fallen out and seem not to be speaking to each other!

The motto is that of the City of Chester and is said to be over 400 years old. It translates as "Let the ancients worship the ancient of days".

The postcard seems to have more in common with the City than the County. 

I reproduce below the arms of Cheshire County Council for comparison:


ARMS: Azure a Sword erect between three Garbs Or.
CREST: Upon a Mural Crown Gules a Lion statant guardant Or between two Ostrich Feathers Argent.
SUPPORTERS: On either side a Lion Or supporting between the forelegs an Ostrich Feather Argent.
BADGE: In front of an oval Wreath of Oak Leaves a Sword erect the blade surmounted of a Garb all Or.

Motto 'JURE ET DIGNITATE GLADII' - By the right and dignity of the Sword.
Arms, crest and supporters granted 3rd May 1938. Badge granted 23rd December 1958.

The Ja Ja company also produced a post card of the City of Chester itself and this more closely resembles the real thing (being the arms of Chester City and County Borough Council).

Chester City post card ja ja

ARMS: Gules three Lions passant guardant in pale Or dimidiating Azure three Garbs Or.
CREST: On a Wreath Or Gules and azure a Sword erect hilt and pommel Or within a Sheath Sable encircled by a Sword Belt of the last both garnished Gold. Mantled on the dexter side Gules on the sinister side Azure both doubled Argent.
SUPPORTERS: On the dexter side a Lion Or gorged with an open Crown Argent and on the sinister side a Wolf Argent gorged with a like Crown Or.
BADGE: On a Roundel per pale Gules and Azure environed by a Wreath of Laurel Or a Wolf's Head Argent langued also Azure issuant from an Ancient Crown of Gold.

Motto 'ANTIQUI COLANT ANTIQUUM DIERUM' - Let the ancients worship the Ancient of Days.
Arms confirmed, crest and supporters granted 3rd September 1580. Badge granted 17th September 1959.

Chester County Borough Council

In 1977 these arms were again changed when the City of Chester was formed by the amalgamation of the former City and County Borough of Chester, the Chester Rural District and the Tarvin Rural District.

ARMS: Gules three Lions passant guardant in pale Or dimidiating Azure three Garbs Or all within a Bordure Or charged with eight Acorns proper.
CREST: On a Wreath Or Gules and azure a Sword erect hilt and pommel Or within a Sheath Sable encircled by a Sword Belt of the last both garnished Gold all between and interlaced with two Branches of Oak fructed proper. Mantled on the dexter side Gules on the sinister side Azure both doubled Argent.
SUPPORTERS: On the dexter side a Lion Or gorged with an open Crown Argent pendent therefrom a Castle of three towers Gules and on the sinister side a Wolf Argent gorged with a like Crown Or pendent therefrom a Castle of three towers Gules.

Motto 'ANTIQUI COLANT ANTIQUUM DIERUM' - Let the ancients worship the Ancient of Days.
Granted 1977.

City of Chester arms

Friday 18 July 2008

As he giveth, so shall he take away.

It has come to my ears that the so called nobility clause seen in Scottish grants of arms since the days of Lord Lyon Innes of Learney is to be quietly dropped.




"by demonstration of which ensigns armorial he and his successors in the same are, amongst all nobles and in all places of honour, to be taken numbered, accounted and received as Nobles in the Noblesse of Scotland"


The clause was undoubtedly popular with many and especially so with those descendants of Scots now living abroad and of foreign nationality who had petitioned the Lyon Court for a posthumous grant of arms in memory of their Scottish ancestor so that they themselves could matriculate arms and proclaim themselves to be “Scottish armigers” taken numbered, accounted and received as Nobles in the Noblesse of Scotland.


There has been much debate amongst Scots armorists, some of it has become quite heated with one commentator stating that “This ahistorical nonsense was started by a Lord Lyon with a bee in his bonnet about nobility”; the same commentator wondering “Why is there such a preoccupation with this subject? By now it is pretty sterile, and there cannot be much to say about it that is original. Besides which, until the terms noble, noblesse and nobility are authoritatively and legally defined in a Scottish context, the nobiliary clause in patents of arms is meaningless.”


Much discussion has taken place over whether the recipient of a grant was created a noble or just acknowledged as one but of course if the terms are meaningless anyway….


The clause isn’t really so recent as Innes of Learney, nor is it especially Scottish; there are a number of ancient English examples to be found in the archives which patently indicate that Innes of Learney didn’t invent the wording but chose an existing template …. from England!


Alphrey Grant


One ancient confirmation of arms even hints that nobility can be purchased.


Amcotts confirmation


I don’t know why the clause has been quietly dropped but I am informed that the present Lord Lyon at least consulted with his fellow officers of arms prior to doing so; there seems to have been wide agreement that the clause should be dropped. Consultation amongst ones fellows can’t be a bad thing but I still have one major criticism of the workings of Lyon Court – whether decisions are judicial or ministerial, I do wish that they could be formally announced as official policy decisions or legal rulings so that we all knew where we stood, it is difficult to know just what the rules are - or indeed what exactly one is "purchasing".

Friday 4 July 2008

A wee indulgence - II

Roddy informs me that my crest badge is now winging its way to the Edinburgh Assay Office and should be with me shortly ..


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