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