Wednesday 12 May 2010

It's all down to nationality.

In July 1957 The Heraldry Society launched its new coat of arms upon the world in its journal, The Coat of Arms.  

The Coat of Arms of The Heraldry Society

In the same edition its Hon. Editor in Chief, J.P. Brooke-Little, gave his view on "What does such and such a coat of arms mean?". Whilst the piece on the arms of The Heraldry Society clearly sets out an inclusive attitude viz: "the graceful single tressure flory, which has about it a suggestion of Scotland", the editorial comment is undoubtedly written with an English bias as it describes those bearing the same surname as an existing armiger, and seeking to gain a grant of similar arms to the original coat, as being full of pretension and "slightly ridiculous".

To be fair, he does allow one or two exceptional circumstances but the general tenor of the piece is that regardless of the fact that you bear the same surname, if you can't prove a direct relationship and your origins don't stem from within 10 miles of the original armiger's place of residence then you should petition for a coat of arms which bears no resemblance at all to the existing coat.  An entirely English view which strikes a sword right through the entire simplicity of the Scottish system which is perfectly happy to accept the legal fiction that everyone bearing the same surname must be an indeterminate cadet of the "Chief" and therefore entitled to a coat of arms which reflects that of the original.

Now this brings me to a good natured debate I have recently had with an old friend of mine who some time ago obtained a grant of Scottish arms. My friend bears with pride a Scottish surname but is not a subject of the Crown, does not hold a British passport, and resides in the country of his birth which is a republic far away. For years he desperately tried to find a genealogical link with Scotland so that he might obtain a grant of arms, from the Lord Lyon, in memory of his (supposed) ancestor thus allowing him to matriculate arms for himself; all sadly to no avail. Not one for taking such a defeat lying down, and having given up all hope of finding the illusive missing link, he set about purchasing a suitably sized piece of remote Scottish turf and successfully petitioned Lyon for a new coat of arms on the basis that he was now in possession of a piece of Scottish land. The arms he received were, as would be expected, easily identified as belonging to the genre of his Scottish surname; he was accepted without question as an indeterminate cadet.

What of the good natured debate?

I'm afraid that I am apt to pull his leg. You see, my friend now calls himself a Scottish armiger and I insist that he is really simply an American in possession of Scottish arms. I am English with English arms which, because they are matriculated in the Scottish Register, are permitted to be used in Scotland. Having arms recorded in the Register, whether by grant or matriculation, does not change either of our nationalities.

Mohamed Al Fayed, until quite recently, owned an English shop but it didn't make him an English shop keeper ... that is a status he never achieved.

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