Saturday, 11 July 2020

Conferring a right!

Way back in May of this year I was discussing The South African Bureau of Heraldry and a weblog post, made by an individual who shall remain nameless to save embarrassment, was brought to my attention.

Hmm. In scrolling down I noticed the blogger's rather skewed view on Letters Patent and Certificates:

Here is the relevant quote from the weblog:
"I have a few coats of arms issued by the South African Government, I’ve generally referred to the actual physical document as Letters Patent and not a Grant of Arms. A grant is seen as having been issued with some form of Royal Warrant attached to it as opposed to being issued officially by a government. Recently I had some criticism from another South African armiger stating that the arms issued by South Africa were not Letters Patent but merely Certificates of Registration. This gave me pause to think and when I asked the person who stated the above, they decided to reply with a flippant remark if that I couldn’t see the difference then clearly, they couldn’t explain it. 

So, what are Letters Patent? A quick glance online gives several definitions but for the sake of brevity I will refer to the online dictionary.com which says ‘an open document issued by a monarch or government conferring a patent or other right.’ (sic).

So the coats of arms issued by the Bureau of Heraldry, are they an open public document? Yes. Are they issued officially by their Government? Yes. Do they confer the right of ownership for a coat of arms? Yes!"

The blogger almost gets there but then goes off piste. Certificates from the South African Bureau of Heraldry most certainly do not confer a right to arms, they simply confirm (and record) a right to arms. 

Since, in South Africa, anyone may assume arms and it is not at all necessary for the Government to intervene, the right to the arms is automatically gained with the assumption. Once the right, by assumption, has been established, it can not then be conferred by the South African Government and is therefore simply confirmed or, more accurately, registered in a Government Register in much the same way that the Scottish Government will, upon request, register anyone's tartan. Our friend appears to have somehow convinced himself that the South African Government has conferred upon him the right to arms. As my colleagues across the pond would say "Go figure"!


The Registration Certificate of the arms of the South African National Youth Orchestra Foundation - illustrated here simply as an example of the registration certificates issued by the South African Bureau of Heraldry and nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of this post. OK, I can't resist it - it does somewhat fly in the face of the mantra "only bucket shops put the name on the motto scroll"!

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