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What is an Armiger?

 
 

What is a Scottish Armiger?

Heraldry is fun, artistic and has established conventions and usages that anyone can learn. For example, magnificent and colorful heraldic flags can instill pride in Scottish heritage and add glory to any event. A Scottish Armiger is a person who has a coat of arms recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland in the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. The Society of Scottish Armigers is a United States of America IRS 501(c)(3) educational entity organized to provide the public with information about the Scottish system of heraldry and its fascinating traditions, customs and laws.

Scotland has the most scientific system of heraldry in the world today and is governed by a series of laws dating back to 1587:

 
    The Officers of Arms Act of 1587 [1587 cap. 46]

The Lyon King of Arms Act of 1592 [1592 cap. 125; fol. edit cap. 29 (Jac. VI)]

The Lyon King of Arms Act of 1662 [1662 cap. 53 (Car. II.)]

The Lyon King of Arms Act of 1663 [1663 cap. 15 (Car. II.)]

The Lyon King of Arms Act of 1672 [1672 cap. 21; fol. edit., cap. 47 (Car. II)]

The Act of the British Parliament of 1867 [1867, cap. 17 (Victoria)]
   
 

These Acts establish how one can acquire arms, matriculate arms and establish penalties for misuse of arms in Scotland. It should be noted that in Scotland, a coat of arms belongs to a single individual at a time and there is no such thing as a "Family" coat of arms or crest. If a person uses the arms of someone else in Scotland, he or she is usurping those arms and the Procurator Fiscal of Lyon Court can prosecute the offender in court. And it is the Procurator Fiscal who goes after the culprit – not the owner of the arms.

Outside the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon, it is in the worst possible taste to pretend that someone else’s Scottish arms are your own, although many people do not realize that this is the case. The best modern analogy is identity theft. Arms were the symbol of a person’s identity back in the days when most people were illiterate; likewise, they had an important use on the battlefield (Who’s my ally in this fight? Oh, I see his banner!) and at great gatherings. To use someone else’s Arms was a great insult and downright dangerous, and the reaction was at least as strong as anyone would feel now if his identity was stolen by hackers.

The basic or undifferenced arms and crest are the property of the Chief of the clan or name. The Scottish system of armorial differencing distinguishes the arms of various individuals, and identifies the Chief, Chieftains, and cadets of each organized name. Although a coat of arms belongs to a single individual and is the mark identifying that individual, most coats of arms for persons of the same surname will bear some resemblance to the arms of the Chief. A trained eye will recognize how individuals are related by observing their arms.

Although the Scottish system of heraldry reaches back to the Middle Ages, it is possible to obtain authentic new Scottish arms, as well as to establish the right to use the arms of an ancestor. Members of our society can tell you how a person may obtain Scottish arms of his or her own, and can even help you to do so. Every member of the Society of Scottish Armigers has been recognized by the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland and has “Ensigns Armorial” (i.e., a coat of arms) recorded in the Public Register. Each member is eager, willing and qualified to speak at events on a variety of topics involving Scottish heraldry, customs and traditions.

You can obtain more information about armigers living in your area and how to arrange for their attendance at your event by contacting the Society of Scottish Armigers
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