Dear AHS Forumeers,
I’ve been interested for some time in heraldic design and am debating trying my hand (with your help) at heraldic design. Originally, my plan was to apply for arms in Scotland "for and in memory of" my immigrant ancestor, James Brown MacLea. You can read something about this in an old post on Anthony Maxwell’s old forum:
However, as much as I’d like to do this, money is tight and promises to be for the ‘indeterminate’ future (a little pun there given my status as an "indeterminate cadet" of MacLea). I think designing and assuming arms in the US in the mean time would be pleasing to me, but the form is a bit befuddled in my brain. Perhaps you eminent gentlemen could help clear my brain a bit and provide some opinions.
After going through that initial design with the clan chief’s son, as discussed in that forum, I do like the arms that were designed:
"Quarterly, First Or, a lion rampant Gules, Second and Third Argent, a dexter hand couped at the wrist Gules, holding a cross crosslet fitchée Azure, Fourth parted perr fess wavy Or and Azure a sparrowhawk volante Sable in chief, a salmon naiant Proper with a gemmed ring in the mouth."
These would be the arms of my father, with my own arms being then quarterly indented as a second-son mark of difference. My elder brother and his son would inherit the undifferenced arms.
You can see an example emblazonment here (on the right):
Basically, the fourth quarter has a couple of differences from the Chiefly arms, which I am told should be sufficient for Lyon now, but of course by the time I might apply for Scottish arms, might not be.
Now, even though I like these arms, I have these concerns:
1. I have not petitioned Lyon. In taking on such arms similar to Scottish arms, am I violating any heraldic principles given that I live in the US, where assuming is legal? (But keeping in mind that I am wishing to HONOR my Scottish forbears, not violate the Scottish rules!) Would this be different if I had the Chief’s permission?
2. I may someday petition Lyon for arms. In that day, this suggestion may be deigned inappropriate and I may be given other, similar arms as an indeterminate cadet of MacLea. In this case, having assumed arms that are VERY different from the Scottish type arms may have the benefit of not having used for many years "similar" arms, only to have to change them "slightly" later.
3. I could assume completely different arms, or ones which feature some of the elements of this design while developing something new. Thus, I could have, as it were, "American" arms and later, when I can afford it, "Scottish" arms. I have no great opposition to this, but given the identifying marks of heraldry and the inflexibility of Scottish rules (indeterminate cadets must be based on chiefly arms), I may be setting myself up for having to change my heraldry later to a form that I may find less appealing but have less recourse about.
Ah! I have debated even discussing this on the Forum, because of these concerns. Mainly, I wonder—should I design "American" arms, perhaps based on some of the unique or family-based Charges in the Scottish arms, and/or incorporating things uniquely based on my family’s American experience or should I assume arms directly based on Scottish arms?
Of course, the other option is that I could take on "American" arms now, and acquire "Scottish" arms later, which is my general tendency at the moment.
Given the collective experience of this Forum, what are members’ thoughts and ideas on my "conundrum"?
You’re definitely in the right place to get advice about the design of your arms. I’m still pretty new to this, and there do seem to some fine points pertinent to different national traditions that you might need to keep in mind in designing your arms. That said, when I was settling on the design of my arms a couple of months ago, the basic message I got from the other members of the AHS echoed what you seem to understand already (viz., that assuming arms is legitimate in the U.S., that duplicating an existing design is to be avoided even though there are no laws here preventing one from doing so, but that basing the design of your arms on an existing design to which you have some connection is quite acceptable).
As far as I can tell, Lyon would attempt to keep as close to your design as possible; but, he can also change things if he thinks the association is too close to the Chief. The sparrowhawk might not be enough of a difference for an indeterminate cadet—Lyon might impose different lines of division as well; or other chages.
Overall, Lyon would—I believe—try to accomodate you as much as heraldically possible, and he would definitely use the chief’s arms as a foundation unless you wanted something dissimilar to the chief.
As for whether or not to assume arms now, and go through the process of applying for a potentially different design from a foreign heraldic authority later, there seem to be a variety of opinions pro and con. It doesn’t seem to be too common for people to use two coats of arms at once, but there are precedents for people changing their coats of arms over time. See the writeup on the Adams family in the historic American arms section of this website.
My perception is that applying to Lord Lyon, the College of Arms, or what have you, is more expensive and time-consuming than it’s worth, especially insofar as these authorities confer no legal protection for arms in the U.S., and no bona fide enhancement in the social status of the armiger (though this is a highly subjective matter, of course). Grants of arms from abroad have the appeal of being able to connect one in a tangible way to his ancestors’ country of origin, and some would argue that garnering official recognition from a venerable heraldic authority does in fact burnish the status of the arms, if not the armiger. Others, however, feel that for an American to seek the sanction of foreign bodies—with their feudal connotations, roots, etc.—is somehow retrograde, and that having one’s COA on record with any of our indigenous heraldic organizations is quite sufficient to lend them an official imprimatur. The AHS is not necessarily a "broad church" with respect to these views, but you will certainly get a range of them here.
My thinking is that time is money, whereas honor is not. You can honor your father by registering the afore mentioned arms in his name without investing rather substantial amounts of time and money in the proccess. They would be his arms either way, so why spend thousands of dollars/euros and wait for months for arms he could be displaying by year’s end for very little cost? In the end the choice is yours, of course, but I personally would recommend not obtaining your arms from Lord Lyon. To me, that’s like buying a 40-foot yatch just to go bass fishing. But that’s just me. Like I said, the choice is yours.
Let me share my own design experience, which you can also find documented in Anthony Maxwell’s archives.
My original intention was to design arms in the Scottish idiom which would pass muster with Lyon for a grant in memory of an ancestor—probably my as-yet-untraced 4 x great-grandfather. In accordance with Scottish custom, I began with the chiefly arms of MacMillan (Or a lion rampant Sable in chief three stars Azure) and developed what I considered a pleasing, heraldically correct, and (in discussion with Scottish heraldists) adequately differenced shield and crest.
If the plan had been carried out, I would have petitioned for something like my current arms to be granted to my 4xGGF, and then in the course of matriculating them to me, Lyon would have added the necessary differences for the eldest son of an eldest son of an eldest son leaving issue of an only son of a third son leaving issue of a son of unknown birth order. As this is basically only two generations of other than eldest sons, I assume the differences would have been either a bordure with a varied partition line (engrailed or whatever) or a bordure charged with something.
This idea came up against two very different obstacles.
First, my inability to date to track down the father of my 3xGGF (b. 1808 ). Depending on the 4xGGF’s date of birth, either he or his father would have put me within Lyon’s self-defined granting jurisdiction.
Secondly, and more importantly, my growing understanding that the right of Americans to bear arms does not depend on the approval of an official of a foreign country. The more I thought about this, the less I wanted to contribute to the perpetuation of the idea that arms granted by Lyon are somehow more real than the arms I could perfectly well assume for myself. While it was never about the money, the case was clinched for me by Sir Crispin Agnew’s article on "Conflict of Heraldic Laws," which pointed out that arms granted in one jurisdiction are just pretty pictures on vellum once they are taken out of that jurisdiction, unless the receiving country is willing to give them some kind of official status. Why pay thousands of dollars for a pretty picture that one could have painted at the same or higher level of artistic quality for half the price?
(Now I’m not promising that, if the genealogical work pans out, I will never splurge on a Lyon grant, but if so it will be purely as a tangible way of commemorating the family’s Scottish heritage—and as an exercise in conspicuous consumption—not because I accept the premise that the Lyon-granted arms would be any better than what I have now.)
I flirted with the idea of developing a differenced version of the arms on my own, but realized that the prevalent American custom since the pre-revolutionary period has been not to fool with differencing for cadency. Since such differencing is neither required nor customary here, and since it tends to clutter up the esthetic appearance of the design, I resolved simply to assume the arms I had developed and, in conjunction with my father’s first cousin, to record them with the NEHGS in the name of his grandfather (my great-grandfather) for the use of all the descendants. And that’s what we did, and that’s where we are.
I think there are at least one or two other members here whose experience is similar, but hope that this, at least, is helpful.
Dear Fred, Guy, and Joseph!
Thanks for your insights.
I think where I am leaning at the moment is assuming these arms for my use in the U.S. My one concern in this is that I am part of a council of clan members for the MacLeas/Livingstones who are working on putting together an international clan association for our clan. In doing so, I am working with Niall Livingstone of Bachuil, younger, the Clan Chief’s son. I have queried him about this in regard to some of your points. Though I fully support the idea that I am not beholden to anyone to make this decision, I would like Niall’s support for the move before I undertake it, since I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding.
But that does lead me to a further divergence of subject from the original, but related: Differencing.
From Joseph’s message and others I’ve read here, it seems that Differencing is uncommon in American usage, at least in modern times. Having been putting "all my eggs" in the Scottish basket for so long, differencing seems almost necessary to me.
I like the idea of my father/brother/nephew inheriting the undifferenced arms, it just seems RIGHT to me that that would be the case, but it also seems right that I would have a differenced version.
The other part that troubles me about this is the usual association between name and arms. Now, my half-brother has a different father and so bears a different surname. However, he is just as much a part of our family and a brother to me. On the one hand, I feel that having him use the same arms with a completely different (and very non-Scottish) surname is somewhat odd too.
Options seem to be:
1. Everyone uses the arms, including my half-brother
2. Everyone uses the arms, but go ahead and difference per pseudo-Scottish custom, giving myself and my brother both differences.
3. Everyone uses the undifferenced arms, except my brother, who would have a differenced version because of his different last name.
4. Some variation on 1-3 except my brother has completely different arms that I could design for him.
I don’t really like option 4 because it might be tacitly saying "you’re not part of OUR family, our coat of arms." It seems like 2 is the most reasonable variation which would make everyone feel the most a part of the family, while preserving some individuality as well. Disadvantage to any "differencing" scheme is that I might then become a mini-Lyon and have to dish out differences to my family going forward (I know there are some cousins who might like to use the arms as well, and if I difference in my own family, I certainly would need to give them differences or have them use the same arms my own father/brother/nephew do, but different from the ones that _I_ do, for instance!).
Any thoughts on this?
Options 3 and 4 seem most appropriate (from an American point of view). I would agree that option 4 is a little severe, however. If the arms are differenced enough (change of tinctures, different charges etc.) then a non-consanguine relationship can be hinted at, keeping your half-brother "in the family".
But what does your half-brother want? My half-brother, although he never knew his father, adopted bucket shop arms for his surname and no amount of argument will dissuade him. At any rate, your half-brother should know he’s in the fam.
Of course all this half-brothering makes me wonder: what’s the other half?
Kyle MacLea;51094 wrote:
That’s fine if that’s what you want to do. Eugene Zieber argued against differencing for cadency on the grounds that primogeniture had been abolished in the US, and primogeniture had been the basis on which English lawyers had justified differencing in England. (Not that the system was ever actually enforced, but in theory…) But clearly you’re free to difference if you like, as our AHS guidelines on heraldic practice say. See http://www.americanheraldry.org/pages/index.php?n=Guide.Guidelines#toc10
On this one, you have a hard nut to crack. The AHS guidelines fall back on "same surname" as a surrogate for "male line." The classic inheritance rule is "male line," and this would be enforced in Scotland. If you were to get a Lyon grant, your half-brother by a different father would almost certainly not be within the destination of the grant, and the direct grant of MacLea/Livingston-pattern arms to someone with a different name would, by Scottish armorial norms, be out of the question.
One possibility, if you’re willing to make significant changes to your existing design, would be to develop three basic designs, two of which integrate charges relating to your mother’s family. If you go down this road, it may mean abandoning the West Highlands quarterly pattern, or maybe you can come up with something more creative than occurs to me at the moment.
(By the way, based on Sanford MacLean’s experience, I’m dubious that a minor change in the fourth quarter would meet the present LL’s expectations for differencing for indeterminate cadetship.)
1. Your father assumes more or less the arms as you’ve described them.
2. You and your older brother take your father’s arms and integrate some other charge representing your mother to unite the shield—perhaps a cross, fess, or pale charged with something or other indicative of her family. Let’s say, hypothetically, a fess sable with five roses Argent. You insert some kind of difference for cadency as you’re already considering.
3. Your half brother then takes the design on the fess, pale or cross and uses that as the basis of his arms—Sable five roses argent—and adds a canton or quarter or perhaps a chief drawn from your father’s arms, to show loyalty and affiliation but not descent. So he might bear Sable five roses argent, on a chief Argent a sparrowhawk volant between two hands of St. Columba, or just two CCFs Azure, or what-not.
The result is that your half-brother’s arms are visually related to yours, but heraldically different. (He may, of course, also want something in his design reflecting his own paternal ancestry. Just be careful not to get the whole thing too complicated, or it will end up looking like too many over-differenced Scottish compositions—like the arms of poor General Sir Gordon MacMillan before it was discovered that he was rightful chief of the clan, as shown on the second entry at http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeohzt4/MacMillan Armorial4.htm.
(For that matter the arms of the cadets of the Murlaggan line, further down the page, are even more atrocious.)
As usual, your well-considered reply has a lot of good points. I’m giving some thought to them while I wait to hear back from our Clan leadership. I’ll reply here when I’ve thought about what I’m going to do.
As an aside regarding whether the current design would be acceptable to Lyon, I have to say I have had some of the same concerns. Now, the clan chief’s son and his contacts in the Lyon office seem to think otherwise, as far as I can tell, but it is still a valid concern. I think there is a good chance that if presented to (the next or beyond) Lyon, there may indeed be some revisions made. But I was at least given the impression that the current Lyon would have looked favorably on the design.
I was also under the impression that Sandford MacLean’s (well-)differenced MacLean arms were at least partly so well differenced because of his personal preferences…
But your point remains quite valid and I wonder what may happen in a different Lyon climate.
From a design perspective, one quite distinctive quality of the MacLea arms of the Chief are the repeated quarters, 2 and 3, with the cross crosslet fitchee Azure, to represent their position as "co-arbs" of St. Moluag. So, despite this unusual variation on the West Highland theme, to lose the repeated quarter 2 and 3 would certainly say "not a MacLea" so that would be something that needs to stay, I think. To lose the Lion Rampant in 1 for Dalriada would also be a shame. But perhaps it could be differenced instead, or the 4th quarter changed to a greater degree (losing the salmon entirely, for instance, changing tinctures or whatnot).
An interesting question! One I will contemplate more in light of the Chief’s response.
I think the basic pattern of the quarters could be kept, possibly with, as you suggest, a more pronounced change to Q4, although losing the salmon would probably bring down some hitherto hidden ancient Celtic curse on your house—it seems that no one really knows what the salmon signifies on West Highland arms, but it must mean something. I was thinking in terms of moving tinctures around somehow (maybe having Q1 argent and Q2/Q3 gold, or altering the fields in some way (a base wavy azure under the feet of the lion, e.g.).
If the hand of Moluag is what you consider the primary MacLea marker, it would be a good charge to put on your half brother’s arms. In the example I gave, say, "Sa. 5 roses on a chief arg. two hands gules each holding a cross crosslet fitchy Azure."
(Remind me again how you tell a hand of St. Columba from a hand of St. Moluag?)
I think the difference re: which Celtic saint is intended, lies in the color of the cross—red, blue, black—though I have trouble remembering who’s who without a program.
There are lots of possibilities re: varying a Highland chief’s quarterly arms for indeterminate cadency, especially where no blood connection is being claimed. Earlier discussions on rec.heraldry, Anthony Maxwell’s "scotsheraldry" site & the archives of the HSS covered many in sometimes quite contentious detail; I recall especially the lengthy exchanges re: Sandford McLean & a shorter but still interesting exchange re: McLea.
As to the half-brother—he apparently has chosen to retain his paternal surname while still living as part of your family. We should honor that decision & not try too hard to conform his arms to the rest of the family unless he really wants to. It shouldn’t be all that hard to do, either way, but let him take the lead or at least set the direction. He may not read the same message of "exclusion" that you fear he might.
Harking back (as in Hark! the Herald Angel…) to an earlier message in this thread, the perceived "necessity" for a Scottish grant from Lyon should IMO be evaluated based on the particular circumstances of the Scottish "family"/"clan"/"name" in question.
If the clan or name has a recognized chief, or a viable claimant based on documented senior-line descent from an earlier chief, IMO it doesn’t matter much whether your arms are granted there or assumed here—if its a claimant, send him your spare quid to help pay his legal fees! While you’re living here, assumed arms have as much (or little) validity as those granted abroad; & if you should briefly visit the UK, the "courtesy of Scotland" will generally allow a visitor to temporarily use whatever he brings, provided its not a direct infringement on arms already granted there (others can likely comment better on that point). Of course if you relocate there, you’ll need a grant from Lyon, but that’s a fairly rare occurrence.
The only time it will really matter, to the clan as a whole & to posterity, who has a by-gosh-for-real Lyon grant of arms, would be if the "clan" is trying to re-establish a new chiefly line where there is no viable genealogical claimant & is relying on Lyon’s somewhat arcane "ad hoc derb-fine" procedure in which only Scots grantees/heirs or landowners get to vote and there isn’t already an armorial quorum. (All that stuff is on the HSS site) That is definitely not the case here—luckily the Livingstone/MacLea chiefly line is well established and isn’t dependent on properly Scots-armigerous votes in an ad-hoc derb-fine.
Of course there is some sentimental value to a Scots grant, but that’s a lot of swag for the swagger….
If you do go for a Scottish grant, you can save about a third of the cost IIRC by petitioning for a shield without a crest, and passing on the pricey optional decorative artwork on the patent itself (think Bauhaus, less is more, etc.). Its still perfectly valid arms under Scottish law, & if you want a cap badge you can either have one made up showing the shield alone, or—much cheaper!—just use the strap-&-buckle clansman’s version of your chief’s crest-badge that you can buy from any of the tartan & kilt stores. I think that either version still qualifies among the purists for a feather if that matters, but don’t quote me (unless I’m right, of course!)—ask your chief.
(By the way, your junior chief is IIRC from Scotsheraldry days, a very decent fellow—I remember his (grand?)father’s first grant with the bend on an unquartered shield, & then later the West-Highland quarterly grant they now bear. )
Dear Joseph and Mike,
As regards the Celtic Saints, Mike is on track:
Gules is for St Columba (e.g., MacDonald) and the Azure is for St Moluag (e.g., MacLea/Livingstone)
Sable is found in MacDonald of Keppoch, for no clear reason.
You can find an explanation for the Azure CCF for St. Moluag here:
As for dropping the salmon, I would do so only with reluctance. As you noted, its origins are mysterious. I find it interesting that Niall Livingstone quotes from Campbell here:
"Alastair Campbell continues "This is a most mysterious symbol and one which is clearly of great importance. Salmon appear frequently in early Celtic mythology as a symbol of Wisdom and Knowledge. They are also a symbol of eternity with their mysterious return to their birthplace from the outermost ocean where they recommence the life cycle - also for their strength and beauty. Their Knowledge springs from their having eaten the red hazel nuts of Wisdom that fall into the water of the sacred wells from the hazel trees that surround them - the red spots on the salmon’s belly derive from this.
Clearly it is a powerful symbol. To my mind there is a pagan feel to it; I do not think it is the txoua of early Christianity and wonder if it is not a reference to the Old Religion of the Celts, or more accurately, to a person or family connected with it. "" (http://www.clanmclea.co.uk/Achievement.htm)
I was definitely thinking about keeping the Hand of St. Moluag for my half-brothers arms, to indicate his being a part of our family. But I think Mike is probably right. He could have taken our family name, but never wanted to. I think he probably doesn’t feel as separated by not being a MacLea as I might fear he does, and as a result might really appreciate having unique arms that incorporate some of the MacLea charges with something of my mother’s French-Canadian heritage, or his father’s Portuguese heritage. I think this is definitely a chance to talk to him about it, and maybe help design something I might use for a future Christmas present or whatnot. Good ideas!
I would certainly think some variation on tincture of Q1 or Q4 and/or a change/addition to the Q1 charge would be a good choice for differencing a little further. Originally someone did suggest a cross Azure overall to marker the quarter boundaries, although to my mind (now) this diminishes the West Highland feel of the coat, which is something I’d like to keep.
Now as for reasons to apply for arms from Lyon, I had forgotten the whole "ad hoc derb-fine" business, but you are right, Mike. If the Clan did not have a recognized Chief and was trying to do so, getting together a group of Scottish Armigers to be able to elect the Chief seems the only way. (Although, (cynically) I wonder whether this isn’t just a means of drumming up business for Lyon Court… I mean with many ancient Clans there is no question of their historical Clan-ness, but yet they must still have modern armigers to prove this? After waiting 3 years for each of their grants? And waiting 10 years after the derb-fine elected Chieftain is chosen? And then getting approval from Lyon for him to become Chief?)
Anyway, I tend to agree with Mike about not spending the money on a grant for Lyon (unless I have the money to splurge later!)
...Or I get elected to some clan office and get my grant paid for or somesuch! =)
Anyway, thanks for your ideas, guys. I’ll have more to say soon, hopefully.
Kyle MacLea;51140 wrote:
I think the whole "ad hoc derbhfine" thing is one of the most pernicious of the legacies of Thomas Innes of Learney’s reign as Lord Lyon. As several judges of the Court of Session pointed out in the Maclean of Ardgour case in the 30s and 40s, it’s absolutely inconceivable that any clan, in the days when the clans were the real organizational basis of Highland society, would have seen Lord Lyon as even remotely having a role in the determination of their chief. In fact, many of the Highland chiefs, chieftains, and tacksmen never got around to having their arms recorded in Edinburgh in compliance with the 1672 statute until as much as a century later, if then. So what? If there weren’t enough officially armigerous clansmen when the chiefship fell vacant, the clan disappeared? No, the clansmen figured it out for themselves; they didn’t go hat in hand to Lord Lyon begging for his indulgence.
The use of the process to create new clans where none existed before is even sillier.