of Scottish heraldry
The use of colours, symbols and patterns
on shields, banners and costume dates to at least the 12th century
in Western Europe. Their origins are often assumed to lie in feudal
warfare, but are equally likely to originate in the use of imagery
in a largely illiterate society, through media such as seals and
coins, by burgeoning royal, baronial, burghal and ecclesiastical
jurisdictions of the twelfth century. Historical records relating
to coats of arms of Scots survive from the mid-fourteenth century
and the earliest known roll of arms produced in Scotland, the Scots
Roll, dates from the mid-fifteenth century. The proliferation of
symbols to represent families and the invention of rules and terminology
about this time led to colleges of arms being created in France,
England and Scotland. In Scotland the Court of the Lord Lyon King
of Arms traces its origins to the fourteenth century, and is still
part of the Scottish legal system. The Court confirms inheritance
of arms, the granting of new arms, and can also prosecute for their
illegal use. In 1672 the Scottish parliament set up the 'Public
Register of All Armorial Bearings of Scotland' which is usually
called the 'Lyon Register': a central record independent of the
person of the office holder. Unless a coat of arms is registered
in the Lyon Register, it has no legal standing in Scotland.
A good, inexpensive basic guide is Mark Dennis,
Scottish Heraldry (Edinburgh, 1999), which can be purchased
Heraldry Society of Scotland. Other introductory
guides are Charles Burnett and Mark Dennis, Scotlandís Heraldic
Heritage, The Lion Rejoicing (Edinburgh, 1997), and Iain Moncreiffe
and Don Pottinger, Simple Heraldry (Edinburgh, 1978) A concise
reference work, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Scots Heraldry,
2nd edition, (London 1956) and its revision by Malcolm Innes of
Edingight, Scots Heraldry, 3rd edition (London, 1978), are
widely available in reference libraries in Scotland. For a fuller
bibliography see the website of the
Heraldry Society of Scotland.
Heraldry Society of Scotland
What is my family/clan coat of arms?
What is the difference between a crest and a coat of arms?
How do I obtain a coat of arms?
Where can I find information about the arms of a burgh, county or
Where can I find information about the history of the royal arms
Can I date a building which features royal arms?