What’s my family’s Scottish Coat of Arms or Crest?

This is a question which pops up on a regular basis, and given the popularity of items ranging from mugs/mouse mats/fridge magnets through to beautifully made Clan crests, I thought I’d give you a brief rundown.  Coats of Arms are a very serious business – it is a matter of law!

The Heraldry Society of Scotland has lots of interesting information and lovely artwork if you are interested in how the different parts of a Coat of Arms are made up.

The Lord Lyon King of Arms is responsible for the granting of Arms, or the Matriculation of existing Arms in Scotland.  There is no such thing as a “family Coat of Arms”, as a Coat of Arms belongs to one person who has exclusive rights until death – then the Arms may be inherited by a son, usually the eldest.  Other sons or descendants may use a very similar Coat of Arms, but only if they have applied for a Matriculation of their Ancestral Arms with a “mark of difference”.    Those who have recorded Arms and Crest in the Lyon Register are known as “armigers”.

Armigers may wear their own Crests as a badge – usually enclosed wtihin a plain circlet engraved with a Motto.  An Armiger also has the option of adding one silver eagle’s feather behind the circlet.

Chieftains may wear a plain badge, or can opt to have two eagle’s feathers adorning the circlet.

Clan Chiefs have the right to wear their Crests as badges with the option of three eagle’s feathers behind.

Clan members wear the crest of their Clan Chief within a “strap & buckle” surround to indicate their Clan – the Crest is not used on personal items, as that would indicate ownership by the Clan Chief.


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