Illegal Images (under Scots Law) appearing on profiles of Scottish individuals

+33 votes
For many individuals, a Scottish ancestor's profile should feature the "family coat of arms". I am sorry to have to inform you all that under Scots Law there is no such thing as a "family coat of arms". A coat of arms is the personal property of 1 person, either the person to whom it was originally granted or his/her direct lawful descendants, one after another. Even Prince Charles is not entitled to display his mother's coat of arms until she dies and he inherits it. Prince William would then inherit his father's arms as Prince of Wales etc. Each member of the Royal Family has his or her individual coat of arms.

I have been working on profiles for members of Clan Munro in recent days and noted that a set of arms which I understand is popular among members of a group of Munroe families in the USA appeared on the profiles for the line of Munro clan chiefs and their immediate family members. I have now removed these as they are strictly an illegal use. There is nothing to prevent members of these Munroe families in the USA displaying them on their own profiles since they are not governed by Scots Law though I would indicate that they have no validity, no matter how attractive.

Members of any Scottish clan who wish to display emblems which demonstrate their natural pride in belonging to a particular clan or having an ancestor who was a clan member, should display an image of the clan badge sometimes called a crest. This is perfectly legal and very welcome.

I will be happy to offer any guidance to any member of Wikitree on what is and is not appropriate to display in relation to the profiles for Scots or Scottish ancestors because obviously I want to encourage pride in having Scots ancestry.

Where you have an ancestor who belonged to a Scottish clan it is also appropriate to display the clan tartan strip for that clan. If it is a married woman, it is entirely appropriate to display both the tartan of her clan by birth and if different, her husband's clan. Even if you do not have the principal name of any clan, if you profess descent from a clan or hold membership of any clan society, either in Scotland or a daughter society elsewhere around the world, I would hope you would choose to display the clan strip on your profile to show that pride.
in Policy and Style by Mark Sutherland-Fisher G2G6 Mach 3 (34.9k points)
It's not just the Church.  Many old buildings carry their history in the fabric.  Nobody imagines that the descendants of previous owners can turn up demanding modifications.

Innes might, but he was an enthusiast, and they're dangerous.

(PS I seem to have missed a few posts while composing.  I hate it when that happens.)
In the example I was referring to, it wasn't Lyon Innes who was the driving force. The current owner of the arms made a formal complaint that the gates of the castle were still displaying his arms. In those circumstances the Fiscal to the Lyon had no option but to begin enforcement action.
As Gregory and I have both made clear, we are not offering opinions, merely stating the long settled Law of Scotland. Call it anachronistic if you wish but it is the law and to that extent in relation to Scotland and Scots, it is not open for debate!

For interest rather than anything to do with the use of arms on profiles.

In this  similar case in 2000,  incorrectly displayed arms were on recently made gates. The  newspaper report says that there were also  several other older examples carved on the stonework inside the castle but as they were part of the fabric if a listed building,  nothing could be done about them.

I tried not to personalise it but it was the Balnagown case I was referring to. I remember it well because I live only 9 miles from Balnagown.
So what would happen if the heir male of a dead KG complained that his arms were being flown in St George's Chapel?  Nothing, but if it were Scotland it seems like it would be a problem.
Truly it baffles me how people are unable to grasp very simple heraldic laws. The heir male of his father/grandfather would have the right to bear his arms (whether he matriculated them or not). If his father or lineal ancestor had authorised the placing of his Arms in a chapel or anywhere else it is highly unlikely that they would be removed. I think people are arguing for the sake of it.
Nothing, the heir would not complain. RJ you seem to be missing the point. At Balnagown the arms of the Chief of Clan Ross were being displayed at the home of an individual who was not the Chief of the Clan Ross. At one time it has been the home of numerous Chiefs of Clan Ross and each in turn succeeded to the right to bear those arms. However by the time that David Ross made his complaint to the Lord Lyon, Balnagown had long ceased to be the seat of the Clan Chiefs.  The arms of the Chief of Clan Ross appear in many public places in Scotland as do those of other Clan Chiefs (or rather of their ancestors) and no-one objects. However when it is the private home of an individual it is another matter.
Well I don't know about Scotland, but in England there are many old houses in private hands with old heraldry on display.  Usually, as Helen mentions, it'll be covered by preservation orders.  So usually, the present owners have no entitlement to the arms, nor can they legally remove them.  They'll just have to hope that the descendants of the previous owners aren't nursing a grudge and feeling spiteful.
Thank you Mark for informing us of this. I am of Scottish descent and had no idea. I always love learning something new!

5 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer
Mark, I don't think it would be a bad idea to go back to each profile that you modified and post a link to this thread, and I'd link to it going forward. It's a bit more info than will fit in a profile message.
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
edited by SJ Baty
great idea, I will cut and paste the link into my Wikitree workbook in which I keep all my stickers, standard sources, project boxes and tartans etc. I have actually taken over most of the profiles I changed last/night this morning because they had been orphaned by others. I reckon I will spend all June just sorting out the Munro profiles I want to change/update/correct.
+6 votes
Thank you so much for posting this. I see this all the time with Magna Carta ancestors and royal ancestors. It's quite an epidemic in Ancestry family trees.
by Alan Pendleton G2G6 Mach 1 (17.2k points)
+8 votes

Scottish Coats of Arms are controlled by the Courrt of the Lord Lyon  in the write up it says:  A coat of arms can only belong to one particular person at a time.  official Scottish govt site..

Some coats of arms are only good for your lifetime while others can be passed down to one heir generally the oldest. Depemding on location and time period it maybe oldest male or just oldest...   Rules vary by country and time period.  

If the arms bearer dies with no children it generally goes to next oldest sibling able to bear arms.    

If no siblings it can go to cousins.  But each person in line has to make application for their own rights to bear arms.  

Can arms be displayed for a dead person?  It depends on the country and time period.  I am looking for something more definitive but since some arms only exist for someone's lifetime the answer is not going to be one size fits all...

by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (682k points)
Laura, regarding arms for a deceased person, see my answer above.

I can speak about Scots Law because I practised for 15 years as a Scots lawyer and gave legal advice on issues of heraldry and of course worked on a Petition to the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords to recognise John Ruaridh Grant Mackenzie as 5th Earl of Cromartie in the second creation.

Once a coat of arms is granted by the Court of the Lord Lyon and registered in the Public Register of All Arms etc, it becomes the heritable property of the grantee. That places it in the same category as titles to land and it has the strongest protection under Scots law. It endures for ever unless revoked or surrendered back to the Crown.

The Letters Patent granting the Arms determine the manner in which it will be inherited, e.g. heirs male, heirs general and that can only be amended by altering the Letter Patent, usually by the Arms being surrendered and then regranted. This for example sometimes happened in families when it became clear no male heir would be born. My cousin Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal holds his Peerage in its second creation. The first creation in 1897 was to heirs male so his great grandfather, the 1st Baron was permitted to surrender it and in 1900 the second creation permitted succession by his daughter Margaret whose grandson, my 5th cousin is the present 4th Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal.

In England the situation is a bit different but the status and succession of Arms are governed by their Letters Patent. Hence if I do not have any children at the date of my death, I will be entitled to nominate a family member to succeed me but he or she will have to assume the surname Sutherland-Fisher. Currently my closest male relative is the son of a 3rd cousin once removed in Australia but I am planning to bypass him and select the son of one of my first cousins who is the nearest thing I have to a biological nephew. He will probably not choose to accept but perhaps one of his children will.

Thus to summarise, Scottish arms once granted are never temporary unless revoked. An heir many generations down the line can petition to have the arms of an ancestor granted to him or her as long as s/he can satisfy the Lord Lyon that there is no better claimant.
+4 votes

I’ve been using this for Colville Is that okay?

by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Pilot (120k points)
+3 votes
There are many commercial businesses trying to sell coats of arms, etc., to unwary individuals not knowing those are private insignias and not those belonging to a family or a lineage.
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)

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