Arthur Charles Fox-Davies.

Armorial families : a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour (Volume 1) online

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public, and they purposed to find, grant, confirm and assign Arms. The Arms these outsiders
dealt in were Hkewise of but two kinds — firstly, Arms which emanated solely from their own
imagination, and which were bogus from beginning to end, and secondly, Arms which were
perfectly legitimate, and which belonged to ancient famihes, which legitimate coats-of-arms these
" painter-fellows " assigned to other families bearing the same or similar names, without the
ghost of a pretence, and without the shadow of a po.ssibility of establi.shing a descent from the
bona-fide holders. That was how the abuse began centuries ago. At the present time this same
abuse runs riot, and now, as then, it is in the forefront, and the most prominent of all heraldic
follies. Though beside this particular illegality all others seem but as mere peccadilloes, there
are many other matters which can but come under the same heading and description. To a
long-standing abuse, when the legal penalties therefor seem almost to have lapsed into desuetude,
there is but one remedy, namely, pubhcity. It enlightens those who are sinning through ignor-
ance, it may prevent others falling into the same errors ; and as to those who are of knowledge
and aforethought wilfully disregarding the laws of Arms and the laws of the Realm — well, it
advertises their Httle weaknesses. This remedy I propose to try. One of my critics has asked
what business it is of mine to criticise Arms when the College of Arms remains silent. It is
every man's duty, when he sees a wrong, to try to put that wrong right. Moreover, I stand in a
widely different position from the Officers of Arms. I much question if they are brought into
contact with one tithe of the heraldic abuses that I am, for people hardly of their own free-will
exhibit to an accredited Officer of Arms pretensions which they know can be at once detected as
bogus or illegal. On the other hand, the individuals comprising the world at large seem to fancy |
that the said world at large, outside themselves, is unable to discover the real character of the i
Arms they lay claim to. Consequently, as I am simply but another unit in this aforesaid world,
the Arms and garbled pedigrees have been sent up to me apparently with guileless simplicity,
either for insertion in this book, " Armorial Families," or in " The Book of Public Arms," or
for the crests to be included in my edition of " Fairbairn." I had no reason when I commenced
heraldic writing to have looked with suspicion upon the information which was afforded me, but
as each successive case I investigated turned out to be a perversion of the truth, my standpoint
had to change. I found, first of all, that the fact of living in the same county, or in the adjoining
one for the matter of that, or even in the county adjoining that, was to the ordinary mind qidte
sufficient evidence for descent to be claimed ("in an unbroken line," my correspondents usually
state) from any armigerous person or any celebrity* who at any time since the Norman Conquest
(and many don't even stick at the Conquest) have'had a residence in that county. At first I was
always inclined to think that a person to make such a statement must at least have some evidence
to support him, even though it might not be sufficiently stable and consecutive to pass muster as
a pedigree before the Chapter of the College of Arms. I couldn't have made a greater mistake.
I then found that people really entitled to a pedigree of perhaps five or six generations, and to a
modern grant of Arms, were seldom content with it, and it usually came to me as a genealogical \
tree of fifteen or sixteen generations, and the Arms had generally been granted by Edward III.,
or at the latest by Queen Elizabeth. And here is a pretty safe way to judge a pedigree if the
time cannot be spared to investigate it thoroughly. Whenever a pedigree in the male fine runs,

♦ One family to my knowledge claim descent from Cardinal Wolsey, and have assumed his Arms.

Cl)c at)U0c of arm0


back far up into antiquity — or I will say even this, whenever a pedigree commences prior to the
beginning of the eighteenth century, just look at it closely. If in the early part of it there figure
celebrities, with full dates of marriages and deaths, and details of all the children, and there
follow later the words, " from whom descends," or the words, " whose descendant," without the
details of the actual relationships, the odds that that particular pedigree is " faked " are 999 to i.

Another little faihng that was quickly made apparent to me is this : When a family have been
illegally making use of Arms for some time, and are then, for some reason or other, induced or
required to place their Armorial matters upon a legal footing, and a Patent of Arms is obtained
under the hands and seals of the Kings of Arms, the coat-of-arms which has previously been in use
is never granted to the person intact. If a desire for a coat similar to the one in use be preferred,
some alterations and additions to it are introduced, varying according to the discretion, of the
Officers of Arms and the circumstances of the case, in order to render it a different and new coat-of-
arms, and to satisfy the requirements of one of the rules of the College, that no two coats-of-arms
which may be granted by its officers shall be alike.* The usual tale I am told — if the fact of
the grant being modern by any chance transpires — is, if you please, that the alterations and
additions are " augmentations " granted for some special service. Some of the older grants simply
made addiiinns to the coats which had been previously used, and this, to any ordinary individual,
might lend some semblance to the idea. To the propagators of such fables I would add this fact
to their knowledge. An " augmentation " proper requires a special warrant from the Sover-
eign. The " augmentations " legitimately existing are comparatively very few in number, and
are all very well known. And another foible is this. Very few people care to admit that they
have had a " grant " of Arms. The usual tale is, " My people had been using these Arms for a
very long time, but documentary evidence, so very hard to get, &c., &c., couldn't strictly prove
a legal title to them, &c., so the College of Arms ' confirmed ' them to me with a very slight
difference." The facts generally turn out to be that the Arms were " found " for 3s. 6d. at an
heraldic stationer's, perhaps ten or perhaps twenty years ago, or perhaps supplied gratis with a
"guinea box of stationery." It was then afterwards ascertained that they were quoted in Burke's
" General Armory " as belonging to a family of the same name, which family were promptly
claimed as ancestors. " The Arms are the same, you know, we must be descended from them."
There are few people who could summon up sufficient audacity to offer to the critics such another
pedigree as the notorious Coultart genealogy ; but there is still a good deal of unblushing
audacity in existence. Times out of number have I been informed that Arms submitted to me
have been granted, or confirmed, or certified, by the Officers of Arms. Even the dates of grants
have been quoted to me when no such grants exist, and the certificates when asked for are never
to be found. I caU those sort of statements untruths pure and simple.

Small wonder that with such a plenitude of these falsehoods my credulity waned below zero,
and now is non-existent. Of the hundreds with whom I have been brought in contact I could
count on the fingers of my one hand those people whom I know at the very beginning have told
me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Consequently, though it is a brutal
admission to have to make, I cannot beUeve, and do not believe for one moment, any man's
account of his own family, or take his word concerning them. No matter how truthful a man
may be, his probity never seems to have stability on that one point. I think the Archangel Gabriel
would have " made the usual mistakes."

If any ordinary individual tell you he is descended in the male line from some one who figures
upon the glorious roll of Battle Abbey, or that his ancestor " came over with the Conqueror,"
write him down a perverter of the truth at once. Mr. Evelyn Philip Shirley published some
number of years ago a book which deserves a greater name and a far wider reputation than it
has received. I refer to " The Noble and Gentle Men of England." He took a far less ambitious
standpoint than the Norman Conquest, simply including within his covers all those then Arms-
bearing families who had held their land in legitimate uninterrupted male descent since the reign
of King Henry VII. to the present day. Of all the landholders of to-day, of all the county famihes
within or without ,the pages of Walford ; of all the names in " Burke's Peerage " or in
Kelly's " Upper Ten Thousand," how many famihes titled and untitled together, think you does
his book contain ? Three hundred and thirty. Some number of the very older famihes are Saxon,
but the great majority only take their start from the Wars of the Roses, that great social upheaval
which shook to its very foundation the aristocracy of England. Read " De Nova Villa," and
read the " Last of the Barons," if you wish to know what became of the ancient families of England.

* I do not wish any opportunity for misconstruction. At the times of the Visitations, when two families— though
not the least relationship might exist between them — proved a right to identical .A.rms, these were allowed to them both
and the above rule has only applied to grants.

xvi Cte 3t}U0e of arm0

Of the twenty-five barons who affixed their seals to " Magna Charta," of which we so proudly
boast, not a solitary proved male descendant is known to exist.

Fuller, writing in his book, " Worthies of Bedfordshire," says : — " Hungry Time hath made
a glutton's meal on this Catalogue of Gentry (the list of gentry of the reign of Henry VI.), and
hath left but a very little morsel for manners remaining."

The pedigrees in " Burke's Peerage " are lax enough, but even there but one hundred and
eleven are taken back to the time of the Norman Conquest, and of these forty-nine are Saxon,
Welsh, Scottish, or Irish. There are nearly nine hundred peers and over twelve hundred baronets,
and all their relations within the covers of " Burke's Peerage " ; there are nearly five thousand
famihes in the " Landed Gentry," and all their relations ; there were sixteen thousand names in
Walfofd's " County Families " ; there are twenty- four thousand individuals in " Kelly." As I
have said, but sixty-two pedigrees in the Peerage are taken back to the Normans, and Shirley
admits but three hundred and thirty famihes. The deduction is obvious.

The first point I wish to draw attention to is the wholesale display of bogus arms — perhaps I
should be more correct in saying the wholesale bogus display of Arms. These, as I have previously
stated, are of two kinds : i. Arms which, apart from the question of ownership, are of no legal
origin ; 2. Legal Arms used by people to whom they don't belong. The latter predominate. But
first of all it is necessary to make it clear what constitutes the right to bear Arms.

The right differs widely in the three kingdoms and they all differ widely from the laws current
in the rest of Europe. But now, and throughout this Introduction, I shall confine myself to the
United Kingdom. It is of no use for the blind to lead the blind, and I have no sufficiently inti-
mate knowledge of either the heraldic or the common law in vogue in the various countries of
Europe to warrant my offering to teach others what I am by no means sure I know myself.

In the infancy of Heraldry no control existed or was exercised by anybody over Armorial
matters. It was.

" The good old rule, the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they .should keep who"

But this era was of short duration. Almost the first step in the United Kingdom towards estab-
hshing control was taken in England, and the Corporation of the College of Arms was established
by Royal Charter in the reign of Richard III. Now, there are very many people who grandilo-
quently assert that " they don't recognise the authority of the College of Arms." Such
a statement sounds very big, but it is pure nonsense. They might just as well proclaim that
they do " not recognise " the Sovereign or the Houses of Parhament. And I have also found that
any mention of the authority of the College of Arms is usually the signal for an outburst of abuse
(and abuse pure and simple, not criticism) against the College itself and its officials. I v/ill be
no party to any such controversy. Nothing I can say will add to or detract from their authority,
or give more weight to its expression. I can simply make the knowledge of it more public ;
for one cannot but admit that nothing can alter the fact that the Officers of Lyon Office (for
Scotland), of Ulster's Office (for Ireland), and of the College of Arms (for the whole of the rest of
His Majesty's dominions) have the sole official authority and control of Armorial matters.

I am not writing on behalf of any of the Colleges or Offices of Arms ; I am not connected in
any way with them. I am not writing at the instigation of any Officer of Arms. I am simply a
member of the general pubHc, brought closely into touch with the laws and the practice of Arms ;
and if the expression of the knowledge I have obtained prevent any person ignorantly following the
tempting and well-worn ruts of heraldic abuse, I shall be satisfied.

Now arms are a matter of honour. The Sovereign is the fountain of honour.

In the reign of Henry V. (1417) a Royal Proclamation was made that no man in future be
allowed to bear arms without authority. This has been printed in full on several occasions. The
next step was the consolidation of the various Officers of Arms in England into the Corporation of
the College of Arms. The two Charters by which they hold and exercise their authority are given
in Noble's " History of the College of Arms." I don't ask any one unquestioningly to take my
word that the authority exists. They can convince themselves by referring to the Charters in
question, to the Royal Warrants appointing the Visitations, to the Reports submitted by the Law
Officers of the Crown to His Majesty King George III. in connection with the dispute between the
Officers of the Order of the Bath and the Officers of the College of Arms, and to the Patent appoint-
ing any King of Arms to his office, which, to a certain extent, recites his powers and privileges.
Perhaps the most important of all are the warrants commanding the Visitations.

So much for England. Let us now see how matters stand in Scotland. The whole subject
is very tersely and pertinently put forward in the " Ordinary of Scottish Arms," from which I am
permitted to quotp.

Ci3C 3l3iise of arm0 xvu

" The earliest Scottish Armorial in existence is said to have been prepared by or under the
superintendence of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount about 1542. It is impossible to say whether
it took from the first an official character, but that there must have been some such recognised
record before the close of the sixteenth century is clear from several references which are made
to the Liber insigniorum , or " Book of Arms," in the Acts of the Scottish Parliament at that
period. In 1592 an Act was passed authorising the Lyon and his heralds to hold visitations
throughout the realm in order to distinguish the Arms of the various noblemen and gentlemen,
and ' thaireftir to matriculat thame in thair buikis and registeris.' It is unfortunate that this
permission to make heraldic visitations was never largely taken advantage of ; had it been, and
had the registers indicated in the Act been properly kept, it is unlikelv that the Privy Council
would have, \vithin the next forty years, practically authenticated as an official record Sir David
Lindsay's MS. above referred to, which they did in the following terms : —

" ' This Booke and register of Armes, done by Sir David Lindesay of the Month, Lyone King
of Arms, reg. Ja. 5, conteines 106 leaves, which register was approvine be the Lordies of his
Majesties Most Honourable Privie Counsale at HaUerude hous 9 December 1630.

" ' Sir James Balfour, Lyone.
" ' Thomas Drysdaill, Hay Herauld.
" ' Register.' "


" Whatever may have become of the official registers previous to the date of the
commencement of the present one, it is certain that many collections of Arms were from to time
made, both by the Officers of Arms and others. Sir Robert Forman, Lyon (1555-1567), presented
to Queen Mary a roll containing 267 Scottish coats-of-arms. In addition to the ' Workman
MS.' now in the Lyon Office, at least four other Armorials belonging to the sixteenth century, and
relating to Scotland, are in existence and were shown at the Heraldic Exhibition held at
Edinburgh in 1891, while the seventeenth century collections are comparatively numerous.
As time went on, however, the absence of an authentic and official Register of Arms was more
and more felt : in 1639 the Committee on Articles appointed the Lyon to do diUgence for
cognoscing and matriculating all Arms, and to represent the same to the Privy Council, that
they might take some course to prevent Arms being assumed irregularly. In 1662 it was
apparently found that the registration of Arms was more neglected than ever, though Cromwell
had appointed one if not two Lyons during his administration of the Government. By an
Act passed in that year it was provided inter alia that ' . . . Considering what disorders and
confusions have arisen and are dayly occasioned by the usurpation of Cadents, who against
all rules assume to themselffs the armes of the cheeff house of the familie out of which they are
descendit, and that other mean persones who can nowayes deryve thair succession from the
families whose names they bear, as they have just assumed the name, doe therafter weare the
coat of that name to which they pretend without any warrand or grund whatsumever, . . .
no yi:»unger brother or caudent of any familie presume to carie the armes of that familie bot with
such distinctions as shall be given by the Lyon King of Armes'; ' and it was likewise provided that
all persons were to have their Arms examined and renewed by the Lyon, and inserted in his
register. This Act, however, did not remain long in the Statute-Book : considerable dissatisfac-
tion appears to have been created by it, possibly from the amount of the fees which it entitled
the Lyon to exact at the funeral solemnities of the nobiHty and their wives, and it was repealed
in the following year, 1663. It is not very clear whether the above quoted allusion to the Lyon
Register can be taken as implying that at that time there was such a record in existence, or
whether it merely means that a Register was then to be commenced. But as the present
Register was certainly commenced within the next ten years as new, it may fairly be inferred
that no official Register of Arms, with the exception of Sir David Lindsay's MS. mentioned above
as having been approved by the Privy Council, was in existence at the period of the Restoration.
What had become of the old Registers, if such there had been, has been a matter of some specula-
tion : both water and fire have been held to be answerable for their destruction. It is by some
thought that they may have formed part of that cargo of records originally carried off to London
by Cromwell, and ultimately jettisoned from the frigate ' Eagle ' or lost with the ship ' EHza-
beth' of Burntisland, when, owing to the representations of the Scottish Parliament, they
were being restored to their proper home. On the other hand, Amot in his ' History of
Edinburgh ' mentions that the Lyon Office Records were burned in a fire which took place about
1670, and that the Act under which the present Register was instituted was in consequence
passed shortly afterwards. As, however, there is no mention made of any such fire in that Act,
which merely alludes in general terms to the ' many irregularities of these late times, ' it can

xviii Cf)e ZhUBt of 3rm9

hardly be regarded as authentic history, and it is unnecessary to do more than allude to the causes
which have been thought likely to have induced the Scottish Legislature to take the steps they
did for the formation of an entirely new Register. It has been shown that an attempt had already
been made in 1662 to improve the Registration of Arms, but it had come to nothing. In 1672
the Parliament again addressed themselves to the subject, and this time with success : they
had the advantage of a member who was himself well acquainted with Heraldry — Sir George
Mackenzie of Rosehaugh — and he not improbably took a special interest in drawing the Act, which
took its place on the Statute-Book as the Act of 1672, cap. 47 ^ It ratified generally the Act of
1592 so far as it related to visitations and the penalties to be inflicted on persons using Arms
without authorit}^ and it ordered all persons of whatsoever degree, who were in the habit of
using Arms, to give in a description of such Arms and of their lineage, to the Lyon Clerk, in order
that they might be distinguished with ' congruent differences.' and that the Lyon might enter
them in his books and registers, and might grant Arms to ' vertuous and well deserving persones.'
The Register now instituted was to be considered as the true and unrepealable rule of all Arms
and Bearings in Scotland, and was ordered to remain in the Lyon Office as a public register of
the kingdom for all time coming. All persons who used Arms after the expiration of a year an d
a day from the passing of the Act rendered themselves liable to a fine of one hundred pounds,
and the goods on which the Arms were engraved were to be escheat to the king."

The Act reads as follows, and I think it better to quote it in full, as it definitely lays down
the important point that cadets in Scotland are not entitled to bear the Arms of the head of
their family until they have been matriculated to them with a difference : —

Copy of the Act concerning the Priviledges of the Office of Lyon King at Ar.mes.

47. Our Soveraigne Lord Considering, that albeit by the 125 Act of the 12 Parlia' holden by
his Maiesties grandfather in the yeir 1592 the usurpation of Armes by any of his Maiesties leidges
without the authority of Lyon King of Armes is expresly discharged ; And that in order thereto.
Power and Commission is granted to the Lyon King of Armes or his Deputes, to visite the whole
Armes of Noblemen, Barrons and Gentlemen, & to matriculate the same in their Registers, and to
fine in One Hundreth pounds all others who shall unjustlie usurp armes; As also to Escheit all such
goods and geir as shall have unwarrantable Armes ingraven on them. Yet amongst the many
irregularities of these late times, very many have assumed to themselvis Armes, who should
bear none, and many of these who may in law bear have assumed to themselvis ye Armes of
their chieff , without distinctions, or Armes which were not carried by them or their predicessors.
Therefor His Maiestie, with advice and consent of his Estates of Parlia' Ratifies and Approves
the foresaid Act of ParUament ; and for the more vigorous prosecution thereof Doth hereby
Statute and Ordain that lettirs of publication of this present Act be direct to be execute at the
mercat cross of the held Burghs of the Shires, Stewartries, Bailliaries of Royalty &Regallitie and
Royal Burrowghs chargeing all and sundry Prelates, Noblemen, Barons & Gentlemen who make
use of any Armes or Signes armoriall within the space of one yeir aftir the said publication, to
bring or send ane account of what armes or Signes armoriall they are accustomed to use ; and
whither they be descendants of any familie the Armes of which familie they bear, and of what
Brother of the ffamilie they are descended ; With Testificats from persones of Honour, Noblemen
or Gentlemen of qualitie anent the Verity of their having and useing those Armes, and of their
descent as afoirsa, to be delivered either to the Clerk of the Jurisdiction where the persones
duells, or to the Lyon Clerk at his office in Edinburgh, at the option of the party, upon their
receipts gratis without paying any thing therefore : Which Receipt shall be a sufficient exoneration
to them, from being obleidged to produce again, to the effect that the Lyon King of Armes may
distinguish the sds Armes with congruent differences, and may matriculat the same in his