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The Heraldry Society of Scotland
25 Craigentinny Crescent
Edinburgh, EH7 6QA
Scotland, UK.



























The Heraldry Society of Scotland




The Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms

H.M. New Register House,
Edinburgh.  EH1 3YT
Telephone: 0131 556 7255
Facsimile: 0131 557 2148

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The Court of the Lord

Lyon King of Arms

The Lord Lyon is not only a Minister of the Crown but also a judge of the Realm; nowadays it is perhaps in this capacity that he comes most in contact with the public, for almost all Scottish heraldic business is conducted on Judicial lines, through the machinery of the Court of the Lord Lyon which exercises both a civil and a penal jurisdiction under the old Common Law of Scotland as well as sundry Acts of Parliament. Scotland and Spain are probably the only countries where a court of heraldry and genealogy still exists in daily operation, before which lawyers plead in wig and gown, though, thanks to the courtesy and interest shown by the Lord Lyon and his officers, most of the business of the ordinary applicant is settled without even the need for legal assistance. The Court of the Lord Lyon indeed reflects, not the curt severity of the Police Court or the Magisterial Bench, but rather the stately benevolence of distant days when our ancient Scottish laws were administered upon the "moot hill" of some old barony or thaneage.

The statutes drawn up by the skilful Scottish statesmen of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries function as smoothly and efficiently today and serve the lieges as effectively as they did in the Middle Ages. The Court of the Lord Lyon is situated in H.M. New Register House, its records (part of the National Records of Scotland) being entrusted to the Lyon Clerk. When sitting in full Court the Lord Lyon wears, as he did in Parliament before the Union, a robe of crimson velvet and ermine, somewhat like the coronation robe of a British peer, but with cords and tassels and no hood.

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Proclaiming the dissolution of the Westminster Parliament May 2001.  Ross Herald, Lord Lyon and Carrick Pursuivant.


The duties of the Court are divided into two broad categories: (a) Establishing rights to arms and pedigrees, which, when satisfactory evidence is produced, results in a judicial "Interlocutor" granting warrant to the Lyon Clerk to record in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, or in the Public Register of All Genealogies and Birthbrieves in Scotland, the particular coat of arms and genealogy which have been established to his Lordship's satisfaction. (b) The penal and semi-penal (State Revenue) jurisdiction is concerned with protecting the rights both of private individuals and of the Crown in Scottish armorial bearings, and over H.M. Messengers at Arms. This is regarded as a matter of signal importance, for where persons or corporations have paid fees to the Crown in return for the exclusive right to armorial bearings, and a Scots coat of arms can belong to only one person at a time, it is only proper that these rights should be protected. Without such protection arms are indeed useless to anybody or for anything.






The misappropriation or unauthorised display of a man's coat of arms is a "real injury" under the Common Law of Scotland.

Accordingly the registered owner of a Scots coat of arms may obtain judicial interdict in Lyon Court against any person depicting his arms against his wishes or to his prejudice. The Crown and the public have also an interest, the former because in Scotland the fees on registration of armorial bearings and pedigrees are payable to H.M. Treasury, and the latter for prevention of fraud through improper assumption of coats of arms because armorial bearings are legal evidence which may be used in cases of succession and identity.

The Lyon Court, like other Courts in Scotland, has a public Prosecutor, styled, like those of Scots Sheriff Courts, a "Procurator-Fiscal". He raises proceedings, when necessary against those who improperly usurp armorial bearings, and in view of the financial interest of the Treasury, the Scots Courts of Appeal regard the Fiscal's intervention as analogous to an Inland Revenue prosecution. The armorial offender in Scotland is accordingly viewed with the same stern and unromantic outlook which meets any other culprit caught evading national taxation. Lyon Court has by Statute 1592, cap. 125, and 1672, cap. 47, full powers of fine and imprisonment, and by 1669, cap. 95, Letters of Horning as well as, at common law, power to erase unwarrantable arms, and to "dash them furth of" stained-glass windows, break unwarrantable seals, and, where the Fiscal or complainer moves for forfeiture, to grant warrant for seizing movable goods and gear upon which arms are unwarrantably represented. He may also interdict usurpers of arms.

The granting or regranting of Arms by Letters Patent and various Birthbrieves, e.g. Diplomas of Nobility or of Chiefship (Diploma Stemmalis), is not judicial but the exercise by Lyon of the Sovereign's Armorial prerogative, and with this the Courts of Appeal "cannot interfere". In this branch of Armorial jurisdiction Lyon, after considering the Petition, issues a Warrant, which is the heraldic equivalent of the Queen's "Signature" for a Crown Charter, "authorising" the Lyon Clerk to prepare the Letters Patent. On all these proceedings fees are payable to H.M. Exchequer. It is not often realised that the Lyon Office is a revenue-earning Government Department as well as being custodian of the pageantry and romance of Scotland's mediaeval grandeur.

Sir Thomas Innes of Learney Scots Heraldry




The Heraldry Society of Scotland   last Update 20 Feb 2017