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




Scots Heraldry - The Heraldry Society of Scotland

  THE MODERN USE OF HERALDRY - by Romilly Squire

Heraldry developed as a means of identification and those who wish to use it should bear this fact in mind. Some armigers are reluctant to use their heraldry as they feel that to do so may seem somewhat pretentious. Only if an individual were to use a coat of arms to which he were not entitled could the use of heraldic display be seen to be pretentious. It is an honour to bear arms and anyone entitled to do so should be proud to use their heraldry in any situation in which it can discreetly and tastefully ornament and identify.


The object of using heraldry should be to make identification as instant and complete as possible and, with this in mind, an armigerous person may use his arms in a great variety of ways which are still relevant to daily life. He may embellish his writing paper and business card with a simple line drawing of his crest or shield of arms, or he may wish to commission a more elaborate design for a bookplate with which to ornament and identify his library. He may have his arms engraved on his silver, cutlery or glassware and, even today, the commissioning of a full crested dinner service is not unknown. Indeed, manufacturers have become increasingly aware of the potential market for heraldic display and a whole range of products can be easily obtained.

In Scotland, heraldry is much used in dress. The crest in silver is worn on the bonnet and the arms may appear on the buckle of the belt, the cantle of the sporran and on the handle and sheath of the dirk or sgian dubh. Jewellery for women, such as brooches and pins, lends itself to heraldic adornment. On their house, armigers may carve or affix a full or partial representation of their arms, install stained glass windows and fly that most striking and historical means of heraldic display, the flag.



One of the most common misconceptions with regard to heraldic display is that a coat of arms must always be depicted exactly as it appears on the Grant of Arms document. Within heraldic art both taste and style are dictated by personal preference and therefore a coat of arms may be depicted in an infinate variety of ways. It is only the blazon, or written description, of the coat of arms which is unalterable. As long as the blazon is followed implicitly, the resulting design is entirely a matter of individual taste, artistic interpretation and final application. No heraldic artist, for example, would ever design a coat of arms to be carved in stone on a modern building in the same way as he would design those arms were they to be engraved on a piece of 18th century silver.

Designers and manufacturers must also remember that in Scotland the use of heraldry is a matter of law and is regulated by the Court of the Lord Lyon. If a designer is unsure about the authenticity or accuracy of a piece of heraldic artwork, he should not hesitate to contact either the Court of the Lord Lyon or the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, both of whom will be happy to advise.


The Heraldry Society of Scotland   last Update 27 Oct 2021