Assumed Arms in England

Acquiring armorial bearing, international heraldic authorities and assuming of arms.
Post Reply
R Kevin Lindsay
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:59 pm

Assumed Arms in England

Post by R Kevin Lindsay » Mon Nov 30, 2020 4:38 pm

I've noticed recently two registrations of assumed arms in England. In reviewing the Armorial Register's Acceptance Policy, I found the following:

"The armorial bearings of persons resident in countries with an existing law of arms and/or granting authority [or former Granting Authority] will only be accepted as having the authority of the Crown.... If there is no proof of a grant, exemplification or matriculation from the Crown (or other granting authority) then the armorial bearings will be recorded as Assumed (please note that Scottish armorial bearings will only be accepted if they are recorded in the register of the Lord Lyon King of Arms)."

Is this simply a recognition that the College of Arms, unlike the Lyon Court, does not actively prosecute assumed arms within its jurisdiction?

User avatar
Martin Goldstraw
Site Admin
Posts: 243
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 12:32 pm
Location: Shropshire, England.
Contact:

Re: Assumed Arms in England

Post by Martin Goldstraw » Thu Dec 03, 2020 3:03 pm

R Kevin Lindsay wrote:
Mon Nov 30, 2020 4:38 pm
Is this simply a recognition that the College of Arms, unlike the Lyon Court, does not actively prosecute assumed arms within its jurisdiction?
Hello Kevin,

There is only one country in the world where the assumption of arms would lead to any form of legal action and that is Scotland. Whilst the College of Arms might be pleased to encourage the belief that it is also against the law to assume arms in the rest of the UK, the simple fact is that they are either unwilling or more likely unable to take any form of legal action against anyone who assumes arms. Even when the assumption of arms is brought to their attention, they still have not taken any action against the person or body corporate.

The 2nd June 2017, saw the 600th anniversary of the so-called "writs" issued by King Henry V of England, regarding the use of coats of arms. On 2 June 1417, as his army was mobilising in southern England for a campaign against France, Henry issued an order to the sheriffs of the four counties where the men were being assembled. He directed them to make sure that no man who reported for service used a coat of arms unless
* he had inherited it, or
* it had been given to him by someone with the power to do so, or
* he was a veteran of the battle of Agincourt in 1415.
Anyone found with arms that did not comply with these requirements was to give them up. If he refused, he was to be dismissed from the expedition and forfeit his wages.

What is the significance of this military order? Well, although it was of limited and temporary application, it was later misrepresented as a general ban on the use of self-assumed arms in England.

There is ample evidence that the heraldry authorities recognised and accepted self-assumed arms during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Many were recorded during the official Visitations, which were held periodically from the 1530s to the 1680s. But things changed after the Visitations ended. The College of Arms began to call the self-assumption of arms "disputable” and refused to recognise these arms without a formal grant.

From the early 18th century to as recently as the 1980s, heraldic writers helped to drive this narrative through their books. Through selective, and sometimes distorted, quotations from the writ, they insisted that Henry had imposed a blanket ban on self-assumed arms throughout the kingdom, and that it was still in force. Today, though, the College of Arms has dispelled the myth. Its website makes it clear that the writs applied only to "the forthcoming expedition to France."

In no other country with a heraldic authority is there anything which states that it is an offence in law to assume arms.
These matters are dealt with in England, if they are dealt with at all, by the Court of Chivalry which is now considered to be obsolete. As you are probably aware, there was a rather contrived sitting of the court in 1953 but this was not against the assumption of arms but a matter of usurpation: The Court’s last sitting was the Manchester case, in his judgement (Manchester Corporation v Manchester Palace of Varieties [1955] P 133) Lord Goddard suggested that:
“if this court is to sit again it should be convened only where there is some really substantial reason for the exercise of its jurisdiction.”

This was, I feel, a shot across the bows delivered by the learned Lord who, in my humble opinion, was of the view that the "Manchester case" was contrived and a waste of time.

In 1970, Arundel Herald Extraordinary advised Wolfson College, Oxford (who were considering whether to invoke a controversial University privilege in order to avoid paying for a grant of arms) that the effect of Lord Goddard’s dictum “must make any further sitting of the court unlikely even for a cause of instance; and the revival of causes of office, which were obsolescent even in the seventeenth century, would be more difficult still.”

The fact that the College of Arms is either unable or unwilling to act at all was reinforced when in 1984, Garter King of Arms declined to ask the Court [of Chivalry] to rule against the assumption of unauthorised arms by a local authority, doubting whether the precedents would give jurisdiction (A New Dictionary of Heraldry (1987) Stephen Friar p 63).

I am of the view that it is pointless having a so-called law if there is no one willing or able to enforce it. In this, I am reminded of a local issue where the Local Authority, in order to attempt to prevent parking chaos outside our local school, went to the trouble of enacting local laws to place a single yellow line on the road, which, in UK traffic laws, means that anyone parking on these yellow lines during the hours set down on the relevant signage, is committing an offence however, everyone knows that the police will not enforce traffic regulations, there are no Traffic Wardens and the Local Authority does not have the necessary enforcement powers. The result of this is that those parents or guardians who have a moral conscience no longer park on the road and have now made way for those who don't have a moral conscience; the parking problem has not been solved but those who don't give a toss for any unenforceable regulations now find it easier to find a parking place reserved for them on the yellow lines!

The College of Arms continues to assert that it has yellow lines but as they don't intend to do anything about those who ignore them, the yellow lines may as well not exist; without enforcement, the so called laws of arms are pointless and no matter how many times the College protests that those who assume arms have no authority to do so and their arms are unauthorised, their protests are somewhat meaningless.

Burke's General Armory (last edition 1884) is said to contain arms attributed to 60,000 families (The Upper Classes; Property and Privilege in Britain J. Scott (1982) p 91). But it has been calculated that there were only 9,458 armigerous families in 1798 (The Nobility of the English Gentry J. Lawrence (1824)) and a total of 8,320 grants of arms made in the 19th century (English Nobility: the Gentry, the Heralds and the Continental Context M J Sayer (1979)), which implies, albeit on an extremely rough and ready basis, about 40,000 assumptions of arms.

There are literally thousands of Coats of Arms in use in England that have not been granted by the College of Arms. Bearing in mind that the fact that that the College of Arms is either unable or unwilling to act at all was reinforced when in 1984, Garter King of Arms declined to ask the Court [of Chivalry] to rule against the assumption of unauthorised arms by a local authority, doubting whether the precedents would give jurisdiction (A New Dictionary of Heraldry (1987) Stephen Friar p 63), I doubt very much whether anyone using assumed arms in England will be troubled.
Martin Goldstraw

----------
The Armorial Register
http://www.armorial-register.com

Image

User avatar
Mark A. Henderson
AR Reg. & IHS Member
Posts: 51
Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:40 pm

Re: Assumed Arms in England

Post by Mark A. Henderson » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:51 pm

Thanks for the explanation Martin.
Kindest regards,

Mark Anthony Henderson
Virtus et Victoria

User avatar
Michael F. McCartney
IHS Member
Posts: 281
Joined: Tue May 13, 2014 12:30 am
Location: Fremont, California

Re: Assumed Arms in England

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Mon Dec 07, 2020 5:34 am

Also, IIRC at some point (?? when ??) Parliament imposed a tax on any arms used in public, whether or not they were granted or otherwise recognized by the College of Arms. While that taxation was later discontinued, it did demonstrate official Crown (via Parliament) categorical recognition of arms without regard to whether or not they had been blessed by the Crown's designated heraldic officers.
Hardly consistent with arguments that bearing "unauthorized" arms is illegal...

Whether authorized and unauthorized arms are or are not "equal" strikes me as "eye of the beholder" - some will say yes, some will say no.

Though FWIW, I would hope (perhaps in vain) that the usurpation of arms formally granted or confirmed by the Crown could be penalized...
Mike~~
Fremont, California

User avatar
Martin Goldstraw
Site Admin
Posts: 243
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 12:32 pm
Location: Shropshire, England.
Contact:

Re: Assumed Arms in England

Post by Martin Goldstraw » Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:59 pm

Michael F. McCartney wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 5:34 am
Also, IIRC at some point (?? when ??) Parliament imposed a tax on any arms used in public, whether or not they were granted or otherwise recognized by the College of Arms. While that taxation was later discontinued, it did demonstrate official Crown (via Parliament) categorical recognition of arms without regard to whether or not they had been blessed by the Crown's designated heraldic officers.
Hardly consistent with arguments that bearing "unauthorized" arms is illegal...

Whether authorized and unauthorized arms are or are not "equal" strikes me as "eye of the beholder" - some will say yes, some will say no.
Indeed, it was a "Licence for armorial bearings, male servants, dogs and carriages".


Let us also not forget that the present Garter is himself a man of laws (he was called to the Bar in 1975) and yet despite a number of known cases of assumption of arms during his Reign (which he was clearly aware of) there has not been one prosecution.


Michael F. McCartney wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 5:34 am
Though FWIW, I would hope (perhaps in vain) that the usurpation of arms formally granted or confirmed by the Crown could be penalized...
Sadly, since the (in)famous 1950s Manchester case, which was about arms that had been usurped, received a shot across the bows, it remains highly unlikely that The College of Arms and or the Court of Chivalry would ever be any use. It appears therefore that any action would/could only be taken by the individual injured party.

Here is an extract from an article written some years ago by a barrister at law.
It is titled The Court of Chivalry by G.H. Gilbert and it was in The Coat of Arms N.S. Volume XIV no 197 Spring 2002.

Here is an edited extract (I have omitted those references to remedies for businesses):

"Obsolescence means going out of use, in course of disappearance. This morning, I telephoned the University of Central England law department and discovered that they had never heard of the Court of Chivalry."

"On holiday in Bognor Regis you notice that your coat of arms were printed on the hotel stationary and a magnificent painting of your achievement was displayed in the receptionist's office. What can you do?

If you discover your arms are being used by some other people then you can take the following steps. Approach the person involved, (with caution, they may turn nasty or abusive). Explain that they are using your arms and they must stop immediately. If they refuse then telephone the local County Court and ask them to supply you with the forms required to initiate a prohibitory injunction. Write to the person using your arms and tell them that you are taking legal action, keep a copy of the letter which you send by recorded delivery. Complete the court forms, if you have any difficulty the courts are very helpful, that is their job to help you. A summons will be issued and a hearing date given. When you attend take with you your letters patent and witness statements in support. On the form it is important to ask for costs, include telephone calls and time taken to initiate the proceedings. Also ask for damages, you may wish to tell the judge that you leave the amount to the court's decision.

The cost of a prohibitive injunction is usually £120 [2002 costs] so make sure you put this in your claim for costs. It saves all this if you can get the person using your arms to stop doing so and telling him you are taking proceedings will help concentrate his mind to "settle out of court". Get a written statement from the person using your arms that he has agreed to cease since it is not unknown that he may continue in the future.

It involves identifying those that abuse and flout the laws of arms, not easy but we should be aware of our rights and that we are surrounded by the many who do not respect the laws.

The Court of Chivalry has already established that it is not lawful to use another's arms and it is now in case law.

If there was no Court of Chivalry who would be disadvantaged? No one!."
Martin Goldstraw

----------
The Armorial Register
http://www.armorial-register.com

Image

R Kevin Lindsay
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:59 pm

Re: Assumed Arms in England

Post by R Kevin Lindsay » Wed Dec 09, 2020 10:05 pm

Thank you, Martin, for the extensive background information on this issue. That was very helpful.

Post Reply

Return to “Law/Lore of Heraldry”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest