The crests on the Arms of the Carruthers Family have been in existence at the very least, since 1672. Carruthers as a Scottish riding family of ancient pedigree, played a role in both the Church and if legend is true, the Knights Templars as well. It is suggested that this is reflected in the use of the three fleur de lis on our shield. What is definitely not the norm it seems, is the use of a high angelic being on a crest.
It was in this year of 1672 that the Lyon Register (officially known as the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland), on which the Lord Lyon records all Scotland’s coats of arms, was initiated by the Scottish Parliament under King James VI of Scotland. This was done to ensure all carrying arms, had the legal right to do so under Scottish law.
Although arms existed for our family well before 1672 and from the time of the Chiefly Line of Mouswald, the Carruthers of Holmains Arms, the ones we have all come to recognise, were only recorded on the register by John Carruthers, 9th of Holmains, in that year.
The ones registered in 1672 were the first Arms that we know of to carry a crest. The crest is the part of the Arms that sits on a ‘torse’ above the helmet. In the case of the Carruthers Arms the crest is blazoned (heraldically described) as :A Seraphim Volent Proper. This is translated as a ‘flying Seraphim in natural colours’.
What is a crest
According to Wikipedia, a crest is a component of a heraldic display consisting of the device borne on top of the helm. Originating in the decorative sculptures worn by knights. Crests became solely pictorial after the 16th century (the era referred to by heraldists as that of “paper heraldry”) when tournaments had ceased.
Originally, it is suggested the decoration of helmets was one of vanity, albeit it was found that they also gave protection to the wearer by deflecting blows to the head. They also acted, along with their shield and pennon, as a form of identity during tournaments, and were probably never worn on the battlefield. The word crest comes from the Latin ‘crist/a’ meaning cock’s comb or tuft, the former being quite descriptive. Thy were made of leather, cloth or paper over a frame of wood or wire.
As stated after the 1500’s, physical crests on the norm had totally disappeared. Many a crest from after the 16th century would have been difficult if not impossible to physically put on a helmet simply based on their intricacies. Once only used by those who were of tournament rank e.g. knight and above, all coats of arms now carry them.
The crest is therefore synonomous with knights and knighthood, the term being defined as a mounted man-at-arms serving a feudal superior, having been ceremonially inducted into special military rank usually after completing service as page and squire, by a sovereign or bishop, ranking below a baron. The latter being associated with the hereditary ownership of land. The word comes from the Old English/Anglo Saxon word ‘cniht’ meaning ‘one who serves’ and was brought into play in the 10th century after the Norman Invasion and the changes in both social structure and hierarchy. Because many knights were deemed ‘landless’ this led to their support of military orders such as the Templars and Hospitallers, both of which had a presence in the lands of our forebears in Dumfriesshire.
The Serephim, Cherub and Archangel
As the heralds of the day had obviously never seen a Seraphim, they were led by the many depictions of the church of what a Seraphim could have looked like, and mirrored the same in their own heraldic artwork. Occasionally the Seraphim were confused by the heralds, and cherubs may have been painted on the armiger’s Letters Patent instead, however the blazon of the Carruthers of Isle, clearly states that their crest was in fact a Cherub Proper.
On a side note: In representing the cherubim by infants’ winged heads, the early painters meant them to be emblematic of a pure spirit glowing with love and intelligence, the head the seat of the soul, and the wings attribute of swiftness and spirit alone retained.
Although the faces are always shown, the body or limbs of the cherub and seraph are never painted in heraldry. We are not sure for what reason this is as it is difficult to say, unless it comes from the ambiguity of the descriptions in the sacred writings and the consequent difficulty of representing them. The ancient heralds adopted the figure of speech termed synecdoche, which adopts a part to represent the whole. These days it is not unusual for the crest to be depicted in full.
Normally the term ‘Seraph’ would define singular and ‘Seraphim’, plural. but in the world of heraldic art and their depiction they are interchangeable. History and tradition dictates that the Serephim crest on the Carruthers Chief’s Arms is always depicted with the ‘head of a child or angel in the centre, but with three pairs of wings, the two uppermost and the two lowermost are contrarily crossed, or in saltire; the two middle-most are displayed (as in flight/volent).’
The Seraph derives from the prophetic passage in the Bible: Isaiah 6:1-8, and is the only passage where they are actually named.
Tradition places Seraphim in the highest rank in Christian Angelology and culture and although angelic figures regularly appear in heraldry, it is very unusual for a family to maintain a senior angelic being as their crest.
For some reason, either from our involvement with the church, our reputed support and work with the Templars, or for some other rationale now lost in the annals of time, we remain honoured to have it depicted on our Chief’s arms. The Carruthers Chiefs crest, through its depiction in heraldic terms represents – dignity, glory and honour.
Interestingly, in ‘Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and kindred families : including the Bowen, Russell, Owen, Grant, Goodwin, Amis, Carothers, Hope, Taliaferro, and Powell families by Pilcher’, it clearly states on page 384, at the end of the Carothers (Carruthers) chapter, the description of the Carruthers Arms. The crest is accurately blazoned as A Seraphim Volent Proper : and correctly described as ‘a cherubs head between three pairs of wings proper‘. Any other depiction eg without a face is not a serephim/sereph nor in fact a recognised nor registered Carruthers crest.
The Arms of 1672 therefore became the Carruthers chiefly Arms (the main part of any arms being the shield), which are openly misused by commercial enterprises. I say misused, as the arms only belong to an individual and not a family in general, and it is these arms that a new chief will be allowed to use through matriculation. At this point, the Lord Lyon by allowing this to happen, will confirm a Chief. Currently, as of October 2018, the recognised Carruthers arms carry no supporters. e.g. animals or people standing at the side of the shield, ‘supporting’ the arms. Any depiction to the contrary is wrong.
There have been to date 12 recognised Carruthers Arms, one presumed a mistake in the blazon, all depicted above. Only 5 crests are recorded, two being used by 2 seperate individuals, all are blazoned and all recorded since the registration of Arms in 1672.
To date and interestingly in true Carruthers tradition, all 5 crests have all depicted high angelic beings: Seraph, Cherubs and Archangels. There is currently another petition before the Lyon for the matriculation of Carruthers Arms, also with an angelic crest, this will make 13 if approved, the famous number that reflect the sad day the Templar’s were killed by Louis of France.
The five crests include:
- Crest: Serephim Volent Proper, registered by John the 9th of Holmains of the chiefly line of Carruthers of Holmains 1672. Used again by the Cadet branch of Dormont, registered in 1913, registered by Major Francis John Carruthers.
- Crest: Depiction of the Sereph as an angel, Standing Volent Proper, registered by James Carruthers of Isle, Steward of Annadale, in 1672.
- Crest: Depiction of the Sereph as a Cherub Proper, registered by Major John Peter Carruthers-Wade in 1854
- Crest: Archangel Michael, in Armour, holding a spear Dexter Proper, registered by Rev William Mitchell-Carruthers, 1873.
- Crest: Archangel Michael, pinning the Beast Proper, registered by Dr George Carruthers, 2017
NB: no other depictions of the Carruthers Crests are registered, and importantly all recognised depictions of the Serephim on official Carruthers crests have heads.
The blazon of the Carruthers Chiefly Arms are:
Arms: Gules, two chevrons engrailed between three fleurs de lis Or (Red shield on which lies two gold wavy chevrons, above and below which are situated three gold fleur de lis).
Crest: as stated above: Seraphim Volent Proper
Motto: Promptus et Fidelis (Ready and Faithful)
As in all instances of registered Scottish Arms, the motto sits above the Arms themselves enscrolled (in a scroll) as seen on the Arms to the right of this blog. If the Motto is set below the Arms, it is English, not Scottish.
The Clan Carruthers Society International (CCSI) was founded in January 2017 and is officially recognised by the Chief of Carruthers as representing the worldwide Carruthers family. It is non-commercial, apolitical and non-partisan and is open to any member of the international Carruthers family and derivatives of that name. The Society is based in the United Kingdom, but is represented by an international Executive Council.