As we are aware, the role of the Lord Lyon and his influence supersedes the boundaries of Scotland itself, extending to wherever the Scottish diaspora exits. This is clearly seen in the regions of Canada, the United States of America and Australia, where respectable organisations, Festivals, Games and Gatherings embrace the decisions of the Lyon Court as being integral to their own Scottish culture and heritage. What sometimes isn’t appreciated fully is the huge support, from Scottish expatriates and their descendants, for the office of the Lord Lyon and the work he does in maintaining and enhancing Scottish culture, heritage and history for their benefit, literally worldwide.
In a piece taken from ‘The Herald’, a Scottish newspaper, in 1998, a story unfolded of expats led by an American, changing something that they felt required their input… that of the Lord Lyon’s Chain of Office.
According to the Herald, an aptly named newspaper on this occasion:-
EXPATRIATE Scots have clubbed together to sort out a sartorial deficiency in Scotland’s supreme arbiter on heraldry. For the last 250 years the Lord Lyon King of Arms has been wearing a collar of state, a key symbol of his office, which is . . . er . . . English, not Scottish.
Instead of the traditional Scottish chain made up of thistles and rue (the latter supposedly the sacred plant of the Picts), it has S-shaped links favoured in England’s heraldic tradition and originally the Lancastrian emblem. The old chain went missing in the aftermath of Culloden.
However, a rallying call to St Andrew’s societies around the world has resulted in a new Collar of State, which will be presented to the current Lord Lyon, Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight, early in December.
The idea came from Californian attorney Mark Dennis, now an advocate at the Scottish Bar. ”It is a gift from the Scottish diaspora to the Queen, her Lord Lyon, and the Scottish people,” he said.
Mr Dennis, a long-standing enthusiast of Scottish culture and a critic of phoney tartan kitsch, which often substitutes for it, set about writing to St Andrew’s societies around the world, asking each to pay for a link.
”Each of the 40 links is engraved with the donor society. It is wonderful. I am an American and I like the idea that it is something real and something permanent. It ties us with our past,” he said.
The cost of the solid gold chain, made by fellow American Donald McKee, of Colorado, was ”modest”. It also features an oval pendant showing St Andrew and the Cross. The collar design has been recreated from images of the old one in portraits of former Lords Lyon.
The present Lord Lyon (of 1998) is said to be very pleased with the gesture and the new collar although a spokesman for the Lyon Court declined to comment.
The Court does have a serious role as the guardian of authentic Scotland against the bogus Brigadoon myths, although sometimes it does give fodder to detractors. One of its leaflets warns of the dangers of fake heraldry which ”only leads sooner or later to social humiliation”.
It says: ”It is not only illegal, but a social crime and error of the most grave character, to assume and purport to use your Chief’s arms without a due and congruent difference. Anyone who does so merely publishes their own ignorance, and use of such on seal or notepaper (or anywhere else), will close the doors of all the best families (and organisations) against the presumptuous upstart.” Amongst their other roles, the Court keeps a register of all arms and bearings in Scotland since 1672.
(The chain of office was presented to the then Lord Lyon, Sir Malcolm Rognvald Innes of Edingight KCVO WS FSA Scot, who was the son of Sir Thomas Innes of Learney. He was appointed a Writer to the Signet in 1964. His first heraldic appointment was as Falkland Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary from 1957–58, then as Carrick Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary from 1958–1971 and as Marchmont Herald of Arms in Ordinary from 1971-81. He was Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records from 1966–81. He was Lord Lyon King of Arms from 1981-2001, also holding the office of Secretary to the Order of the Thistle for the same period. The Chain has been used by three other Lyons subsequently, to date.)
Background to the function of Heralds
In the early medieval period the proclamation and organisation of tournaments was the chief function of heralds. They marshalled and introduced the contestants and kept a tally of the score. From this derive both their modern roles of organising ceremonial function and their ancient roles of being expert in genealogy and heraldry.
The knights taking part in tournaments were recognised by the personal arms they bore on their shields and the crests they wore on their helmets. Heralds soon acquired an expert knowledge of these and became responsible for recording arms, and then later for controlling their use.
As coats of arms were hereditary, heralds soon came to add expertise in genealogy to their skills. The use of arms on the jousting field and in battle became steadily less important but at the same time the civilian, social and antiquarian uses of heraldry grew.
All Heraldic Authorities retain their right to function though a Letters Patent granted by the British Monarch of the time. Currently these exist in Scotland, England and Canada while Ireland continued that right after succession, which was bolstered by an Act of the Irish Parliament in 2005.
However, all heraldic groups remain individual in the eyes of the law and one jurisdiction will always take into account the jurisdiction and expertise of the other. e.g. a Canadian of Scottish descent would have any petition for arms discussed with the Lord Lyon. It also means that the use of the false arms (LLC) shown above remain illegal in Canada. This situation is easily checked by contacting the Chief Herald of Canada, Canadian Heraldic Authority, Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa ON K1A 0A1, CANADA, which has been done previously.
In Scotland, the role of the Lord Lyon as Chief Herald existed since at least the 1300’s, with the Lyon Court established in 1532.
However, prior 1672, history shows that Arms were used by many individuals, including by those deemed unworthy to use them. To bring order to the heraldic process in Scotland, Charles II required the then Lord Lyon King of Arms, Sir Charles Erskine of Cambo, Baronet, to record all known Arms on a Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland.
Not all with Arms were accepted but our Chief’s ancestor, John Carruthers 9th of Holmains, Chief of Carruthers, was deemed ‘worthy’ and he registered the Chiefly Arms, which were to become those arms of the Chief that we as Carruthers recognise today.
However, it wasn’t until this year that additaments were included further representing the status of our Clan and Family. On the confirmation of our current Chief, Dr Peter Carruthers of Holmains by the Lord Lyon, supporters of two fallow deer bucks rampant Proper were granted. The progression over time of the Chiefs arms can be seen below.
The role of the Lord Lyon is, in part, to ensure those bearing Scottish Arms have the right to do so. This is done through a thorough analysis of all genealogical research and evidence presented by a petitioner to the Lyon Court. If found accurate, arms are granted or matriculated allowing the individual the right to bear those arms. As in the case of all Scottish Arms to include that of our Chief, they become a personal and individual visual signature of that individual and not a family in general.
The robustness of this process rules out the possibility of any false claims and prevents charlatans misusing arms and claiming titles that they are not worthy of holding. It is for this reason that the Lyon’s Judgement in such matters, are recognised worldwide.
If the Lyon confirms a Scottish Clan Chief and importantly these people exist and reside both inside and outside of Scotland, it is without doubt that that individual is the real deal.
However, we must always tread carefully as unscrupulous people with their own agenda, ego and commercial interests do exist, to dupe the uneducated. This leads us on to the claims made by a group out of the US of A, currently being investigated.
At this juncture, irrelevant of the claims of others, as part of the Scottish Judiciary, it is our understanding that the Lyon Court would never advise or recommend any Advocate, outwith his Court, to represent an individual or group with regards a gathering/a Derbhfine (election of a Chief) that was not legal, as this is simply against the role of his office.
Secondly, they would never support any individual or group of individuals who set out to contravene the jurisdiction or function of the Lyon Court itself. Other than common sense, this remains a fact and is easily checked.
The Court will authorise a member of that Court to supervise such proceedings as are deemed legal in its eyes. Examples being the family gatherings of such clans as the McEwans, Bells and Pringles. This is carried out to ensure that the correct protocol is followed. It did NOT happen in Canada for the LLC in 2018, that is simply a lie – they are not recognised by the Lyon, the Chief, our Society nor the clan in general.
If the Lyon Court had supported and sanctioned such an action, which it did not, it would have been superseded by the confirmation of the current Carruthers Chief in 2019. As it happens, the Chief-ship of any clan was always going to be genealogy which proved lineage to the Lyon, over an election or commercial agenda.
Therefore the claims that the Lyon Court appointed or advised the appointment of a named lawyer/advocate, who functions outside their Court, and thus are self-employed would contravene their position and is therefore nonsense. Any official representation assigned by Lord Lyon, would be claimed by him and would be within his judicial remit to do so. This would normally be within Scotland and most certainly not in support of any group willing to bypass his authority. Again, of course, this is all easily researched and fact-checked.
As an aside, there was never a point and this remains the case, in electing a ‘chief or chieftains’ if the Lyon, the Clan, the official society nor in fact all those who celebrate Scottish culture worldwide, will not recognise them. History will reflect that Carruthers has a Chief, he is authentic, credible, official and legal and is accepted as such internationally. For us at the CCSI, as representatives of Carruthers worldwide, that is enough, and we hope it is for you!
As a Society, we therefore try to publish factual information based on current evidence, but remain happy to review anything that comes to light and from any source, and if accurate, it will be added to our database and used in further publications. With this in mind, we simply try to inform and educate with accuracy as best we can in order to allow our family to make informed and personal choices.
1 thought on “Clan Carruthers: Yankee Sorts out the Court of the Lord Lyon”
Excellent article, well researched and presented. Thank you I enjoyed reading it. Tom Tait, Armiger, Tait’s of Pirn.