It always bemuses us when people attempt to rationalise and promote the correctness of their actions by posting large amounts of text. This is usually done without a full insight or understanding of the subject at hand, in this case an issue of ownership and the process around it.
Defence of a stance is always admirable, but that can only be a viable option if what is being defended is the truth. If not, then all the words in the world cannot make the truth disappear.
In this instance, the subject is the crest on the Clan Badge, which pops up now and again (usually by the same people).
Here are the facts:
- The crest of any clan is the crest of the Chief of that Clan within a belt and buckle, on which is inscribed the mottos of that Chief, in our case Promptus et Fidelis.
- There is only one Scottish Clan Carruthers, with one recognised hereditary Clan Chief: Peter Carruthers of Holmains
- The clan Chief’s crest is blazoned (described in heraldic terms) as a seraphim volent proper (a seraph in flight, depicted naturally) and was registered in 1672.
- In the Bible, Isaiah 6:2 describes seraphim as having six wings, two covering their faces, two covering their feet and two being used to fly.
- In heraldry, the seraphim/seraph is always depicted with a face.
- The choice of the Chief’s crest and its portrayal is his own.
The point another group are trying to make is based on a description in Isaiah 6:2. In 6:3 there is more detail, because Isiah further states, ‘and they were calling to one another “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”. In Isaiah 6:4 it is stated that ‘at the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke’. Isiah goes onto say, in 6:6, that ‘one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar’.
It is important to look in detail at how the seraphim are described. Isaiah didn’t say they didn’t have a face, or limbs. To the contrary, he said their faces were covered, their voices were heard, and two wings covered their feet. He also said one picked up a coal in his hand, suggesting arms. This description, when pulled together, portrays an angelic being with six wings, and a full complement of major body parts.
The heralds’ description of the seraphim/seraph was based on the impressions recorded by Isaiah. The heralds had some flexibilty in their artwork because they were painting something they had never actually seen. The heralds’ images were then passed down.
Medieval heraldry relied on the blazon/description of a coat of arms, which included the crest. A language of its own began to emerge and although fluid to a degree, it left the depiction of the blazon to the artist. Over time, a standardised process took place relying on rote memory. This is described in the paper by Professor Mary J Carruthers of New York University (CARRUTHERS, MARY J. “Ars Oblivionalis, Ars Inveniendi: The Cherub Figure and the Arts of Memory.” Gesta, vol. 48, no. 2, 2009, pp. 99–117. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29764902).
The pictorial vision of a seraphim progressively became stylised. But they were always shown as the head of a child or an angel, with three pairs of wings: the two uppermost and the two lowermost are contrarily crossed, or in saltire; the two middle-most are displayed in flight. To show differentiation, a Cherub (plural Cherubim) is always represented as the head of an infant between a pair of wings, usually termed a “cherub’s head.” Interestingly in the Bible a cherub may have two or four wings, never six, but always with a head.
This concept is not simply seen in the Carruthers Arms of 1672, but in Europe as well. These depictions below show the heraldic seraphim in the modern arms of the University of Avignon on the left, the ancient arms of the same University in the centre, and in the arms of Norrbärke County Council, in Sweden, on the right.
It would not matter if the Chief chose his seraphim as a six-winged angel with two really large wings and four small wings, or vice versa, and with a jet-black face. The depiction of his arms remains his choice and the only person who could deny them would be the Lord Lyon.
Changing the Chiefly Crest, and calling it the Carruthers Clan Badge simply because it has the Chief’s motto on it, does not make it so. The use of six wings, without a face, as described by Isaiah, would only be factual and have worth if the Chief chose that to be his arms – and he has not.
This argument therefore has no substance or credibility. It lies in a similar vein to the Bruce tartan ‘belonging’ to Carruthers – they are both nonsense and totally inarguable, irrelevant of how hard anybody should try. The examples above showing other arms and one major order discussed below, all depicting the seraphim with six wings and a head, simply emphasises how ludicrous any argument is within both heraldry and our own Chief’s crest.
It is our Chief’s choice what crest he has and how it is portrayed.
The picture on the left is the collar of the Order of the Seraphim, or the Order of His Majesty The King. It is the most outstanding distinction given in Sweden. Nowadays it is conferred exclusively on members of the Swedish Royal Family, or on foreign heads of state or other persons of comparable rank. The Order has only one Class with the dignity of Knight or Member. The insignia of the Order are the Collar, Badge and Grand Star. The Collar of the Order is only bestowed as a mark of special distinction. The Collar of the Order of the Seraphim consists of eleven gold seraphim (angels), alternating with eleven blue patriarchal crosses, set in gold, joined with gold links. Simply another heraldic portrayal of a seraphim/seraph, with six wings and a face.
These facts remain important to us.