The use of St Michael in heraldry and beyond is not new, while the depiction of the archangel fighting Lucifer, often depicted as a beast or dragon, is well known in religious art. St Michael is venerated not only throughout the Christian world but in other religions as well,. He is seen as the right hand of God, the senior of all angels and as such has his own feast day dedicated to him on September 29th.
As the patron saint of healing and of warriors, St Michael is symbolised by the latter in the use of the spear, the sword and armour and is regarded as the ‘heavenly warrior’ or ‘chief prince’ in total command of the angelic armies.
More importantly, he is mentioned in the bible as the archangel who led God’s army in the celestial war and was paramount in the casting out of Lucifer and his minions from heaven. As such Michael is often represented as standing over a dragon with sword or spear, portraying this fall and therefore the defeating of Satan himself.
The famous woodcut by the German sculptor Albrecht Dürer, dating back to 1498 is a typical example of this and is seen below;
St Michael and the Border family of Carruthers.
Firstly, St. Michael is the patron saint of the Burgh of Dumfries, the main town in Dumfriesshire in which the Carruthers ancestral lands of Annandale sit. Taken from the 14th century seal of the town, the scene on the arms of Dumfries recalls the Archangel’s triumph over the great dragon as mentioned in Revelation I2 :3-4, considered to describe the fall of Lucifer himself, during the satanic rebellion against God.
Sitting above the shield (arms of Dumfries) is a Coronet depicting the town as a Royal Burgh, made as such by King William the Lion and dating back to 1186.
Below the arms sits the motto “A Lore Burne”, translated from old Scots to mean ‘To the Lower Burn”. This being the old cry to muster of the towns militia in times of an attack.
Many historians believe that Dumfries originated as a Selgovae defensive community during the time of the Roman occupation. This would have been roughly in the same era as the building of the fort ‘Caer Ruthers’, by the Selgovae war chief Rydderch, that gave us our name.
It was also in a church in Dumfries called Greyfriars Kirk that Bruce killed the Red Comyn on his way to the throne of Scotland, and the country’s Independence.
However, this is not the only link with our family as St Micheal plays a direct role in two of the 13 Carruthers arms and two of all living armigers. These are the arms of Bruce Mitchell-Carruthers and Dr George Carruthers.
The Holmains line of Mitchell-Carruthers proudly use St Michael as part of their crest. Their arms were first registered in 1876 and are the only quartered arms we have currently borne by a living Armiger.
The use of St Michael is in part to continue the tradition of Carruthers using an angelic figure on their crest and therefore refers to our family history and also as a play on the association between the names Mitchell and Michael. They also use the cherub.
This line are the close cousins of our current chief, and therefore the next senior line of our family who sit above Dormont in the pecking order.
They, as members of the Holmains family, retained the motto of Promptus et Fidelis but portray chevronels rather than chevrons in their arms. These are quartered with those of Mitchell, although the Carruthers arms are maintained in dominance.
In 2016, Dr George Carruthers of Fife and Society Convenor presented his genealogical petition and proofs to the Lord Lyon and was subsequently granted arms in 2017.
As is the way of Scots heraldry, these Carruthers arms were differenced twice from those of the chiefly line of Holmains and following the Mitchel-Carruthers’ lead, his arms replaced the chevrons on the chief’s arms for chevronels and instead of the three fleurs de lis, he replaced one of them with a pheon in the base.
His chosen crest is blazoned as ‘St Michael pinning the Beast’ and represents the man who bears it. Again it retains the angelic tradition of all Carruthers arms to date, as well as the links with health care, a martial background and the lands of his ancestors.
The pheon on the shield was used to link both the crest of St Micheal pinning the beast and the Reivers use of the Lang Spear, as some of the finest light cavalry in Europe in their day.
It has since been suggested by some in the past, that as St Michael is deemed to be the defender of the truth, it was considered appropriate that the Convenor of the society had the archangel as his crest.
Whether by strange coincidence or by choice, as head of the Society it is part of the Convenor’s job to challenge false information about our family, by promoting evidenced facts.
We are aware that this presumption played no part in the choosing our Convenor’s crest although commeth the hour, commenth the man and it does remain a nice twist in its telling.
New Sculpture at Linlithgow
Although installed in situ in 2020 with the unveiling held up by Covid, at the beginning of March 2022 the Lord Lyon attended the unveiling of the Alan B. Herriot sculpture of St Michael in his fight against Satan.
The figure sits in the town and Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, in West Lothian and was organised by the Linlithgow Burgh Trust. The plinth marks the 1673 grant of arms to the town, one year after the Lord Lyons Act was enacted and the family’s chiefly arms were registered by John Carruthers 9th of Holmains.
In these dark days, it was brought to the attention of the onlookers at the ceremony in Linlithgow by way of solidarity, that St Michael was also the Patron Saint of Kyiv, capital of the Ukraine.