can be powerful symbols: of authority, of ownership, and of
eminence. They often have universal appeal and instant
recognition. Since early times, personal images have been used to
identify people, places and things, and have been found on flags,
clothing, jewellery, and arms. The concept of a "coat of arms"
evolved from its early military applications, where large banners were
rallying points for a lord's liveried armies, and his personal armour,
clothing and jewellery identified his property. The renaissance brought
renewed interest in the romantic ideals of the mediaeval age, and
armorial bearings once again flourished, through its art form of
heraldry and the related language, blazon. As symbols of eminence
and power, armorial bearings eventually became an "honour" to be issued
and regulated by the Crown, the fons honorum, or "fount of honours."
Today, heraldic authorities are responsible for marshalling,
recording and granting arms to eminent subjects of the Crown, and it is
still accepted by many today that in order to become armigerous (a
person who has been granted armorial bearings), one must have entered
the "port of gentility" and possess the qualities and nature of a
gentleman (or woman).
to popular belief, there is no such thing as a Family Coat of Arms.
Ensigns Armorial or Armorial Bearings, have been granted
since around the 12th century, and have always been granted to a single
individual. It is a monomark, a unique identifier of an
individual. No two people may bear the same arms at the same
point in time. Arms are heritable property, and as such may be
passed down through the generations. It is customary for the arms
to pass from father to eldest son (heir apparent) down through history.
If there are no sons, the arms may be borne by a daughter (known
as an heraldic heiress) to be passed on to one of her male offspring,
but only if he adopts the surname of last male holder of the
arms. If the topic of Heraldry interests you, there are excellent
reference materials on the internet, and in particular, a number of
great articles at the Heraldry Society of Scotland website which you
may visit by clicking here
arms are granted in a few European countries, in the English speaking
world the granting authorities are England, Scotland, Ireland and
Canada. In order to be granted arms by the Scottish authority,
The Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland, her Majesty's representative
for Scotland, you must be either a British subject, or the direct
traceable descendant of a British subject, and meet other criteria that
indicate your sutability to be counted among the "Armorial Noblesse of
Scotland". A coat of arms is the outward indication of nobility
(Edmondson, Complete Body of Heraldry, p. 154), and arms are officially
described as "Ensigns of Nobility". (Nisbet's Heraldry, iii, ii, 65) A
patent of arms (Letters Patent) is a Diploma of Nobility. (Sir Thomas
Innes of Learney, Scots Heraldry, p. 20)
a British subject of Scottish descent, I petitioned the Lyon Court for
the above achievement in April 2004, which was approved about nine
months after the application, and the Letters Patent granting the arms
was received in July 2005.
Click on image for larger view.
The design of the arms follows typical
heraldic practices. The field of the arms (background) is blue
(Azure) and is representative of the blue water that surrounds my
island home. The main charge (figure on the field) is a Centaur.
It is customary in heraldry, to have your arms be a "cant" (pun)
of either your name or some meaningful attribute about you. Often
arms have charges which represent the occupation or profession of the
holder, but as the arms are handed down over time this significance is
lost, but cants on the surname last forever. An excellent example
of this are the arms of the father of the late Elizabeth, the
Queen Mother shown below.
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, her father's arms consist of a quartered
shield, having three archer's bows (Bowes) in the second and third
quarters, and a blue lion (Lyon) in the first and fourth
quarters. This has to be the all-time great example of canting
arms. I chose to go with canting arms for my armorial and
selected the Centaur (Center) as my primary charge. Additionally,
it is also my astrological symbol (December). The two crosses
Patteé in the chief (top) portion of the shield are
representative of my Masonic attachment, my two sons and my faith
(Lutheran). The Blazon (description) of my arms is: Azure, a centaur salient his bow and arrow in full draught, the arrow in bend, in chief two crosses pattée Argent.
Scottish law, younger sons are not entitled to
enherit their father's arms, but may matriculate those arms in their
own name with a suitable difference. The eldest son may use the
father's arms during the lifetime of the father by attaching a label of
three points to the arms. On the death of the father, the heir
removes the label, and the undifferenced arms become his. During
medieval times it is believed that when father and heir rode into
battle, it was customary for the heir to cover his shield (arms) with a
piece of fabric having three points (flaps). If the father was
killed in battle, the heir removed the fabric to show that he was now
the holder of the arms. Shown below are the arms of my eldest son
(heir apparent) Brian and the proposed arms for my younger son David.
Brian Richard Center
David William Center