National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Usage of Coats of Arms

Usage of Coats of Arms

Who can use a Coat of Arms?

Coats of ArmsCoats of Arms in Scotland can only belong to one person at a time. There is no single Coat of Arms which all people of the same name can use - often miscalled a "family Coat of Arms". As Coats of Arms originated in order to identify a person it is clear that it would not be practical if more than one person could use exactly the same design. Arms descend to the heir in each generation of the person to whom they were originally granted and other descendants who bear the same surname may apply for a slightly different version of the Arms to be recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. In Scotland the shields of unrelated people with the same surname may bear similarities as the design will be based on the shield of the clan chief, the head of the family.

Who can apply for a Coat of Arms?

The Lord Lyon King of Arms is responsible for granting all Coats of Arms in Scotland and will consider Petitions, as applications for Arms are called, from people who are legally domiciled in Scotland and those who were born in Scotland. The Lord Lyon can also consider Petitions from people living in Commonwealth countries which do not have their own heraldic authorities. Normally the Lord Lyon would expect there to be some Scottish connection.

A Grant of Arms is not automatic and there is no statutory right to a Coat of Arms. Descendants bearing the same surname of someone who already has a Coat of Arms recorded in Scotland can apply for a Matriculation or re-recording of the ancestor’s Arms, either with a small difference or without if they are the heir. The Lord Lyon will allow a Matriculation if the applicant can prove their descent by the production of statutory records, such as birth, marriage and death certificates, entries in the Old Parish Registers, Wills and Testaments.

Further information

For more detailed information on heraldry and its use in Scotland and on recordings since 1908 please contact the Court of the Lord Lyon.