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Ancestral Scotland Ltd. is a Company Limited by Guarantee (SC244818) first registered in 2003

The Directors are: David John Bruce Durie
David Donald Alexander James Durie

Ancestral Scotland Ltd. is based in Edinburgh, Scotland





The Science of Blazoning - a guide for beginners

The components of an Achievement

This Armiger is a Peer (in fact, a Baron), and a Chief of name and Arms Most Armigers have simpler Arms

Metals and Colours

There are only four main colours and two metals

The terms we use derive from mediaeval French

Basic rule -
no metal on a metal, no colours on a colour

Or = gold

Argent = silver
 (usually depicted as white)

Sable = black

Azure = blue

Gules = red

Vert = green


In order to avoid confusion  colours and metals are usually given capital letters
(e.g., Sable, Or)


Furs can also be used as colours, in which case the "no colour on a colours" rule does not apply
Ermine Vair
(rabbit skins)

Gules, a cross Ermine

Ermine. a chevron Gules (Taillefer of Haircleugh)

Gules, three cinquefoils within a bordure all Ermine
(Hamilton of Silvertonhill)

Points on the escutcheon (shield)


Argent, a stag's head cabossed proper, on a chief engrailed Gules, a mullet between two crescents of the First.

(James Thomson, merchant, Kirkcaldy)


Read the blazon in this order...

1. The field of the escutcheon (shield) which here is Argent

2. The main charge or partition on the field (a stag's head)

3. Charges not central (in this case in chief)

4. Charges on the last mentioned (crescents and a mullet)

5. We try not to repeat ourselves, so of the First refers to the first colour given, Argent


"Dexter" means right and "sinister" means left -
but from the point of view of the person holding the shield, not the viewer.
Argent is silver/white. "Cabossed" means a stag's head cut off and shown as above. "Engrailed" is the scalloped shape of the Chief. Gules is red. A "mullet" is a five-pointed star (in fact, a spur).


The Ordinaries

The simplest - and commonest - shapes on a shield are simple geometric designs. They have particular names.
Because they are the simplest, they also feature in the oldest Coats of Arms.



Divisions of the field - follow the same logic... do positions on the field

Patterns and Lines

Patterns are often made from Diminutives Lines  of Division - may be applied to any line or charge

fusil = a flint; semy = patterned; gouttes = drops (blood or water) Notice, by the way, the shield shape is not important, unless specified in the Blazon

Common charges

A "charge" is anything on the shield - which could be a geometric shape, as above,
an animal, an inanimate object, etc. Here are some of the most commonly found.

There are many forms of cross, including...



Attitudes of beasts

If there is an animal in the Arms, it is necessary to say what it is doing -
and different classes of "beasts" have their own vocabularies.

"armed" = claws, "langued" = tongue, "gardant" = facing forward, "regardant" = facing backward, "dormant" = sleeping, "passant" = walking, "Proper" = the colour in nature. "attired" = stag's antlers, "displayed" = wings out, "urvant" = head elevated, "erased" = as if torn off, "couped" = as if cut off, "vulning" is particular to pelicans and means drawing blood to feed her chicks, "naiant" = swimming, "volant" = flying, "gorged" = collar around the neck.

Let’s blazon!

There are no "family Coats of Arms" - all Arms are individual to a person.
However, everyone of the same surname will usually have Arms based on similar
"undifferenced" Arms (usually those of the Chief).

Follow the blazoning logic here...

Quarterly: 1st and 4th Or, a fess chequy Azure and Argent (for Stewart); 2nd and 3rd Azure, three garbs Or (for the Earldom of Buchan)

Arms of Stewart, Earl of Buchan
"garbs" = sheaves of wheat or corn


 Marshalling - putting Arms together

Mr. Barr (Gules, a fess Or)
meets Ms. Cross (Argent, a cross Azure)
They marry, become the Cross-Barrs, and their Arms are impaled
(put side by side...
...unless Ms. Barr is an Armigerous Heiress (inherits her father's Arms), in which case Mr. Barr adds hers as an escutcheon of pretense to show he is carrying the arms for the benefit of the grandchildren of his wife’s father... ...and their children bear quartered Arms:
Quarterly: 1st and 4th Gules, a fess Or; 2nd and 3rd Argent, a cross Azure

Note that the male name (Barr) comes last, and the
paternal Arms go in the 1st and 4th quarters.
This can be read like a visual Family Tree.

Here is a good example of this in practice -
the Arms (here in the form of a banner) of Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch and 12th Duke of Queensberry KBE, DL

They show the senior patrilineal descendant of Sir James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and Lucy Walter, who married Anne Scott, 4th Countess of Buccleuch. he took her surname, and the Scott Arms (shown here) appear an an escutcheon of pretence.


The Helm, Crest, Torse and Mantling

The Helm indicates rank The rank of a Peer is
shown by the Coronet
Wreath or Torse

Sovereign - burnished gold, affronty, i.e. face-on, with six bars, or grilles, and lined with crimson

Noble (Peer) - silver or polished steel, with gold bars or grilles, and lined with crimson

Baronets and Knights - affronty (facing forward) with an open visor

Esquires and private gentlemen - a barrel helmet of steel, in profile, with the visor or beaver closed

Normally the Crest rests on a Wreath or Torse
"of the liveries" (main colours of the shield)

Here, the Torse is Azure and Or

Likewise the Mantling, which hangs
from the Torse, is Azure doubled Or
("doubled" meaning the inside colour)

The crest

The Crest sits atop the Helm, and started as a way of identifying knights and nobles in battle or at a jousting tournament. Typically, it repeats an element of the Arms, or refers to a family story, or is a pun.

Armstrong (a strong arm)

(a beaver)

(a cockerel)

Crest and motto badges

This is peculiar to Scotland - although no-one may display anyone else's Coat of Arms, it is permissible (encouraged, even) to wear the Chief's or Armiger's Crest within a strap-and-buckle badge also bearing the motto. This can be worn as a cap-badge, plaid brooch, kilt-pin, etc.

A kinsman or kinswoman wears the Chief's crest inside a strap-and-buckle, with the Chief's motto An Armiger wears his or her crest inside a circlet with his or her motto, and may wear one feather A Chief wears his or her crest inside a circlet with his or her motto, plus three feathers - this Chief also happens to be an Earl, hence the Coronet of Rank

Frankly, the Crest Badge is not a very old or original Scottish device. Typically, a Clansman would wear a sprig of the Chief's plant or another symbol (famously, a White Cockade) strapped to the arm - hence the strap-and-buckle.

The idea of a Crest in a cap-badge comes from British Army regimental cap-badges bearing the symbol and motto of the Regiment. Because so many Scottish Chiefs were Colonels of Regiments, their soldiers - many of them their kinsmen - wore it too. The idea of surrounding the crest with a strap-and-buckle bearing the motto was borrowed for the (Enlish) Order of the Garter.

The Crest Badge idea spread to non-military uses in the period of Victorian romanticising of everything Scottish - authentic or otherwise.

(a crescent, taken from the Arms)

Beaton/Bethune (an otter's head, taken from the Arms)

(a mountain cat, as Chiefs of Clan Chattan)

(from a mythical association with King David and Holyrood)

(a wooden club)

(a reference to William Wallace defending the Crown of Scotland)

Final example - William Forbes-Sempill of Craigievar, Baronet, Baron Sempill (granted 1885)

These Arms were granted when Sir William Forbes assumed the title and surname of Sempill.

The shield is blazoned:
Quarterly: 1st and 4th Argent, a chevron chequy Gules and of the First between three hunting-horns Sable, garnished and stringed of the Second (for Sempill); 2nd and 3rd Azure, a cross patée fitchée Or between three bears' heads couped Argent, muzzled Gules (for Forbes).

The Helm is that of a Noble, atop the Coronet of a Peerage Baron.

Unusually, there are two Crests and Mottos, Keep Tryst taken from Sempill (on the dexter) and Watch from Forbes (sinister).

The orange tawny Ribbon and Badge of a Baronet of Nova Scotia surround the shield.

As a Peer (and also as a Chief), the Armiger has Supporters - two greyhounds Argent collared Gules

It may be (no-one is really sure) that assume that hunting was one of the attractions of the lands around Lochwinnoch, hence the hurting horns, stag's head atd dogs.

The current Lord Sempill says: "I have always thought that James IV had a sense of guilt in regards to those who died supporting his father at Sauchiburn, which is why John Sempill was made a Lord of Parliament".
Sempill/Semple Forbes    



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