Scottish Feudal Baronies, Heraldry and Coats of Arms

By Dr. Bruce DURIE (

One of the best reasons for obtaining a Scottish Feudal Barony is that is brings the Baron within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms in Scotland. This means that, subject to other relevant considerations, the Baron may petition the Lord Lyon for a Coat of Arms and other Ensigns Armorial (heraldic flags and a badge, for example) where there is no possibility of proving Scottish ancestry, or where the Petitioner does not own land or reside in Scotland or have some other “significant connection” to Scotland.

Heraldry in Scotland is controlled by Statute Law – it is not merely custom and practice – and it is very tightly controlled, with stiff penalties for anyone who “pretends to Arms”, uses the Arms of others, displays invented Arms. etc. Arms are the personal, heritable property of one person at a time and there no such thing as a “Family Coat of Arms” in Scotland.

The post of Lord Lyon combines three functions – a Minister in the Scottish Government (and one of the Great Officers of State); the judge in his own court (the Court of the Lord Lyon); and the Queen’s representative in matters heraldic, processional, ceremonial and so forth. The Lyon Office carries out the administrative functions of the Court and keeps the Public Register of All Arms and Bearing in Scotland. Anyone granted Arms will be entered in the Public Register and will receive a beautifully-painted Letters Patent on parchment, produced by one of the Herald Painters.

However, the Petitioner also has to be a “virtuous and well-deserving person”.

The Barony should be listed in The Scottish Barony Register – while a non-statutory and unofficial register, it is the only register to which the Lord Lyon has reference in these matters in order to determine whether the dignity of baron exists.


Someone who has strict proof of legal ownership of a Scottish Feudal Barony is entitled to use the title “John Surname, Baron of (wherever)” formally, and on such documents as driving licences and passports – but note that this is different from “John Surname, Baron (somewhere)”, which would indicate a peerage Baron (a Lord).

The Arms of a Baron

Until recently (the coming into force on 28th November 2004 of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000) the Arms of a Feudal barons included various “additaments” – a Chapeau of Maintenance, a Feudo-Baronial Mantle, and in some cases, Supporters, plus the territorial designation “Baron of X” written into the Letters Patent. This no longer the case.

The only difference between the Arms of a Feudal Baron and anyone else non-titled is “a helmet befitting their degree”. This is a particular form of helm, with grill-bars, but the Baron is separately of higher rank (a Baronet, a Knight or a Peer, say) the appropriate helmet will be specified.

If the petitioner is granted a Crest, this may be worn or displayed by the “Tail” (family and friends) of that Armiger, in the form of a Crest Badge is a strap-and-buckle bearing the Armiger’s motto. The Armiger himself or herself should wear the crest in a circlet bearing the motto, with a single feather behind it.

Design of Arms

Precisely what the Arms look like is ultimately the decision of the Lord Lyon, but there is scope for discussion and the inclusion of personally-meaningful symbols. For instance, someone surnamed Campbell will likely have the typical Campbell gyronny somewhere in the Arms; there may be a “canting” or punning allusion to the surname (a Krebs might have a crab, for instance); a keen sailor might ask for an anchor or a ship; something particular to the Barony might be included (an allusion to the name, or an ancient castle on the previously-associated lands, perhaps).

However, this is a complicated and time-consuming exercise, best managed by having someone with Right of Audience at the Lyon Court to handle the process.

Cost and Process

A Coat of Arms can cost as little as £1,745 for a new Grant of shield alone, with or without motto, or £2,535 for shield and crest, with or without motto.

Additional elements – such as certain Heraldic Flags and a Badge, or having the Arms of current Heralds painted on the Letters Patent – will include other costs. This will all be made clear at the early stages of the Petition – for which there is a discountable Lodging Fee of £350. (These fees are fixed by Parliament, last updated 1 April 2015.)

It may take a year or more from the initial Petition to the production of Letters Patent. However, before this, a Warrant will be issued by which the Arms are recorded in the Public Register, at which point the Grant of Arms is “official”.