The clan system created a strong sense of belonging to a family, which was often proudly proclaimed by some heraldic device. Chiefs like the monarch, the Chief of Chiefs, have their own coat of arms. It is an offence for anyone else to misappropriate them. Even heirs are required to register a "difference" mark with the Lord Lyon King of Arms, who regulates all Scottish armorial matters and adjudicates upon chief ships of clans. Members of a clan may adopt the clansmen's badge consisting of the crest encircled by a strap with a buckle and a motto. It is interesting to note that when heraldry was no longer used for identification in warfare it was perpetuated as a decorative symbol in architecture on furniture and clothes.
The monarch and ecclesiastics led the way with their seals. The arms of James IV on a buttress of the west front of King's College Chapel Aberdeen are dated 1504 and are among the earliest. Most of the Scottish heraldic devices are already in evidence, the lion rampant on the shield, the crest. a crowned lion front on, the two unicorn supporters and the thistle below the shield. Kings blazoned their castles and palaces (Falkland, Holyroodhouse Palace) bishops their palaces (Glasgow, Spynie) and even bridges (Guardbridge). The nobility and lairds followed suit.
Intricate carved armorial panels proudly proclaimed that they held their lands directly from the king. Huntly Castle has a splendid heraldic doorway where the arms of the 1st Marquess are surmounted by those of James VI, impaled with those of his queen, with the Scottish unicorn and Danish wyvern as supporters. Inside, one of the second floor chimneypieces, dated 1606 only three years after the Union of the Crowns shows the adjusted royal arms of the United Kingdom.
Travel Destinations Information
Scottish Highlands Heraldic Displays