Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Is it legal? Does it matter? Discuss it here.
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Chris Green
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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby Chris Green » 11 Jun 2013, 19:05

... the Order of the Bath and the Order of the British Empire each have a king of arms appointed who are not members of the College of Arms and must, therefore, be considered private officers of arms.


Indeed they do, so too the Order of St Michael & St George (though not the Victorian Order, which does however have a genealogist).

The present holders are:

Bath: Admiral the Lord Boyce; British Empire: Admiral Sir Peter Abbott; St Michael & St George: Sir Ewen Fergusson.

While these Kings of Arms are not part of the College of Arms (and indeed so far as I am aware have no particular background in heraldry - two were sailors and one a diplomat) and the appointments may be considered honorary, they can scarcely be described as Private Officers of Arms since the Sovereign of the Orders is HM The Queen. They would most probably be consulted by the College of Arms in any question that related to membership of their respective Order, but in matters of heraldic practice they would no doubt seek the advice of the College.
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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby GSelvester » 11 Jun 2013, 20:00

Chris Green wrote:While these Kings of Arms are not part of the College of Arms (and indeed so far as I am aware have no particular background in heraldry - two were sailors and one a diplomat) and the appointments may be considered honorary, they can scarcely be described as Private Officers of Arms since the Sovereign of the Orders is HM The Queen.


How do you figure that an appointment from the Queen means they aren't private officers of arms? They are not members of HM College of Arms. They do not undertake any heraldic responsibilities outside their respective orders. They do not function in a ceremonial capacity for any state occasion (the ceremonies of their orders are private functions, not state occasions for which the members of the College of Arms function in a ceremonial capacity). I don't see why appointment by the Queen makes them non-private. They serve only in a private capacity within each order.

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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby JMcMillan » 11 Jun 2013, 20:48

Chris Green wrote:I think we can be confident that His Grace would be unlikely to act unilaterally but to consult Lord Lyon who in turn would consult his records.


I agree that the Duke of Hamilton or anyone else in Scotland who wanted a private pursuivant would probably consult Lord Lyon. But the question posed was not what he likely would do but what he lawfully could do. What's truly most likely is that if he wanted a private pursuivant he'd already have one.

I imagine that Lord Lyon might propose that the matter be discussed by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.


To be blunt, I think (or at least hope) that this would be the last thing either Lord Lyon or the Duke of Hamilton would do, short of putting the matter to a popular referendum. Whether a historic noble house has or doesn't have a private officer of arms is none of the clan chiefs' business. If this is regulatable at all, it's regulatable by Lord Lyon, and I can't imagine him ceding a shred of his authority to a private association, however eminent its members.
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Chris Green
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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby Chris Green » 11 Jun 2013, 20:57

How do you figure that an appointment from the Queen means they aren't private officers of arms? They are not members of HM College of Arms. They do not undertake any heraldic responsibilities outside their respective orders. They do not function in a ceremonial capacity for any state occasion (the ceremonies of their orders are private functions, not state occasions for which the members of the College of Arms function in a ceremonial capacity). I don't see why appointment by the Queen makes them non-private. They serve only in a private capacity within each order.


I think you are interpreting "private" wrongly. The Private Officers of Arms in Scotland are Pursuivants appointed by private persons (albeit nobles and clan chiefs) to assist them with private matters appertaining to their families and clans. They are in no sense public appointments. The Orders of Chivalry of which HM The Queen is Sovereign are public orders, the members of which are appointed from the public on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. I think I am right in saying that appointments to offices within the Orders are made by Letters Patent under the Queen's Sign Manual. Thus they are official appointments in the same way as, for example, my appointment as HM Consul in Stockholm. Whether or not they are members of the College of Arms is immaterial, as is whether or not they undertake heraldic functions. They may not serve in the public eye - though I think you will find them on parade so to speak at installation ceremonies at Westminster Abbey, which are often attended by HM THe Queen, and are of course held in public in the same way as Garter ceremonies at Windsor.

The 1815 regulations for the Order of the Bath approved by the Prince Regent specify an "Officer of arms attendant on the Knights Commanders and Companions". At that time the holders of the post of Bath King of Arms were not members of the Order. Algernon Greville (1829-64) was secretary to the Duke of Wellington. The fact that the current Bath Kings of Arms role may now be largely a sinecure is neither here nor there.
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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby Chris Green » 11 Jun 2013, 21:08

JMcMillan wrote:
Chris Green wrote:I think we can be confident that His Grace would be unlikely to act unilaterally but to consult Lord Lyon who in turn would consult his records.


I agree that the Duke of Hamilton or anyone else in Scotland who wanted a private pursuivant would probably consult Lord Lyon. But the question posed was not what he likely would do but what he lawfully could do. What's truly most likely is that if he wanted a private pursuivant he'd already have one.

I imagine that Lord Lyon might propose that the matter be discussed by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.


To be blunt, I think (or at least hope) that this would be the last thing either Lord Lyon or the Duke of Hamilton would do, short of putting the matter to a popular referendum. Whether a historic noble house has or doesn't have a private officer of arms is none of the clan chiefs' business. If this is regulatable at all, it's regulatable by Lord Lyon, and I can't imagine him ceding a shred of his authority to a private association, however eminent its members.


If the Duke of Hamilton wanted a private pursuivant he could no doubt have one. The same could be said of the Chief of the Clan Donald, but there was no such pursuivant for five centuries.

As I said, I am an Englishman and not conversant with all the ins and outs of Scottish clans. I merely said that Lord Lyon might propose that the matter be discussed by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. Your opinion that he most certainly would not is perhaps a more accurate reflection of what might occur. It would rather depend on the Lord Lyons relationship with the Standing Council I imagine and whether he felt confident in making a decision unilaterally.
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Ryan Shuflin
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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 11 Jun 2013, 21:29

I remember reading a few things that implied that at least at one time the profession of herald was at least at one time regulated in England. It was something to the effect that someone was fined or imprisoned for making hatchments. If no one disputes that the Duke of Hamilton could get the Lord Lyon's approval for a private herald, then I ask, in what form would the Lord Lyon give it?

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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby GSelvester » 12 Jun 2013, 00:15

Chris Green wrote:I think you are interpreting "private" wrongly.


I don't think I am interpreting it wrongly. I simply don't agree with your interpretation of it which is a decidedly different matter. If they aren't employed by the state heraldic authority then I don't see how they could be anything other than non-state (i.e. private) officers of arms. However, I'm not interested enough in splitting these particular hairs to continue arguing the point so I'll discontinue disagreeing with you and concede the point.

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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 12 Jun 2013, 05:41

After doing some reading, I have found various sources saying that pursuivants were created by other heralds (of course there were exception to the rules). This makes sense, because of how other medieval professions were organized.

I found an article on the creation of the Finlaggan pursuivant. At the end it lists the requirements for a private herald in Scotland. There has to be a medieval precedent, and the Lord Lyon has to approve. http://www.leopardmag.co.uk/feats/93/new-clan-herald-dons-his-tabard It also says there is hope to revive two more pursuivants, which ones, it fails to mention.

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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby Martin Goldstraw » 12 Jun 2013, 09:27

Ryan Shuflin wrote: I found an article on the creation of the Finlaggan pursuivant. At the end it lists the requirements for a private herald in Scotland. There has to be a medieval precedent, and the Lord Lyon has to approve.


This is another one of those statements (not you Ryan - the article) that implies that one can't do anything without Lyon's approval. What it actually means is that if you want to create a private herald that Lyon WILL approve of then the creation must fit a certain criteria. If Lyon's approval doesn't matter to you then in reality anyone could create a private herald, private meaning personal and nothing to do with the State. What value such a creation would have is another matter.
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Re: Legal Status of Private Officers of Arms

Postby Tomasz Steifer » 16 Jun 2013, 15:31

Martin Goldstraw wrote:...If Lyon's approval doesn't matter to you then in reality anyone could create a private herald, private meaning personal and nothing to do with the State. What value such a creation would have is another matter.


Did IAAH should not appoint its officer of arms? I think it will sound better, will call the Vice-President Heraldic Design, more traditionally: Mouse Or Pursuivant :)
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