Q. Do coats of arms belong to surnames?

A. No. There is no such thing as a 'coat of arms for a surname'. Coats of arms are inherited in the male line and so are surnames. But a coat of arms is granted or confirmed to one person and their descendants in the legitimate male line so only that family group will be entitled to the coat of arms, not everybody of that surname. As such many people of the same surname will often be entitled to completely different coats of arms, and many others of that surname will be entitled to no coat of arms at all. For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past.

Q. How do I seek a new coat of arms?

A. The Kings of Arms are deputed by the Crown to make grants of new arms to individuals and corporate bodies within their jurisdiction. The grant is made by a formal document, illuminated by hand, with the seals of the Kings of Arms at the foot. Those interested in being granted a coat of arms should contact the Officer in Waiting.

Q. What are the pantone numbers for the colours used in heraldry?

A. There are no fixed shades for heraldic colours. If the official description of a coat of arms gives its tinctures as Gules (red), Azure (blue) and Argent (white or silver) then, as long as the blue is not too light and the red not too orange, purple or pink, it is up to the artist to decide which particular shades they think are appropriate.

Q. What is a crest?

A. It is a popular misconception that the word 'crest' describes a whole coat of arms or any heraldic device. It does not. A crest is a specific part of a full achievement of arms: the three-dimensional object placed on top of the helm.

Q. Can women bear arms?

A. Yes, a woman can bear arms by inheritance or by a grant of arms to herself. Female grantees and heraldic heiresses transmit their arms as a quartering to their descendants according to the laws of arms. Women do not bear crests (but can bear a heraldic badge) and pay a reduced fee for a grant of arms alone. Women can also bear their spouse’s arms if desired.

Q. Does a woman inherit the quarterings to which her father is entitled?

A. Yes, as do her brothers.

Q. What are cadency marks?

A. From the 15th century a system of adding small temporary cadency marks to shields to indicate a son's place among his brothers was adopted. Despite still appearing in heraldic text books this system is little used in modern heraldry and members of a family tend to bear their arms undifferenced - the identity of the individual family member being apparent from the context in which the arms are used.

Q. How can a person establish a coat of arms for their wider family?

A. It may be possible when petitioning for a grant of arms to petition for an 'extension of the limitations'. This is possible if the grantee's grandfather or father would have been deemed eligible for a grant of arms. The grant is then made to the petitioner and the other descendants of his father or grandfather, thus enlarging the family group entitled to the arms. The grant may also include a coat of arms for a wife or mother which will result, ultimately, in those arms being borne as a quartering by her descendants.

Q. Can you identify a crest or shield for me?

A. The heralds can very often identify coats of arms, crests and mottoes by carrying out research in the records and printed sources held here. Please send an enquiry to the Officer in Waiting.

Q. I am American, can I have a coat of arms?

A. US Citizens who can show a descent from a subject of the British Crown, including from subjects of the Crown overseas in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere during the period of British rule, such as India, South Africa and Ireland, can seek a grant of Honorary Arms from the Kings of Arms here. American institutions can petition for a devisal of arms, which is very similar in all but a technical sense.

Q. Can the College of Arms tell me what my clan badge is?

A. No. It is Lord Lyon King of Arms, and not the College of Arms, who has authority and responsibility over matters relating to clans.

Q. Can you advise on flags, military badges and colours, knighthoods, peerages and related matters?

A. Yes, we can; please send an enquiry to the Officer in Waiting.

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