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The Right to Arms

It is probable that arms were in early times assumed by the various nobles and gentlemen at their own hand, not to symbolise any virtue or qualification but simply to distinguish their persons and properties, to display their pretensions to certain honours and estates, attest their alliances or acknowledge their feudal tenures. The charges adopted were those that if possible held some resemblance either in sound or form to the name of the bearer thereof. As time went on and arms multiplied, diputes arose between various persons as to their respective rights to various charges, and their claims were referred to the arbitration of the King as the fountain of all honour. As early as 1385 the celebrated case of Scrope versus Grosvenor as to the right to bear the arms, azure a bend or, was decided in favour of the former by King Richard II. in person.

It having become necessary that some authority should be established to regulate the wearing of arms, to preserve a record of the rights of the families to the same, to assign armorial ensigns to such persons as should be considered worthy to bear such and to prevent the unwarrantable assumption of the same, King Richard III. by Royal Charter in 1483 incorporated the College of Arms or Heralds College, which exercises control over the use of armorial bearings in England. Similar functions are discharged in Scotland by the Court of the Lord Lyon, and in Ireland by the Office of Arms. No arms are of any legal authority or are of any value unless they are recorded in one of these offices. However, in the U.S. there is no laws of Heraldry use. Therefore, anyone in the U.S. can assume whatever arms they would like to use.

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last updated on: April 3rd, 2017

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