Some ancient Scottish Arms

by Dr Bruce McAndrew, FSA (Scot) Coat of Arms no 158, Summer 1992.
Arms of Balliol, Durward, Morwell and Gorges

The Parliamentary Roll, dating from the first decade of the fourteenth century, terminates with a section entitled ‘Ces sount les noms e les Armes abatues de grand’ Seignors’,’ in which the arms are blazoned of a number of important nobles whose deaths had occurred in the last fifty or so years. Of Scottish interest Le Counte de Wincestre, de goules a vij lozenges de or (Quincy, Constable of Scotland) and Sire Johan de Baylolf, de goules, a un escuchon percee de argent (Balliol).

The same principle is used in two important sixteenth-century Scottish armorials, in that of Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount (DL) and in the Hague Armorial (HR) which emblazon a number of coat-of-arms under the general heading of Lord of ‘X’ of Old. An interesting question, not hitherto addressed, is how well do these armorials reproduce the heraldry of thirteenth and fourteen century Scotland as displayed, presumably correctly, in the early English Rolls?

A typical example is Lord Durward of auld: Argent, a chief gules, found in both sixteenth-century armorials. The thirteenth-century Walford’s Roll2 contains a cluster of Scottish earls and magnates at the end of which are the arms of Alein Lasser: Argent, a chief gules (C66). The clue to his identification as Alan Durward (d. 1275), the ‘doreward’ or usher of the King of Scots and claimant to Mar and Atholl, lies in another version of the roll where he is called Alein Lusser, comparing well with contemporary documents where he is referred to as Ostarius or Le Ussher.3

In like manner the arms of The Lord Brechane of auld: Or, three piles gules in DL and Or, a chief and three piles gules in HR can be compared with William de Breguyn who bears d’or a treys peuz de goules, again in Walford’s Roll (C64). Three other early examples provide Or, three piles conjoined in base gules (Q441, LM323, BL20). This is a particularly significant example from two points of view — firstly, the colours are or and gules, the Royal colours of Scotland as would be expected of members of a family who were illegitimate cadets of the Royal house, tracing their descent from Henry of Brechin (d. c. 1245), a natural son of David, Earl of Huntingdon. The use of Argent, three piles gules as a quartering by the Marquess of Douglas for a presumed marriage between a Douglas and the heretrix of Wishart of Brechin (given by Mackenzie and Nisbet)4 is clearly a seventeenth-century fabrication. Secondly, the differences between the arms in the sixteenth-century rolls demonstrates the change of this type of coat-armour with time, a topic extensively covered in The Coat of Arms.5 The Brechin inheritance passed briefly to a branch of the Barclays whose heiress in turn carried it to Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl (d. 1437), the youngest son of Robert II. His third seal, dating from 1430 (SAS 2573),  displays the three piles of his lordship in the 3rd quarter. Later it was held by Sir Thomas Erskine of Brechin, secretary to James V, whose arms quartered the Erskin pale with the Brechin piles (SAS 879).

A much more complex illustration is provided by Morwell, lord of lawderdale: Azure, fretty or. The name is a corruption of Morville, the important Anglo-Norman family who held Lauderdale and Cunningham in capite in the second half of the twelfth century. Hugh (I) de Morville (d. 1162) came to Scotland amongst the first major influx of Normans during the reign of David I. By 1150 he had been created Constable, and held substantial estates, a magnate whose power and influence put him on par with the native Scottish earls. On his death, his English estates passed to Hugh (II) de Morville (dspm 1204), one of the murderers of Archbishop Becket in 1170,6 while the Scottish inheritance passed to Richard de Morville (d. 1189). The male line of the Scottish Morvilles terminated with Richard’s son, William (dsp 1196).

There is no direct evidence as to this family’s heraldic bearings as they died out during the period heraldry was being established in Scotland. Indirect testimony is provided by Calveley’s Book,7 in the section entitled the Becket’s Murderers’ Roll. The first four coats in this section purport to give arms to the knights — Reginald fitzUrse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Brito — who killed the Archbishop in 1170. Morville’s arms are given as Argent, three boars heads couped azure, armed or (BM2): however beside Sir William Tracy Azure, fretty and semé-de-lis or (BM4) is written in a later hand Morvyle and it is this fretty (and flory) coat that has most often associations with the name.8

Another clue comes from the family of Gorges, which throughout the greater part of the thirteenth century bore the canting coat of Azure, a gorge argent (B192), an unusual charge generally drawn as a spiral or a series of concentric circles. However Ralph Gorges (d. 1322), who took an active part in Edward I’s Scottish campaigns bore Masculy or and azure, (equivalent to lozengy in modern technology) (Q318, ST60, K96 etc),9 based on the arms of his heiress grandmother, Elena de Morville.10

Finally relevant in this context is the ‘familia’ of Hugh der Morville, the knights in his tail who regularly sealed his charters and whose names included Clapham (later Clephane), Campania, Ripley, Curwen, Sinclair, and Haig.11 Two of their number bore fretty coat-of-arms in the thirteenth century. A Campania family, or in its Norman-French form of Champagne, is found throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries: thus Rauf de Campania confirmed the grant of Hugh de Morville of the church of Borgue (KCB) to Dryburgh Abbey. Sir Ralph de Campania of Wigtonshire and his kinsman (?) Piers de Campania, rector of Kynkell in Perthshire, signed the Ragman Roll, the latter’s seal displaying fretty (SAS 401).12 Presumably of the same family is Robert de Champayn who bore Or, fretty sable in Collins’ Roll (Q555). Similarly, Thomas, son of Cospatric, Lord of Workington, was the ancestor of the family of Curwen (Culwen) which took its name from the parish of Colvend and which held lands on both sides of the Solway Firth.13 Cousins Adam Colwen and Thomas de Sutheycke (Southwick in Colvend) are juxtaposed in the Ragman Roll homages while the coat-of-arms of their kinsman Thomas de Curwen is regularly found in the English rolls of the last quarter of the thirteenth century as Argent, fretty gules (E421, Q279, LM150).14

Bridging the gap between the fretty coats of the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries are the seals of the last two Earls of Douglas which bear a fretty quarter for their Lordship of Lauderdale (SAS 674 — 677), painted as Azure, fretty or in the Scots Roll of 1450 (SC9).

Arms of Galloway, Man and Bisset

On the extinction of the male line of the Scottish Morvilles, their estates passed largely to Lachlan (Roland) of Galloway (d. 1200), the husband of Elena de Morville, and subsequently to their son Alan, Lord of Galloway and Constable of Scotland (dspm 1234). Although the Morville’s demise took place before much heraldic evidence is available, it is noteworthy that their seals, while admittedly non-heraldic, do bear a lion15 and that the seals of the Galloway family, both Alan and his younger brother Thomas, de jure uxoris Earl of Atholl (d. 1231), likewise bear a lion (SAS 1027, 1026), in contrast to the other water-orientated magnates of the Western seaboard whose arms display a lymphad. The arms of the Galloway family — Azure, a lion rampant argent, crowned or — first appear in the Fife Roll (FF9)16 where the upper part of the shield has been obliterated and it is impossible to see whether or not the crown is present. However in Sir William le Neve’s Roll it does appear in this fashion (WNR23). Turning to the sixteenth century DL has the lion crowned or while HR has the lion uncrowned. The Douglas Earls, Lords of Galloway in the early fifteenth century, have the lion crowned (TO2, SC9).

The Douglas family provide two further instances of this genre among their quarterings. DL provides for the lord of Nyddisdaill of auld: Sable, a lion rampant argent, more explicitly given in HR for Douglas Lord of Niddisdale of auld was, where Douglas is quartered with the same coat. The holder of the lordship referred to was Sir William Douglas (d. 1392), an illegitimate son of Archibald the Grim, 3rd Earl of Douglas, who married in 1388 Egidia, daughter of Robert II, and was thereafter called Lord of Nithsdale. Workman’s MS 17 provides the clue to the origin of the lion rampant coat: as well as the designation lord of nyddisdaill of auld is added the marginal note Edgar’s coatte (WRK204). It transpires that the Edgar family were important land owners in Nithsdale in the late thirteenth century; indeed Sir Richard Edgar of Wedderle married a daughter and coheiress of Sir Robert de Ros of Sanquher (DMF) and Nisbet describes a carved stone quartering the lion rampant of Edgar with the water budgets of Ros.18 But no painted Edgar arms of earlier date are known.

The Douglas Earls of Angus and Lords of Liddisdale provide a further illustration using a chevronny coat among their quarterings, originating according to the armorials under review from Lord Sowlis of Liddisdale: Ermine, three chevronels gules. On this occasion the sixteenth-century authors have gone astray since there is ample contemporary evidence to demonstrate that this family bore quite different arms. The arms of Sir William de Soules, Lord of Liddisdale and Butler of Scotland (d. before 1293) are given as fasce d ‘argent et de geule de six pieces in the Tournoi de Compiegne, a little known French roll of 1278;19 they appear in the more familiar Barry of six argent and gules in Collins’ Roll (Q39) and the Lord Marshall’s Roll (LM114). This barry coat should have been adopted by the Douglas earls for their border lordship held in the sixteenth century. Instead it seems that the arms of a fourteenth-century English knight Sr’ Jon der Sulli: Ermine, three chevronels gules (R108) with a very similar name20 have been substituted erroneously to designate Soules, Lord of Liddesdale.

A connecting link between three further ‘Armes Abatu’, those of the ye lord of Garreoch of auld: Or, a fess chequy argent and azure between three crowns gules, ye lord of lorn of auld: Or, a lymphad sable with fire at the masthead gules, and the Lord of the yle of Man of auld was: Gules, three legs in armour, embowed and conjoined at the thigh argent are the house of Stewart, branches of which used them as quarterings. The arms of the King of Man are found in many thirteenth-century rolls, the earliest being Walford’s Roll (C19). The peculiar three-legged device was associated with the earlier Norse dynasty of York and Dublin.21

 It appears in Scottish heraldry among the quarterings of the second line of Stewart Dukes of Albany, which commence with Alexander (d. 1485), younger brother of King James III, whose arms are given in DL as Quarterly, 1st, Scotland; 2nd, Dunbar; 3rd, Man; and 4th, Annandale.

The arms associated with the Lordship of Lorne can be traced back to the seal of Alexander de Ergadia (d. 1310) which displays a lymphad, with dragon heads at prow and stern (SAS 39); the only known painted arms of this family reside in the Balliol Roll of the 1330s and give for Sr dargael: Or, a galley sable with dragon heads at prow and stern and flag flying gules, charged on the hull with four portholes argent (BL25). The Stewarts held this lordship from the late fourteenth century to 1470 when it passed to the Campbells in excambion for Innermeath. The Campbells of Argyll, of course, have quartered the galley of Lorne ever since.

The arms of the Steward lordship of the Garioch have a much shorter history, commencing with Sir Alexander Stewart (d. 1435), illegitimate son of the Wolf of Badenoch, who married the Douglas Countess of Mar in 1404. As earl he had an illustrious career, capped by his drawn battle with a superior force of Islesmen at Harlaw in 1411. His seal displays the chequered fess of Stewart between three crowns quartered with the bend and crosses-crosslet fitchy of Mar (SAS 2653), painted in reverse in the Armorial de la Toison d’Or for le conte de mar: Quarterly, 1st & 4th, Azure, a bend or between six crosses-crosslet fitchy or; 2nd & 3rd, Or, a fess chequy argent and azure between three open crowns gules (TO22). After 1426, the Mar earldom was remaindered on Thomas Stewart, an

illegitimate son of Sir Alexander, but he died in his father’s lifetime. He might be the Erle of Gareough of the Scots Roll: Or, a fess chequy argent and azure between three crowns gules (SC17).

It is noteworthy that in the early rolls the Lorne coat-of-arms always has a gold field and it is not until the appearance of the Lyon Register that argent is given.22 Regarding colour changes HR errs in giving the lord of Annandaile of auld was as Argent, a saltire and chief gules: the field, of course, should be or.

In a number of cases, the early rolls provide no direct point of comparison — Lord Bissart of bewfort of auld: Azure, a bend argent, Lord boyis of dryvisdaill of auld: Argent, a saltire and chief azure and Lord chissam of auld: Gules, a boar’s head couped argent.

The lands of the Bissets were concentrated round the Moray Firth and passed to co-heiresses in the late thirteenth century. However the seal of one of them, Elizabeth Lady of Kilravock, displaying two lions rampant surrounded by four shields each bearing a bend (SAS 165) is extant and confirms the charge. Male Bissets are found in Edinburghshire at the time of the Ragman Roll homages when the seal of Sir William Bisset bears a bend surmounted by a label (SAS 166). His son(?), Thomas of Upsettlington (d. 1366 — 69), was briefly the third husband of the oft-married Countess Isabella of Fife. Painted examples, however, are not found until the armorials under scrutiny in a quartering Azure, a bend argent borne by the family of Wemyss of Reres claiming Bisset descent on the distaff side. However other armorials do give Argent, a bend gules.23

The Lady of Kilravock’s sister’s husband, Andrew de Boyes, was a scion of a Dumfriesshire family whose 1296 seal displays a saltire and chief (SAS 232). The family apparently terminated in the mid-fourteenth-century when the lands passed with an heiress to the Crichtons.24 The Scots Roll of 1450 for the Lord Crechton provides Quarterly, 1st & 4th, Argent, a lion rampant azure, armed and langued gules (Crichton); 2nd & 3rd, Argent, a saltire and chief azure (Boyes) preceding by a century the evidence provided by DL and HR.

Evidence with respect to Chisholm is restricted to sigillographic material, the earliest seal dating from 1296 having a boar’s head couped contourné (SAS 420). The Chisholms reached the Aird in the wake of the Lauder Constables of Urquhart Castle and within a few generations their boar’s head was incorporated into the (composed) arms of the Sutherlands of Duffus and the Roses of Kilravock, but early evidence as to the tinctures used in their arms is sadly wanting.

In much the same vein lord giffart of auld: Barry of six ermine and gules is known only from the seal of John Gifford, Lord of Yester, where it was attached to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 bearing the barry coat-of-arms (SAS 1047). The earliest painted example dates from the Gifford quartering in the arms of the Lord of Yester in the Scots Roll (SC46) by this time held by the Hays of Locherwort.

For the most part, the information supplied by the sixteenth century armorials agrees with that provided by the early English rolls. Before considering the few discrepancies in greater detail, it is worth noting, albeit briefly, two further positive instances in families which died out in the male line in the fourteenth century — Lord Landellis of auld: Or, an orle azure and Wauss, lord of Dyrltoun of auld: Argent, a bend gules. An early example of Landall arms occurs in the Nativity Rolls (c. 1300)25 for Sir John de Laundeles port d’azure ou ung escutcheon perce d’or (M54) to which evidence can be added two interesting seals where the central void is used to display a star and an eagle as differences (SAS 1545, 1546). Landall arms were quartered by the Homes from the late fifteenth century. The Balliol Roll provides Argent, a bend gules for Sr de Vaus (BL26), probably belonging to Sir William (IV) de Vaux whose caput was the splendid castle of Dirleton. His daughter Christina carried lands and castle to her Halyburton husband and her seal displays both Halyburton and Vaux (SAS 2815).

A relatively minor error is provided in Seres, lord of Dwnde of auld: Gules, three swords palewise in fess, points downward agent. Here the mistake is not in the arms but in the text since the family of Syras were never Lords of Dundee. They were a family originally from Ceres in Fife, whose name was often spelt as Syras or Syres,26 which claimed descent from the early Earls of Fife, and consequently might be expected to bear arms in or and gules. The heiress married Sir Michael Scot of Balwearie in the first half of the thirteenth century. However the family did not die out completely since seals of some members of a fifteenth-century burgess family in Dundee, who generally bore three swords surmounted by a bend, are known.27

Confusion also exists in HR for Lord cheyne of auld was: Gules, a bend argent, crusilly fitchy argent while DL provides for Cheyne Azure, a bend argent between eight crosses-crosslet fitchy argent. No contemporary evidence is available to help us with this family, one of whom signed the Declaration of Arbroath but which died out in the late fourteenth century. Certainly the arms of the cadet lines of Esselmont and Arnage invariably have an azure field and the unknown herald of the HR destroys his argument for a red field by giving later in his armorial Keyth knicht of Inverugye was with quartered arms of Keith and Cheyne, the latter with an azure field!

A much more serious HR error is found in Menypennya lord of Cathcart of auld was: Azure, three crescents encompassing as many crosses-crosslet fitchy argent where the two families delineated in the text shared the same unusual combination of charges. The Cathcarts, Lords of Parliament from c. 1452, bore them argent on azure while the Monypennys had them argent on gules. The short lived Lords Monypenny quartered their family coat with Or, a dolphin hauriant azure finned gules, an augmentation of honour given by the French king for the 1st Lord’s diplomatic activities.28

In conclusion it has been demonstrated that the sixteenth-century Sir David Lyndsay’s Armorial and the Hague Armorial have a high level of success in reproducing accurately coats-of-arms of extinct families. However the fact that they do not have a 100 per cent success rate is significant and necessitates cross-checking with contemporary evidence whenever possible.

This paper was originally published under the  title of “Armes Abatues”. The Editor would draw your attention to Dr McAndrew’s excellent book “Scotland’s Historic Heraldry” which covers the above families in considerable detail.


  1. N. H. Nicholas (Ed), A Rolls of Arms of the Reign of Edward II, (1829), p 90.
  2. T. D. Tremlett & H. S. London (Ed), Aspilogia II: Rolls of Arms temp Henry III, (1967), p 182.
  3. B. A. McAndrew, The Coat of Arms, (1982), New Series, 5. No 122, 46.
  4. Sir G. Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, the Science of Herauldry, (1680), p 81; A. Nisbet, A System of Heraldry, (1816), Vol I, p 75.
  5. R. F. Pye, The Coat of Arms, (1986), New Series, 6, No 137, 229 and refs therein.
  6. G. W. S. Barrow, The Scottish Genealogist, (1978), 25 No 4, 97.
  7. Sir A. Wagner, A Catalogue of English Medieval Rolls of Arms (Aspilogia I), (1950), p 63.
  8. C. Humphery-Smith, The Coat of Arms, (1971), 12, No 85, 18.
  9. G. J. Brault, Early Blazon, (1972), p 239.
  10. W. S. Walford & C. S. Perceval, Three Rolls of Arms, (1864), p 24.
  11. K. J. Stringer (Ed), Essays on the Nobility of Medieval Scotland, (1985), p 15.
  12. W. R. Macdonald, Scottish Armorial Seals, (1904). All references to this volume in the text are given by SAS and the appropriate number.
  13. F. W. Ragg, Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc, (1914), New Series, 14 343.
  14. F395 has the colours reversed.
  15. H. Laing, Impressions from Ancient Scottish Seals, (1850), p 101. An alternative derivation might be from the lion borne by Henry I of England, whose illegitimate daughter Fergus of Galloway married. Vide A Ailes, The Origin of the Royal Arms of England, (1982), p45.
  16. Fife Roll: R. W. Mitchell, edited on behalf of the Heraldry Society of Scotland.
  17. Workman Ms: R. R. Stodart (Ed), Scottish Arms, (1881), Vol 2, p 104.
  18. A. Nisbet, A System of Heraldry, (1816), Vol 1, p 281.
  19. F. Michel, Les Ecossais en France, (1862), Vol 2, p 492.
  20. W. H. St. J. Hope, Stall Plates of the Knights of the Order of the Garter 1348-1485, (1901), plate XXXIII.
  21. Ref 2, p 171.
  22. Sir J. B. Paul, An Ordinary of Arms, (1893), vide Galley.
  23. QMR 97, QMR 122, HB 286.
  24. R. C. Reid, Trans Dunf Gall Nat Hist & Antiq Soc, (1940/44), 3rd series 23, 82.
  25. Nativity Roll: G. J. Brault, Eight Thirteenth Century Rolls of Arms, (1973), p 96.
  26. Ref 17, p 121.
  27. G. F. Black, The Surnames of Scotland, (Reprint, 1962), p 144.
  28. A van de Put. Proc Soc Antiq Scot, (1921/22), 56, 72; V. Donaldson, The Scottish Genealogist, (1987), 34, No 3, 245