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No such thing as a Craxford family Coat of Arms!

by Alan D Craxford

Introduction

Craxford Coat of Arms

The new Coat of Arms

"In many shopping malls across America, you will see pushcart vendors selling reproductions of coats of arms, claiming to be the "proud history and heritage of your family name". A number of Web sites proclaim that they can sell you "authentic" copies of your family's coat of arms. The next time someone offers a copy of your family's coat of arms, ask them for the documentation. They won't have any. The American College of Heraldry says, "It is highly inappropriate for one to locate the arms of another person sharing the same surname, and to simply adopt and use these arms as one's own.". My interpretation of this is that, if you are displaying an unauthorized coat of arms, you are impersonating someone else. If a friend of yours is displaying a coat of arms on his stationery or on his fireplace mantel, I suggest you simply walk away smiling. There's no sense in upsetting a good friendship. But don't be as gullible as your friend. And please, please do not display your "family's coat of arms" on your genealogy Web site unless you have been confirmed by the heralds." - Dick Eastman, 2001 (1)

No Craxford coat of arms?

Come to think of it - there is no Aaronson Family or Zyman Family Coat of Arms either. A coat of arms belongs to an individual. 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. The consequence of this is that for any given surname there may be many different coats of arms which individuals of that surname have been granted in the past, and at the same time the majority of individuals with that surname who are not entitled to arms at all.

I have several reasons for wanting a coat of arms. Some, I freely admit, are rooted in personal vanity. More importantly though I was aware of the sense of beauty, potential history and uniqueness that such an item would bring. As our own website has developed it has been a desirous and obvious embellishment. Despite our researches tracing several lines of the family back to the 1620s, I have not come across even a hint that any one of my ancestors could have been "armigerous" (entitled to bear arms). I had been offered suggestions - from sources similar to those described by Dick Eastman - that my family could be associated with the Scottish surname Crawford (or was it Boyd or Lindsay?) and could therefore use the arms and tartans of that clan. I decided that I should determine whether I could have one of my own and this is the story of a Craxford Coat of Arms - it is my Coat of Arms.

Gates at the College of Arms
The College of Arms, London

College of Arms: gates and entrance

In England, the authority to grant a coat of arms is subject to the formal approval of the Earl Marshal in the form of a warrant. The Earl Marshal of England is a hereditary Royal officeholder (in the purview of the family of the Dukes of Norfolk) under the King or Queen of the United Kingdom and is the eighth of the Great Officers of State. His authority was enshrined in a declaration in June 1673 by the then Lord Privy Seal, Arthur Annesley, 1st Earl of Anglesey which stated the Earl Marshal: "to have power to order, judge, and determine all matters touching arms, ensigns of nobility, honour, and chivalry; to make laws, ordinances, and statutes for the good government of the Officers of Arms; to nominate Officers to fill vacancies in the College of Arms; to punish and correct Officers of Arms for misbehaviour in the execution of their places" and that "no patents of arms or any ensigns of nobility should be granted and no augmentation, alteration, or addition should be made to arms without the consent of the Earl Marshal." (2)

Earl Marshall Court

The Earl Marshal's Court (3)

The Earl Marshal presides over thirteen officers of arms in ordinary. The three Kings of Arms (Garter, Clarenceux, Norroy and Ulster) are the most senior and they have the authority to grant arms. They are supported by six Heralds of Arms in Ordinary (Chester, Lancaster, Richmond, Somerset, Windsor and York) and four more junior Pursuivants of Arms (Bluemantle, Portcullis, Rouge Croix and Rouge Dragon). The authority of the College of Arms extends throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of Scotland, Canada and South Africa. Scotland has its own framework under the Lord Lyon King of Arms within a different legal system.

The College of Arms received its charter from Queen Mary and her husband Philip of Spain in 1555. The original building in Derby Place burnt down in the Great Fire of London of 1666. The present College building dates from the 1670s although there was some demolition and remodelling carried out in the 1860s when Queen Victoria Street was constructed between Blackfriars and the Mansion House. The front face of the building overlooks a courtyard which is approached through gilded gates. The main hall contains the ornate Earl Marshal's Court and adjacent to this is the Robert Abraham Record Room and library.

There is a comprehensive and comparative dissertation on the history and administration of heraldry from around the world and, particularly, Great Britain at British Heraldry (4).

The application

I studied with interest the material on the College of Arms website and made my original approach by email. I received a reply by return from Richmond Herald outlining the process, details and costs of making an application. Grants of arms are made by formal petition to the Earl Marshall of England. I would need to submit a curriculum vitae including my background and qualifications to determine my eligibility for the grant of arms and if suitable this would form the basis of the petition which the herald would draw up and submit on my behalf. Once approved, the grant is made by Letters Patent, an illuminated document on vellum which is signed and sealed by the Kings of Arms acting under royal authority. It arrives in a red presentation box decorated with the Royal monogram.

At the same time, consideration of the form that the coat of arms might take was discussed. Every coat of arms is distinctive and designed in accordance with current heraldic conventions. The choice and juxtaposition of colours, the shapes and divisions of the various parts, the availability and use of certain components are all closely controlled. Much of the meaning of the design is symbolic. Within that framework, the individual's preference for colours and aspects of his background, family and professional life which are to be featured , are taken into account. I would need to consider the make up of a crest, a shield and a motto for the main arms and also decide whether to choose another device, a badge. A badge could be made of a combination of elements from the rest of the coat of arms or contain entirely different symbols. The badge could be used for business purposes (on our company's letterheading, for instance) or by close members of the family.

Fees were lodged at the beginning with my application. With the time taken to research my background, my potential armigerous history and the stages of the heraldic design process I had to expect slow progress and a time scale of eighteen months or more.

The design

Tree of Andree

Tree of Andry

Arms of the British Orthopaedic Association

BOA coat of arms

At the outset it was difficult to visualise what the finished product could look like, doubly so with no knowledge of the rules of heraldry, but I did decide upon a coat of arms and a badge. Although I have lived in the North East of England for over 30 years, my roots are in the East Midlands. I am an orthopaedic surgeon by training and for many years have conducted a medicolegal practice in personal injury work. A quarter of a century ago I received my first exposure to the United States of America and I developed a penchant for the sunshine state of Florida where I still have personal and (non-medical) business interests. All these factors needed to be reflected in the final design.

The symbol which has represented the subject of orthopaedic surgery for over 250 years is the 'Tree of Andry'. Nicholas Andry was a Parisian professor who coined the term Orthopaedic (literally straight child) in his book 'Orthopaedia: or, The Art of Correcting and Preventing Deformities in Children' published in 1741. His 'tree' shows a bent sapling being trained to grow straight by binding to a stake with cords. This image is used as the crest of the coat of arms of the British Orthopaedic Association (5), of which I am a Fellow. It is now incorporated in the Presidential badges of the sister associations in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with an American eagle, a maple leaf, a spray of wattle, a kowhai flower and a giant protea respectively.

First draft of a new coat of arms

The first draft

With this information, Richmond Herald proceeded to a first trial design which was sketched out in simple terms (unlike the painting which would adorn the Letters Patent, the helm and mantling which are automatic adjuncts of every complete coat of arms were left out and the final gold was substituted with yellow paint). The shield made plain a professional concern with broken bones - set in a blood red field - and the pair of scales symbolised the legal aspects of my work. The basis of the crest was the Tree of Andry with the sapling replaced by a palm tree, thereby providing a reference to Florida. To make the crest more distinctive the tree was set within a circle of pierced cinquefoils charged with ermine spots which is an allusion to the arms of the city of Leicester - my birthplace. Richmond Herald also thought that an alligator, another reference to Florida, would make a good badge. Again some addition was needed to make it distinctive, and the pair of scales held in its mouth echoed the arms.

A picture is certainly a way of concentrating minds and clarifying thoughts. I did not like the broken bones from the outset and rejected the idea of a tree sprouting from the top of the helm. I was not keen on the alligator as a symbol for Florida either but soon came up with an eminently pleasing and personal alternative. For some years we owned a vacation home in Naples on the south west coast which stood by the edge of a lake. On the lakeshore we had planted a Royal Poinciana, a beautiful tree which bears the most brilliant scarlet flowers. For more than one summer, an anhinga (a diving water bird sometimes mistaken for a cormorant) would stand on the top of the tree in the sunshine, wings outstretched, drying itself. Richmond Herald agreed that we could easily replace the tree (perhaps moving it to the shield) with the anhinga and adding poinciana to its bill would make it distinctive, although we agreed to leave the cinquefoils in place. We had our crest!

Flowers of the Royal Poinciana tree

Royal Poinciana flowers (6)

Anhinga displaying in typical pose

An anhinga (7)

The logo of Craxford & Co.

Craxford & Co

Our attention now turned to the shield. I had used the motif of the Tree of Andry and the scales of justice as a design for the letterheading of my medicolegal business. I created a quartered shield holding the trees and scales encircled by a belt. Maybe this could be the basis for the new shield.

Heraldry lesson number one! A newly granted shield is a single unified design which is as simple and symmetrical as possible. Quartering occurs when two coats of arms are combined into one shield. This usually happens when an armigerous man marries an heraldic heiress (a woman who has no brothers who leave issue). The children of such a couple are entitled to divide their shield into four quarters placing their father's arms in the first and fourth quarters (top left and bottom right) and their mother's into the second and third quarters. This entitlement then passes to their descendents. This was obviously not appropriate for my circumstances.

A new version of the design (mine)
A second draft from the College

Second draft - versions 1 & 2

My next idea took the form of a shield divided in its upper part by a chevron of alternate black and white bars with pairs of scales in each of the corners and the Tree of Andry beneath it. Richmond Herald pointed out that conventionally chevrons are placed across the centre of the shield and it would not suit the proportions of the design by putting one in the upper part. I also clarified for him that the black and white stripes carried a double meaning. Firstly they suggestly strongly Newcastle upon Tyne, my adopted home for so long. Secondly they suggested the black and white (balance of probability) nature of civil law. The colour scheme, which would be reflected in the wreath and mantling, had changed from the initial silver and red to gold and black. I had the anhinga's tail moved slightly to reveal the third gold segment of the wreath. And so, his second design incorporated all three shield elements in a satisfactory way.

Almost there! The last element was the motto. From the outset I had a fixed idea that would represent my own personal statement and at the same time pay respect to a particular piece of music. I have quite catholic tastes but at the top of my list of modern composers I would place Pete Townshend (of The Who). Foremost of his works is "Quadrophenia" of which the song "(Can You See) The Real Me" has always held a special resonance.

The badge

The badge

Richmond Herald took the phrase to a classicist colleague. He noted that it was often difficult to produce a literal conversion and that "the real me" was not directly translatable. Two alternatives "SECERNESNE QUIS INTUS SIM" and "NONNE QUIS VERE SIM SECERNES" were offered as moderately literal but I went with the more genuinely Latin phrase "MENE INTUS ET IN CUTE NOVISTI" - (Do you know me inside and out?)

The choice of badge was fairly simple and was an adaptation of the crest. The modification was required because the crest is a three dimensional construct - standing on the top of the helm - and the circlet of cinquefoils pass around the feet of the anhinga. The badge is a two dimensional structure and therefore the circlet became a frame for the bird.

Continued in column 2...

Added: September 5th 2007
Updated: March 11th 2014

The Blazon

Strictly speaking, the coat of arms is defined by its blazon or written description, the colours given in old French. Any pictorial rendition of the arms is the interpretation of that description by a given heraldic painter.

The Coat of Arms: "Sable four Pallets Argent over all on a Pile between two Pairs of Scales Or a Sabal Palm Tree with a crooked stem bound with cords to a straight post all proper issuant from a Mount in base Vert. And for the Crest upon a Helm with a Wreath Or and Sable Rising from a Circlet of Cinquefoils pierced Ermine an Anhinga recursant wings displayed and inverted holding in the beak a Sprig of Royal Poinciana slipped leaved and flowered proper Mantled Sable doubled Or"

The Badge: "Within a Circlet of Cinquefoils pierced Ermine an Anhinga recursant wings displayed and inverted holding in the beak a Sprig of Royal Poinciana slipped leaved and flowered proper"

The scroll and its presentation box

The scroll and presentation box

The Letters Patent

The Letters Patent

The Seal of the office of the Garter King of Arms
The Seal of the office of Norroy and Ulster

Left: The Seal of Garter King of Arms; Right: The Seal of Norroy and Ulster


Confirmation of the grant appeared in the September 2007 edition of the College of Arms Newsletter. (8)

Any Questions?

Q.1. I have seen a reference that a son can make some sort of mark or change to the coat of arms to differentiate it from his father's. Is this correct or appropriate?

Cadency marks

Cadency marks (9)

The Law of Arms states that no individual can bear exactly the same design and arms of male offspring are made unique "... with due and proper differences ..." called cadency marks. Each son has a recognised symbol which is overwritten on the shield. The correct difference for your eldest son is a "label of three points gules" (red). In your particular arms that would mean crossing over the middle of the foliage of the palm tree, and you may decide that this is undesirable.

The appearence of the coat of arms with the cadency mark (label of three points gules) applied

Shield with cadency mark

So yes, an eldest son can, if he wishes, add a label to the arms to indicate that he is his father's heir. But the use of cadency marks is entirely optional in English heraldry, so there is nothing to stop him using the undifferenced arms. There will not be any comeback although some more pedantic heraldists may look down their nose at the use of arms in this way. And if he did make use of the label he would cease to do upon your decease, which means there is quite a good argument for not bothering to add it in the first place, particularly if (for example) he were to put it on a signet ring.

Q.2. Can my wife or daughter use my coat of arms?

Your wife may use the shield of the arms but a women does not use a crest which is considered a male attribute. Your daughter (or widow for that matter) may use the arms displayed on a diamond- (lozenge) or oval-shape as shields are considered to be devices of war. One big advantage of a badge is that female members of the family have something to use other than the basic shield.

Q.3. My second cousin (who is coincidentally the same age and has the same name as me!) would like to use the coat of arms himself and the badge as his business trademark. Can I give him this permission?

In simple terms, use of your shield and/or crest, no: unless, that is, the grant allows it. Sometimes grants are drawn up in such a way as to distort the natural line of use. For example, the grant may have been made to your deceased father [though at your request], in which case the arms could be used undifferenced by his eldest son and differenced (but not necessarily, see the previous answer!) by his younger sons. Your cousin can of course use the badge.

Q.4. If I discover an unrelated individual using my arms (say on a letterheading or a web site) do I have any redress - and if so, where?

You can ask them to desist, pointing out that you have a legal grant. This is all that the College can do too, in practical terms. Theoretically you could go to Court. The High Court of Chivalry last met in 1954 and is unlikely to meet again (though I have been around long enough to know that nothing is impossible). Alternatively you could sue for damages in the High Court if you could prove damage either materially or to your reputation. If it is a matter simply of Joe Bloggs using your shield on his keyring because he likes the look of it, you would not get very far. If it was a firm using your arms for commercial purposes you might fare rather better, but it would all depend on the circumstances.

Q.5. I have seen one reference raising the suggestion of adding a copyright to the blazon. Is this (a) possible (b) a practical proposition?

Copyright is rather a minefield. There could be much argument over whether the making of the Grant did so, in effect. The more usual question is whether the armiger has copyright of the image of his arms which he uses. The general assumption there is that he does, provided he has made that clear in some public fashion (for example, noting it at the foot of any publication of the image). A route which some people follow is to register their arms as a trade mark. If this is done correctly it gives them some protection against use by another for commercial purposes. Whether it is worth the trouble and expense is debatable.

The bottom line is that the acquisition and use of arms is within the realm of honour, and it is assumed that people concerned with such things will behave honourably. When they don't, there is not much that can be done other than to request them to behave and, if they don't respond to a gentle request, declare them dishonourable. It would be nice to have some more material penalty, but none exists.

My thanks to Patric Dickinson (Richmond Herald) and Melvyn Jeremiah (Honorary Secretary, the Heraldry Society) in preparing these answers

Glossary

Colours:
Or - gold; Argent - silver; Sable - black; Vert - green; Gules - red

Divisions:
Pallet - perpendicular line; Pile - downward pointing triangle

References

1. "Pssst! Want to Buy Your Family's Coat of Arms?" in EOGN Vol.6 No.26: Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, June 2001
2. Heraldry: Wikipedia article
3. The Earl Marshall's Court: The College of Arms Photograph © College of Arms, reproduced with permission
4. British Heraldry: Heraldica
5. The tree of Andry: The British Orthopaedic Association
6. Royal Poinciana or Flame tree: Wikipedia illustration
7. Anhinga: Larry Korhnak: School of Forest Resources & Conservation: University of Florida
8. Recent Grants of Arms: College of Arms Newsletter No. 14: September 2007.
9. Cadency marks: The Modern Heraldry Company

Further information

The College of Arms website has full details of the history of heraldry, the College buildings, its collection of arms and library, the granting of arms and the design process.

If you would like more information about investigating a possible claim for an existing coat of arms or petitioning for your own, completing the College Enquiry Form at the above address will enable an assessment of what work might be carried out and give a quotation for the fee payable.

Alternatively the postal address is:
College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4BT
Telephone: 020 7248 2762

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL SALUTES THE CREST

Florida Quarter

Each year, the US Mint issues four in a series of commemorative quarters celebrating National Parks in individual states. This month it is the turn of Florida. It is a fascinating coincidence that the designers of the coin should have chosen the same image, the anhinga, (rather than something more common such as, say, the alligator) to represent the state and place it in the same posture that we did when we were granted our coat of arms several years ago!

The US Mint web site

Please contact us

email If you have any questions or comments about the information on this site in general, or you have further information regarding this article, please Get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.



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