The church and the highlands

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Arms and the Man

Arms and the Man


mi ort a nis ? Is iomadh là a bha mi ag iarraidh do beatha. Bha mi beag, agus tha mi mòr a nis ; bha mi lag agus tha mi làidir a nis. Cha' n fhuasgail mi ort," agus bhuail i a cheann.

Cho moch a 's 'g an d'thàinig an là màireach,
dh 'fhalbh an abhainn thar a' mhonaidh, agus bha i
ann mu'n deachaidh a' ghrian fodha. Fhuair iad an
corp ann an poll beaga bh'ann. Cha robh ach gann
da throidh uisge ann. Thiodhlaich iad e, agus dh'
fhalbh iad dachaidh. An T-Aislingichb.


The revival of interest in the science of heraldry, and the increased amount of attention which is nowadays being devoted to the kindred topics is a gratifying sign of the times, even although this re-appearance of activity should be contemporaneous with much that is calculated to make an aristocrat to despair. There is no doubt that public opinion on this head has recently undergone a remarkable change, which is the more gratifying and pleasing, inasmuch as it records a distinct improvement upon what was previously imagined and believed. The silly affectation of indifference, and the crass ignorance with respect to heraldry and the cognate topics, which were formerly so fashionable, are now no longer indulged in, at all events in those quarters from which one is wont to expect the inspiration of leading and of light Even a newspaper editor is presently required to " know something about heraldry," and although his knowledge need not be very profound, yet it must

be such as will pass muster—as will Batisfy the ordinary, everyday newspaper consumer, or a host of knowing and indignant critics will soon demand the reason why, in no very conciliatory terms.

In a publication devoted to the discussion of heraldic topics, and, in a more especial manner, to the propagation of what are styled "scientific principles" in connection with the same, there has recently appeared a very interesting and informing paper from the pen of Mr Horace Round, in which that energetic and accomplished antiquary under­takes to show the substantial difference which exists between the English and the Continental theory touching nobility. Mr Round's remarks are char­acterised on this occasion by that vigour and adroit­ness which a consideration of his observations on others have entitled us to expect from him; and certainly if, as Mr Round would lead us to suppose, there were any real danger of his countrymen falling into the error of regarding their nobility from a Continental standpoint, and, furthermore, of basing pretensions upon the same, we are persuaded that his homily is eminently seasonable, and that the vigour of his language is neither misplaced not un­called for.

As Mr Round is very careful to explain, Con­tinental and English nobility are not the same thing. As a matter of fact, they differ considerably; but in no thing, perhaps, more than in respect of the fact that, whilst on the Continent, a titled individual and his immediate relations are equally noble, in England, on the other hand, it is only the nobleman himself (the actual title holder, that is to say) who is lawfully noble. This fundamental difference between the two systems is, of course, a source of con­siderable perplexity to foreigners, who, naturally enough, find it difficult to comprehend the manifold niceties of the English practice, whose glaring anomalies, indeed—to stigmatise them by no harsher epithet—they not only protest against as contrary to all reason, but ridicule. Curiously enough, how­ever, Mr Round's philippic against certain of his countrymen is itself based upon a singular mis­apprehension of facts, or rather derives its authority, being justified, from one of those singular departures from theory in which English practice abounds. " Any individual" (says Sir James Lawrence in his Nobility of the British Gentry) "who distinguishes himself may be said to ennoble himself. A prince, judging an individual worthy of notice, gave him patent letters of nobility. In those letters were blazoned the arms that were to distinguish his shield. By this shield he was to be known or nobilis. A plebeian had no blazoning on his shield, because he was ignobilis or unworthy of notice. Hence, arms are the criterion of nobility. Every nobleman must have a shield of arms. Whoever has a shield of arms is a nobleman. In every country of Europe without exception a grant of arms or letters of nobility are conferred on all the descendants." Thus there would seem to be, theoretically, at all events, ample justification for those who, disregard­ing English usage, look to the Continent for their ideas of nobility; and although Mr Round's strictures in defence of English practice must be commended as much for their learning and spirit as for the wholehearted devotion to established custom which they show, yet there can be no doubt that, so far as theory alone is concerned, Sir James Lawrence and those who think with him, have much the best of the argument. Mr Round, of course, has English law on his side, which refuses to re­cognise a man as noble who is not himself an actual title-holder, agreeable to law; and being a species of lawyer, he is consequently not slow to make the most of that circumstance. But law and heraldry being two very different sciences—indeed, if we mis­take not, the former has frequently expressed itself through the channel of its oracles as consistently acting independently of any such considerations, we doubt if Mr Round was altogether wise or justified in appealing either to the spirit or to the letter of the laws of his country. He may be right in respect of much that he says; but is he always discreet ? The " new " heraldry which, like many other things that arrogate that attribute to themselves, has come pro­fessedly to make us stare and to set us all by the ears, may end, not by converting, but by disgusting us. The greatest part of Mr Round's onslaughts, it is impossible, with the best intentions in the world, to take in good part; and for ourselves we are dis­posed to ascribe the impunity he has hitherto en­joyed rather to the weakness and timidity of his adversaries, than to the impregnable nature of his own positions, or to the inherent accuracy or the transparent justness of his remarks.

But these observations can be of but secondary interest to Scotsmen, whose notions on this head necessarily differ considerably from those which obtain across the Border. That which for con­venience may be styled the Continental usage, was formerly (whatever may now be the case) much more regarded in Scotland than in England, which was a resolt of our long and intimate alliance with France, and greater correspondence with the Continent in general. Moreover, our established system of heraldry much more resembles the French and Continental than it does the English. For instance, a Scottish coat of arms—unlike an English coat— can only belong to the head of the family (by blood) for the time being; and is descendible to each heir male only, in succession. It cannot be transmitted as a quartering only by the heir of line in cases where the heir of line and heir male are not identical. A younger son or cadet of a family cannot lawfully bear the arms of the head of his house, unless and until such arms have been re-matriculated to him by Lyon Eegister, with distinctions proper to his case. The English

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