Lord Lyon King of Arms
The arms of office of the Lord Lyon King of Arms
|Governing body||Court of the Lord Lyon|
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The Lord Lyon King of Arms, the head of Lyon Court, is the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland and is the Scottish official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in that country, issuing new grants of arms, and serving as the judge of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the oldest heraldic court in the world that is still in daily operation.
The post was in the early nineteenth century held by an important nobleman, the Earl of Kinnoull, whose functions were in practice carried out by the Lyon-Depute. The practice of appointing Lyon-Deputes, however, ceased in 1866.
The Lord Lyon is responsible for overseeing state ceremonial in Scotland, for the granting of new arms to persons or organisations, and for confirming proven pedigrees and claims to existing arms. He also registers and records new clan tartans, upon request from the clan chief.
As Lyon Court is a government department, fees paid for granting coats of arms are paid to the Treasury. The misuse of arms is a criminal offence in Scotland, and treated as tax evasion. Prosecutions are brought before Lyon Court, Lord Lyon being the sole judge. Appeals from the Lyon Court can be made to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. There is no appeal if the Lord Lyon refuses to grant a coat of arms, as this is not a judicial function, but an exercise of his Ministerial function, although an appeal by way of judicial review may succeed if it can be shown that the Lord Lyon acted unreasonably.
The Lord Lyon has several English equivalents:
- Being responsible for Scottish state ceremonies he parallels the Earl Marshal in England.
- The Lord Lyon is the heraldic authority for Scotland, much as the English Kings of Arms are responsible for granting arms in England.
- England has three "Kings of Arms", or high heraldic officers (Lord Lyon is Scotland's only one): the Garter Principal, the Clarenceux (responsible for southern England), and the Norroy and Ulster (responsible for northern England and Northern Ireland). Unlike the English Kings of Arms, who cannot grant arms without a warrant from the (English) Earl Marshal, Lyon does not need permission, but grants by his own power.
- Whilst in England the Court of Chivalry (which last met in 1954) is a civil court, in Scotland the Lyon Court meets often and has criminal jurisdiction. Lord Lyon is empowered to have assumed coats of arms, and whatever they are affixed to, destroyed. As an example, when Leith Town Hall, now used as a police station, was renovated during the 1990s, several of the coats of arms decorating the Council Chamber were found to be attributed to the wrong person. The police were given special permission to retain the display, on condition that the tourist guides pointed out the historical anomalies.
Recently, a new crown has been made for the Lord Lyon, modelled on the Scottish Royal crown among the Honours of Scotland. This crown has removable arches (like one of the late Queen Mother's crowns) which will be removed at coronations to avoid any hint of lèse majesté.
List of officeholders
The following persons have held the title:
- Henry Greve (c.1399)
- Douglas (1400-1421)
- Alexander Nairne of Saintfoord (1437–1450)
- Duncan Dundas (1450–1488)
- Sir Andrew Murray of Truim (1488-1496)
- Henry Thomson of Keillour (1496–1512)
- Sir William Cumyng of Inverallochy (1512–1519)
- Thomas Pettigrew of Magdalensyde (1519-1542)
- Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount (1542–1555)
- Sir Robert Forman, made herald 1540, (1555–1567)
- Sir William Stewart (1567–1568)
- Sir David Lindsay of Rathillet (1568–1591)
- Sir David Lindsay of the Mount (Secundus) (1591–1621)
- Sir Jerome Lindsay (1621–1630)
- Sir James Balfour (1630–1658)
- Sir James Campbell (1658–1660)
- Gilbert Stewart (1660)
- Sir Alexander Dundas (1660–1663)
- Sir Charles Erskine, Bt (1663–1677)
- Sir Alexander Erskine (1677–1726)
- Alexander Brodie of that Ilk (1727–1754)
- John Hooke-Campbell (1754–1796)
- The 10th Earl of Kinnoull (1796–1804)
- The 11th Earl of Kinnoull (1804–1866)
- George Burnett (1866–90)
- Sir James Balfour Paul (1890–1927)
- Captain George Swinton (1927–1929)
- Sir Francis Grant (1929–1945)
- Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (1945–1969)
- Sir James Grant (1969–1981)
- Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight (1981–2001)
- Robin Orr Blair (2001–2008)
- William David Hamilton Sellar (2008–)
-  The Court of the Lord Lyon website
- John H. Stevenson, Heraldry in Scotland (1914), vol ii, p 445-446. For those Lyons up to 1890
- Official website
- The Heraldry Society of Scotland's pages on the Lord Lyon
- Lyon King of Arms Act 1592
- Lyon King of Arms Act 1669
- Lyon King of Arms Act 1672
- Lyon King of Arms Act 1867
- The Council of Scottish Armigerous Clans & Families