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Re: MR-Disc: Registration of Arms

Poster: clevin@rci.ripco.com (Craig Levin)

I am the least of heralds, but as I've done some research on the
topic of mediaeval heraldic law:

1> In the beginning, there was no protection of armorial
bearings. Anyone could take up arms, and did, even to the extent
of several people taking up the same arms in one region.

2> Later, princes began to grant arms to deserving people; for
the most part, this did not invalidate assumed arms, but it
seemed better to have arms from one's prince than to assume them.
At about this same time, writers like Honore Bonet (Tree of
Battles) on law discuss the issue of individuality of arms, and
decide that it is in the interests of the prince and his subjects
if arms are regulated, with one man and his heirs to have a coat
of arms different from others' arms, within a kingdom. (Bonet

3> In England, Scotland, and Ireland, such suggestions are put
into form of law as early as the 1300's, though some confusion
remains. In other kingdoms, such as France, the suggestions are,
at best, just nice ideas that are conveniently ignored or
practiced as the prince sees fit-such as the Juge d'Armes in
France or the Chronicler King of Arms in Castile.

4> In the SCA, we seem to be a single heraldic jurisdiction, much
like Scotland or England. This is a product of our evolution as a
group, like it or not. We have a single heraldic head (Laurel),
and a central registry. What we presently lack, though there
seems to be evidence for it having existed in the past, is a
method of enforcement of heraldic possession and individuality,
like the Earl Marshal's Court in England, or the Court of Lord
Lyon in Scotland or the Juge d'Armes in France.

5> Across mediaeval kingdoms, there was no guarantee of heraldic
individuality, although Bonet discusses the issue of a person who
knowingly adopts the arms of a great prince. In the situations
that I've read about, one can either blow off the complaint, or
difference one's arms temporarily, with, say, a bend overall.

6> In the SCA, we could appeal to the person to difference his
arms (or even get him to register slightly different arms,
removing the problem). We could appeal to his lord, who could be
his peer, if he's an apprentice, a protege, or an esquire, his
baron, if he lives in a barony, or his prince or king, for
justice. At the uttermost, there's trial by battle, but we don't
allow that in the SCA. Of course, the problem remains of people
who are unwilling to obey their lord, in which case we have
punishments set up-banishment, for example. 

Craig Levin
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