An Online Newsletter from The Baronage Press
featuring Heraldry and related subjects

Vol. 1, No. 4 - April 1999

The Baronage Press Website
may be reached directly at


Copyright (c) 1999 by Pegasus Associates Ltd and The Baronage Press

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* A Welcome and a note on Kosovo
* Letters to the Editor (1) The Royal Arms in Scotland
* Letters to the Editor (2) The Origin of Surnames
* The Ancestry of Robert the Bruce
* The Hay Escutcheons
* Curiosity Corner
* The View from Westminster
* Copyright ~ the Story of a Diana Stamp
* Princess Sam ~ Interview with the Author
* Royal Flush ~ Chapter Two online
* Culinaria ~ Sponsor for the Culinary Arts column
* Looking Around: The Burlington Arcade
* Heirloom & Howard
* Pegasus Armorie
* Our Sponsors and Advertisers


WELCOME ~ and a note on Kosovo

The primary purpose of this newsletter is to link regular Baronage readers to those articles in the magazine that might interest them, so in it you may find mention of the art, symbolism and meaning of heraldry, and, from time to time, of the history, politics, warfare, books, cinema and other entertainment to which heraldry has thematic links.

Heraldry is perhaps related in the minds of most more to warfare than to any other of these associations. The armoured knight with his fluttering pennon and emblazoned shield is a familiar figure from our schooldays. As a science, heraldry emerged in Western Europe as an hereditary identification system essential to the efficient management of warfare. In the April-June issue of the magazine we turn away from the constitutional arguments that have recently occupied our minds, and we shall look for a while at the tragedy of Kosovo. "A View from Maastricht" in the January-March issue perceptively anticipated events with its insistence on the impracticality of European governments agreeing on any effective military action (other than what may be described as the "lowest common denominator"), and the June "View from Maastricht" will examine the consequences of the illusion of unity as they have been illustrated in this botched campaign. The April articles include only comment on the contribution to the debate offered by the leader of the Scottish National Party, together with a brief look at Milosevic's view of war.

But while thinking of Kosovo and of the armoured knights with whom we associate the origins of heraldry, we cannot avoid memories of the movie made by the Serbs of the Battle of Kosovo Polje. The Christian cavalry, hopelessly outnumbered but inspired, thundered across the plain into the van of the Turks. Initially they were helped by the confusion created when a Serb noble, Milosh Kobilic, posing as a deserter, closed with the Sultan and thrust a poisoned dagger into him. Then the Sultan's son regained control, rallied his forces and surrounded the Serbs. Prince Lazar, their leader, was captured and executed. Kosovo Polje, "the Field of the Blackbirds" became a holy place for the Serb nation, and an excuse for a twentieth-century genocide for which one would hope that Prince Lazar, an icon of chivalry, would have had no sympathy.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (1) The Royal Arms in Scotland

When we wrote last month's newsletter we expected to examine this month a proposed solution to the problem of the widespread and incorrect use of the Scottish Royal Arms. We are, however, holding this back while we complete consultations with interested bodies.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (2) The Origin of Surnames

We have attempted to persuade YAHOO to list the Baronage magazine in the same section as the companies selling fraudulent "histories" of surnames, but so far with no success. However, we have been receiving support from our readers, many of whom resent the sale of this nonsense as much as we, and seek to encourage us to declare war on the conmen.

One reader has suggested that we publish an informed account of the origin of surnames, so that support for the arguments should be readily available, and after some consideration we decided that the best we could do in this respect would be to reproduce part of an address delivered by a learned Scottish Antiquary, Cosmo Innes, 140 years ago. It is primarily about Scottish surnames, but it is in general valid for all Western Europe.

Of the many historical absurdities crammed into the text of the "Distinguished History of Your Surname" certificates, the claim of pre-1066 hereditary surnames is the most egregious. The absurdity of this is explained in the beginning of the Cosmo Innes address ~

Now that we all have Surnames, we are apt to forget that it was not always so. We cannot eaasily realise the time when John, Thomas and Andrew, Mary and Abigail, were each satisfied with a single name, nor reflect that the use of two is not a refinement dating from an obscure and unknown antiquity, but quite within the reach of record and history.

The Normans are thought to have been the first to introduce the practice of fixed surnames among us; and certainly, a little while before the Conquest, some of those adventurers had taken family names from their chateaux in Normandy. "Neither is there any village in Normandy," says Camden, "that gave not denomination to some family in England." But that these Norman surnames had not been of long standing is very certain, for at the Conquest it was only 160 years since the first bands of Northmen rowed up the Seine, under their leader Hrolf, whom our history books honour with the theatrical name of Rollo, but who was known among his people as "Hrolf the Ganger."

But whether in imitation of the Norman lords, or from the great convenience of the distinction, the use of fixed surnames arose in France about the year 1000, came into England sixty years later, or with the Norman Conquest, and reached us in Scotland, speaking roundly, about the year 1100.

The first examples of fixed surnames in any number in England are to be found in the Conqueror's Valuation Book called Domesday. "Yet in England," again to quote the judicious Master Camden, "certain it is, that as the better sort, even from the Conquest, by little and little took surnames, so they were not settled among the common people fully until about the time of Edward the Second."

We had our share of those dashing Norman adventurers who introduced among us the customs of chivalry and the surnames they had adopted from their paternal castles across the Channel. They made a rage for knighthood in both ends of our island, and turned the ladies' heads. An English princess declined to marry a suitor who "had not two names"; and here in Scotland they became the favourites and companions of our sovereigns; witness the courtiers who surrounded David I, and his grandsons, whose names ~ Brus, Balliol, De Morevil, De Umphravil, De Berkelai, De Quinci, De Vipont, De Vaux, and a hundred others ~ still thrill on our tongues, and bring up stories of knightly feats of arms, of the battlefield and the tilting-ground.

On the Continent, especially in France, this style of surname, showing its territorial origin ~ especially where marked with the De, so much valued by our neighbours ~ is considered as almost the absolute test of gentry; and many a pretty Frenchwoman has given herself and her fortune in exchange for little more than the empty sound of the aristocratic prefix. With us it has never been so; and our difference is not merely of language. We have never recognised the principle of raising these territorial names into an aristocracy of gentry ~ a top cream of society. We have no higher names in England ~ not even De Vere, Clifford, or Nevil -- than our Spensers, Fitzgeralds, Stuarts, Butlers, names which cannot have a territorial origin.

The era of fixed surnames does not rest only on the authority of Camden. It can be proved by a thousand records, English and Scotch. It seems to me it is almost sufficiently proved, when we can show the race of Stuart ~ already first of Scotch families in opulence and power ~ distinguished by no fixed surnames for several generations after the Norman Conquest. Much later, the ancestors of the princely line of Hamilton were known as Walter Fitz-Gilbert, and Gilbert Fitz-Walter, before it occurred to them to assume the name their kinsmen had borne in England. But you must allow me here, and for the present, to rest it on my mere assertion, that surnames were first used among us in the twelfth century, and came into general use in the following one.

More key passages from this address will appear in future issues.

A later note ~

This may be a reference to Mabel, daughter and heiress of Robert FitzHamon and granddaughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. She was in ward to King Henry I, who chose her to marry his bastard son Robert. Tradition states that she objected because Robert had no surname to pass on to their children. Henry, in accordance with feudal custom, could not marry her to her disparagement, and, tradition states, gave his son the name of FitzRoy. The story claims that Mabel later objected again that their children's surname would then be FitzRobert, and that as she wanted something more permanent the King made his son Earl of Gloucester. (She was not strictly "an English princess", but as the King's daughter-in-law and his ward she was treated as the equivalent.)


In the January-March issue we published the descent of Robert the Bruce from the Princes of Galloway and the Earls of Carrick. Next month we shall continue with the first part of his more intriguing descent from Normandy and Flanders.


An addition to the "Mists of Antiquity" describes the origin of the arms of the Earls of Erroll, Chiefs of Clan Hay, Hereditary Lords High Constable of Scotland, and discusses the legends of the yoke badge and the falcon crest.


Have you ever seen a friendly gryphon (or griffin)? They have a terrible reputation and yet, and yet ....... they are actually rather sweet. Alexander Nisbet in 1722 noted their beneficent nature, and quoted Chassaneus's observation that ~ "Gryphus significat sapientiam jungendam fortitudini, sed sapientiam debere praeire, fortitudinem sequi."

This extract from a CompuServe discussion group explains all.


Regrettably, we have to look again at the debate on the future of the House of Lords as the Leader of the House of Commons demonstrates once more that the Government understands neither the British Constitution nor the history of Parliament.

COPYRIGHT ~ The Story of a Diana Stamp

The Republic of Tchad published a commemorative stamp to celebrate the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, that blatantly stole a design from the Baronage Website. Our attempts to communicate with their embassy in Paris have received no response. The pictures tell the story.

PRINCESS SAM ~ Interview with the Author

Accusations that the heroine of William Dennenberg's book ROYAL FLUSH is freely based on "Princess Di" have been denied in an interview with the author in this issue's BookPost column..


Chapter Two of Dennenberg's book is available in this issue, and Chapter One, published with the last issue of Baronage, can still be accessed.

CULINARIA ~ Sponsor for the Culinary Arts column

In June we begin a new column dedicated to interesting and sometimes famous dinners in history. This is to be sponsored by Culinaria, specialist in premium quality olive oils, marinades and dressings (currently available only in the British Isles, but soon also in North America).

LOOKING AROUND: The Burlington Arcade

The magazine features occasional articles on shopping areas of genuine historical interest to ancestor-hunting tourists in the British Isles. One such is the famous Burlington Arcade, of which we have featured a description for several months.


A few of those who respond to our invitation to read the Heirloom & Howard catalogues forget to add their postal address, thinking perhaps that these are online catalogues. They are, of course, printed catalogues with illustrations of armorial porcelain and heraldic antiques printed in full colour in the traditional way.

In addition to their stock of porcelain and antiques, identified and connected to the families that once owned these rare items, Heirloom & Howard have a fine collection of prints featuring old houses and castles and the ancestors (your ancestors ?) who once lived in them. Enquiries are welcomed.


We continue to receive a large number of letters beginning - "Please send me a picture of my coat of arms." These show the widespread influence of the bucketshop heralds who have seemingly persuaded thousands of punters that coats of arms belong to family names.

Pegasus will supply pictures of arms that we are willing to certify as having been borne by named individuals (and those individuals are named on the picture), but Pegasus Armorie is not in the fraudulent business of supplying "arms for names" with the implication that the arms supplied may be lawfully used by the buyer as his or her own.

However, there is undoubtedly a market demand for armorial display. The colours and shapes of heraldry have been so long in our history that they are sunk deeply into our subconscious minds. We respond accordingly to their beauty.

And so Pegasus has begun to produce a series of illustrations that will be suitable for framing and hanging on the walls of bedrooms, halls, studies, libraries, etc. Initially these will be appropriate for Scottish names, and in each case they will feature the badge of the clansmen of that name surrounded by the arms of the families whose daughters have been the ancestors of the present chief of the name.

Additionally, Pegasus Armorie is to work with the Baronage Press to establish an online Register of Scottish Clans. Members of Clans who request that their name be recorded and pay the artists' fees will receive a high-resolution printed certificate embossed with the seal of The British Baronage. An example of one of these has been uploaded (but it is a large picture and may need a minute to download). It illustrates the crest-badge of Clan Stewart set against the scenery near the old Stewart Castle of Gloume. The cloth inside the strap-and-buckle and behind the crest is an old Stewart tartan. (The picture downloaded will be, of course, at low resolution, and unsuitable for printing.)


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