The Feudal Herald header



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

Vol. 1, No. 10, October 1999

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

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* A Welcome and a Note on Constitutional Change
* An unentitled Earl
* A Cinematic English Rose
* Countess of Wessex
* The Bestiary
* The ancestry of Robert the Bruce
* The Union Flag
* Chivalry
* A genealogist's enquiry
* Looking Around: The Burlington Arcade
* Heirloom & Howard
* Pegasus Armorie
* Our Sponsors and Advertisers



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, chivalry, books, cinema and other entertainment to which heraldry has thematic links.

An extraordinary conjunction of political events has thrown constitutional issues into prominence, and although the current issue of the Baronage magazine has almost entirely disregarded them (the article on the Union Flag being the exception), they will feature in the next. In the United Kingdom the early behaviour of the new assemblies sprung from the Prime Minister's plans for devolved government has prompted new fears among all Unionists, and in Northern Ireland the Patten proposals for the Royal Ulster Constabulary have revealed an insidious campaign to diminish the standing of the Queen (a step we predicted would be a necessary preliminary for the full integration of the United Kingdom into the European Union).

Additionally, we have the emasculation of the House of Lords, supposedly (according to Lady Jay) "to make the work of Government more efficient" ~ but in reality (as is obvious to anyone who scrutinises the work of Parliament) to make the Government less accountable and the British Constitution easier to absorb into a fully integrated European Union.

Simultaneously, in Australia the republican movement has mobilised significant support for the abolition of the monarchy (the British Queen is also Queen of Australia) and, although initially boasting of assured victory, believes the result of the referendum will be close. The principal slogan of the monarchists has been ~ "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" with the subtext of "We don't trust politicians." Their opponents have relied on ~ "We're a mature country and therefore we ought to be a republic!" with the subtext that those who disagree are immature and need a momma Queen to hold their hands.

Apart from the questions of maturity the republican arguments raise about Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain (and the British), there is a fundamental dishonesty here. It parallels that of the odious Paul Keating, who forever ranted nonsense about the Australian Ensign and the presence in the first quarter of the "the Union" (which does not and never did imply that Australia is or was a colony). We can accept that more or less all Australians are emotionally mature, but this is a question of intellectual maturity ~ and the intellectually mature are more easily persuaded to stand back and take an objective view of the value of constitutional monarchy as a force for political stability.

The result of the Australian referendum, the answer to the question of whether the Australian people prefer a republic to a constitutional monarchy, will be analysed very carefully by the British Prime Minister's advisers.


The principle of prescription is well established in Scots law. If a piece of land is unoccupied for sufficient time, and if someone moves onto it and behaves for sufficient time as if the land is his, and if no one challenges his presence and his claim during that time, then his ownership will eventually be recognised in law. It is easy to find the roots for this in allodial ownership, which, in a few words, may be said to be the custom that land belongs to he who first boils water from a stream or spring on the property over a fire burning wood from the property. It should be unnecessary to explain that prescription has to be exercised within Scots jurisdiction.

Prescription is recognised in feudal law in respect of baronial titles. Initially this arose naturally from the practice in respect of land, for a feudal barony is based on the possession of land ennobled by elevation to the status of a barony. It is thus possible today to acquire a piece of land that once included the caput of a barony (the caput being the notional "head" of the barony, perhaps the hearthstone of the castle that once stood there), and then, if the baronial title is no longer in use, and if no one wishes to claim it, after perhaps ten years of continuous use of the title by the new owner, during which no one has challenged, he may be recognised as the baron by the Lord Lyon. (I wrote "may be"). Again, it should be unnecessary to explain that prescription has to be exercised within Scots jurisdiction.
We were reminded of this when we received a request for subscription to this newsletter signed by "The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Stirling". In an exchange of notes with our staff he claimed to have taken the title (dormant since the 18th century) by prescription. Apart from the fact that peerage titles cannot be taken by prescription, and that the prescription of Scottish baronial titles can be exercised only under Scots jurisdiction (which effectively means within the borders of Scotland), he offers no evidence of a bloodline that might connect him to the last Earl. Moreover, he claims also to be Chief of the Name of Alexander, to be a baronet, and to be a feudal baron, and he is as discourteous in his letters as he imagines an uneducated mediaeval earl might be.

Readers who enjoy stories of false titles may find this one of interest.


Although the "English Rose" is usually expected to be blonde and blue-eyed with creamy skin and a tall, slim, athletic figure, Helena Bonham Carter has earned this description in several journals despite an appearance that reflects the half of her ancestry she owes to her mother, the daughter of a Spanish Ambassador. A string of aristocratic or quasi-aristocratic parts has cast her into the upper classes, where English Roses come with the territory, and this makes her father's ancestry of some interest. How much of her natural dignity is inbred? She made her stardom as Lady Jane. How easy was that for her?

The Bonham Carter family is an armigerous landed family, the combination of the names owed to the Bonham estates being inherited by John Bonham Carter, High Sheriff of Hampshire, in 1827, but little of them is known before John's father, Sir John Carter, became Mayor of Portsmouth. Journalists writing of Helena's background tend to concentrate on her paternal grandmother, Lady Helen Violet Asquith, the elder daughter of the 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, K.G., the Prime Minister, but little is known either of his family before he elevated its name to fame.

We have included with her known ancestry an armorial portrait that readers might find fairly represents this talented actress's unusual beauty.


The family of Sophie Rhys-Jones, having found that the arms used for some generations have never been sanctioned by the College of Arms by way of grant or confirmation, have petitioned for and been granted new arms in some ways similar to those used in the past. The need to combine her arms with those of her husband required the position to be regularised, and this has been done in a pleasing manner. They are reproduced this month on a lozenge, as the Countess would bear them separately from her husband, Prince Edward.


In Curiosity Corner we have discussed so far the martlet, the gryphon (or griffin), the cockatrice and, in this issue of the magazine, the dragon, together with such sub-species as the opinicus, the basilisk and the rain dragon. These musings on heraldry's fabulous beasts have prompted e-mailed queries about authenticity, about our intellectual honesty, and about our drinking habits, and ribald comments on the origins of these beasts. To the first we answer that we say it as we see it, that the contents of the office bestiary (our dictionary of non-human life) will confirm that these creatures do exist in the world of heraldry. To the second we answer that what we read of these creatures' performance we have to believe, because no one could invent such details. (The third and fourth we ignore with contempt.) So to anyone else thinking of challenging what the guardian of the bestiary writes here we must say ~ Yes, it is all true. We think.


In our search for the origins of the Bruce family we examined in the first two instalments the traditional Viking and Normandy connections, and now in this new episode we prepare to look at Flanders and the possible origins of the Bruce's blue lion.


We had intended writing about the development of the Union Flag (a.k.a. "the Union Jack" almost always wrongly) for several months, primarily in response to repeatedly seeing it, even in miniature on the top of conference tables with British Government ministers present, upside down (an international signal of distress). Then came the Patten recommendations for the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the RUC), among which was the proposed abolition of the use of the Union Flag. The Union Flag was thus news, and we could postpone no longer.

A letter to The Daily Telegraph made the following points ~

The Patten recommendations contribute directly to the aim of the Government's strategy for integration with the European Union, an integration to which the Monarch, as the representative of the Sovereignty of the British People, and as the Supreme Justice within the United Kingdom (and thus the Guardian of our Laws), is an impediment.

They are the first stage of an insidious process that begins with the abolition of the "Royal" adjective, the elimination of crowned badges, the removal of the Union Flag (the most visible emblem of the United Kingdom as a united kingdom), and the abandonment of the oath of loyalty to our Sovereign Lady. The next stage has been foreshadowed by the suggestion that the Patten recommendations will be more acceptable when British policemen in England and Scotland and Wales also renounce their oath of loyalty to the Queen.

What next? Well, there will be a whispered proposal that the armed forces should renounce their oaths also, as "a logical consequence", or as "a modernisation", or to be "more consistent with society in the new millenium", or to be "more responsive to the needs of the people" ........... or to facilitate the redirection of their loyalty towards Brussels.

Flags are more than just symbols. The men and women who have died for them have earned the reverence we owe them. They must never become the playthings of politicians.


We had promised to look at Chivalry at the turn of the millenium, and we intend to publish a series of articles, beginning in January, that will look at how its spirit has been observed down the centuries.

In this issue we report a couple of recent incidents typical of much we should deplore today, together with the code on which the original concept is based.


We cannot provide the room to publish all the queries we receive, but we did feel that an exception should be made for this one. Please forward it to your genealogical friends and urge them to pass it on to others.

Chaplain Bill McDonald <> writes that he is ~

....... searching for information leading to the full name and, eventually, the history of my Uncle who was killed on a Japanese ship carrying 2 - 300 US army PoWs from the islands to Japan. The Japanese failed to identify their ship with the red cross to indicate they were carrying prisoners, and our own aircraft sank the ship.

His last name was Nelson. That is all that I know at this time. I have lost all my mother's family and want to include him in my genealogy.

The ship was sunk near the end of the war, I believe, although I am not positive. My mother could seldom mention it as he was her only brother.

Any thing you can do will be greatly appreciated.

If any reader should have a clue, or any idea that might lead to a clue, please e-mail Chaplain Bill McDonald at <>.

LOOKING AROUND: The Burlington Arcade

From time to time the magazine features articles on shopping areas of genuine historical interest to ancestor hunting tourists in the British Isles. One such is the famous Burlington Arcade.

New readers may wish to know that the St Petersburg Collection, featuring the elegant artistry of Theo Fabergé, grandson of the eminent Carl Fabergé, the Court Jeweller to the last Tsar, may be seen at no. 42.


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, but they are printed catalogues with illustrations of armorial porcelain and heraldic antiques shown 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 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 arms.

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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