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Vol. 3, No. 2, August 2001
Page Two


Genealogists can find adoptions creating problems for their research, but until now there have always been ways in which they can be shown in family histories and ancestral charts. Recent events, however, promise to make the treatment of such relationships much more difficult. "Same-sex couples" are increasingly adopting children. Some lesbian couples are arranging for one of the pair to bear the child, often when the "donor-father" is unknown.

Now the scientists promise us that it will soon be possible for a woman to have a child that is "fathered" by another woman, and a new law in Belgium will enable a woman to choose a surname for her child other than that of the child's father. In a hundred years from now the profession of genealogy will be a far more difficult occupation than it is today, and bloodline charts will be far more complex.
But the surname problem is not entirely new. The current newsletter from the Hogarth one-name website reminds us that the Foundling Hospital in London used to name its children after its Patrons. One of these was the celebrated artist, William Hogarth, and those who can trace their Hogarth line back to 18th-century London before hitting a brick wall may have a Hogarth ancestor who was not in fact a Hogarth at all.
Surnames can be even more unreliable in the Scottish Highlands. A 19th-century guest at a shoot recognised his loader as one who had served him on another estate some years before. "Mackenzie, isn't it?" he greeted him. "Nay, sir, it's Forbes," was the reply. "But I was sure your name was Mackenzie," the guest said. "Aye, sir, but then I lived on the other side of the hill," the man explained. Scots have always been more flexible in their use of surnames than the English, changing them with little formality (although no armigerous Scot may change his name without a licence from the Lord Lyon.)

heraldry - Estoile on shield
heraldry - Estoile on shield
A page from Estoile's Scrapbook

( A fanfare of trumpets )

Following the July publication of the proposal for a flag for Northeastern England, the Editor received a letter criticising the use of "canton" to describe the rectangle formed by the edges of a flag and the two near edges of a St George's cross. This, its writer insisted, must be a "quarter", and thus my thoughts turned to the odd characteristics of the canton.
A canton is, of course, a sub-ordinary and the diminutive of the quarter. (One learned armorist, an eminent lawyer, described it as "a lopsided excrescence".) Notionally it is a square whose sides are equal in length to one third of the top of the shield, but to meet the requirements of a well-balanced design, artists are free to represent it as a rectangle. Its normal position is in the dexter chief corner, but occasionally it can be found in the opposite corner and blazoned as a sinister canton.
A canton is superimposed over every other ordinary or charge (except over a bordure when that is employed as a difference). This means that it may have a charge completely hidden behind it. For example, Azure six mullets Or 3, 2 and 1, a canton Argent would allow only five of the six mullets to be seen. (Such a hidden charge is said to be absconded.)
Example of canton
Thus a canton, even when included in arms at the time they are first created, is always treated as if added later. Another consequence of this, the tincture rule of "no-colour-on-colour, no-metal-on-metal" can be disregarded, and a silver canton be placed on a golden field.
Example of canton The height of a chief is one-third of the width of the shield, which is the same as the height of a canton, so if a canton is placed on a chief it would appear as if the chief had its dexter third of another colour. Here, again, the lack of rigidity in the portrayal of the canton is exploited, and the proportions of either the canton or the chief are adjusted to leave part of the chief extending to the dexter edge. (The blazon here is Or an opinicus segreant proper, on a chief Azure a canton Argent.)
Flag for north-east England
Now to return to the letter. A quarter is always a quarter, so as the cross was not partly absconded by the golden field in which the blue lion was rampant, this was no quarter. But a canton does not have to be exactly square or exactly one-third of the width of the shield or flag in width, and hence this was a canton. (Moreover, the charges placed in the blank spaces left by a cross or a saltire are correctly blazoned as "cantonned", even though those spaces are usually neither square nor of dimensions equal to one-third of the width of the shield or flag.)
A flag for Northeastern England


Jeremy Hix, suspended from school for wearing a skean-dhu with Highland dress (on the basis that the carrying of knives is forbidden within the school grounds), prompted not only some unkind laughter but also a public debate about the future of Clan MacEwen.

Jeremy, many were quick to reveal, was not wearing the kilt ~ it was a lady's kilted skirt. Moreover, he was wearing his plaid over the wrong shoulder. Suspicions were also expressed about his right to wear the tartan (although, as the Editor has indicated elsewhere, this is a much misunderstood subject ).

The MacEwens entered the picture with a letter on Mr Hix's errors written to The Daily Telegraph by Andrew McEwen, from Poole in Dorset, England. Mr McEwen introduced himself as "Chief of the Clan Ewen". From Edinburgh Rachel McEwen replied to this claim by averring that there had been "no chief since the death of Swene McEwen in the 15th century", but announcing that arrangements were in hand for "for the election of a new chief, a matter of considerable weight for clansmen and women throughout the world, and for the Lord Lyon."
Although the MacEwens did form a distinct clan 600 years ago, as descendants of the Siol Gillivray (as were also the MacLachlans and the MacNeills), the action by Swene MacEwen, in 1432, of nominating the son and heir of Duncan Campbell of Lochawe as his heir effectiveley broke the clan. Since that time its members and descendants have either wandered chiefless, betimes outside the law, or they have attached themselves to Clan MacLachlan.
It will not be easy for any claimant on the chiefship to prove a blood relationship to Swene, so it is possible that the MacEwen clansmen will have to be content with the election of a Captain of the Clan. Even the arms of the chief are unknown. A browse through the blazons of armigerous cadets suggests that they will feature a lion rampant gorged with either an antique crown or a ducal coronet, and a garb (a sheaf of corn).
McEwen of Bardrochat, for example, has matriculated Or a lion rampant Azure gorged with a ducal crown proper, on a chief of the second three garbs of the field. The chief's arms should be simpler than these. We suspect they may eventually be deemed to have been something similar to Per fess Or and Azure, in chief a lion rampant of the second gorged with an antique crown Argent, and in base a garb Or.
MacEwen clansman's badge
The crest of the Chief of MacEwen is held to be the trunk of an oak tree sprouting a young branch proper. His motto, one shared with some Bissets and Maxwells, is Reviresco (I grow green ~ very PC!).


As has been often mentioned in the magazine and the newsletter, the majority of letters to the Editor concern the purchase of "titles" and especially bogus ones. Permanent answers to the more frequently occurring questions are now answered in FAQs.


Badges appearing in the pages of Baronage are available on a wide variety of products, ranging from scarves to writing paper, from Humix Inc. in the United States.


The pages of the Visitors' Book prompted a lot of readers to welcome our return to operations with warm salutations. Thank you. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated.


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