The Right to Bear Arms
by James R. Brisbin
Scotland is the only country in the world that maintains an official legal registry of Armorial Bearings for individuals whose roots belong to that country. The science of Heraldry is complex and steeped in history, tradition and law. Any treatise on the subject confined to a few paragraphs would, of necessity, be only an effort to introduce the reader to concepts and open the door to a more full exploration of possibilities with the proper authorities.
A "Coat of Arms", as it is often referred to and displayed, is really composed of several parts - The Shield or Lozenge, Crest, Helm or Chapeau, Motto and such additional accoutrements as befit an individuals rank such as supporters for a chief.
The Shield is the most important part as that is what is exclusive to the individual. The Shield was used in war and as such is exclusive to men. Women make use of a Lozenge which is a diamond shape containing the same styling as the shield.
The Helm or Helmet identifies rank.
A Clansman's Crest may respond to that of the Chief or be entirely different. It is the Chief's Crest that appears within the Strap and Buckle and is worn as a broach or badge by members of his/her Clan to indicate allegiance to their Chief.
The Motto is a saying or phrase giving common purpose to a Clan or branch of a Clan. A motto can be individually granted to all armigers and is a saying or phrase giving an idea of their philosophy of life.
Who Bears a Coat of Arms?
First it is important to understand that there is no such thing as a family coat of arms in Scotland. Arms are individual and heritable. That is, they are property and can be passed on from father to eldest son.
First a Grant of Arms must be made. This is the right of the Lord Lyon King of Arms by appointment by her Majesty - Queen Elizabeth II. A grant of Arms is made to a native Scot who has distinguished him/herself or belongs to an armigerous (having arms) family such as the Kincaids.
Once a Grant of Arms has been established, descendants of the person who received the Grant may Matriculate their arms. That is to say - bring them up to date. Eldest sons have no need to Matriculate their Arms as they receive them un-differenced from their fathers. Second, third and succeeding sons will each bear a small difference from their father's arms. The differences are prescribed but can be altered to befit rank, occupation, accomplishment, etc. Such differences are agreed upon between the petitioner and the Lord Lyon.
How can a Kincaid obtain a Coat of Arms?
First you must be able to prove that you are descended from a Kincaid who was a subject of a Scottish (British after 1707) Monarch. For those living in the United States, that means a Kincaid who was either born in Scotland or born in the United States prior to 1776 when it was still British Territory. Canada has its own Heraldic Office in Ottawa which grants Coat of Arms. For those living in other nations, your ancestor would have to have been born a British subject.
Second, you must be a direct male descendant of (or show relationship to) that individual to Matriculate an Arms. Ladies may bear the arms of their father but can not pass on that arms to their children as their children would use their father's arms. (There are complicated exceptions to this last statement.)
If you are descended from an individual who has a Grant of Arms (such as John Kincaid 1771-1814 of Fincastle, Tennessee) you can go directly to the Process of Matriculation. If you do not descend from a person with arms then you must Petition for a Grant of Arms for your ancestor, then after the Grant has been made you can then matriculate the arms up to you.
The process is time consuming and can be expensive. A less than perfect analogy can be made to applying for a trademark. The cost of a Grant of Arms is currently closing in on $2500 USD and the subsequent matriculation would be closing in on $800 USD. Exact costs can vary with details and will be determined and confirmed by the Office of the Lord Lyon before work has commenced.
Those wishing to pursue this matter are advised to establish direct communications with the Office of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms. The address is:
The Court of the Lord Lyon
H. M. New Register House
You should request "Information Leaflet Number 4" which contains details of process, examples of petitions, Schedules of proofs and current cost estimates.
There are currently only 21 Kincaid Arms in the Public Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland including those of our last three Chiefs, Alwyne Cecil Kincaid of Kincaid, Madame Heather Kincaid of Kincaid and our Current Chief, Madam Arabella Kincaid of Kincaid. There are several arms belonging to Kincaids of the 19th century and a number of Kincaids descended from John Kincaid of Fincastle who have matriculated their arms from him in the last 50 years.
When I was in Lyon's Office two years ago I asked if there was a definitive book on the subject of Heraldry that I could cite. I was referred to the text "Scots Heraldry" by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms. It was first published 1936 and enlarged in a second edition published in 1956 by Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh. The most recent edition is 1978. If you can get a copy of this book you will find it very interesting reading.
To those who are currently using a "Kincaid" Coat of Arms on their Stationary, Blazer, China, etc. I applaud your good intentions but caution you that it is neither legal nor appropriate. The use of the Chief's Badge (Crest) is more suitable, understanding that by using it you are declaring yourself for the Chief.
In conclusion, I hope that this brief article helps you to understand a little more about Scottish Heraldry and perhaps a few of you may even pursue the acquisition of your own personal arms.
(Note: This article was submitted to the Office of the Lord Lyon for verification and editorial approval. Specific questions about individual cases should be directed to the address found above.)