Saturday, April 28, 2018

EDINBURGH | Visit to The Lord Lyon

Coat of Arms of The Lord Lyon King of
Arms of Scotland.
Oxford, April 29, 2018–I was in Edinburgh earlier this week and visited the offices of The Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland.

The office is centrally located in Edinburgh, on West Register Street. 

Unlike most other countries where the heraldry authorities are private or nonprofit and honorific, the Scottish heraldry office was made part of the government. The heraldry code has the force of law in Scotland, and The Lord Lyon can prosecute, which is rare or unique in the world (South Africa can prevent use of a coat of arms).
Approach to the National Records of Scotland,
on West Register Street. There is construction.

The portrait in the lobby of The Lord Lyon is that of past Lord Lyon Sir Malcolm Rognvald Innes of Edingight KCVO WS FSA Scot. He held the post for 20 years, 1981-2001. The current Lord Lyon is the third since 2001.

He was born on May 25 in a year ending in 8. His portrait shows him in the tabard of The Lord Lyon. He is now Orkney Herald Extraordinary.

I had contacted The Lord Lyon's office to ask about the possibility that the stars in the Stars and Stripes were inspired, directly or indirectly, by the mullets in the Douglas or Murray (Moray) coats of arms.

Elizabeth Roads, Snawdoun Herald and Lyon Clerk at the Court of the Lord Lyon kindly responded to my query, wondering how I would associate with Scotland the Washington family, which prior to the emigration of two sons of Lawrence Washington lived in Sulgrave Manor, Northampton, way down south, not far from Oxford.
The National Records of Scotland.

I responded that the family originally lived in Washington on the River Wear, then part of the Palatine Principality and See of Durham, near Scotland. 

Before George Washington's ancestors were called Washington, they were Wessyngton, and before that Hertburn, after the places they resided, near what became the city of Newcastle. 

George Washington's Ancestors

The Ur-Washington was Sir William fitz Patrick de Hertburn, eldest son of Sir Patrick fitz Dolfin Raby and grandson of Dolfin fitz Uchtred. 

Sir Patrick fitz Dolfin Raby was born before 1136 at Hertburn, a younger son of Dolfin fitz Uchtred. Upon his marriage to Cecily de Offerton, he became known as Sir Patrick de Offerton and Le Hirsel. The Le Hirsel land lies on the north bank of the River Tweed two miles NW of Coldstream. He died c. 1190.

Sir William fitz Patrick de Hertburn was born c. 1150 in Hertburn, near Stockton-on-Tees (about halfway between Newcastle and York). He married twice, gaining Stockton lands with his first marriage and gaining royal relatives with his second marriage to Marjory (Margaret) de Huntingdon, Countess of Richmond. Sir William and Countess Margaret were close in age, although this was her third marriage.

Margaret's brothers were William the Lion, King of Scotland, and Malcolm IV, the Maiden King of Scotland. Her father was Henry, Earl of Northumberland and Huntingdon, and her paternal grandfather was David I, King of Scotland and saint. Her youngest brother, David Earl of Huntingdon, was ancestor of the de Bruce and Balliol families. Countess Margaret's four times great-grandparents were Beatrix, Queen of Scotland and Crinan the Thane. 

So Hertburn acquired new lands and noble connections  with his new bride. He assumed tenancy of the Wessyngton  lands from the Prince Bishop of Durham at a cost of four pounds per year. He had received the Wessyngton property in trade for his Stockton lands – a good move, since he was already heir to the lands at Offerton, just across the River Wear from Washington. Given his huge step up in status, Hertburn took on the name William de Wessyngton in 1183. He died c. 1190.

Sources for the above include: 1. Audrey Fletcher, Posting as Washington Lass 
2. Archaeology Data Service, UK, 1960 


  • Today The Hirsel is the seat of the Earls of Home, and the 14th Earl, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was British Prime Minister in 1963-1964 when I was a student at Oxford – he contributed an article to a magazine I edited, Oxford Tory. I served as General Agent of the Oxford University Conservative Association when Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, now Baron Selkirk of Douglas, was President.
  • George Washington's hero was General William Braddock of the Coldstream Guards. Together they attacked Fort Duquesne, which was renamed Pittsburgh, after Pitt the Elder, who was the patron of the war against the French in North America. Braddock gave Col. Washington his sash and Washington is shown wearing it in several portraits.
Visit to the office of The Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. L to R: (1) Snawdoun Herald and Lyon Clerk, Elizabeth Roads. (2) Portrait of Immediate past Lord Lyon, Sir Malcolm Rognvald Innes of Edingight KCVO WS FSA Scot, with a magnificent estoile above. (3) Your blogger with what seems to be a tiny coronet in chief.

Visit to The Lord Lyon

Snawdoun Herald again was kind enough to respond and wondered why a family so well-connected by marriage would wish to connect to the humbler (at the time) Douglas arms.

My answer is that the Washington coat of arms was not created until after the Battle of Crécy, by which time the Douglas family was ennobled and well established.

At this point there are so many clues and question marks that I am pausing in my quest. A good time to visit Snawdoun Herald and the office of The Lord Lyon!

Also see: My Visit to the College of Arms in London

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