The Importance Of Heraldry To Clanship


   Heraldry began as a system of insignia which, when applied to a banner, shield or clothing would identify the bearer. Instituted originally as a means of identification for warring factions, heraldry eventually evolved into a system of honor by which descendants of a particular individual (who had distinguished himself in some way and was granted a coat of arms) could identify themselves as kinsmen of that individual.

   Heraldry was/is a celebration of kinship. According to Alexander Nisbet, in his book, A System Of Heraldry, published in 1722: [Heraldry was] “not merely show and pageantry as some are apt to imagine, but to distinguish persons and families; to represent the heroic achievements of our ancestors and to perpetuate their memory; to trace the origin of noble and ancient families and the various steps by which they arrived at greatness; to distinguish the many different branches descended from the same families and to show the several relations which one family stands to another.” Nisbet went on to define the clan as “A social group consisting of an aggregate of distinct erected families actually descended, or accepting themselves as descendants of a common ancestor, and which has been received by the Sovereign through its Supreme Officer of Honour, the Lord Lyon, as an honourable community…”

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