The right to bear arms

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The right to bear arms

This article by Guy Storry was first published in the 1989 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

There has for some time been a belief firmly held among local historians, in both Guernsey and Jersey, that the Channel Islands are not subject to any heraldic authority. The principal subscribers to this view appear to have been, in Jersey Major N V L Rybot, and in Guernsey Miss Edith Carey, both much respected and persons who have made significant contributions to a proper understanding of the islands' past. In the light of their study of local history, however, the question must be raised as to how they came to subscribe to this view rather than any other.

Relationship with Sovereign

The question is valid owing to the Channel Islands' relationships with the Sovereign, which Le Patourel put in the following terms:

The true position of the Channel Islands .... (in) .... their relation to England, in law, was that of a principality united with another in the person of the prince only, the position of Normandy before 1204, of Gascony until 1453, of Scotland in the seventeenth century.

As is well known, in England the heraldic authority is soundly based and the control of armory emanates from the Sovereign, in exercise of the Royal Prerogative.

Be that as it may, two factors appear to have given considerable weight to the current view. The first probably arose from the writings of Bertrand Payne, the introduction to whose monumental work asserts that the sources of the islanders' arms are chiefly from immemorial prescription, sometimes from plagiarism and in some instances from assumption at will.

Oswald Barron

The second was the undoubted fostering of that view by Rybot. Major Rybot was one of the very few authoritative exponents of the art of heraldry in the Channel Islands this century and his enthusiasm for the subject was boundless, but in the course of his studies he appears to have adopted without question the views of the noted antiquary Oswald Barron. It was Barron's radical view that the arms which a man devises and assumes for himself are in every respect as valid as those granted by the kings of arms.

In the last 35 years, however, so far as the English Law of Arms is concerned, this assertion has been demonstrably discredited by a thorough examination of the law undertaken by Squibb. But so firmly did Barron espouse his cause in the early part of the century that it is hardly surprising he had his adherents, particularly as his appointment as Maltravers Herald Extraordinary in 1937 could be said to have clothed his exposition with a mantle of credibility.

The writings of Major Rybot clearly indicate that he was one of those who fell under the master's spell. What is more, so far as the Channel Islands were concerned, at least, Rybot no doubt felt that he had strong grounds for holding that Barron's propositions held good, for reasons which follow.

College of Arms

Some years before Rybot's work Heraldry in the Channel Islands appeared, another noted local historian, Miss Edith Carey of Guernsey, had written that the islands, not being under English Law, were no more subject to the jurisdiction of the English Heralds' College than either Scotland or Ireland. Unfortunately, this statement is merely the perpetuation of a commonplace but wholly erroneous myth, for the College of Arms or Heralds' College exercises no jurisdiction in any event, and has never done so.

On the contrary, the College is the place from where the Officers of Arms, be they pursuivants, heralds or kings of arms, carry out their duties and where their books and records are housed. The Officers of Arms are members of the Royal Household and are responsible through the Earl Marshal to the Sovereign for all ceremonies of State, and the recording of pedigrees and arms. A college is an organised society of persons performing certain functions and possessing in common certain rights and privileges, and this is exactly the position with the College of Arms in England.

There are 13 Officers of Arms in Ordinary, namely, Garter Principal King of Arms, two Provincial Kings of Arms, six Heralds and four Pursuivants. Each is separately appointed (created) by Letters Patent under the Great Seal and in addition to their official duties they are practising genealogists, as well as armorial and ceremonial consultants.

The only ones to exercise any armorial jurisdiction as such are Garter Principal King of Arms, who has sovereign jurisdiction, and the two Provincial Kings of Arms: Norroy in England north of the river Trent (to whom has been added the province of Ulster), and Clarenceux King of Arms, in England south of the Trent. Neither of these kings of arms has any jurisdiction in respect of armorial matters in the Channel Islands.

Islands' status

This is because although the Channel Islands do form a part of the British Isles (including the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man), they do not form a part of the United Kingdom (ie Great Britain and Northern Ireland), nor a part of Great Britain (ie England and Scotland - including Wales), nor yet England. Notwithstanding the Union with Scotland Act 1706, the Lord Lyon King of Arms retains his ancient jurisdiction in Scotland, while the two English provincial kings of arms have jurisdiction only in their own provinces or 'marches'.

On the other hand, Garter Principal King of Arms is, in terms of the Letters Patent of his creation, King of Arms of "all Englishmen". Garter thus has no territorial limits to his jurisdiction and exercises a supreme authority within the English heraldic Establishment; a position he has effectively held since the creation of the first Garter in 1415.

To base a lack of heraldic authority in the Channel Islands solely on the fact that the islands are not within the territorial jurisdiction of a provincial king of arms, if indeed this always has been the case, is, it is suggested, too simplistic a notion. In the first instance the mediaeval heralds (which designation includes kings of arms and pursuivants) were not concerned with exercising an heraldic jurisdiction as such. Their original function, as they evolved from minstrels and troubadours, was officiating at tournaments. This led to a unique expertise in identifying coats of arms and in turn led to them being used as messengers between powerful nobles and monarchs, subject to an early form of diplomatic immunity.

By this means they became members of noble and royal households - a position they retain in the English and Scottish system - their advance in status being marked by a gradual increase in the importance of the duties entrusted to them. As late as the beginning of the fifteenth century a memorandum of Anjou King of Arms set out in detail the duties of a herald, without once considering that they were in any way concerned with exercising an armorial jurisdiction or the control of armorial bearings.


The rise in the profession of herald had a parallel evolution with the art of heraldry itself. Payne might say somewhat disparagingly in 1865 that the sources of coats of arms in the Channel Islands were immemorial prescription, plagiarism and assumption, but he chose to ignore that in general terms immemorial user and assumption were the sources of most arms throughout Europe.

In the fullness of time, once the system was well established and the bearing of arms, although always seemingly a prerogative of the knightly class, accounted a privilege, so it became more controlled and a grant of arms by a prince a conferment of honour. Originally, however, as Sir George Mackenzie of Rose-haugh noted in about 1680 "and what Warrant is there for most of our Rules in Heraldry, but an aged Custom?".


There are few recorded grants of arms by a King of England, arguably the earliest being that to John of Kyngeston in July 1389, by which time heraldry (as defined by Wagner) was well established throughout Europe. The part played in this system by the heralds was somewhat different from what has come to be accepted. They were acknowledged armorial experts, from their duties at tournaments and, later, in war. It may be recalled from Shakespeare's Henry V, that after the Battle of Agincourt (Act IV, sc viii) it was a herald who brought the King the numbers of casualties on both sides, all assorted by rank "and nobles bearing banners there lie dead 126; added to these of knights, esquires and gallant gentlemen ... besides common men ... ".

Before the battle (Act III, sc vi) it was Montjoie, the French King of Arms ("you know me by my habit") who was sent to issue the challenge and later to try and negotiate terms of surrender with the King. Consequently, they were in the singular position of being able to advise the Sovereign, or the Earl Marshal, when the army was in the field, on the arms borne by members of almost every armigerous family in the land, and not unnaturally they found it advantageous to maintain written records.

They alone were in the position of being able to confirm to a member of a particular family that the arms he wished to display were indeed the arms his family had borne for as long as anyone could remember; 'time immemorial' or from 'time out of mind': the document embodying this 'confirmation' becoming in time letters patent under seal.

Resolution of disputes

Such expertise had other uses when knights from different parts of the country found someone else bearing 'their' arms. From this, disputes arose for determination before the King or, more summarily, before the Earl Marshal. To assist in these disputes the heralds could consult their records and take on the role of expert witness. There then grew a custom for heirs to have the arms of their fathers formally confirmed to them by the kings of arms as a matter of course, and if it was a younger son who required arms, then the paternal arms were 'differenced' by a device called a mark of cadency, which distinguished them from those borne by his older brother'.

This practice was greatly expanded when the Sovereign delegated to the kings of arms the right also to grant arms in his name to such persons as were considered worthy to bear them, and that is the position today. This does not mean that the Sovereign has divested himself of this prerogative, merely that it is now exercised on his behalf by warrant under the hand of the Earl Marshal, directed to the king of arms concerned.

Simply stated, therefore, the right to bear arms in terms of the English Law of Arms can only be established by birth or grant. It is the first of these criteria which finally settled the heraldic jurisdiction of the English provincial kings of arms (and the Lord Lyon King of Arms also, but in a slightly different context) and which, it is suggested, gives some force of logic to the views expounded by Rybot and Miss Carey.

For in 1530 the kings of arms, acting as Royal Commissioners on instructions under the Great Seal, commenced a series of Heraldic Visitations which were to extend over a period of a century and a half; between 1530 and 1687 they covered the entire country.


Much has been written about the Heraldic Visitations, but there is no mystery about them. In essence they were a kind of armigerous and genealogical census, wherein every person making use of a coat of arms or considering himself a Gentleman, Esquire, a Knight or a Baronet (after the accession of James I) was obliged to appear before the king of arms or his deputy and to

"... manifest what right and title he hath to the bearing of Armes, which proof is to be by Grant, or prescription, and if by prescription, it is to be shewed from some auntient Decree, sealed with an Impression of the Armes he pretends to, or some sculpture upon Tombes and Monuments, Armes in Glasse windowes, auntient paynted Tabletts, or some such Authentique Testimonial as may demonstrate that his lineall auncestors have made use of them ...."

If no entitlement could be proved, a Disclaimer was recorded and the arms defaced. Some heralds, it must be said, were not slow to use their powers of defacement. The title of Gentleman etc was also to be formerly disclaimed if not proved. The census returns were kept by the kings of arms in the form of Visitation Books, becoming the early records of the College of Arms.

It was on one such Visitation that the arms of "Havilland of the Isle of Gernesey" were recorded, in the Visitation of Gloucester in 1623. The effect of this system is that anyone in England now claiming to bear arms by birth, pursuant to immemorial user, would be hard pressed to do so, for any arms in use from time immemorial must ex hypothesi have been in use during the heyday of the Visitations. The fact that such a coat of arms does not appear in some Visitation record raises a presumption prima facie that it was not in use at that period.

But whatever the situation might have been prior to the beginning of the 15th century, the Channel Islands manifestly did not fall within the jurisdiction of either of the provincial kings of arms thereafter. Consequently the islands have never been subject to an Heraldic Visitation. In fact, in 1686 a Warrant of the Earl Marshall declared that there were "no entries in Ye College of Arms of Ye Descents or Arms of Ye Families in (Guernsey)".

High Court of Chivalry

The agency whereby the heralds enforced their authority was the High Court of Chivalry or Earl Marshal's Court. The jurisdiction of the Earl Marshal in this respect evolved from the need for the ad hoc determination of disputes with the host during periods of mediaeval warfare and it subsequently became a court of recognised jurisdiction. As a civil court, in general terms, the Court sat regularly from 1622 to 1737. Its last case was heard in 1954.

The Court of Chivalry escaped the reforms of the late 19th century Judicature Acts and retains its ancient jurisdiction. Appeal from its decisions lies not via the Court of Appeal to the House of Lords, as in the case of the Common Law Courts of the Supreme Court of Judicature. but to the Privy Council, as Curia Regis. For reasons which are noted briefly below, the jurisdiction of the Court does not extend to the Channel Islands. This factor, too, adds weight to the view that the Channel Islands are not subject to any heraldic authority.

Not to take the inquiry further, however, is to fail to take account of the full impact of Constitutional Law. For, whatever other arguments are raised, it is submitted that in the final analysis what is actually at issue is essentially a matter of law. In this regard, the arguments relating to the Constitutional position of the islands, most directly Jersey, were set out in exhaustive and learned detail by Doctor W J Heyting on behalf of the Jersey Constitutional Association. The position has also been described in equally authoritative terms by Sir John Loveridge, Bailiff of Guernsey 1973-1982, as follows:

"The Channel Islands occupy an unusual position in Her Majesty's possessions for they are not part of the United Kingdom, nor are they sovereign states or colonies. Indeed, in the British Nationality Act 1948 they are distinguished by the reference to 'a citizen of the United Kingdom, Islands and Colonies'. They are part of Her Majesty's possessions with insular legislatures, judiciaries and executives, but Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom is responsible to Her Majesty for their defence and international relations. Their constitutional position is the direct result of a number of historical circumstances, beginning with their integration into the Duchy of Normandy in the tenth and 11th centuries and the relationship between Duchy and Kingdom that was created by the Norman Conquest and colonization of England after the Battle of Hastings. When continental Normandy was overrun by the King of France in 1204, the islands remained in the hands of the King of England, who continued to govern them in his capacity as Duke of Normandy until he surrendered the title in 1259. Five years earlier, however, King Henry III had granted them (with Oleron and Gascony) to his eldest son and heir, the future King Edward I, 'in such manner that the said lands ... may never be separated from the Crown and that no one, by reason of this grant made to the said Edward, may have any claim to the said lands ... but that they should remain to the kings of England in their entirety for ever'. The effect of this in English law, was that the Islands were not incorporated into the Kingdom of England then or at any subsequent time. In French law, however, they remained a parcel of the Kingdom of France (this was clearly acknowledged in the Treaty of 1259) until some point in the later Middle Ages which has not yet been determined by historians or constitutional lawyers; and since their ecclesiastical, trading and even personal relations with Normandy remained very close until well into modern times, the fact that they have remained a possession of the English Crown owes much to their continued loyalty. But though he had surrendered the ducal title, the King of England continued to rule the islands as though he were Duke of Normandy, observing their laws and customs and liberties; and these were later confirmed by the charters of successive sovereigns which secured for them their own judiciaries and freedom from process of English courts and other important privileges of which the Islands are justly proud and which have always been respected. Although expressed in somewhat different terms in different ages, this has remained the essence of the relationship between the Islands and the Crown to the present day. After the separation of the Islands from Normandy and its administration the local institutions were gradually moulded from time to time very largely on local initiative to meet changing circumstances until their present constitutions evolved. The evolution, however, did not at any time involve the amalgamation with, or subjection to, the government of the United Kingdom and even today the islands' link with the United Kingdom and the remainder of the Commonwealth is through the Sovereign as latter-day successor of the Dukes of Normandy. The Channel Islands consist of two Bailiwicks, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey, each independent of each other and having separate legislatures, judiciaries and executives".

Heraldic authority

From the point of view of the issues presently under examination, this statement of the law is of considerable importance. In reliance upon it, it may be said that if the Sovereign, whether or not through the Officers of Arms, is precluded by the law of the Channel Islands from exercising an undoubted prerogative in armorial matters and matters of honour generally, then of course no such heraldic authority as is commonly accepted in the remainder of the Realm can have effect in the Bailiwicks.

To state a trite point, it must be emphasised that the law applicable in the Channel Islands is the received customary law of Normandy, as modified and adapted since its reception. By coincidence, if the Civil Law practised in the Court of Chivalry has anything in common with this law, it is the influence on both of Roman Law. Be that as it may, so far as this writer is aware, the received customary law of Normandy contains no references to armorial law and custom. If this is correct, then regard must be had to the law of arms as it is applied in north-west Europe generally, although this can now only really be done from the writings of later commentators.

Bartolo di Sassoferato

The first of these was Bartolo di Sassoferato who, in his Tractatus de Insigniis et Armis, the earliest known treatise on heraldry, written in about 1350-55, appeared to assert that the assumption of arms was perfectly valid, on the grounds that arms were invented, in the same way as names, to distinguish one person from another. It is a proposition which has been seized upon, argued and written about from the time it first appeared. It is submitted, however, that all Bartolo was doing was recognising a state of fact which existed at the time he wrote: arms were being assumed. Moreover, its literal adherents have often ignored the second part of this proposition, namely, that the greater dignity lies in those arms granted by the Prince - hardly a surprising statement when one learns that Bartolus was himself the recipient of a Grant of Arms from the Emperor Charles IV.

Two hundred years later the Dutch jurist Hugo de Groot was to assert that in a republic the assumption of arms was valid, simply because there was no law to the contrary, but he was careful to emphasise that this had not been the case when the Low Countries were a part of the Empire. The Belgian jurist Franciscus Zypaeus, writing at about the same time, held that arms may be borne only by prescription or grant from the Emperor, and if the letters of the grant were lost, further letters would be issued - presumably a form of confirmation.

In the 1670s Sir George Mackenzie of Rose-haugh, having considered the writings of Bartolus and reviewed the later authorities, decided that the situation had changed and concluded that by the time he wrote, most of the countries of Europe regulated the bearing of arrns. It has been left to Wagner to summarize the position in France, which for some time held a parallel and even senior position in the practice of heraldry to England. It seems clear that armorial custom in France dictated that the control of arms lay with the royal prerogative, exercised by the kings of arms. It is also likely that the first Heraldic Visitations in France were held slightly earlier than 1530. So much in outline for the wider sphere.

Royal charters

Locally, there is the not inconsiderable matter of the terms of successive Royal charters. It will be remembered in particular that in confirming to the people of Jersey their ancient rights, liberties and privileges, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1562, nevertheless reserved to the Sovereign "the regalities, privileges, interests, revenues, tributes, and other rights, profits, commodities and emoluments whatever in the Island and aforesaid places due and accustomed of old to us, our heirs and successors by the prerogative of the Crown of England or Duke of Normandy or otherwise".

It would appear, therefore, in the absence of any law to the contrary, that the above reservation of regality and privilege, to be exercised in accordance with the Royal Prerogative, supported as it is by the persuasive authorities of English and Continental precedent in the matter of armorial control, still pertains and leaves little room for any legal grounds upon which to deny armorial control by the Crown. Of some importance in asserting the contrary view, however, is the question of how that control can be enforced and by whom it may be exercised.

The first point is not as difficult as it may seem, for the Royal Courts, in the words of the above charter "have the cognizance, jurisdiction and judgment concerning and touching all and all sorts of pleas, processes, law suits, actions, disputes and causes of any kind whatsoever arising in the Island(s)".

Dumaresq v de la Rocque

By way of example, the case of Dumaresq v de la Rocque, brought before the Royal Court in Jersey in 1567, illustrates the competence of that Court to deal with armorial causes. The result is unknown but a plea by the Defendant de la Rocque to the jurisdiction of the Court, on the grounds that armorial disputes were beyond the jurisdiction of the Bailiff - il ne lui apptient de juger d' armes' - and should be referred for determination to Le Roy des heraults, was rejected by the Court. In due course a Juge-délégue en la cause was appointed and the Plaintiff given leave to prosecute his claim before the Cour de Cattel".

Dumaresq's Case was the kind of dispute which in earlier times was brought before the Sovereign for determination, vide Scrape v. Grosuenor", but later came to be firmly within the jurisdiction of the Court of Chivalry. In other aspects too there are parallels between the jurisdiction exercised by the Court of Chivalry and the Royal Courts. In the 17th and early 18th centuries the former was concerned to hear claims involving gentility.

As Messervy has amply demonstrated, these questions also concerned the Royal Court in Jersey. And there is at least one matter on record where the Royal Court in Jersey enacted an order-in-council, the validity of which was subject to the pre-condition that it first be recorded in the records of the College of Arms "to the end that Our Officers of Arms ... may take full notice and have knowledge thereof".

1765 statement

It might be expected, therefore, that the Officer of Arms responsible for enforcing heraldic authority in the Channel Islands might reasonably look to the Royal Courts for support. Equally, on the authority of Dumaresq's Case, armigers might similarly expect relief from the same source. But this is not to say that the Royal Courts would administer English Civil Law in any such disputes. On the contrary, once it is accepted that the Bailiff has jurisdiction, then local law must prevail for, as was noted by Blackstone as long ago as 1765,

"The islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Alderney and their appendages were parcel of the Duchy of Normandy and were united to the Crown of England by the first princes of the Norman line. They are governed by their own laws, which are for the most part the ducal customs of Normandy, being collected in an antient book of very great authority intituled Le Grand Coustumier. The King's writ or process from the courts at Westminster is there of no force, but his commision is. All causes are originally determined by their own Officers, the Bailiff and Jurats of the islands but an appeal lies from them to the King in Council, in the last resort."

Consequently, it might be expected that the Royal Courts would give effect to the usage, customs and practice of armory, as found as matters of fact to prevail within the jurisdiction of the two Bailiwicks, as opposed to blindly following English precedent. On the other hand, it is improbable for the reasons given above that the law in relation to an entitlement to bear arms is significantly different in the Channel Islands. Historical precedent in Europe and the current state of the Law of Arms in England both hold that an entitlement arises from birth or grant, and from no other source.

In this connection it is not unimportant that in 1829 the Royal Court in Jersey had to decide whether Francois Jean Le Montais was entitled to style himself 'gentleman'. The Court affirmed his right to do so on the grounds that members of his family had been so styled depuis un temps immemorial - although what constituted time immemorial does not seem to have been considered. And a few years later, in the same Court, an action was struck out because the plaintiff improperly described himself in the summons as an Ecuier.

Status of Jurats

In fact, so seriously have questions of rank and dignity been considered by those concerned, that in 1685 Jurat Jean de la Cloche flatly refused to carry out his judicial duties unless he was accorded the title Ecuier. (He may well have struck a blow which redounded to the benefit of his successors because at the present time all Jurats are commonly of that rank, presumably being Esquires by office). It may be seen from the above examples that the Royal Courts are not at all unfamiliar with armorial or a quasi-chivalric jurisdiction.

Moreover, should the point arise, the Courts may well consider themselves bound by - or at least obliged to take cognizance of - the custom commonly accepted in France and the Low Countries since the Middle Ages, that the possession of arms manifests gentility: membership of the nobility. Nobility in this sense is not confined to the peerage classes, as it is in England.

'Noble', in the sense in which it is understood out of England, means known or nobilis - known or noticed by the Prince. Thus a person wishing to be known by his arms - the only real purpose of an armorial achievement - aspires to be 'noble', of the gentility. Status in society is conferred by the Sovereign alone and to be noticed in this way means that the person concerned is 'known' to the Sovereign, an enhancement to the status of gentility.

In times past a prince judging an individual worthy of such notice gave him a patent of nobility. Arms were emblazoned in these letters so that his shield could be distinguished. By his shield he was nobilis or 'known'. In not dissimilar vein, from time to time, islanders have been honoured by the conferment of peerages, knighthoods, and membership of various orders of chivalry. Islanders bearing arms have sought to be publicly recognised by the use of those arms, in public acts, seals affixed to public documents, in memorials and official duties. 'Recognised' can only mean recognised throughout, brought to the notice of all, including the Sovereign.

On the other side of the coin, the Sovereign could simply refuse recognition. So that a person purporting to bear arms while denying the Sovereign's authority to regulate armory can hardly be surprised if the Sovereign fails to 'know' him. If that situation arises, his use of his 'arms' publicly is worthless because his acts cannot be recognised. For example, the use of an armorial seal in such circumstances would become a nonsense - a mere decoration. In the same way that a person who wears the insignia of an order of chivalry of which he is not a member, medals to which he is not entitled, or the badges of a regiment in which he does not serve, wears them for purely decorative purposes - or, more sinisterly, in order to deceive.

Officer of Arms

Turning now to the Officer of Arms responsible for exercising heraldic authority in the Channel Islands, it has been demonstrated above that the English provincial kings of arms have no jurisdiction here. Not, as it happens, that this always seems to have been fully understood, for there are several examples of Clarenceux King of Arms purporting to exercise an authority by means of a device, which at best is questionable but which need not be considered further at present.

Conversely, by virtue of the Letters Patent of his creation, Garter Principal King of Arms is not confined in exercising his authority to any particular province. He is described as King of Arms of "all Englishmen" and exercises a sovereign jurisdiction. The pedant might perhaps argue that so far as the Channel Islands are concerned, here are Jerseymen and Guernseymen, but no 'Englishmen'. This is hardly an argument to be taken seriously.

By way of contrast, the Principality of Wales was only included in the term England in 1746, by virtue of the Wales and Berwick Act, but for heraldic purposes Welshmen have been treated as Englishmen for a good deal longer than that. This kite, it is submitted, won't fly.

Consequently, subject to any differences in heraldic practice, customs and usage peculiar to the Bailiwicks of either Jersey and/or Guernsey and subject also to Garter being able to enforce his authority through the Royal Courts, there would seem to be little in the way of hindrance to the exercise of his proper authority.

Channel Islands law

As the law of the Channel Islands is likely to prevail, however, there is one complication which would not otherwise arise. This is the concept of noblesse referred to above. The broad principle of heraldic practice is that arms are granted only to "eminent men subject to the approval of the Earl Marshal first obtained". Requisite eminence is a relatively easy matter for the Officers of Arms to establish in England or, for that matter in such of Her Majesty's Dominions as retain an English Law jurisdiction, and there are commonly recognised guidelines relating to 'eminence'.

But in the Channel Islands, as in Scotland, where the principle of noblesse is still strictly relevant and a recognizable factor, the position is somewhat different. It was one of de la Rocque's contentions in Dumaresq's Case, for example, that the plaintiff was not entitled to the disputed arms because it was "unseemly that a stranger should be given arms of noble extraction".

How then, it might be asked, could the Earl Marshal satisfy himself as to the suitability of a petitioner for a grant of arms or an entitlement to bear arms by someone seeking a Confirmation, that is, entitlement by birth? This is of some importance because, as is noted above, although the kings of arms alone may grant or confirm arms, they do so subject to the direction as to their jurisdiction, and approval of the eligibility of the petitioner, by the Earl Marshal - something reflected in every Letters Patent of grant: So that establishing 'eminence' is the first step in the process and satisfaction in this regard is then reflected in the petition addressed to the Earl Marshal. It is only after the Earl Marshal is satisfied of a petitioner's eligibility that he issues his Warrant to the appropriate king of arms, directing him to grant or confirm arms, as the case may be. So much briefly, for the need to consider the question.

Seigneur of Sausmarez

Not surprisingly, in the circumstances, there are indications that this was an inhibiting factor in the past and has already exercised the minds of the Officers of Arms from time to time. For example, when Sir Edmund Andros, Seigneur of Sausmarez in Guernsey, sought to have the arms of de Sausmarez quartering Andros confirmed to him in 1686, it is evident from the Warrant of the Earl Marshal that the qualification of the Seigneur of Sausmarez to these quartered arms was proved from the findings of the Royal Commissioners in the Extente of 1607. Then, when William Dcbree and his brothers petitioned for the confirmation of arms and the assignment of tinctures - the arms were only known from seals - in 1725, the precaution was taken of furnishing a certificate from the Royal Court in Guernsey, under the hand of Hilary Bonamy, Juge-Délégué, and the Greffier, attesting their standing in Guernsey society, and consequent fitness to bear arms.

Jersey document

A not dissimilar document had been issued out of the Royal Court in Jersey in 1602, when Philipe Journeaulx, then aged 75 and a senior Jurat of the Court, petitioned for "an attestation of his estate and quality, of which to make use outside (Jersey) where his birth and quality would not be sufficiently known, and to avoid all risks of doubt and the consequences thereof". The 'attestation' took the form of letters patent under the seal of the Bailiwick, issued in the names of Hugh Lempriere, Lieut-Bailiff, and George Paullet, Bailiff, and signed in addition by no fewer than four fellow Jurats.

The power to issue letters patent in this manner seems to have arisen from the Royal Court's inherent jurisdiction; the preamble declaring that it could not be refused "according to the duty of our office" - ce que n'auons peu luy refuser selon Ie devoir de nostre office.

Although this appears to be the only recorded instance of the issue of letters patent for this particular purpose, it seems probable that it was not an isolated case. In the Middle Ages, letters were not infrequently issued by the Bailiff and Jurats in forma tabelionis on a wide variety of matters and the issue of letters patent in this instance is illustrative of the experience and familiarity of the Royal Court with proceedings of the kind under discussion.

In the case of the two former examples, the Officers of Arms were able to satisfy themselves from local inquiry, in not dissimilar fashion to the enquiries conducted in the course of Heraldic Visitations in England. The main difference being, of course, that in one case reliance was placed on the findings of Royal Commissioners and in the other on the findings upon inquiry by the Royal Court.

It may still be feasible to follow the first precedent in a particular case, but, if not, the examples of precedent established in the cases of Dobree and Journeaulx mean that the Royal Courts have full jurisdiction in such matters - however infrequently exercised.

Courts' active interest

Quite apart from anything else, they emphasise that the courts of the Bailiwicks have over the centuries taken an active interest in armorial proceedings, as well as the issue of letters patent in not entirely unrelated matters, thus retaining a measure of control which it might have been difficult to ensure if the Court's jurisdiction was more restricted. When it is remembered that, in all other parts of the Realm, arms and armigers are protected by courts having an armorial jurisdiction, the fact that, quite separately, the Royal Courts have been used to exercising a parallel jurisdiction for a period of some 400 years puts the question in clearer perspective.

Consequently, notwithstanding any differences in the law of arms or the customs and usages of heraldry, it is submitted that perpetuating a belief that there is no heraldic authority for the Channel Islands is in effect to deny to the Royal Courts their inherent jurisdiction to deal with armorial causes whensoever they might arise and a fortiori to assume that the Royal Courts are precluded from taking cognizance of an undoubted heraldic authority conferred upon Garter Principal King of Arms by the Sovereign, in exercise of the Royal Prerogative, by Letters Patent under the Great Seal.

When placed in its proper historical and legal context, this seems a very strange assertion to make. It is also a denial of an heraldic authority acknowledged as long ago as 1567, when, in Dumaresq's Case, de la Rocque, then Procureur de la Reine, introduced a recognisable principle of the law of arms into these Courts when he pleaded that the arms in dispute had "neither been granted by the Prince nor confirmed by the King of heralds". In the light of this statement alone, it is difficult to understand how the present belief can reasonably be sustained.

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