Lord Lyon King of Arms

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Arms of the Office of the Lord Lyon

The Lord Lyon King of Arms, the head of Lyon Court, is one of the Great Officers of State in Scotland and is the Scottish official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in that kingdom, issuing new grants of arms, and serving as the judge of the oldest Heraldic court in the world that is still in daily operation.

The Lord Lyon is responsible for overseeing state ceremonial in Scotland, for the granting of new arms to persons or organisations, and for confirming given pedigrees and claims to existing arms.

As a government department, fees paid for granting coats of arms are paid to the Treasury. The misuse of arms is a criminal offence in Scotland, and treated as tax evasion. Prosecutions are brought before Lyon Court, Lord Lyon being the sole judge. Appeals can be made to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, and ultimately to the House of Lords in London, following standard legal practice. There is no appeal if the Lord Lyon refuses to grant a coat of arms, as this is not a judicial function, but an exercise of the Royal Prerogative.

The Lord Lyon has several English equivalents.

  • Being responsible for Scottish state ceremonies he parallels the Earl Marshal in England.
  • Lord Lyon is Scotland's only "King of Arms," or a high heraldic officer. England has three: the Garter Principal, the Clarenceaux (responsible for southern England), and the Norroy and Ulster (responsible for northern England and Northern Ireland). Unlike the English Kings of Arms, he does not need permission from the Earl Marshal.
  • The Court of the Lord Lyon is the heraldic authority for Scotland, much as the College of Arms is responsible for granting arms in England

Whilst the Court of Chivalry, which last met in 1954 is a civil court, the Lyon Court meets often and has criminal jurisdiction. Lord Lyon is empowered to have assumed coats of arms and whatever they are affixed to destroyed. As an example, when Leith Town Hall, now used as a police station, was renovated during the 1990s, several of the coats of arms decorating the Council Chamber were found to be attributed to the wrong person. The police were given special permission to retain the display, on condition that the tourist guides pointed out the historical anomalies.

List of Office Holders


  • Alexander Nairne (1437- 1450)
  • Duncan Dundas (1450-1490)
  • Henry Thomson (1504-1512)
  • Sir William Cumyng (1512-1530)
  • Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount (1530 - 1535)
  • Sir Robert Forman (1535 - 1567)
  • Sir William Stewart (1567 - 1568)
  • Sir David Lindsay of Rathillet (1568 - 1591)
  • Sir David Lindsay of the Mount (1591 - 1621)
  • Sir Jerome Lindsay (1621 - 1630)
  • Sir James Balfour (1630 - 1658)
  • Sir James Campbell (1658 - 1660)
  • Gilbert Stewart (1660)
  • Sir Alexander Dundas (1660 - 1663)
  • Sir Charles Erskine Bt. (1663 - 1677)
  • Sir Alexander Erskine (1677 - 1726)
  • Cochrane(?)/ Alexander Drummond (names uncertain) (1726)
  • Alexander Badie (1727 - 1754)
  • John Hooke-Campbell (1754 - 1796)
  • Robert Auriol Hay, 10th Earl of Kinnoull (1796 - 1804)
  • Thomas Robert Hay, 11th Earl of Kinnoull (1804 - 1886?)
  • George Burnett (1886- )
  • Sir James Balfour Paul (1890 - 1927)
  • Captain George Sitwell Campbell Swinton (1927 - 1929)
  • Sir Francis James Grant (1929 - 1945)
  • Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (1945 - 1969)
  • Sir James Monteith Grant (1969 - 1981)
  • Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight, KCVO, WS (1981 - 2001)
  • Robin Orr Blair (2001 - )

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