a REAL Coat of Arms: Part III
Moorshead concludes his description of how he applied for
— and received — his own coat of arms.
Letters Patent arrived in February 2004. The certificates
are huge, each 22in. by 15in.
am now armigerous (pronounced ahr-MIJ-ehr-us). This rarely
used word means that I have a right to display my own real
coat-of-arms or armorial bearings (the two terms are virtually
After about 14 months, on 4 February 2004 I finally received
my Letters Patent: this comprises two enormous certificates,
each 22in. by 15in. One certificate is a declaration advising
people of the award with a technical description of the armorial
bearings. The second has the official artwork, beautifully
painted. Both certificates are signed by various members of
the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
The whole process began in October 2002. I wrote about the
application and showed the design in the September/October
and November/December 2003 issues of Family Chronicle and
I had hoped that the final part would follow directly after
this; however, this was not to be. From start to finish, the
application took about 14 months, pretty close to the original
timing that I had been told to expect.
final artwork of Halvor Moorshead’s coat-of-arms.
The official explanation reads:
The field of the shield is red. The central charge is
a white (heraldic silver) maple tree with its roots exposed.
In the upper right and left and in the base is a white
The colors are the national colors of Canada and represent
Mr. Moorshead’s service to his adopted country,
as does the maple tree. The colors are also two of the
three national colors of the United States and Norway,
symbolizing two other aspects of his family heritage.
The tree is the tree of life, often a favorite symbol
for those deeply involved, as Mr. Moorshead is, in genealogical
pursuits; in his case through publishing and research.
The stars are a second reference to his American ancestry.
Crest (above the shield): This is formed of the upper
part of a blue lion with red tongue and claws. The right
arm of the lion is raised and the paw holds a white scroll.
The symbolism of the lion is multiple. It refers to Mr.
Moorshead’s education in Britain, to his roots in
Norway and to the strength of his service to the community.
The color in the third tincture is a reference to his
varied ancestry on two continents. The scroll symbolizes
his long involvement with publishing, most recently in
the area of popularizing genealogical research.
The motto is in Cornish. Translated it reads “Honor
Coats-of-arms are awarded to individuals and only that person
is entitled to use them. In the Canadian system these coats-of-arms
descend unaltered to the eldest child. Other descendants may
use a differenced version of the coat of arms. Differenced
arms generally vary only slightly from the original. An example
might be, in the case of the shield shown, additional stars.
Differenced versions can be produced along with the original
application. I did not do this myself but had I chosen to
do this would have added about $250 per person with an additional
$200 (combined) for the calligraphy. The heraldic authorities
in England, Scotland and Ireland do not all have the same
rules for descendants.
My own genealogical research has unearthed no one in my line
more important than moderately wealthy yeoman farmers in England
during the 1500s. Although one line of that family did go
on to gain considerable wealth (one member was awarded a coat-of-arms),
my line did not prosper. My ancestors were, for many generations,
tin miners in Cornwall in England. I am under no illusions
that, by reason of birth, I am entitled to display any armorial
I could claim that I applied for these armorial bearings solely
because it might make for an unusual and interesting article
but that would not be honest. As a child, I was quietly thrilled
by the supposed family crest and I was disappointed when I
learned the truth that I had no right to use it.
People’s reaction to my receiving a coat-of-arms has
varied greatly. Some people cannot understand why I went through
this process and undertook the costs when they got their family
crest in the local shopping mall (a couple of people have
suggested that I am playing catch-up with them). A few people
believe that I received these arms for some service to the
country and that my denial of this is only modesty. A few
are fascinated by what I have done and the process. Others,
however, are gently mocking and probably think it is somewhat
pompous. To date, no one has bowed or curtsied to me.
Acquiring a coat-of-arms is not an inexpensive undertaking.
The costs came in several parts and totaled $2,301 Canadian
(about $1,725 US). I am currently having the certificates
framed and this will add about $600 Canadian. The initial
processing fee was $465 (all prices here are in Canadian dollars
and include taxes); the first color sketch was $517, the final
painting was $1,035 and the calligraphy was $162. I ordered
a package of large color prints, negatives and a CD with the
images on them for $122. Was it worth it? Yes.
Moorshead holds the huge container in the which the
Patent were shipped.
to Part I | Return to Part II