350 years of the Lyon Register

The Lord Lyon King of Arms has launched a significant new initiative which will put a major part of Scotland’s historical archive into the public domain.

The office of Lyon is one of the oldest in the chivalric world.  It dates from at least the beginning of the 14th century and can be traced back yet further, into the mists of time to origins in the ancient office of High Sennachie to the pre-feudal kings of Celtic Scotland.

The Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland was established by the Lord Lyon King of Arms Act of 1672.  It now runs to 95 volumes, and counting, and for anybody who has had the pleasure of exploring it, provides endless hours of delight, a fascinating, enlightening and artistically beautiful record of a significant part of our national story.  Lyon Office’s archives extend even further, though, including the Lord Lyon’s court books, correspondence relating to the recording of arms, and archival material that pre-dates the creation of the Public Register 350 years ago.   It is an incredible record of Scotland's family history and documents all of the  major Hay families and their origins.

These volumes are in good condition, having been treated with great care down the years, but they are fragile.  The Lord Lyon is keen to see the Lyon Office archive used more widely and for this comparatively little known source on our history to be more generally understood and consulted.  The challenge is how to achieve this without the inevitable deterioration in the documents themselves that would result from increased handling.

With that in mind, he has launched the Lord Lyon Society, which has the following stated objectives:

  • To promote Scottish heraldry, genealogy and related arts, heritage and culture
  • To advance heraldic, genealogical and related Scottish heritage through education and engagement with young people
  • To aid and support the protection and preservation of the records, archives and collections of the Court and Office of the Lord Lyon
  • To aid and support the digitisation of those records and to make them available to the public at no cost
  • To support and promote the contribution made by the diaspora, especially in the Commonwealth, to heraldic, genealogical and cultural education.

A group of well qualified trustees has been established to take this most valuable undertaking forward, and the Lord Lyon Society will formally launch early next year.

The society’s primary aim is to be a vehicle for raising the necessary funds to achieve the objective outlined above.  That work has already begun and has seen significant success in attracting donations from charitable trusts and individuals interested in its objectives.

There will be a wide range of events and activities, beginning early next year, which will publicise this important initiative, in particular to bring the Lyon Register to the attention of those who have perhaps not encountered it before.  These events will take place at six locations across Scotland and further online activities will be held to reach Scotland’s diaspora overseas.  The purpose is to promote the accessibility of the Lyon Register and Lyon Office’s wider resources to communities across the country, in particular to young people in schools.  The ultimate aim is to make the Lyon Office archive publicly available, online and free of charge.

The Lord Lyon’s aim is to use the coming year to build a group of ‘supporters’ of the project.  If you feel you can contribute to this admirable activity – not necessarily financially, but in other ways too – please contact Lyon Office.