Family Coat of Arms are not things of the past. New additions are made by the College of Arms which has been in charge of coat of arms for centuries.
So what is the College of Arms?
The College of Arms, also known as the College of Heralds, is a royal corporation consisting of professional officers of arms, with jurisdiction over England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some Commonwealth realms. The heralds are appointed by the British Sovereign and are delegated authority to act on behalf of the Crown in all matters of heraldry, the granting of new coats of arms, genealogical research and the recording of pedigrees. Source, Wikipedia: College of Arms.
How is a new Coat of Arms Granted?
The granting of armorial bearings (coat of arms) within the United Kingdom is the sole prerogative of the British monarch. However, the monarch has delegated this power to two authorities; the Lord Lyon, with jurisdiction over Scotland and the College of Arms over England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Under the latter’s jurisdiction, the right to arms is acquired exclusively either by proving descent in an unbroken male-line from someone registered as so entitled or by a new grant from the King of Arms. Source, Wikipedia: College of Arms.
So there’s a little bit of genealogy work to be done to get a coat of arms without a new grant. That’s some exciting work for sure, to find that the coat of arms might be linked to your family lineage.
Once granted, a coat of arms becomes the hereditary and inheritable property of the owner and his descendants. However, this can only be so if the inheritor is a legitimate male-line descendent of the person originally granted with the arms. To establish the right to arms by descent, one must be able to prove that an ancestor had his arms recorded in the registers of the College. If there is a possibility of such an inheritance, one must first make contact with an officer-in-waiting at the College, who could then advise on the course of action and the cost of such a search. The research into a descent of arms requires details of paternal ancestry, which will involve the examination of genealogical records. The first step involve a search of the family name in the College’s archives, as coats of arms and family name has no connection, the officer could prove, through this method, that there is in fact no descent. However, if a connection is found a genealogical research outside of the College’s archives would then be undertaken in order to provide definitive evidence of descent from an armigerous individual. Source, Wikipedia: College of Arms.
Is there a Cost for a new Coat of Arms?
The fee for the grant of arms is due when the memorial is submitted, the amount being laid out in the Earl Marshal’s Warrant. As of 1 January 2016 the fees for a personal grant of arms, including a crest is £5,750, a grant to a non-profit body is £12,100 and to a commercial company is £17,950. Source, Wikipedia: College of Arms.
It’s pretty exciting that a coat of arms is not just relegated to the past but that it’s a practice that is alive and well-looked-after. Getting a new coat of arms is no easy business, but finding that your family might have a coat of arms or a legitimate claim through descent is pretty exciting.