“Who, What, Why: How do you get a coat of arms?” That’s the title of an article published in April by BBC News Magazine (on-line at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13127328) that discusses, in the wake of all the hoopla about the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, how one goes about acquiring a coat of arms in Great Britain.
It’s a nice little article, and goes into a bit of the history of heraldry in England as well as the fact that to be eligible to receive a grant of heraldry in England (and Scotland), "eminence or good standing in national or local life" is necessary. Of course, the article goes on to explain that this requirement can be pretty flexible in its interpretation: Thomas Woodcock, Garter Principal King of Arms, says, "Tests for eminence are very wide in that they include possession of a university degree or a professional qualification."
Not to mention, of course, the requirement of the ability to pay the fees charged by the College of Arms for a grant of arms (currently the fees for the grant of arms and crest to an individual are £4,400, or about US$7,100).
Of course, on this side of “the pond” and south of the country which has sprung from the four colonies of British North America which did not join the rebellion by the other 13 against the mother country (that is to say, in the United States of America), there is no heraldic authority with legal standing and hence no one to say that you cannot or may not design and adopt your own coat of arms (usually termed “self-assumption”). And even if you decide to get some knowledgeable assistance from someone, say, for example, the American College of Heraldry, the costs are far, far less.
Still and all, it’s a nice article about the history and status of heraldry in Great Britain today, and I can recommend it as an informative little read.