Personal ‘Coats of Arms’

The Doyle Grant of Arms

The Letters Patent for the Grant of Arms pictured above are for the personal Arms, Standard, and Badge of the Michael Roch James Doyle

Armorial bearings, or coats-of-arms, originated during the late medieval period as a means of recognition on the battlefield and at the tournament.   They were soon employed also to attest documents and identify property.   Clearly, a system of identification, to be effective, required regulation because use of the same arms by more than one person would result in confusion.   Specialists, known as heralds, were therefore employed to keep the necessary records and advise on all related matters.   Such officers of arms have functioned for Ireland since the year 1382 AD.  


The Letters Patent for the Irish Grant of Arms pictured above were issued by the Ulster King of Arms in 1715
A ‘grant of arms’ is an action by a lawful authority, such as Officers of Arms (heraldsand pursuivants)  sovereign or state, or by a appointed by great noble houses, such The MacCarthy Mor;  the High Chief of Clan Donald;    Earl of Erroll Countess of Mar, etc to handle heraldic, ceremonial, and genealogical matters on their behalf), conferring on a person and his or her descendants the right to bear a particular ‘coat of arms’ or armorial bearings.   It is one of the ways in which a person may lawfully bear arms in a jurisdiction regulating heraldry, another being by birth, through inheritance.

Micheál Ó Comáin, Esqr
Herald of Arms, Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland

‘Slains Pursuivant’
Peter-Drummond-Murray of Mastrick
wearing the tabard of the Earl of Erroll

Alexander Walter Lindsay
‘Endure Pursuivant’ to his father, the Earl of Crawford

A grant of arms is distinguished from both a confirmation of arms and a registration of arms.   A grant of arms confers a new right, whereas a confirmation of arms confirms an existing right; and a registration of arms is a record which does not purport to create or confirm any legal right.

A grant of arms is typically contained in a legal document referred to as ‘letters patent’ which provide self-contained proof, upon production of the letters patent, of the right conferred.   A modern Irish grant of arms, for example, from the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland in Dublin, will begin with the words "To all and singular to whom these presents shall come...", thereby showing that it is addressed to anyone in the world to whom it may be presented.

There is, strictly speaking, no such thing as a ‘family coat of arms’.    A grant of arms made to an individual extends to his or her direct descendants of the name, not to a family as such.


The Irish Registration of Arms pictured above are for the personal Arms and Banner of Dr. Kevin Gerard Peter Doyle

A ‘coat of arms’ is a unique heraldic design on an ‘escutcheon’ (i.e. shield), surcoat*, or tabard**.   A surcoat, and subsequently a coat of arms was used by medieval knights to cover, protect, and identify the wearer.   Thus these are sometimes termed coat armory.   The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement which consists of shield, supporters, crest, and motto.   The design is a symbol unique to an individual person, corporation, or state.   Such displays are commonly called armorial bearings, armorial devices, heraldic devices, or simply arms.

*      knights wore long and flowing surcoats over their armour, which were frequently emblazoned with the personal heraldic   chain-mail armour from direct sun, which heated the mail and the soldier inside.   The surcoat also serves in areas of poor weather to keep the rain and muck of battle away from the easily corroded maille-links. 

A tabard is a short coat common for men during the Middle Ages.   Generally used while outdoors, the coat was either sleeveless or had short sleeves or shoulder pieces.   In its more developed form it was open at the sides;  and it could be worn with or without a belt.   Tabards might be emblazoned on the front and back with a ‘coat of arms’, and in this (livery) form they survive now as the distinctive garment of Officers of Arms.  

Lord Ibelin’s Surcoat from the film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’

Russian Herald's Tabard, Coronation of Tsar Paul, 1796
The ancient Romans used similar insignias on their shields, but these identified military units rather than individuals.   The first evidence of medieval coats of arms is found in the ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ from the 11th Century, where some of the combatants carry shields painted with crosses.

detail from the ‘Bayeux Tapestry’
Coats of arms came into general use by feudal lords and knights in battle in the 12th Century.   By the 13th Century arms had spread beyond their initial battlefield use to become a kind of flag or logo for families in the higher social classes of Europe, inherited from one generation to the next.   Exactly who had a right to use arms, by law or social convention, varied to some degree between countries.   In the German-speaking region both the aristocracy and burghers (non-noble free citizens) used arms, while in most of the rest of Europe they were limited to the aristocracy.   The use of arms spread to Church clergy, and to towns as civic identifiers, and to royally-chartered organizations such as universities and trading companies.   Flags developed from coats of arms, and the arts of vexillology and heraldry are closely related.   The coats of arms granted to commercial companies are a major source of the modern logo.

Despite no widespread regulation, and even with a lack in many cases of national regulation, heraldry has remained rather consistent across Europe, where traditions alone have governed the design and use of arms.   Unlike seals and other general emblems, heraldic achievements have a formal description called a blazon, expressed in a jargon that allows for consistency in heraldic depictions.

In the 21st century, coats of arms are still in use by a variety of institutions and individuals;  for example, many European cities and universities have guidelines on how their coats of arms may be used, and protect their use as trademarks.   Many societies exist that also aid in the design and registration of personal arms.   Some nations, like Ireland, Spain, Scotland, and England, still maintain the same heraldic authorities which have traditionally granted and regulated arms for centuries and continue to do so in the present day.

‘Coats of Arms’ are legal property transmitted from father to son;  wives and daughters could also bear arms modified to indicate their relation to the current holder of the arms.   ‘Undifferenced’ Arms are used only by one person at any given time.   Other descendants of the original bearer could bear the ancestral arms only with some ‘difference’:  usually a color change or the addition of a distinguishing e on the shield.   One such emblem is the ‘label’, which is now always the mark of an heir apparent or an heir presumptive.

Because of their importance in identification, particularly in seals on legal documents, the use of arms was strictly regulated;  few countries continue in this today.   This has been carried out by heralds and the study of coats of arms is therefore called ‘heraldry’.  

In time, the use of arms spread from military entities to educational institutes, and other establishments.   According to a design institute article, “The modern logo and corporate livery have evolved from the battle standard and military uniform of medieval times”.

In his book, The Visual Culture of Violence in the Late Middle Ages, Valentin Groebner argues that the images composed on coats of arms are in many cases designed to convey a feeling of power and strength, often in military terms.   The author Helen Stuart argues that some coats of arms were a form of corporate logo.   Museums on medieval armory also point out that as emblems they may be viewed as precursors to the corporate logos of modern society, used for group identity formation.

When knights were so encased in armour that no means of identifying them was left, the practice was introduced of painting their insignia of honour on their shield as an easy method of distinguishing them.   Originally these were granted only to individuals, but were afterward made hereditary in England by King Richard I, during his crusade to Palestine.


Irish Herald to the British ‘Jacobite’ Court in Exile

It was after the defeat of the Irish Clans and their Spanish allies at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601-02 and the subsequent ‘Flight of the Earls’ in 1607 that the Irish began to establish themselves abroad in large numbers.  (not including the Irish religious communities who established universities, Irish colleges, and centres of learning throughout Europe, thus ending the period known to history as the ‘Dark Ages’)

The Battle of Kinsale was the ultimate battle in England’s conquest of Gaelic-Ireland.   It took place at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, at the climax of the ‘Nine Years War’ - a campaign by , and other Irish clan leaders against English rule.   Owing to Spanish involvement, and the strategic advantages to be gained, the battle also formed part of the Anglo-Spanish War (1585 – 1604) and the wider conflict of Protestant England against Catholic Spain.

On 4th September 1607, the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, along with a close circle of family and associates, boarded a ship at Rathmullan on Lough Swilly, bound for Spain.   This event has become known as ‘The Flight of the Earls’ and is widely regarded as one of the most enigmatic events in Irish history.

The Gaelic aristocracy and ‘Old English’ (Catholic) gentry of Ireland scattered throughout the Catholic countries in Europe and took military service with the major continental powers following the widespread confiscation of their lands, and the introduction of ‘penal laws’ against Catholics in Ireland, that followed the ‘nine years war’ (1594 to 1603) of the O’Neills and the O’Donnells (and their supporters from other clans) against the colonising forces of Queen Elizabeth I;  plus the ‘Irish Confederate’ war (1641 to 1649) in support of King Charles I against Cromwell and the English Parliament;  and then yet another war (1689 – 1691) in support of Britain’s Catholic King James II against Parliament’s Protestant William of Orange and the subsequent Treaty of Limerick. 

Many of the descendants of these émigrés are still to be found today in the countries in which their ancestors settled. 

A small selection of the more well known Irish ‘Wild Geese’ family names in the empires of Spain and Portugal include O’Neill, Terry, Garvey, O’Murphy, O’Byrne, Butler, O’Kelly, O’Reilly, O’Higgin, Mackenna, O’Connor, O’Donahue, Lynch, O’Sullivan, O’Ryan, FitzGerald, Brenan, Tully, MacCarthy, Magennis, Dempsy, Taffe, MacAuliffe, Comerford, Gage, Coglan, Dungan, Brown, MacDonald, Burke, Slattery, O’Daly, O’Dunn, Howard, Marmion, Nugent, Delaney, O’Donovan, Preston, and O’Donnell. 

Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare
Prince of Beare, 1st Count of Berehaven
Serving as an exiled ‘Wild Geese’ officer of the Irish Brigade of Spain

In France a cursory examination of their 17th and 18th century history shows lots more well known ‘Wild Geese’ family names;  such as O’Mahony, Butler, Walsh, Boyd, O’Byrne, Sheldon, Lally, FitzGerald, MacCarthy, Lawton, O’Neill, Dillon, O’Brien, MacMahon, Barton, Doyle, Jenning, Galwey, de Plunkett, O’Sullivan, Wall, Conway, Preston, Corbet, Sheridan, Kelly, MacElligot, Marmion, Kennedy, Creagh, MacDonagh, O’Hogan, O’Callaghan, O’Mahoney, O’Gara, O’Carroll, O’Brien, MacDonnell, and Hennessy. 

Descendants of famous Irish ‘Wild Geese’ families may also still be found in Germany, such as von Butler - and in the empire of Austria-Hungary a small selection of well known Irish émigré families include: Lacey;  McGuire;  O’Kelly;  von Nugent;  O’Neillan;  Nolan;  O’Donnell;  McDonnell;  O’Flanagan;  O’Connor;  O’Connell;  O’Gilvy;  von Plunkett;  von Purcell;  Wallis;  Forbes;  FitzGerald;  von Brady;  von Barry;  Butler;  McEligot;  von Banfield;  and von Browne.

Russia also had its share of famous ‘Wild Geese’ families, including amongst many others:  Baillie;  Delap;  Butler;  and de Lacy.

‘Irish Wild Geese’ in the service of France – Regiment Walsh (left) and Regiment Dillon (right)
  Lieutenant-General Count Joseph Cornelius O’Rourke, or Ioseph Kornilovich O’Rourke, (1772-1849) was a military leader who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and achieved the rank of Lieutenant-General.   He is noted in present-day Serbia, where he led a combined Russian and Serb army to defeat the Turks at Varvarin in 1810.   He was awarded the orders of Saint George, Alexander Nevsky, and Saint Anne for his military feats.   His portrait was included in the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace, now part of the Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg.   A monument commemorating O’Rourke and his men was erected in Varvarin in 1910 on the centenary of their victory against the Turks. 

John Ribas … or José Pascual Domingo de Ribas y Boyons
Irish ‘Wild Geese’ Admiral of the Russian Navy
Admiral John Ribas was born into an Irish ‘Wild Geese’ family on the 6th of June 1749 in Naples (Italy), which was then under Spanish rule.   His Irish father was the Spanish consul in the city of Naples (Italy).   Because of Protestant England’s anti-Catholic ‘Penal Laws’ in Ireland, it was not unusual in those days for an Irish-Catholic ‘Wild Geese’ ex-patriot to have a career as a senior official for the government of Spain.   Many Irishmen achieved high rank in the service of Catholic Spain;  besides the legions of famous Irish generals, colonels, and fighting men of all ranks in the Spanish military, there were even two Prime Ministers of Spain who came from Irish ‘Wild Geese’ families.   In 1772 John joined the Russian Army as a “member of the Spanish and Irish nobility”.   José de Ribas’ greatest deed was planning and leading the amphibious assault to storm and capture the fortress of Izmail from the Turks in 1790.   He founded the city of Odessa for Empress Catherine the Great in 1794.   Odessa’s most famous street, Deribasovskaya, is named after him.    He died as an Admiral of the Russian Navy on the 14th of December 1800, in the old Russian capital of Saint Petersburg. 

Irish Herald in Exile with the ‘Wild Geese’ in France

After the defeat of James II of England (also known as James VI of Scotland) by his Protestant son-in-law, William of Orange, at the Battle of the Boyne (1 July 1690), James II fled to France - only three days after the loss.  The Jacobite court followed him into exile at St. Germain, France – while the Irish Jacobite army fought on in numerous battles and sieges against the odds for another year.

James Terry was an Irish Officer of arms who remained faithful to King James II of Britain after his escape to France in 1690.

James Terry had been serving as Athlone Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary at the Irish Office of Arms in Dublin, and took his seal of office and his heraldic records with him to France.

As James II still considered himself King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, he needed a herald with him to handle matters of heraldry and state ceremonial.   In 1690, he appointed Terry to the post of Athlone Herald.

(‘coats of arms’ - heraldic arms – and attested pedigrees were necessary as proofs of gentility for anyone seeking a commission as an officer in a European army of the time.)

It is interesting to consider that during the exile in France, Terry was in communication with English and Scottish heralds when it became necessary to verify armorial records and genealogies.   In spite of the dispute between the royals that employed them, the heralds still maintained a collegial working relationship.   Terry continued granting of heraldic arms to the members of the Jacobite Irish Diaspora (and to the Jacobite English and Scots in exile) until his death in 1725.   After his passing, the Irish abroad were obliged to apply to the office of ‘Ulster King of Arms’ in English-occupied Dublin for grants of arms.

A grant of arms by James Terry, Athlone Pursuivant, made to Daniel O'Donnell
at the Jacobite court in exile at St Germain-en-Laye in France, 5 April 1709

Today, the Chief Herald of Ireland is the State’s authority on all heraldic matters relating to Ireland …

The tradition of the Irish abroad seeking grants of arms from the Chief Herald of Ireland continues to the present day.   Responding to this demand is an expression of the nation's “special affinity with those of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage”. (Article 2, Constitution of Ireland)

Gentlemen who can prove their descent from Ireland (e.g. with copies of birth, marriage, and/ or death certificates of their Irish ancestors) may still petition the Chief Herald of Ireland for a grant of arms.

Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland, 2 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Ireland


The earliest reference to a herald of arms for Ireland is to Chandos Herald, the herald of John Chandos.   Chandos Herald was appointed “Ireland King of Arms” in 1382.   Chandos had a number of successors, who appear to have been regarded as members of the English College of Arms, up to the time of Edward IV of England (1442 – 1483).   The last recorded incumbent was Thomas Ashwell.   It is not known whether the post continued after him.

In 1552 the Office of Ulster King of Arms was created by Edward VI, who recorded the event in his journal as follows:

Feb. 2nd. There was a King of Arms made for Ireland, whose name was Ulster, and his province was all Ireland;  and he was Fourth Herald of Arms, and first Herald of Ireland

It is not certain why the name of the Irish province of Ulster was attached to the post.   However, the Anglo-Norman earldom of Ulster had been vested in the English Crown since the reign of Edward IV, and it seems probable that the title was chosen to reflect this connection.

The first Ulster King of Arms was Bartholomew Butler, who by Letters Patent of 1 June 1552, was granted “all rights, profits, commodities and emoluments in that office … with power … of inspecting, overseeing and correcting, and embodying the arms and ensigns of illustrious persons and of imposing and ordaining differences therein, according to the Laws of Arms:  of granting Letters Patent of Arms to men of rank and fit persons; and of doing … all things which by right of custom were known to be incumbent of the office of a King of Arms”.   The post continued until the death of its last incumbent, Sir Nevile Wilkinson, in 1941.   Thomas Sadlier, Deputy Ulster, continued to operate the office until 1943.

Arms of the Office of Ulster King of Arms

Sir Nevile Wilkinson, last ‘Ulster King of Arms’

In 1943 heraldic responsibility passed to the Irish State.   Dr Edward MacLysaght, styled Chief Genealogical Officer to which was later added Chief Herald of Ireland, succeeded to the functions and powers of Ulster King of Arms.

The old title of ‘Ulster’ was attached to the existing post of ‘Norroy King of Arms’, a member of the English College of Arms.

Dublin Castle’s ‘Upper Castle Yard’ 1794
Bedford Tower on right, location of the former Office of Ulster King of Arms
and later of the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland

John Brooke-Little
Norroy & Ulster King of Arms

Arms of the Office of Norroy & Ulster King of Arms

The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland

The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland is the government authority in the Republic of Ireland for heraldry.   The Chief Herald authorises the granting of Arms to Irish bodies and Irish people … including descendants of emigrants throughout the 70 million of the world-wide Irish Diaspora.   The office was constituted on 1 April 1943 as successor to the Ulster King of Arms, established in 1552.   The Ulster King of Arms’ duties in Northern Ireland were taken over by the Norroy and Ulster King of Arms in London.

The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland is a branch of the National Library of Ireland.   All Irish arms granted are recorded in the Register of Arms, maintained since the foundation of the Office in 1552.   The Register of Arms and other Office collections can be viewed by application through the Manuscripts Reading Room of the National Library of Ireland.

The ‘Genealogical Office’ was formerly based in Dublin Castle.   It was made part of the Irish Department of Education in 1943.   The office later relocated to the National Library of Ireland, and was formally recognised as part of the N.L.I. in 1997.

The tradition of the Irish abroad seeking grants of arms from the Chief Herald continues to the present.   Responding to this demand is an expression of the nation's “special affinity with those of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage” expressed in Article 2 of the Constitution of Ireland.   The Office accepts petitions for grants of arms from the following:

  • All Irish citizens, male or female
  • Persons normally resident in Ireland
  • Persons living abroad who are of provable Irish descent in either the paternal or maternal line
  • Persons with significant links to Ireland
  • Corporate bodies within Ireland and corporate bodies with significant links to Ireland but based in countries with no heraldic authority.

In November 1945 the Chief Herald granted the coat of arms of Ireland to the State itself.

At the request of the Irish Government a Grant of Arms was made to U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Bill Clinton in 1995.


U.S. President John FitzGerald Kennedy Granted Irish Arms

On St. Patrick's Day, 17 March 1961, an unprecedented ceremony took place at the White House when the ambassador of the Republic of Ireland, T. J. Kiernan, presented President John FitzGerald Kennedy a splendid, hand-illuminated sheet of vellum signed by Gerard Slevin, Chief Herald of Ireland, announcing “to all to whom these Presents shall come” that the Irish government had granted a coat of arms to President Kennedy “and the other descendants of his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy.”    Never before had a foreign sovereign made such a grant to an American President.

The design of the arms was a combination, in altered form, of the emblems historically associated with the Irish names of Kennedy and FitzGerald, the President’s paternal and maternal lines.   The main field of the shield, black with three golden knights’ helmets, comes from the arms of O’Kennedy (Ó Cinnéide) of Ormonde, Sable three helmets in profile Argent.   This field is surrounded by a bordure divided per saltire (i.e., in the shape of an X), with red in the upper and lower quarters and ermine in the flanks, an allusion to the arms of the FitzGerald Earls of Desmond, which are Ermine a saltire Gules.   The crest, an armored arm with the hand holding four arrows, surrounded by two olive branches, was inspired by a passage in President Kennedy’s first State of the Union address a few months earlier.   “On the Presidential coat of arms,” Kennedy had said, “the American eagle holds in his right talon the olive branch, while in his left is held a bundle of arrows.   We intend to give equal attention to both.”   Although not officially stated in the Chief Herald’s explanation of the design, the number of the arrows is usually interpreted as symbolizing the President and his three brothers, Joseph (who had been killed in World War II), Robert, and Edward (Ted).   No motto was assigned by the Chief Herald, it being felt that the choice of a motto should be a personal matter for the bearer of the arms.

Fully conscious of the historic nature of the event, Dr. Slevin’s office had spared no effort to ensure that the presentation was of the highest possible quality.   Not only were the ‘letters patent’ beautifully lettered and painted, complete with the pendant seal of the Chief Herald, but the document was presented in a specially made box lined with blue Irish poplin, on which was embroidered in gold thread the harp of Brian Boru, the emblem of the national arms of Ireland.

It was only the distinction of the recipient that was unusual about this grant, however.   Starting in the early 20th century, Ulster King of Arms, the head of the Irish heraldic establishment under British rule, had begun granting arms to Americans of Irish descent, a practice that was continued following independence by Ulster’s successor in function, the Chief Herald of Ireland.   Thus it was on the basis of President Kennedy’s descent from Patrick Kennedy, who emigrated from County Wexford to Boston in 1845, that an application for a grant of arms was lodged on his behalf and subsequently approved.


Arms of
O’Kennedy of Ormonde

Arms of FitzGerald,
Earls of Desmond

The Letters Patent for the Irish Grant of Arms pictured left are for the personal Arms of ‘J.F.K.’ President John FitzGerald Kennedy
The Kennedy family was evidently highly pleased with the arms granted by Chief Herald Slevin.   Two months after the presentation ceremony, Mrs. Kennedy surprised the President on his 44th birthday, May 29, with a gold signet ring engraved with the full achievement of the arms.   This ring is now housed in the collections of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.   (The photograph right shows the arms in their normal depiction;  ordinarily a signet ring would be engraved with the arms in mirror image, so that the wax impression left by it would show the arms correctly.)

The arms received much greater publicity a few years later, appearing in flag form in both Life and National Geographic magazines in 1965.   After President Kennedy’s assassination on 22 November 1963, the Canadian government honored his memory by naming the highest then-unclimbed peak in North America after him.   In March 1965, the National Geographic Society launched an expedition to climb the 13,904-foot Mount Kennedy, with the President’s brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, playing a prominent role.   Days before the expedition was to depart for the Yukon, it was decided that a banner of the Kennedy arms should be planted on the summit (Pictured left with Senator Robert Kennedy).   Walter Angst, a heraldic artist in Maryland, was commissioned to produce the banner overnight on the night of 13 March.   With no time for elaborate stitching, Angst painted the design on a 25 by 25 inch cloth.   Above the square banner, Angst attached a long white pennant—called a Schwenkel in German heraldry—bearing the arm, arrows, and olive branches of the crest.   Senator Kennedy personally carried the flag with him to the summit, planting it there on 24 March, only ten days after Angst finished making it.   Expedition leader James W. Whittaker would write about the moment in the July 1965 National Geographic:   “Bob walked up to the summit, and he stood there about five, ten seconds, and reached back over his shoulder, just the way I had reached back for my American flag on top of Everest.   I remember thinking of that when he reached back, without looking.   He groped for it, felt it, and pulled out the pole around which was wrapped the Kennedy flag and streamer.   He jammed it into the snow.   Senator Kennedy stood there alone, silent, looking down.   He made the sign of the cross.   It was his brother’s peak, and he stood there a long time … …we festooned the peak with flags – Canada’s two flags, the old and the new; Old Glory, the Kennedy coat of arms;  the handmade National Geographic flag … also resting on the summit: a copy of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, his Inaugural Medallion, and three of the late President’s PT-109 tie clasps…”

Today, the Kennedy arms are still used not only by members of President Kennedy’s family, but by the aircraft carrier named in the late President’s honor in 1964, christened by his daughter Caroline in 1967, and placed in commission in 1968.   The USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) carries on its official seal the arms, Sable three helmets in profile Or within a bordure per saltire Gules and Ermine, placed between two gold wings symbolizing naval aviation.   Below the shield, two dolphins support a scroll on which is inscribed the ship’s motto, Date nolite rogare, “Give, be unwilling to ask,” an allusion to the President's famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Ship's seal, USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67)
USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) - a modified ‘Kitty Hawk’ class Nuclear Aircraft Carrier 

U.S. President William JeffersonBill’ Clinton Granted Irish Arms, 1st of December 1995

On December 1, 1995, during President Bill Clinton's state visit to Ireland, Prime Minister John Bruton presented the President with the letters patent conveying a grant of arms by the Chief Herald of Ireland.   Clinton thus became the second President after ‘J.F.K.’ John FitzGerald Kennedy to be granted Irish arms.  

An Taoiseach [the Prime Minister], Mr. John Bruton, T.D., informed the Chief Herald in March, 1995, that it was his wish to honour President Clinton of the United States of America on behalf of the Government and People of Ireland with a formal grant of arms and heraldic banner.   Accordingly, the Chief Herald was requested to prepare the appropriate legal instrument to give effect to An Taoiseach’s decision.   The heraldic patent issued under the authority of the Government, in the English and Irish languages, is the legal instrument which conveys to William Jefferson Clinton, Esquire, exclusive rights of usage of the design shown on the face of the Patent in accordance with the terms set forth therein.   The central motif of the shield, the upstanding lion, the symbol of authority is heraldically associated with the surnames Blythe, Cassidy and Malone, all key family names in the President’s lineage.   The olive branch is derived from the seal of the United States and the white bars or stripes emphasise the American character of the lion.   The cross crosslets are traditionally associated with the surname Clinton and the shamrocks commemorate the President’s Irish forebears.   The crest is an anchor which bears the Latin word Spes meaning ‘hope’ and this commemorates the President’s place of birth in Arkansas.   The motto An leon do bheir an chraobh is from an early Irish saga and may be rendered in English ‘the lion champion who bears away the branch of victory.’   It should be pointed out in connection with the symbolism of the arms that the anchor itself is traditionally used as a symbol of hope, and is therefore an allusion to the President's hometown, even without the Latin word Spes.

U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan

U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan made use of an elaborate coat of arms supposedly traced from powerful Irish aristocrats.   When he discovered he was not descended from this particular Irish family, he hired Adolf F.J. Karlovsky, an associate member of the L’Académie Internationale d’Héraldique, to devise a new coat of arms.   In 1984 the new arms were registered in the Solothurn State Archives in Switzerland.   The Latin motto is Facta non Verba (“Deeds, not words”).


The Letters Patent for the Irish Grant of Arms pictured above are for the personal Arms of Garry Eugene Bryant

The Letters Patent for the Irish Grant of Arms pictured above are for the personal Arms of Gregory John McGroarty
Limerick City Confirms Its Right To Armorial Bearings 

Thursday, May 28th 2009    The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland designed the Arms that were granted and Chief Herald, Fergus Gillespie formally confirmed on the City Council its right to Armorial Bearings.

Mayor of Limerick explained, “The Arms of the City of Limerick that had been in use for hundreds of years were not heraldically correct.   Limerick has never had an official coat of arms until Limerick City Council applied to have a grant of arms confirmed.   The original coat of arms for the city which has been used since at least the seventeenth century was unregistered and so unprotected from unofficial use.”   The arms which were confirmed to Limerick City Council show a castle with two towers and the portcullis raised.   The shield is of the 14th century.   The motto “Urbs Antiqua Fuit Studiisque Asperrima Belli” which means “An ancient city well versed in the arts of war” surrounds the shield.



 Celt Knot