Right to Bear Arms
Azure, a Bend d'Or'
Carminow v. Scrope
The coat of arms suit of Carminow v. Scrope occured some time in the reign of Edward III. This was the first Scrope suit that was heard and decided. The records of this first suit have been lost except for what little was recorded in the depositions from the second Scrope coat of arms lawsuit.
At the time of the coats of arms suit, Richard Le Scrope was an important member of Edward III's court, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while William Carminow was Sheriff of Cornwall. Scrope and Carminow were both with the king when he went to Paris, and Carminow noticed that Scrope was using nearly the same coat of arms as he was, which was Azure, a Bend Or. He sued Scrope in a tribunal in which the Lord Constable, but not the Earl Marshal, was present.
In this case witnesses were called by both parties to testify that their party, their relatives, and their ancestors had used that coat of arms without let or hindrance. This was done in a fashion similar to the heraldic visitations which were, at that time, decades away: ancient documents were brought forth, and eyewitness accounts of present use and testimonies of use on monuments were recorded. Scrope claimed that the coat of arms had been his family's since the Conquest, while Carminow put forth a claim that the coat of arms had been his family's by a lost grant from King Arthur.
The final outcome of the court's decision is unclear since the records have been lost. One version has Scrope receiving sole rights to the coat of arms, and Carminow was required to difference the coat of arms by adding a label gules to the coat, much like a cadency mark. In a visitation record, Carminow appears to have the label on his coat of arms. However, a problem arises if one examines the rolls of coats of arms made by a herald during the reign of Edward III, before the suit: Carminow is listed as having the label on his coat of arms.
It is possible then that Carminow, and his ancestors, always used the coat of arms with the label. Carminow saw Scrope's coat of arms, which, aside from the label, was identical to his, and sued Scrope. The suit went to court, and the court decided that the label was a sufficient mark of distinction, either in spite of, or perhaps because of, the label's use in cadency.
In 1385, after Carminow v. Scrope had exited the Court of the Constable and the Marshal, Scrope was in the court once more. This time, he decided to sue Robert Grosvenor. Scrope vs. Grosvenor, was heard in the Earl Marshal's Court in the late fourteenth century. The Earl Marshal's Court was (and is) by statute the proper English venue for a dispute over the ownership of a coat of arms.
Scrope had encountered Grosvenor when Richard II called his forces for a campaign into Scotland. Grosvenor seems to have had an earlier run-in with a Carminow relative, too, but all the reports we have of it are even vaguer than those of Carminow v. Scrope.
The Scropes and the Grosvenors were both large and powerful families in fourteenth century England, one in Yorkshire, the other in the Welsh Marches. Of the two, the Scropes were by far the more important, as there is at least one mediaeval Archbishop of York who came from that family. During one of Richard II's campaigns into Scotland, Robert Grosvenor and Richard Scrope were called to arms, and each noticed that the other was bearing the same coat of arms as he: Azure, a bend Or. Each demanded that the other cease and desist from using the coat of arms.
The Grosvenors, though not in the same league as the Scropes, were too important to be ignored. They were stubborn, to boot: the suit in the Earl Marshal's Court stretched on for five years, with dozens of depositions given by adherents of both families. Eventually, however, the Scropes won out, probably because they could muster royal witnesses (John of Gaunt, for example), and the Grosvenors could not. The court, still leery of the Grosvenors' influence, decided to make Robert Grosvenor add a bordure Argent to the coat of arms.
Sir Richard Le Scrope, Chief Justice of The Kings Bench, Chief Justice of The Common Pleas, fought in every major campaign between 1346 and 1384, when he challenged Robert Grosvenor to his right to bear the Arms 'Azure, a Bend d'Or'. In 1385, a General Proclamation was made throughout the host that all who were interested in the dispute should appear on 20th of August at Newcastle on Tyne. The case took four years to be determined and judgement was given in Westminster Hall, in favour of Scrope. Many of the most interesting and powerful persons of the land gave evidence, including John of Gaunt and Owen Glendower.
The same sort of procedure for evidence gathering was initiated, and much the same sort of evidence was gathered. In fact, many of Scrope's witnesses against Grosvenor were the same people who helped him against Carminow. Although Grosvenor was also a prominent man of the realm, he could not muster the quality and quantity of witnesses that Scrope could, and the court decided to Scrope once more, and ordered Grosvenor to place a bordure Argent around the coat of arms which they once shared.
Grosvenor appealed the decision, because, like the label, the bordure was a sign of cadency or relatedness. Also, some relatives of Richard le Scrope used coats of arms with bordures, and Grosvenor would naturally have wanted to avoid getting dragged into court again. The appeal to the throne was accepted by Richard IIl. The case appeared before the king on appeal, and the king modified the court's decision in 1390. After hearing still more arguments from both parties, he decided that the bordure was not enough to difference between strangers in blood, since it was in use to difference between cousins. Richard II bade Grosvenor to change his coat of arms to reflect the royal will. Grosvenor chose a completely different coat of arms: Azure, a garb (wheatsheaf) Or. Instead of making Grosvenor adopt the court's coat of arms, he made Grosvenor adopt a new, totally different coat of arms. Grosvenor, a native of Cheshire, adopted a coat of arms similar to that of the old Earls of Cheshire: Azure, a Garb (a wheatsheaf) Or.
This site was last updated
Sunday, May 29, 2005 01:52 PM.