Erskine Clan Badge

Jennifer from South Africa wrote in with a question:

my in-laws have a booklet on our ancestry – we hail from Clan Erskine of Mar. Our Crest is one I cannot find on the website – it depicts the head of a wild boar facing left, with a straight sword thrusting up through the boar’s head and eye. The Motto is Fortitudine. Unfortunately I can only find the modern version of our Crest and I am hoping your resources will yield some information on our Crest. I have recreated a PowerPoint version and also have a photocopy of the booklet with Crest should you wish to see it and make comparison. Best regards, Jennifer

Thanks for writing in Jennifer.

Usually when people write in asking about “Family Crests,” I have to explain that there is no such thing as family crests, as coats of arms are awarded to individuals, not to families. In most European traditions coats armor are a form of inheritable property, like the family estate, which was only passed on to a designated heir. My usual line is that if you didn’t inherit the family manor, you probably didn’t inherit the “family” coat of arms.

But when it comes to Scottish clans, the badge is a somewhat different animal. The Scottish clan system was a method to associate a number of families under the “protection” of a prominent family—the family for which the clan was generally named. Members of the clan were allowed to wear the crest badge of their Clan Chief within a strap and buckle with his motto as a way to show allegiance to the clan, and conversely show they would be protected by the clan. Those who had rights to their own coats of arms (armigers and lesser chiefs) wore their own crest instead of the clan badge, in a circlet inscribed with their own motto. Armigers could place a silver eagle feather behind the circlet, while Chieftains would place two silver eagle feathers behind the badge and chiefs of clans would have three. Chiefs who were peers of the realm would have their appropriate coronet resting upon the circlet.

It is important to note that in Scottish tradition clan membership is transmitted by the father to his children, but not necessarily to his wife. A woman from a different clan might wear the badge of her father, or if she were “clanless” might adopt the clan of her husband—although individual clans had their own rules regarding such things. A woman who was a chief or armiger in her own right would wear the appropriate badge denoting her station, but she would only wear the badge of a clanswoman of her appropriate clan even if her husband was a chief.

A descendant of clan holders no longer living in Scotland can apply to the Lord Lyon King of Arms for the grant of arms as a cadet branch of the original family, an accurate and specific genealogy along with a few thousand pounds will be required. See the Lyon Court for more information:

Now with what we’ve learned about clan badges, we can take a look at the picture you sent me from the book, Erskines of Linlathen.


Straight away, we can see that this doesn’t match the clan badge which looks like this:



The Clan badge coming from the arms of the Earl of Mar, who Burke tells us the following regarding his arms:


So we see the crest and the motto don’t match, so we aren’t looking at a piece of the clan badge, but another person’s arms entirely. So we can look a bit further and find another Erskine (possibly the most armigerous name in Scotland), who seems to fit what we are looking for:


Lord Cardross, son of John, Earl of Mar, had the crest A dexter hand holding up a boar’s head erased on the point of a skene thrust through the same proper, further his motto was Fortitudine. This tells me that the branch of the Erskine that your book is telling you about is descended from that third son, Lord Cardross. This is also to say that the crest here is not the crest of the Clan of Erskine. So your husband would not use it for family connection unless he inherited the right directly. But as I said before, if you have the genealogy work done your husband could petition to have his own coat of arms awarded as a cadet branch of the Erskine family.

If your descent from Lord Cardross is unclear, you could use a professional genealogist or use an online service like to see what you can come up with yourself. I’ve also put a short list of other “do it yourself” resources in a previous Ask Herald topic. Lord Lyon has a list of professional genealogists in Scotland who offer their services, which you can reach through


I hope this information helped, it all can be a bit daunting at first step. Good luck with all your further explorations into family history.


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Originally posted 2015-02-08 21:56:22.

"In Chief" or "On the Chief"


  1. Hi Kip
    I am absolutely blown away by your research and am so grateful for the time you spent on it, thank you! I am dying to show this to my children who are Erskine History freaks and will really appreciate this new information. I am moving to a new house which is itself steeped in Colonial history and as a gift to my children, want to have a sign made hence my request for your help. I look forward to sending you a photo of the sign in due course. Once again, thank you so much!

    • You are most welcome. I think these little ties to the past remind us where we come from, and hopefully help remind us to be people worthy of being remembered by our descendants.

      It is worth noting that while coats of arms are often shown in full color, the traditional use of clan badges is done in monochrome as a further way to distinguish their use.

      Best of luck with the new home, I look forward to seeing what you come up with.


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