Perhaps the most popular misconception regarding heraldry and the granting of a full achievement of arms is that these arms belong to a particular surname. Many people of the same surname may be entitled to completely different coats of arms. Conversely, just because you have a particular surname does not necessarily entitle you to a previously granted coat of arms. According to the College of Arms:
The typical Staveley arms are generally described similar to the following: Argent (silver) on a chevron between three lozenges gules as many buck's heads cabossed or (gold), and the crest as a buck's head cabossed per pale gules (red) and azure (blue).
The Staveley arms and crests are often available for purchase through various companies, and the accuracy of any information provided is suspect at best. Unless you are a direct descendant through the male line one of the families previously granted arms, you do not have a right to refer to yourself by the arms granted to another Staveley (a significant detail these companies omit when offering to sell you your family heraldic history in a nutshell). However, the right to such arms did not prevent even some earlier Staveleys from attempting to do so illegally as noted in William Dugdale's Visitation of the County of Yorke 1665-1666. There is a reference to 'Richard Staveley of Dickering Besonby cum Eston' (Bridlington line) who is accused, among others, of usurping arms to which he is not entitled:
Richard was subsequently 'disclaimed' at the Lent Assizes in York in 1668 for 'usurping the names and titles of gentlemen without authority'.
This is not the only occasion where a Staveley has attempted to claim the coat of arms to which he is not entitled in an attempt to elevate his social status. A Christopher Staveley (b. abt. 1610) of the Cheshire/Derbyshire tree was prosecuted in 1664 for the illegal use of the Staveley Coat of Arms and was fined and similarly 'disclaimed' for usurping the names and titles of gentlemen without authority'.
Arms are still granted today in much the same manner as they have been in the past. Even today an individual may submit a petition (memorial) for a grant of arms (along with a fee of £3,400). The College of Arms states "there are no fixed criteria of eligibility for a grant of arms, but such things as awards or honours from the Crown, civil or military commissions, university degrees, professional qualifications, public and charitable services, and eminence or good standing in national or local life, are taken into account." American citizens however are only entitled to a grant of honorary arms. "They must meet the same criteria for eligibility as subjects of the Crown, and in addition must record in the official registers of the College of Arms a pedigree showing their descent from a subject of the British Crown."
Author: Clare M. Staveley