Staveley Heraldry

Arms of the Staveleys of Stainley, Yorkshire

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:

"For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, and as such for any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have their own arms granted to them, or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past."

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:

Know ye therefore that I, the said Norry, in pursuance and accomplishment of his said Majesties desire, and furtherance of his service herein, having in my last visit within this County of York, by due summons, required the persons whose names are hereunto annext, to shew unto me by what right they do use and bear any such Arms, Cognizances, and Crests as above . . . . . and take upon them those titles and dignities of Esquire or Gentleman, and having received no sufficient proof of such their right thereunto, and my own justifycation for allowance thereof according to the trust reposed in me by his said Majesty in that behalf, but that they have presumptuously usurped the same without any good ground or authority, contrary to all right, and to the ancient and laudable custome of this Realm and usage of the Law of Arms, do hereby declare that from henceforth they are not to use those Arms and Titles, upon such further pain and peril as by the Earl Marshal of England, or his Majesties most Honerable Commissioners for the executing of that office, may be inflicted upon them; wherefore (in pursuance of his Majesties further pleasure signified in his Commission) I have though fit hereby to advertize you and all other his Majesties good and loyall subjects of this County, that as you and they tender his said Majesties pleasure herein, from henceforth you forbear in any writing or otherwise to attribute unto them those additions of Esquire or Gentleman, until the said persons so assuming those titles shall stand to or justifye the same by the Law of Arms of this is Majesties Realm, or that you be ascertained thereof in writing by advertisement from me the said Norroy King of Arms, or my lawful Deputy or Deputies, Attorney or Attorneys in that behalf. Given at the Office of Arms, this 24th day of November, 20th Charles 2d (1668).

William Dugdale, Norroy King of Arms

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


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