By Ron Spiers, England 2009


The Spiers web site shows a coat of arms with three balls, is it real, no, it is not.

Three balls usually signify that a trader is a pawnbroker, so we must assume that it is shown as just a bit of fun. The author has not come across anyone with the name Spiers who has been granted an official coat of arms. Many get the matter of coats of arms quite wrong. In England we do not have coats of arms which relate to a particular general surname name, e.g., Spiers, and they do not pass on to others of the name. They are granted by authorities to, and held by, individuals. There are many commercial sellers of coats of arms certificates but potential purchasers should treat them with some scepticism. In fact the whole matter of coats of arms is very complicated. Below are extracts from two specialist web sites, The College of Arms and the Heraldry Society:


Do coats of arms belong to surnames?

No. There is no such thing as a 'coat of arms for a surname'. Many people of the same surname will often be entitled to completely different coats of arms, and many of that surname will be entitled to no coat of arms. Coats of arms belong to individuals. 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.


How do I get a coat of arms?

There are two ways of establishing a right to a coat of arms. The first is by descent in the male line from a person to whom arms have been granted or confirmed in the past. If you believe one of your ancestors may have been granted arms you should write to the heraldic authority under whose jurisdiction he would have fallen, sending a sketch pedigree showing your descent from him, and enquire whether any such grant or confirmation was made.


The second is to have new arms granted to yourself, which will be inherited by your descendants. Who has the authority to grant you arms depends largely on your nationality and place of residence.


The English Kings of Arms, the three senior English heralds, have the power granted to them to grant coats of arms. They are instructed in their Letters Patent of appointment from the Sovereign, currently the Queen, to grant arms to "eminent men". This phrase has for long been interpreted to include both women and corporations. There are no fixed criteria for eligibility, but, generally, such things as professional qualifications, university degrees, having held the Queen's Commission, and charitable and public work is taken into account. Those who think that they might wish to petition for a grant of arms should write to the Officer in Waiting at the College of Arms, who will always be glad to advise them. Further details regarding the granting of arms in England are given on the College of Arms website at This also has links to other relevant websites such as The Heraldry Society.


In Scotland the head of the heraldic authority is Lord Lyon King of Arms. Those who fall under his jurisdiction may petition him for a grant of arms. They are granted to 'virtuous and well deserving persons'. Those interested in petitioning Lord Lyon King of Arms for such a grant should write to The Court of the Lord Lyon, in Edinburgh and ask for Information Leaflet No. 4, Petitions for Arms.


Canadians should petition the Chief Herald of Canada, and citizens of the Irish Republic the Chief Herald of Ireland.