Scrope v. Grosvenor

Scrope v. Grosvenor

Scrope v. Grosvenor was one of the earliest heraldic law cases brought in England. The case resulted from the fact that two different families were using the same undifferenced coat of arms. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the composition of coats of arms was very simple. Most shields consisted of only one charge and two tinctures, and there were times when two families bore the same coat of arms in the same jurisdiction. In the fourteenth century though, cases of two unrelated families bearing the same coat of arms were tolerated less. When this happened, the local monarch was usually called on to make a decision.

The case and the judgment

In 1385, King Richard II of England invaded Scotland with his army. During this invasion, two of the king’s knights realized that they were using the same coat of arms. Sir Richard Scrope from Bolton in Yorkshire and Sir Robert Grosvenor from Cheshire were both bearing arms blazoned "Azure a Bend Or". When Scrope brought an action, Grosvenor maintained that his ancestor had come to England with William the Conqueror bearing these arms and that the family had borne them since. The case was brought before a military court and presided over by the constable of England. Several hundred witnesses were heard and these included John of Gaunt, King of Castile and Duke of Lancaster and Geoffrey Chaucer and a then-little known Welshman called Owain Glyndŵr. It was not until 1389 that the case was finally decided in Scrope’s favor. Grosvenor was allowed to continue bearing the arms within a bordure argent for difference. Neither party was happy with the decision, so when King Richard II gave his personal verdict on 27 May 1390 he confirmed that Grosvenor could not bear the differenced arms. His opinion was that these two shields were too similar for unrelated families in the same country to bear.

Another claimant

According to many of the witnesses, there was a third person who bore the arms "Azure a Bend Or". During an expedition to France in 1360, Grosvenor challenged the right of Thomas Carminow of Cornwall to bear the arms. It is unclear what the outcome of this case was, but both parties continued to use the arms undifferenced. On a separate occasion, Carminow challenged the right of Scrope to bear the arms. In this case, the constable declared that both claimants had established their right to the arms. Carminow had proven that his family had borne the arms from the time of King Arthur, while the Scrope family had only used the arms from the Norman Conquest of England.

Since the judgement of 1390, both the Carminow and Scrope families have used the arms undifferenced. Grosvenor had to choose a new shield, though. He assumed arms of "Azure a Garb Or" (Garb is a wheatsheaf [ [ Family Crest and Coat of Arms: Custom and Ancient Designs ] ] ) and these arms are still used by the family's descendant, the Duke of Westminster.

ee also

*Court of Chivalry
*College of Arms


*Michel Pastoreau. "Heraldry: An Introduction to a Noble Tradition". (New York: Harry N Abrams, Inc., 1997), 104-5.
*George Squibb. "The High Court of Chivalry: A Study of the Civil Law in England". (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959).
*George Squibb. "The Law of Arms in England". (London: The Heraldry Society, 1967).


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