The custom of adopting artistic designs on shields or elsewhere by rulers in medieval Europe began early in the 14th century for identification and as signs of authority. Initially arms were adopted by individual nobles by proscriptive right and it was not necessary to inherit the right to display such arms.
As the custom became more popular the use of symbols to distinguish certain families grew. Because of duplication of popular designs various governments designated individuals known as Heralds to systematize, standardize and supervise the selection of colors and symbols used in family coats of arms. Like all government entities for all times these Heralds soon grew into a bureaucracy which regulated and sold the rights to fly certain designs and colors. Coats of Arms soon became associated with status or nobility. A tax was paid for the rights to a specific design.
Heraldry is the term used for the study and standardization of designs used to distinguish individuals and families.
However, from the beginning of the 15th century laws were passed by rulers in Europe forbidding anyone to display arms unless he had them by right of ancestry or by the grant of lawful authority. In England the right to display arms only by inherited right or by grant of lawful authority was established by a writ of Henry V in 1417. In England, King Richard III established the Herald's College (College of Arms) in 1484. It was this college who decided who was entitled to wear a specific coat of arms and its design. By the 16th century, it was the rule practically everywhere in western Europe that new arms could be displayed only by grant of the sovereign.
Thus the display of arms is a relic of feudalism in Christian Europe, but it continues to be a living reality through its nobility functions in modern Europe. Arms continue to have a legal status in much of western Europe, especially England where the granting of arms is regulated by the College of Arms in London. Arms (in England) can be inherited only through direct male line descent from the man who was originally granted the right to display such arms. Moreover, every individual who wishes to display arms must apply to the College of Arms and must provide rigorous proof of his direct male line ancestry, a very expensive process.
The process of obtaining the right to arms is called "matriculation". The arms must show where the petitioner comes in the family line. Consequently, the petitioner applies for the right to display "differenced" arms, where "differencing" is a way of showing where the petitioner comes in the family line.
The American revolution was partly a reaction against the feudal establishment of Europe, and the constitution of the United States specifies that no titles of nobility will be granted. As a corollary, arms have no legal status in the USA. Because three centuries have passed since titles and arms had a legal status here, most Americans have only a hazy understanding of the original significance of arms, and no appreciation of how they are regarded elsewhere. To most Americans, a Coat of Arms is merely a symbol associated with a family name.
Since researching family history has become popular here, many Americans have adopted the custom of displaying so-called "Coats of Arms" in their homes, on business cards, and letter-heads. The Arms they display are usually thought, often mistakenly, to have some connection with their family name. The custom has been promoted for commercial purposes both in the US and abroad. For example, Halberts1 used to sell Coats of Arms for almost all names, be they English, French, German, Spanish, and even Chinese!
The Coat of Arms distributed by Halberts for the Cory name was granted to Sir James Herbert Cory, born 7-Feb-1857, when the Baronet (U.K.) was created, 13-May-1919. There are probably no Corys of this lineage in the United States.
The habit of displaying Arms in American homes is not likely to disappear in the near future, and hardly anyone in America regards this as a serious matter. However, a question arises as to the wisdom of an organization adopting a Coat of Arms as a logo. The question is not primarily a legal one, since Arms have no legal status in America.
However, English members or an organization could be breaking their laws if they display arms that have not been matriculated by them. It is not clear how English courts would react to the display of an imitation of a Coat of Arms.
The Coat of Arms shown here has been displayed in many Cory publications. These include: Harriet Cory Dickinson's Cory Family, Harry Harmon Cory's book The Cory Family. on the cover of Dorthy M. and Francis D. Corey's book, Descendants of William Corey 1615/20--1682, First Immigrant, A Genealogy, and as a full color plate in that book and Cory's of America, 1st Edition.
The following description of the Coat of Arms are from Harriet Cory Dickinson's Cory Family.
Sable, on a chevron, between three griffins' heads, erased or as many estioles, gules.
Crest - Out of a ducal corornet, a griffin's head between two wings or, each wing charged with three estioles, in pale, gules.
Motto - "Forti Tene Manu" (hold with a firm hand.)
These arms were granted to Sir John Cory of Bramerton Hall, Norwich, England, in 1612, by James I and confirmed to his son, Sir Thomas Cory, of Bramerton Hall by Charles I in 1637. They may be associated with at least one line of Corys in the United States.
In The Cory Family, it states that there was an old print of the Coat of Arms copied from an engraving on a pitcher once owned by Mr. Corrie, of Sag Harbor, L. I., who brought it from London in 1799. A recent article in the Cory Family Society Newsletter shows several views of the pitcher.
For more information on Heraldry, check out http://www.baronage.co.uk
1. Halberts, 3687 Ira Road, Bath, Ohio 44210. Halberts was a company that sold coats of arms and books for almost all names. An injunction was placed upon them in 1996 to stop them from misleading sales practices. In Europe the operation was coordinated with that of one of the many "Burke's Peerage" companies, and used that famous name, but it had no connection with the publishers of the Burke's Peerage & Baronetage. Cendant of Parsippany, N.J., the parent company of NUMA/Halbert's, announced that the publisher of pseudo-genealogy "books" will cease operations. Cendant was tried to sell Halbert's and all other divisions of NUMA, but apparently Cendant was unable to find a buyer. NUMA/Halbert's stopped marketing in August 1999 and ended operations Sept. 30.