The Court of Lord Lyon

The Unicorn Old and New

9cb6b228d1f2aa7fc453aa87fe8dee8aI thought I would write a short piece on Unicorns it seems appropriate with news from Edinburgh that yesterday, Dr. Joseph Morrow appointed Liam Devlin to the position of Unicorn Pursuivant of Arms at the Court of Session.  Also appointed were George Way of Plean, Falklands Pursuivant of Arms and Mr John Sterling, Linlithgow Pursuivant of Arms.

The Unicorn is probably one of the most misrepresented beasts artistically speaking.  Today ask anyone what a Unicorn looks like and they will inevitably tell you a white horse with a single horn.  In fact most modern depictions feature the horse like creature usually accompanied by rainbows.  It was never a horse however but rather a 00cae1b2675e48cfc5bfccf5b72fc257small and somewhat ferocious little bearded beast about the size of a Goat.  Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, “The unicorn, through its intemperance and not knowing how to control itself, for the love it bears to fair maidens forgets its ferocity and wildness; and laying aside all fear it will go up to a seated damsel and go to sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it.”  Even in heraldry the beast is depicted more horse than goat but if we look at medieval tapestries and arms they invariably with some exceptions are depicted small and goat like.

It was considered a proud beast that would rather die than be captured and thus is quite appropriate for Scotland and so appears as a supporter of the Royal Arms of Scotland.  Some wee lassie must have done her job properly because the Scots unicorns wear coronets and are chained so we assume are captured and tame.

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We send our congratulations to Liam Devlin as he becomes the new Unicorn and to his colleagues as they also take up their appointments.

Andrew Stewart Jamieson

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