The College of Arms cannot grant arms to people not British subjects. Nor can it grant to Her Majesty’s subjects in Scotland and Canada, which have their own heraldic authorities to carry out that portion of her powers. The college may, however grant “honorary arms” to Americans who can either prove descent from a British subject in the male line or who have been honored by the Queen. Professor Ragen thus became eligible for a grant of honorary arms as well as an honorary badge when the Queen sanctioned his admission to the Order of St. John as an Associate Officer (Brother). (The “associate” status, which was used for those who were either not professing Christians or not Commonwealth citizens, had been abolished by the time Ragen received his first promotion.) Honorary Arms confer exactly the same privileges and are governed by the same laws and rules as other arms. The status seems to have been created primarily to avoid diplomatic problems with the United States, just as the honorary knighthoods and other honorary honors given to American citizens were: in both cases devotion to a Constitution that frowns on titles of nobility runs afoul of the natural human desire for ordered distinctions.*

Professor Ragen’s arms were granted in 1998. He counts receiving the splendid
patent granting it, with its illuminated border, one of the high points of his life.

Ragen’s arms have been depicted by several heraldic artists, both by prominent independent heraldic artists and twice by unfortunately anonymous artists working at the College of Arms.

BAR shield

Ragen’s full achievement as depicted in the Patent
(This version shows a gentleman’s helm and decoration of an Officer (Brother) in the Order of St. John)


Ragen’s full achievement as depicted in a library painting provided by the College of Arms.
(This version shows the appropriate helm and insignia for Knight of Justice in the Order of St. John)


Ragen’s full achievement as rendered by
Andrew Stewart Jamieson
(Showing the helm and insignia of a Knight of Justice in the Order of St. John)


Ragen’s simple arms as rendered by
Andrew Stewart Jamieson