*The Constitution forbids the United States and the several states to grant any “Title of Nobility.” It also forbids those holding “any Office of Profit or Trust” under the United States to accept any “Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State” without the consent of Congress. Since many seeking arms may have some office—a membership on a federal board, an Army Reserve commission, even an elected post—it was evidently decided that “honorary” arms did not count. (Foreign decorations, including those that might be thought to confer the style “knight,” have also been allowed to American diplomats and military officers—the only Americans who might be deterred from accepting them if they were forbidden.)

Whether arms are grants of nobility to begin with is a still more difficult question. Some will say yes, since the British gentry is equivalent to the continental minor nobility, titled and untitled; some will say no, a title of nobility is a title of nobility, and one must be at least a baron to have one; and others will say that arms grant nobility is some places, but not in others, and then go on to explore continental distinctions between burgher arms and noble arms.

Scots, seeking to vex their Canadian cousins, have claimed that when Lord Lyon uses Her Majesty’s authority to make a grant of Arms, he is issuing a patent of nobility, but that when the Chief Herald of Canada does the same thing, she is not. Questions such as these do not trouble the armigerous American.