Secretary of State Colin Powell to Matriculate Scottish Arms

From "The Armiger's News," July 2004


The most recent online buzz among heraldry newsgroups and websites has been the news that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will be matriculating arms from The Lord Lyon. A flurry of inaccurate information has been flying about for months, and so the College contacted Mrs. C.G.W. Roads, MVO, Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records at The Court of The Lord Lyon. She most kindly responded with the following information:


With regard to General Powell the situation is that his father [Luther] was born in Jamaica and he was consequently a subject of the Crown of the United Kingdom. The Lord Lyon was therefore in a position to consider a petition for a posthumous grant of Arms.


While the whole process has not been completed agreement has been reached on the design of the Arms and we are merely awaiting the herald painter’s work on the Letters Patent. As his son General Powell will be in a position to matriculate those Arms and they are blazoned as follows:


Illustration of final achievement by

Andrew Stewart Jamieson


Arms: “Azure, two swords in saltire points downwards between four stars Argent, on a chief of the Second a lion passant Gules.”


Crest: “the head of an American bald-headed eagle erased the erasure per bend sinister Proper.”


Motto: “Devoted to Public Service.”


The Arms as you can see contain certain elements which might be thought indicative of General Powell's military background. The lion in chief is however associated with the surname Powell and it is appropriate that there should be such an element in Scottish Arms. The blue background of the principal part of the shield and the crossed swords do give a flavour of Scotland with a saltire shape on a blue backgroundThe crest is indeed a bald-headed eagle and is appropriate for someone whose roots were not in America but came to owe allegiance to America and I understand that it similarly has a connection with General Powell’s military background.


The online paper reported:


Peter Drummond Murray, the editor of the Double Tressure, the annual journal of the Heraldry Society of Scotland, said the Lord Lyon intends to present the arms in Washington, probably in September, but details have not been finalised.

Mr Drummond Murray said: “The grant was originally made to his father several months ago, and so, of course, General Powell inherits it. The Register General of Jamaica was very happy about working on the ancestry of General Powell.


“They are very proud of him, and you would be very hard-put to think of anybody who has done as well as him.”


Arguably the world’s most famous living soldier, General Powell had the coat of arms created for him after petitioning the society on the advice of his US army colleague General Jack Nicholson, whose ancestors came from Arran.


Luther Powell was born in the British Commonwealth colony of Jamaica in 1901, and the Secretary of State’s mother Maud McKoy’s family originally hailed from Scotland.

Mrs Roads said: “Everyone is aware of the American Diaspora but Americans in particular seem to have a desire to learn about their ancestral roots which perhaps people here don’t feel the same need to know about. So certainly there has been a lot of genealogical resurgence, as it were, particularly in North America.”


General Powell’s coat of arms contains symbols including the Azure [sic], which shows “two swords in saltire, points downward, between four mullets Argent in a chief of the second a lion passant Gules.”


The swords are a reference to his military career, as are the stars. The lion is intended as an allusion to Scotland, and the eagle is also a reference to the badge of the 101st Airborne Division, in which General Powell served and later commanded. The honorary Knight Commander of the most Honourable Order of the Bath is also included.


James Wilson, chief executive of Glasgow-based Pandaprint which undertakes printing work for the Heraldry Society said: ‘It is very strange when we look at our mailing list for the society to see the name of the most famous soldier in the world.


The College will certainly follow up on this entire process, and once details have been finalized, will report the results in these pages.