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The first of many severed boars’ heads, perhaps the single most popular symbol in Scottish heraldry. A major cluster of boar-head heraldry could be found in Lothian and Berwickshire, especially with the Swintons, Gordons and Nesbitts. The Baillies are first recorded in Lothian, so there’s a chance that they are part of this related cluster.
The Latin motto, ‘Quid Clarius Astris’ is a question: ‘what is brighter than the stars’ and this is a reference to the full coat arms of Baillie of Lamington, which has nine stars, set three, three, two and one at the bottom. So, this becomes a metaphor for the Baillies themselves, they are the stars and what is better than them?
The story behind the stars is reported in Nisbet’s System of Heraldry of 1722, apparently derived from Sir George Mackenzie, although his 1690 Science of Herauldry only seems to list the Bailzie shield. In 1296 the seal of John Baillie of Hoperig in East Lothian consisted of six stars. The legend is that a later head of the family was in France and killed a wild boar. To remember this feat he added three further stars, making nine, the same number as the constellation Ursa Major, and added the boar crest. This story seems somewhat unlikely, especially given the vagueness over exactly who it was killing the boar. It seems more likely the stars and boars head were in place, their original meaning forgotten, then this story worked out to explain them.
MKP 26 June 2020