Crest Meaning: Arbuthnott

Posted by admin 22/06/2020 0 Comment(s)


Named after the lands in the Mearns, this is the first crest so far whose motto is a command rather than a brag: the Latin ‘Laus Deo’ meaning ‘Praise God’.


The peacock of the crest is rare in Scottish heraldry, and it seems at first glance to be somewhat bizarre in leaving out the more obviously interesting part of the bird. This may be quite a deliberate choice, as a peacock in full plumage could be seen as a symbol of vanity. In early modern Europe a peacock became a symbol of immortality, as it was thought its flesh would not decay, so it became associated with the Resurrection of Christ – so we’re most likely looking at a religious metaphor here alongside the motto.


James Coat’s 1725 Dictionary of Heraldry describes the Peacock as the emblem of a Proud Man or ‘women that are over curious in their dress’. However, he also says they can represent Juno as the goddess of riches, so the Arbuthnott’s peacock might be a classical reference to the riches of their estates.


The Peacock was also often used as a symbol to show a connection to India, although in this case the crest is recorded earlier than the Arbuthnott’s forays to the subcontinent. The crest seems to be first mentioned by Sir George MacKenzie in the 1680s in his Families of Scotland manuscript. The coincidence of the Indian-adjacent symbolism is remarkable, as in the eighteenth century the Arbuthnots were heavily involved with the East India Company. Hugh (1812-1866), third son of the eighth Viscount Arbuthnot (the crest coming from the arms of the marquises), was a lieutenant colonel in the third Madras Light Cavalry, his brother David (1820-1847) was in the Madras Civil Service. Meanwhile their kinsman, George Arbuthnot of Elderslie emigrated to India and would take over a bank that became Arbuthnot and Co, which collapsed in spectacular fashion in 1906..


MKP 22 June 2020, revised 14 August 2023