This article is about Scottish nobility. For the cigarette brand, see Noblesse (cigarette). For the Korean manhwa, see Noblesse (manhwa). For the French expression, see Noblesse oblige.
In Scotland, Scottish Armigers are those individuals awarded personal Arms by the Court of the Lord Lyon, and are an indication of nobility (either peerage or non-peerage in rank). All Scottish Armigers are ennobled in their grant or matriculation of Arms awarded by the Crown or Sovereign through the Court of the Lord Lyon, and by issuance of a warrant from the Lord Lyon King of Arms is so entered in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland through official "Ensigns of Nobility". Without such legal Arms it is practically impossible to prove one's nobiliary status Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arm, also states, "Technically, a grant of arms from the Lord Lyon is a patent of nobility (also referred to a 'Diploma of Nobility'); the Grantee is thereby 'enrolled with all nobles in the noblesse of Scotland."
According to the Court of Session in a decision delivered by Lord Marnoch, he sites the 2nd edition of Scots Heraldry at p.198, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon writes:
"The name in which a person is granted arms is, however, a 'name of dignity' (i.e., of the dignity of Gentleman) and in the nature of a "title" if it comprehends a feudal designation."
As such, a Scottish Armiger is recognized under Scottish heraldic law as within the non-Peerage rank of Gentleman, which is so recognized under Scots law as a social dignity. Given this court decision, the term "nobility" should be avoided, as it has long been confined in Britain to the Peerage, or someone of official social rank (Dukes, Marquises, Earls, Viscounts, Barons, etc.). Instead, it is more appropriate to use the term 'Noblesse' in the context of the French definition, which includes the non-peerage rank of Gentlemen. A Gentleman is the lowest rank of gentry, standing below an esquire and above a yeoman. It includes the untitled and minor nobility - the noblesse, to whom rightly belong lairds (those with territorial designations), Esquires and Gentlemen, "known" through the grant or matriculation of armorial bearings.
The dignity of Esquire (post-nominal Esq.) is an official title in Scotland unlike other parts of the world. For example, attorneys in the United States use the title ESQUIRE as a courtesy title, and is used by both men and women. In Scotland, the title of Esquire is exclusively used by Gentlemen, never ladies. Scottish Armigers who are not Peers, Feudal Barons, or Lairds with Territorial Designations are addressed in correspondence as a post nominal Esq. by the Court of the Lord Lyon.
If associated with a particular Scottish clan, Armigers are the noblesse gentry of their clan, with a duty and responsibility for the management of their clan in our time; and thereby bound to the principles of Noblesse Oblige.