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Douglas Hatchments







A hatchment is a funeral demonstration of the lifetime "achievement" of the arms (shield, helmet, crest, supporters) and any other honours displayed on a black lozenge-shaped frame which used to be suspended against the wall of a deceased person's house. The word derives from the early French word "achevement".

It was usually placed over the entrance at the level of the second floor, and remained for from six to twelve months, after which it was removed to the parish church. The practice developed in the early 17th century from the custom of carrying an heraldic shield before the coffin of the deceased, then leaving it for display in the church.  




Heraldry Contents
  • Heraldry - Home
  • Crests - people
  • Crests - places
  • Hatchments
  • Heraldic shields
  • The Douglas heart
  • Seals
  • Flags and banners
  • Mottoes
  • Bookplates
  • Stamp impressions
  • Stained glass
  • Butter knife
  • Kilt pin
  • Sgian dhu
    Earl of Orkney  William RIchard MIddlemore  James, 4th Lord Douglas of Douglas  Frances Mary Farran
    Lennoxlove hatchment Lennoxlove hatchment Lennoxlove hatchment hatchment 10th Duke of Hamilton

    Only about fifty hatchments still exist in Scotland. This sparseness is because, in 1643, The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed an Act which prohibited 'Honours of Arms or any such like monuments'.

    A surviving document of Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire records that

    "Att Grange, 19th December, 1649... the presbytry finding some pinselis in memorie of the dead hinging in the kirk, presentlie caused them to be pulled doun in face of presbytry, and the minister rebuiked for suffering to hing ther so long."

    Scots hatchments do not follow in the sparse pattern that modern writers lay out for hatchments and funeral heraldry. They are often highly decorated with the coats of antecedents and with tears, skulls (mort heads), and mantles.

    It is not unusual to place the arms of the father and mother of the deceased in the two lateral angles of the lozenge, and sometimes there are 4, 8 or 16 genealogical escutcheons ranged along the margin.


    A white background indicates the person is alive and a black background that they are dead.  So, if the husband is dead, his side is black and if his spouse is still living, her side would have white background.



    See also:
    •  The funeral heraldry of Scotland  [pdf] for descriptions of some of the above.



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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024