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The concept of clan was territorial in that even families who were not directly related by bloodline to the chief, but who resided in the same region, could claim allegiance to that clan chief.
But, whereas the tribe of the American Indian was held together simply by familial ties and linguistic/ethnic lineage, the Scottish clan was held together largely by a combination of patriarchal and territorial loyalties.
For the sake of simplification, heraldry, the granting of arms (often referred to as coats of arms), was established primarily as a means to distinguish a man and his followers on the battlefield.
The concept, which took root and thrived in the feudal atmosphere of Medieval Europe, was embraced by the Scottish clans.
B.) Old families that were not related by bloodline to the original clan, who performed some hereditary duty for the original clan.
For example, Clan Macrae served as the hereditary bodyguards for the chief of Clan Mac Kenzie.
The Gaelic word clanna meant children, and the Scottish clan was composed of the children of the chief, whether or not they were related by bloodline to him. the father) of the families that were directly descended from him along with many others that served him in a sort of feudal manner.
But unlike the feudal system in which the people owned nothing, and were indebted with everything, even their very lives to the feudal lord; in a clan, the loyalty of the people to their chief and the reciprocal loyalty of the chief to his people were equal.
If the request for a grant of arms is approved by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, it then is passed for approval to various other officials, until it is ultimately reviewed and approved by the monarch (i.e. In 1952 the Standing Council Of Scottish Chiefs was formed under the auspices of the Lord High Constable of Scotland.
Whereas the Lyon Courts time is primarily occupied by heraldic concerns, the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs was created to concentrate on matters related more directly to the clans, apart from those concerns about heraldry.
The tartan, created in the weaving of cloth which would then be used for the mens kilts and womens skirts eventually took on a greater significance than the arms designs.
Of course, it was simpler and less expensive to mass produce tartan than to mass produce the arms design on anything as readily wearable as the clansmens clothing.
The earliest reliable listing of the clans of Scotland is to be found in an Act of Parliament in the year 1587, in which the names of clans of the "hielands and isles" are given.