The Akins Coat of Arms
Full heraldic achievement of the Akins coat of arms
The hereditary coat of arms belonging to the chief of the Clan Akins is a personal symbol of identity which has been borne by his ancestors for hundreds of years. According to John H. Stevenson, Marchmont herald, in his book Heraldry in Scotland, the use of coats of arms was first adopted by Scottish armigers in the years following the Norman Conquest of 1066: "In the choice of badges and arms in the days of the beginnings of heraldry there is no doubt but that every man did only that which was right in his own eyes....In the early times of which we speak the Civil Law, which was otherwise known as the Roman Law, was accepted in Scotland....So in Scotland, in the complete absence of any indication of the existence of any special law or custom, we turn for the earliest authority on the law in force with us to the pages of Bartolus a Saxo Ferrato....The law of the fourteenth century relating to armorial bearings as it is laid down by Bartolus recognizes a right in any man to assume a distinctive coat of arms at his own hand, and his right to redress against any one who afterwards adopts the same arms to his detriment. We see in this way that the recognition of rights in armorial bearings preceded by a long period the restriction of these rights to bearings which had been granted by the Sovereign or his officers."
The coat of arms borne by the Kings of Norway.
The Akins coat of arms is similar in many ways to the royal arms of Norway, due to the fact that the surname Akins is derived from Acain or Eachann, the Gaelic form of the Norse name Hakon; which was borne by a number of early Norwegian kings who claimed the Hebrides islands lying off Scotland's western coast as part of their kingdom during the Middle Ages. It is among this group of islands that the earliest origins of the Clan Akins are to be found, on the Isle of Skye, which is separated from the Scottish mainland by a narrow sea passage known as Kyle Akin (the Strait of Hakon). It was here that the last Viking ruler of the Hebrides, King Hakon IV of Norway, gathered his fleet in preparation for battle, prior to his defeat by Alexander III, King of Scots, at the Battle of Largs in 1263.
The ravens Hugin and Munin shown with the Norse god Odin
The heraldic charges that emblazon the shield of the Akins coat of arms symbolize not only the clan's descent from King Hakon I of Norway through the marriage of his daughter to Fingon mac Dungall; but they also allude to the defeat of a later successor, King Hakon IV, who forfeited his rule over Scotland's Western Isles to Alexander III, King of Scots. For this reason the axe (which is held by the crowned lion in the royal arms of Norway) is instead grasped by a warrior's arm behind a crownless lion in the Akins coat of arms. The pair of ravens that form the crest of the Akins coat of arms represent Hugin and Munin, the two ravens who brought news of the mortal world to the god Odin in Norse mythology. The presence of heraldic supporters, in the form of a deer standing on either side of the shield, indicate the coat of arms belongs to the chiefly line, as heraldic supporters are normally borne only by clan chiefs and those of higher ranks of nobility as a means of displaying their status.
Grave of Thomas Akins (1758-1785) in North Carolina
Although heraldry appears to have become somewhat regulated in Scotland by the early 1300's through the office of the Lord Lyon, established by the Crown to govern the use of coats of arms; most of Scotland's early heraldic records were lost in the civil wars which occurred during the reign of King Charles I. A new register of all arms and bearings in Scotland was authorized by Charles II in 1672, however by then, the chiefly line of the Clan Akins had already emigrated to Ireland as part of the Ulster Plantation and the arms of the Akins clan chief were never recorded in Scotland's new heraldic register. Instead, the Akins coat of arms were ultimately brought to America as the chief of the Clan Akins immigrated to the colony of Maryland where he and many of his descendants who went to Ulster in the 17th century came to settle. From Cecil County, Maryland, the Akins line moved south, along with many other Scots-Irish immigrants, to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, by the time of the Revolutionary War.
Abstract of the registration of the Akins coat of Arms with the United States Copyright Office
In the year 2000 Steven Akins of that Ilk, who has legally held ownership of the Akins coat of arms since 1997, applied to the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland to have the Akins coat of arms confirmed as "ancient arms," meaning that they had been in use prior to the establishment of Lord Lyon's Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, which was first begun in 1672. While his petition did prove that the Akins coat of arms dates back several centuries in America; Lord Lyon found that the evidence submitted, while considerable, was not sufficent to conclusively show that the Akins coat of Arms had been used in Scotland itself before 1672. Therefore the Clan Akins, like the Clans Gunn, MacAlpine and MacColl, has arms which have never been recorded in Lyon Register, despite the fact that the arms themselves have proven use dating back hundreds of years.
Akins clan crest badge
According to Scottish heraldic tradition the ancestral coat of arms is inherited solely by the chief of the clan and is legally recorded as his personal property; however members of the clan are permitted to wear the heraldic crest in the form of a clan badge, having the motto inscribed on a surrounding buckled strap, a form which has come to be recognized as indicative of a clansman or follower of the clan chief. Normally these are made in the form of a silver badge which is pinned to the cockade of a balmoral or glengarry style cap of the sort usually worn by gentlemen dressed in Scottish attire. Women of the clan may wear the same type of badge as a brooch, used to fasten a sash of the clan tartan to the shoulder of their dress or gown.