Our Coat of Arms

For many centuries the origin of Clan Cunningham’s coat of arms and our motto has been linked to the dark events surrounding Prince Malcolm and his escape from the evil forces serving King Macbeth.

However, some have questioned this, and some early historians noted that some branches of Clan Cunningham did not use the Shakefork Y as their coat of arms. Instead they used the Bishop Pall Y1, which though similar to the Shakefork Y differs in that the edge of the Y is permitted to touch the side of the shield. This is shown in the above images, which are taken form the records of the Lord Lyon.

So, what is the true story behind Clan Cunningham? Do we descend from a mere farmer, whose bravery one day gave us a link to Shakespeare’s most famous play, or is there a far more interesting story? A story linked to Macbeth, and the Vatican.

In the April 2023 Clan Cunningham Communique2, a new study now brings together various avenues of research, to produce the most complete study surrounding the origin of Clan Cunningham’s mysterious coat of arms, and it changes everything we thought we knew about the start of our clan.

It is now confirmed the Clan Cunningham coat of arms is linked to the events surrounding the Cunninghams of Somercotes2, a branch of Clan Cunningham who resided in England for a short period after the events surrounding Prince Malcolm and Macbeth.

Though the Cunningham’s of Somercotes coat of arms was recorded in the records of Lord Lyon, its origins had by the mid 16th century been long forgotten. Thus no-one could identify which cadet family this unclaimed arms belonged to. As can be seen, the entry written above this coat of arms simply states “Cunninghams of “.

However, through several new breakthroughs, it is now known that our clan’s mysterious coat of arms was created to commemorate the death of Robert of Somercotes, which now completely rewrites the historical start of Clan Cunningham, and produces a secondary line of the clan that ran parallel to that of Warnebald of Kilmaurs.

As can be imagined, the Bishop Pall Y, is a symbol that is controlled by the church, and it could not and cannot be used by anyone who does not have a strong connection to the highest levels in the Church. Here it appears the appearance of the Bishop Pall Y in the Clan Cunningham Coat of arms, in its undivided state, represents the fact Robert de Cunningham de Somercotes was Pope-elect for one day. The Unicorn was often used in Medieval Europe used to represent Mary, and the Rabbits, these represent the resurrection, and the crown which is present in some versions of the Clan’s coat of arms. This represents descent from the Kings of Strathclyde1.

So what happened to Robert de Cunningham of Somercotes? Unfortunately, he died after just one day, and it is even more unfortunate that his death was considered to be not accidental, a story that is discussed in more detail in the Clan Cunningham Communique2.

It thus appears that the story surrounding the coat of arm being a Shakefork was a later invention, perhaps by an unknown party, whose intent was to hide this specific part of our clan’s history. However, the words Over-Fork-Over might still appear to be linked to a real event, with recent data suggesting Malcolm the son of Freskin took Prince Malcolm to the area now called Craven in Yorkshire3. Here there is no prize for guessing why the word Craven would later became associated with running away.

  1. Derek Cunningham, The Lost Queens of Scotland: Extracts from Frederic van Bossen’s The Royal Cedar.
  2. Derek Cunningham, Clan Cunningham Communique Issue 87, April 2013 (Available to all members of CCSA. Returning life members should contact admin@clancunningham.uk and quote prior clancunninghm.us membership details)
  3. Derek Cunningham, Scotland & Shakespeare’s Third Prophecy: Clan Cunningham Edition.