Every Priory of the Most Venerable Order of St John has its own unique coat of arms based on the Arms of the Order – a red shield with a silver cross having the Royal Crest of England in the first quarter.
When the Reformation occurred in Scotland, the last Preceptor of Torphichen, Sir James Sandilands, surrendered the Order’s property to Mary Queen of Scots. She, in turn, handed the property back to Sir James and created him Lord Torphichen, along with the grant of a heraldic augmentation, consisting of a crowned thistle.
The crowned thistle and crowned saltire are the two Royal Badges of Scotland, which are still used by The Queen. Sir James was the first non-royal to be permitted use of the crowned thistle and this still appears in the Arms of Lord Torphichen.
When the Scottish Priory was created in 1947, the then Lord Lyon King of Arms, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, granted an escutcheon to the Priory Arms bearing a crowned thistle as a reminder of the historical connection with Torphichen.
The Arms of the Priory are shown with the mottoes of the Order. ‘Pro Fide’ means ‘for the faith’, meaning the Christian faith, and ‘Pro Utilitate Hominum’ means ‘in the service of humanity’.