Some Insights into Sproul Heraldry
Family coats of arms and associated crests hold a fascination for many people. The roots of these family insignia hearken back for the most part to the Medieval Period when knights identified themselves on the field of battle and in jousting matches using brightly colored shields, pennants and fixtures atop helmets. Coats of arms could also be affixed as wax seals, metal seals or inked symbols on important documents. Strictly speaking, coats of arms are granted to specific persons, families and organizations for their sole use. In Scottish clans for the example the full coat of arms is only to be used by the chieftain. Members of the clan may wear a representation of the crest (the portion of the coat of arms that is on top of the shield) surrounded by a belt. This signifies a clansperson, whereas the full coat or arms, or the crest without the belt, signifies the chieftain.
The earliest known arms related to the Sproul family date from the period of the Ragman Rolls (1290's). At this time we find a coat of arms used as seal for Walter Spreull and attached to the Ragman Roll. The arms are a hunting horn hung between three roses. Two representations appear below. What is the meaning? The roses almost certainly represent the Earls of Lennox. We find the red rose is a symbol on both the Lennox arms and also the arms of the MacFarlane family, who descend from the Celtic Earls of Lennox. The shared rose bespeaks of the long association between the Sprouls, Earls of Lennox and MacFarlanes. What about the hunting horn? Some sources indicate the horn may represent pursuit of higher knowledge or strength & fortitude. However, it might also signify someone who likes hunting! We may never know.
A subsequent coat of arms was granted in the 14th century, and quite likely to Walter Spreull the second. This coat includes a gold background and a strip of silver and blue checks surrounded by three red purses. The purses are more properly known as palmer's scrip and can denote exploration or pilgrimage. It has also been suggested they may represent the role of this Walter Spreull in collecting money from the Glasgow region to ransom King David II from the English in 1366. The band of silver and blue checks is found on many Stewart coats of arms and may represent the office of steward. This coat of arms has various versions (see below).
Although the second coat of arms is the most common commercial one found associated with the name Sproul and its many iterations - there is much to be said about the earlier coat of arms with the three roses and the hunting horn. The presence of the roses ties neatly to the ancient association between the family and the Earls of Lennox and the associated Clan MacFarlane (see below).
Image from Jame's Sproule - Eight Centuries of the Spreull and Sproul Families