John Anstis

John Anstis (29 August 1669 – 4 March 1744) was an English officer of arms, antiquarian and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1702 and 1722. He rose to the highest heraldic office in England and became Garter King of Arms in 1718 after years of political manoeuvring.

John Anstis Garter
Painting of Garter Anstis from around 1725, by Thomas Hudson.

Early life

Anstis was born at St Neot, Cornwall on 29 August 1669. He was the first son of another John Anstis and his wife Mary, the daughter of George Smith. Anstis matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, on 27 March 1685 and entered the Middle Temple on 31 January 1690. On 23 June 1695 he married Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Richard Cudlipp of Tavistock, Devon. They had eight sons and six daughters. Anstis was called to the bar on 19 May 1699.

Political life

In March 1701, Anstis received permission from the Earl Marshal, Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk, to collect materials from the College of Arms library to assist in the defence of the jurisdiction of the Earl Marshal, which was under attack. Anstis was also elected to Parliament for St Germans in 1702.[1] When the Garter King of Arms, Sir Thomas St George, died in March 1703 Anstis was in a position to advise Lady Howard on how to protect her son's rights from the threat of a royal nomination of a new Garter on the one hand and the assumption of the nomination by the deputy earl marshal. Sir Henry St George was nominated to be Garter and succeeded his brother in June 1703.

Heraldic career

Anstis did not stand for election to Parliament in 1705.[1] In May 1707 he was nominated Carlisle Herald of Arms Extraordinary and Norfolk Herald, as part of a plan to persuade Garter St George to administer the office jointly, with Anstis doing most of the work. In spite of the nomination, Anstis was never appointed to either post. His main rival to succeed St George was now John Vanbrugh, who had become Clarenceux King of Arms in March 1704 to strengthen his own claims to the office.

In December 1710 Anstis used a change in administration to try again at securing the Gartership. On 20 January 1711 he was re-elected to Parliament in a by-election as MP for St Mawes and was then elected as MP for Launceston at the 1713 general election.[1] He changed his strategy with St George. He continued to secure offices related to public records for himself and he remained loyal to the Tory ministry in Parliament. With his influential political friends, Anstis was eventually able to obtain the promise of an appointment to the office of Garter King of Arms, on 2 April 1714.

Anstis was returned again as MP for Launceston in the 1715 general election and held the seat until the 1722.[2] By the time that Sir Henry St George died in August 1715, the political situation had shifted away from Anstis's political connections: Vanbrugh was nominated to the office and took measures to secure the passage of his grant. In addition, on 30 September 1715 Anstis was arrested on suspicion of involvement in plotting a Jacobite uprising in Cornwall.

A protracted legal battle ensued as Anstis and Vanbrugh both claimed the title of Garter. Anstis eventually emerged victorious in May 1718. In 1724 he obtained an order for publishing, as editor and assisted by Elias Ashmole, the Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, From its Cover in Black Velvet Usually Called the "Black Book", which was printed at his own expense. This was a transcript of the Latin "Black Book of the Garter", the earliest surviving register of that order, written in about 1535, now in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.[3] In the preface to his work he wrote:[4]

While we, with sensible regret, complain of the loss of these old annals whereby we are deprived of a great treasure, it hath been judged expedient to preserve the remains which have happily escaped this shipwreck. And therefore the eldest register remaining in the archives is now exhibited to publick view, less by the currency of time or any unforeseen accident it might be subject to the same unhappy fate. The original manuscript is a very large pompous volume in folio written in an handsome strong character on vellom, having the initial letters of each paragraph, together with the names of the companions and of the knights nominated in scrutinies, beautifully embellished with gold, placed on squares of gold and azure alternately...It hath been shewn in the introduction when and by whom this register was compiled and from what materials it was collected.

In the following year he interested Robert Walpole in a plan for a new order of chivalry based on a revival of the medieval Order of the Bath. This led to his Observations Introductory to an Historical Essay on the Knighthood of the Bath in 1725 and to Anstis's drawing up the statutes for the new order.

Anstis duly presided over the coronation of George II in 1727. In 1728 he embarked on extensive research to prove that his family was related to Archbishop Henry Chichele, the founder of All Souls College, Oxford. This research could have entitled his son, John Anstis, to a fellowship at the college; which was blocked by Archbishop William Wake, Anstis did have his son made Blanc Coursier Herald in 1727. In 1737 he secured the succession of his office of Garter to John the younger.

Death and legacy

Anstis died on 4 March 1744 at Mortlake, Surrey. He was buried at Duloe in Cornwall on 23 March according to his wishes. Anstis was an indefatigable antiquarian whose correspondence with fellow scholars such as Thomas Hearne and Humfrey Wanley testifies to his wide interests. He left a mass of unpublished papers, including over 8000 pages of notes on English history, Jurisprudence, Chronology, Heraldry, Ecclesiastical and Military Affairs. Many of his papers were sold in 1768 and in 1774 and are now held in the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and All Souls, Oxford.


  1. ^ a b c "ANSTIS, John (1669-1744), of West Duloe, Cornw. and Arundel Street, Norfolk Buildings, Westminster". History of Parliament Online (1690-1715). Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  2. ^ "ANSTIS, John (1669-1744), of West North, Duloe, Cornw". History of Parliament Online (1715-1754). Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  3. ^ "Royal Collection - Henry VIII". Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  4. ^ Order of the Garter; Elias Ashmole (1724). The Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter: From Its Cover in Black Velvet, Usually Called the Black Book; with Notes Placed at the Bottom of the Pages, and an Introduction Prefixed by the Editor. J. Barber. p. 42.
  5. ^ Godfrey, Walter H; Wagner, Anthony (1963). "'Garter King of Arms', in Survey of London Monograph 16, College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street (London, 1963), pp. 38-74". Retrieved 1 November 2018.


  • John Anstis. The Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. (London, 1724).
  • Edward Cruickshanks. Anstis, John. Parliament Records (London, 1715–54).
  • Walter H. Godfrey and Sir Anthony Wagner, The College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street: being the sixteenth and final monograph of the London Survey Committee. (London, 1963).
  • Mark Noble, A History of the College of Arms. (London, 1805).
  • Sir Anthony Wagner. A Catalogue of English Mediaeval Rolls of Arms. Harleian Society (London, 1950).
  • Sir Anthony Wagner. Heralds of England: a History of the Office and College of Arms. (London, 1967).
  • Anthony Wagner and A. L. Rowse. John Anstis: Garter King of Arms (London, 1992).

External links

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Henry Fleming
Richard Edgcumbe
Member of Parliament for St Germans
With: Henry Fleming
Succeeded by
Henry Fleming
Samuel Rolle
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Tredenham
Richard Onslow
Member of Parliament for St Mawes
With: Richard Onslow
Succeeded by
Edward Rolt
Francis Scobell
Preceded by
Francis Scobell
George Clarke
Member of Parliament for Launceston
With: Edward Herle 1713–1721
Alexander Pendarves 1721–1722
Succeeded by
Alexander Pendarves
John Freind

1669 (MDCLXIX)

was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar, the 1669th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 669th year of the 2nd millennium, the 69th year of the 17th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1660s decade. As of the start of 1669, the Gregorian calendar was

10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.



was a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar, the 1744th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 744th year of the 2nd millennium, the 44th year of the 18th century, and the 5th year of the 1740s decade. As of the start of 1744, the Gregorian calendar was

11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

Alexander Pendarves

Alexander Pendarves, MP (baptised 11 November 1662 – 13 March 1725, London, England) was a Cornish landowner and Tory politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1689 and 1725.


Anstis is a surname that may refer to:

John Anstis (1669–1744), English officer of arms and antiquarian

John Anstis, younger (1708–1754), Officer of arms at the College of Arms in London

Marion Anstis, Australian herpetologist

Stuart Anstis, Guitarist and songwriter

Thomas Anstis (died 1723), 18th-century pirate

Toby Anstis (born 1968), British radio presenter

Blanc Coursier Herald

Blanc Coursier Herald was an officer of arms in England in the 18th and 19th centuries, associated with the Order of the Bath. The name of the office derives from the white horse in the arms of the Hanoverian monarchs.

One of the main motivations for the foundation of the Order of the Bath in 1725 was the ability it provided the then Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole to show political patronage. This was afforded not only through appointments to the Order but also in the appointment of the officers of the Order. The original statutes provided for seven officers, Registrar, Secretary, Messenger, Dean, King of Arms, Usher and Genealogist, which were to be sinecures supported by annual fees from the members of the Order. However these offices were held at the pleasure of the Great Master of the Order, which meant the holders could be stripped of them at any time. To 'improve' this situation John Anstis, Garter King of Arms (who was responsible for proposing the Order and drafting the statutes) was able to get another statute passed which would attach heraldic offices to three of the above positions — the Genealogist would also become Blanc Coursier Herald, the Usher would also become Brunswick Herald, and the King of Arms of the Order of the Bath would also become Gloucester King of Arms, with heraldic jurisdiction over Wales. The advantage of this was that appointments to heraldic offices were by letters patent under the Great Seal from the King and were for life.The office of Blanc Coursier Herald was created and "inseparably annexed, united and perpetually consolidated with the Office of Genealogist of [the Order of the Bath]" by a Statute of the Order of the Bath dated January 14, 1726. Blanc Coursier was to have all the rights and privileges enjoyed by a Royal herald, or by a herald of any prince or peer of the blood royal or by a herald of any nobleman. In addition he is described as being "Our Herald of Arms with Our dear entirely beloved grandson Prince William, First and Principal Companion of Our Said Most Honourable Order, and with the First and Principal Companion thereof for the time being". Blanc Coursier was therefore both a Royal herald ("Our Herald of Arms"), and also a private officer of arms as personal herald of the Principal Companion of the Order. As such, the coat of arms emblazoned on his tabard was that of Prince William.

Blanc Coursier's ceremonial installation did not take place until 1727, and by that time George II had succeeded his father as king. Prince William's arms then had a label of only three points (as the son of a Sovereign, rather than the five points of a grandson), the centre point charged with a cross gules. The arms on his tabard also show a differenced version of the Hanover quarter.

The first person to hold the office of Blanc Coursier was the son of John Anstis, also named John, who had been appointed Genealogist of the Order of the Bath at its inception, presumably because of the role his father had played in the Order's foundation.When the Royal Guelphic Order was established in 1815 it originally had no officer of arms. Blanc Coursier at the time, Sir George Nayler, was able to have an additional statute passed appointing him King of Arms of the Order. His successor as Blanc Coursier, Walter Blount also held this position.The office of Blanc Coursier was abolished in 1857 as part of a revision of the Statutes of the Order of the Bath.

Elizabeth Lucy

Elizabeth Lucy (fl c. 1460s) was the long-standing mistress of King Edward IV of England, and probable mother of several children by him, including Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle.

Garter Principal King of Arms

The Garter Principal King of Arms (also Garter King of Arms or simply Garter) is the senior King of Arms, and the senior Officer of Arms of the College of Arms, the heraldic authority with jurisdiction over England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The position has existed since 1415.

Garter is responsible to the Earl Marshal for the running of the College. He is the principal adviser to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom with respect to ceremonial and heraldry, with specific responsibility for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and, with the exception of Canada, for Commonwealth realms of which the Queen is Sovereign. He also serves as the King of Arms of the Order of the Garter and his seal and signature appear on all grants of arms made by the College.

On the death of the British monarch it is the Garter's duty to announce the new monarch. Initially, the Accession Council meets to declare the new monarch from the deceased monarch's line. Once the monarch makes a sacred oath to the council, the Garter King of Arms steps into the Proclamation Gallery which overlooks Friary Court to announce the new monarch.

The current Garter Principal King of Arms is Thomas Woodcock.

Jacobite uprising in Cornwall of 1715

The Jacobite uprising in Cornwall of 1715 was the last uprising against the British Crown to take place in the county of Cornwall.

James Paynter (Jacobite)

James Paynter (1666 - ?) was the leader of a Jacobite uprising in Cornwall in the 18th century.

In 1715 he took an active part in proclaiming James Francis Edward Stuart (the Old Pretender) on the death of Queen Anne, for this he was tried at Launceston and acquitted and welcomed by "bonfire and by ball" from thence to the Land's End. For his actions he was created Marquess of Trelissick (also called Marquis of Trelessick) in the Jacobite Peerage on 20 June 1715.

John Anstis, younger

John Anstis (17 November 1708 – 5 December 1754) was an officer of arms at the College of Arms in London.

John Mynne

John Mynne was an English officer of arms. He was the son of Henry Mynne of Gloucestershire, and son-in-law of John Writhe, the Garter King of Arms from 1478 to 1504.

Norfolk Herald Extraordinary

Norfolk Herald of Arms Extraordinary is an officer of arms in England. As an officer extraordinary, Norfolk is a royal herald, though not a member of the corporation of the College of Arms in London. Beginning in 1539 this officer was a herald to the dukes of Norfolk, though the first holder, John James, was paid a salary by King Henry VIII. Subsequent Norfolk heralds have been officers extraordinary, though the office has not always been filled but rather revived when required. The badge of office, assigned in 1958, is blazoned as Two Ostrich Feathers saltirewise each charged with a Gold Chain laid along the quill. It derives from the ostrich feather badge granted by King Richard II around 1387 as a mark of special favor to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, Marshal of England. Mowbray was also the first to be styled Earl Marshal.The current Norfolk Herald of Arms Extraordinary is Maj. David Rankin-Hunt, CVO, MBE, KCN, TD. Rankin-Hunt was appointed by Royal Warrant in October 1994 and is the ninth person to hold the office. Following the retirement of Sir Conrad Swan as Garter King of Arms in 1995 he assumed some responsibility for advising certain Commonwealth Realms and a few non-Commonwealth Countries on Honours and Awards. In the last fifteen years he has designed and instituted Honours systems and individual Orders, Decorations and Medals for over eight countries. These include Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia, Tonga, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Barbados and Albania.

Private Officer of Arms

A private officer of arms is one of the heralds and pursuivants appointed by great noble houses to handle all heraldic and genealogical questions.

Spalding Gentlemen's Society

The Spalding Gentlemen's Society (or Gentlemen's Club at Spalding) is a learned society in Spalding, Lincolnshire, England. It was founded in 1710 by Maurice Johnson, (1688–1755), of Ayscoughfee Hall, and is still active.

The society's museum in Broad Street, Spalding, opened in 1911. Additions were made in 1925 and again in 1960. The carved panels of the exterior were the work of Jules Tuerlinckx of Malines, a Belgian refugee during the First World War.

St Germans (UK Parliament constituency)

St Germans was a rotten borough in Cornwall which returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the English and later British Parliament from 1562 to 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act.

St Mawes (UK Parliament constituency)

St Mawes was a rotten borough in Cornwall, England. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of England from 1562 to 1707, to the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800, and to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom until it was abolished by the Great Reform Act in 1832.

Stephen Leake

Stephen Martin Leake (5 April 1702 – 24 March 1773) was a numismatist and long-serving officer of arms at the College of Arms in London.

Thomas Wriothesley

Sir Thomas Wriothesley ( RY-əth-slee; died 24 November 1534) was a long serving officer of arms at the College of Arms in London. He was the son of Garter King of Arms, John Writhe, and he succeeded his father in this office.

William Becket

William Becket (1684–1738) was an English surgeon and antiquary.

Coat of arms of John Anstis
Arms of John Anstis
These were granted by Ward, Clarenceux, to the elder Anstis and his posterity on the motion of the younger Anstis and without the elder's knowledge. Neither father nor son used personal arms on their official seals as Garter.
31 January 1741
5 ostrich feathers argent in a king of arms' coronet or.
Argent, a cross raguly gules between 4 doves azure, beaks and legs gules.[5]
Arma Nobilitant Genus ("Arms make a family noble" or "Weapons make a family famous")


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