Officer of arms

An officer of arms is a person appointed by a sovereign or state with authority to perform one or more of the following functions:

  • to control and initiate armorial matters
  • to arrange and participate in ceremonies of state
  • to conserve and interpret heraldic and genealogical records.
Banners bearing heraldic badges of several officers of arms at the College of Arms in London

By country

The medieval practice of appointing heralds or pursuivants to the establishment of a noble household is still common in European countries, particularly those in which there is no official heraldic control or authority. Such appointments are also still made in Scotland, where four private officers of arms exist. These appointments are all purely advisory.

Great Britain

Traditionally in England, the authority of the thirteen officers of arms in ordinary, who form the corporation of the Kings, Heralds, and Pursuivants of Arms, extends throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of Scotland, Canada and South Africa. Officers of arms are of three ranks: kings of arms, heralds of arms, and pursuivants of arms. Officers of arms whose appointments are of a permanent nature are known as officers of arms in ordinary; those whose appointments are of a temporary or occasional nature are known as officers of arms extraordinary. The officers of arms in ordinary who form the College of Arms are members of the royal household and receive a nominal salary.

In Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, and the Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records control matters armorial within a strict legal framework not enjoyed by their fellow officers of arms in London, and the court which is a part of Scotland's criminal jurisdiction has its own prosecutor, the court's Procurator Fiscal, who is however not an officer of arms. Lord Lyon and the Lyon Clerk are appointed by the crown, and, with the Crown's authority, Lyon appoints the other Scottish officers. The officers of arms in Scotland are also members of the royal household.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, matters armorial and genealogical come within the authority of an officer designated the Chief Herald of Ireland. The legal basis for Ireland's heraldic authority, and therefore all grants since 1943, has been questioned by the Attorney General,[1] therefore, on May 8, 2006 Senator Brendan Ryan introduced the Genealogy & Heraldry Bill, 2006,[2] in Seanad Éireann (Irish Senate) to remedy this situation and legitimise actions since the transfer of power from the Ulster King of Arms.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, officers of arms do not exist as permanent functions. Private heraldry is not legislated, and state heraldry and the heraldry of the nobility is regulated by the High Council of Nobility. During the royal inauguration ceremony however, two Kings of Arms and two or four Heralds of Arms have figured. These were usually members of the High Council of Nobility. During the inaugurations of Wilhelmina and Juliana, the Kings of Arms wore nineteenth-century style court dress, whereas the Heralds wore tabards. All officers carried rods and wore chains of office.[3] In the inauguration of Queen Beatrix in 1980, the ceremonial office was held by members of the resistance, Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema being the elder King of Arms.[4] Like most other participants in the pageant the officers of arms were no longer wearing ceremonial dress, but white tie instead. The senior King of Arms proclaims the King to be inaugurated after he or she has sworn allegiance to the constitution. The Heralds step outside the New Church in Amsterdam, where the inauguration ceremony is held, to announce this fact to the people gathered outside the church.[5]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ A.J.P.H. van Cruyningen, De inhuldiging van de Nederlandse vorst. Van Willem Frederik tot Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard (unpublished thesis, Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, 1989) 92.
  5. ^ Van Cruyningen, passim.

External links

Court of the Lord Lyon

The Court of the Lord Lyon (the Lyon Court) is a standing court of law which regulates heraldry in Scotland. The Lyon Court maintains the register of grants of arms, known as the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, as well as records of genealogies.

The Lyon Court is a public body, and the fees for grants of arms are paid to HM Treasury. It is headed by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, who must be legally qualified, as he has criminal jurisdiction in heraldic matters, and the court is fully integrated into the Scottish legal system, including having a dedicated prosecutor, known in Scotland as a procurator fiscal.

Its equivalent in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, in terms of awarding arms is the College of Arms, which is a royal corporation and not a court of law. The High Court of Chivalry is a civil court in England and Wales with jurisdiction over cases dealing with heraldry.

Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary

Fitzalan Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary is a current officer of arms in England. As a pursuivant extraordinary, Fitzalan is a royal officer of arms, but is not a member of the corporation of the College of Arms in London. As with many other extraordinary offices of arms, Fitzalan Pursuivant obtains its title from one of the baronies held by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England; the appointment was first made for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837. The badge of office was assigned in 1958 and is derived from a Fitzalan badge of the fifteenth century. It can be blazoned An Oak Sprig Vert Acorns Or, but is also recorded as A Sprig of Oak proper.

The first four Fitzalans, beginning with Sir Albert Woods, subsequently became Garter Principal King of Arms. Charles Wilfrid Scott-Giles, the well-known heraldic writer, also served as Fitzalan Pursuivant. The current Fitzalan Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary is Alastair Andrew Bernard Reibey Bruce of Crionaich, second cousin to the Hon. Adam Bruce, Marchmont Herald of Arms, and a regular television commentator on royal and religious affairs.

Grant of arms

A grant of arms or a governmental issuance of arms, are actions by a lawful authority such as an officer of arms or State Herald, conferring on a person and his or her descendants the right to bear a particular coat of arms or armorial bearings. It is one of the ways in which a person may lawfully bear arms in a jurisdiction regulating heraldry, another being by birth, through inheritance.

Historically a grant of arms is distinguished from both a confirmation of arms and a private registration of arms. A grant of arms confers a new right, whereas a confirmation of arms confirms an existing right; and a private registration of arms is a record which does not purport to create or confirm any legal right. However a governmental registration of arms by an official government agency, (e.g., Bureau of Heraldry in South Africa) does create and confirm new legal rights.

The College of Arms issues “letters patent” the Bureau of Heraldry issues “certificates of registration”. For all intents and purposes it’s the same thing. The College of Arms “grants” in the name of the monarch and in South Africa under the Heraldry Act (1962) the certificate is “issued”. In both cases the heraldic representation so issued and recorded affords the applicant sole ownership of the unique design.

A grant of arms or government registration of arms are typically contained in letters patent which provide self-contained proof, upon production of the letters patent, of the right conferred. A modern English grant of arms, for example, from officers of the College of Arms in London, will begin with the words "To all and singular to whom these presents shall come...", thereby showing that it is addressed to anyone in the world to whom it may be presented.

John Burke (genealogist)

John Burke (12 November 1786 – 27 March 1848) was an Irish genealogist, and the original publisher of Burke's Peerage. He was the father of Sir Bernard Burke, a British officer of arms and genealogist.

King of Arms

King of Arms is the senior rank of an officer of arms. In many heraldic traditions, only a king of arms has the authority to grant armorial bearings and sometimes certify genealogies and noble titles. In other traditions, the power has been delegated to other officers of similar rank.

Or (heraldry)

In heraldry, or (; French for "gold") is the tincture of gold and, together with argent (silver), belongs to the class of light tinctures called "metals", or light colours. In engravings and line drawings, it is hatched using a field of evenly spaced dots. It is very frequently depicted as yellow, though gold leaf was used in many illuminated manuscripts and more extravagant rolls of arms.

The word "gold" is occasionally used in place of "or" in blazon, sometimes to prevent repetition of the word "or" in a blazon, or because this substitution was in fashion when the blazon was first written down, or when it is preferred by the officer of arms. The use of "gold" for "or" (and "silver" for "argent") was a short-lived fashion amongst certain heraldic writers in the mid-20th century who attempted to "demystify" and popularise the subject of heraldry.

"Or" is sometimes spelled with a capital letter (e.g. "Gules, a fess Or") so as not to confuse it with the conjunction "or". However, this incorrect heraldic usage is not met with in standard reference works such as Bernard Burke's General Armory, 1884 and Debrett's Peerage. Fox-Davies advocated leaving all tinctures uncapitalized. A correctly stated blazon should eliminate any possible confusion between the tincture or and the conjunction "or" (which is rare in blazons in any case), certainly for the reader with a basic competence in heraldry.

Sometimes, the different tinctures are said to be connected with special meanings or virtues, and represent certain elements and precious stones. Even if this is an idea mostly disregarded by serious heraldists throughout the centuries, it may be of anecdotal interest to see what they are, since the information is often sought. Many sources give different meanings, but or is usually said to represent the following:

Of jewels, the topaz

Of heavenly bodies, the Sun

Of metals, gold

Of virtues, Faith or obedience and gentility

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.


A pursuivant or, more correctly, pursuivant of arms, is a junior officer of arms. Most pursuivants are attached to official heraldic authorities, such as the College of Arms in London or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. In the mediaeval era, many great nobles employed their own officers of arms. Today, there still exist some private pursuivants that are not employed by a government authority. In Scotland, for example, several pursuivants of arms have been appointed by Clan Chiefs. These pursuivants of arms look after matters of heraldic and genealogical importance for clan members.

Some Masonic Grand Lodges have an office known as the Grand Pursuivant. It is the Grand Pursuivant's duty to announce all applicants for admission into the Grand Lodge by their names and Masonic titles; to take charge of the jewels and regalia of the Grand Lodge; to attend all meetings of the Grand Lodge, and to perform such other duties as may be required by the Grand Master or presiding officer. The office is also at the local Masonic lodge level in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. In that jurisdiction it is the Pursuivant's duty to guard the door of the lodge, and announce and escort applicants for admission into the lodge. The office is generally unknown at the local level in Masonic jurisdictions outside Pennsylvania, where the equivalent role is named the Inner Guard.

Robert Cooke (officer of arms)

Robert Cooke (born c. 1535, died 1592–3) was an English Officer of Arms during the reign of Elizabeth I, who rose swiftly through the ranks of the College of Arms to Clarenceux King of Arms, serving in that office from 1567 until his death in 1592–3.

Cooke served as Deputy Earl Marshal at the funeral of Sir Philip Sidney in 1587, but was later accused by some fellow heralds of granting arms to unworthy men for personal gain.

Robert Glover (officer of arms)

Robert Glover (1544 – 10 April 1588) was an English Officer of Arms, genealogist and antiquarian in the reign of Elizabeth I. In the College of Arms, he rose to the rank of Somerset Herald of Arms, serving in that capacity from 1571 until his death in 1588. As marshal and deputy to his father-in-law, William Flower, Norroy King of Arms, he participated in heraldic visitations throughout northern England.

Rouge Croix Pursuivant

Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary is a junior officer of arms of the College of Arms. He is said to be the oldest of the four pursuivants in ordinary. The office is named after St George's Cross which has been a symbol of England since the time of the Crusades.

The post is currently vacant.

Somerset Herald

Somerset Herald of Arms in Ordinary is an officer of arms at the College of Arms in London. In the year 1448 Somerset Herald is known to have served the Duke of Somerset, but by the time of the coronation of King Henry VII in 1485 his successor appears to have been raised to the rank of a royal officer, when he was the only herald to receive coronation liveries.

By 1525 Somerset was again in private service, on the staff of the Duke of Richmond and Somerset, Henry Fitzroy, although he was appointed by the King and shared the heralds' fees as a herald extraordinary. On the death of that nobleman in 1536 the herald returned to the service of the crown, and all later officers called Somerset have been members of the royal household as heralds in ordinary. The badge of office is A Portcullis Or Royally Crowned. This is a version of the Beaufort badge.

The current Somerset Herald of Arms in Ordinary is David Vines White, MA (Cantab.) MA (London).


Theobald is a Germanic dithematic name, composed from the elements theod- "people" and bald "bold". The name arrived in England with the Normans.

The name occurs in many spelling variations, including Theudebald, Diepold, Tybalt, in French Thibaut, Thibault, Thibeault, Thiébaut (etc.), in Italian as Tebaldo, in Spanish and Portuguese as Teobaldo and in Irish as Tiobóid, in Czech as Děpolt, and in Hungarian Tibold.

People called Theobald include:

Saint Theobald of Dorat (990–1070), French saint

Saint Theobald of Marly ( ?–1247), French saint and Cistercian abbot

Saint Theobald of Provins (1033–1066), French hermit and saint

Theobald of Langres (12th century), number theorist

Theobald I, Duke of Lorraine (c. 1191 – 1220), the Duke of Lorraine (1213–1220)

Theobald II, Duke of Lorraine (1263–1312), the Duke of Lorraine (1303–1312)

Theobald I, Count of Blois (913–975), the first Count of Blois, Chartres, and Châteaudun, as well as Count of Tours

Theobald II of Blois (c. 985–1004), eldest son and heir of Odo I, Count of Blois, and Bertha of Burgundy

Theobald III, Count of Blois (1012–1089), also known as Theobald I of Champagne, count of Blois, Meaux and Troyes

Theobald II, Count of Champagne (1090–1152), also known as Theobald IV of Blois (1090–1152), Count of Blois and of Chartres as Theobald IV (1102–1152) and Count of Champagne and of Brie as Theobald II 1125–1152)

Theobald III, Count of Champagne (1179–1201), Count of Champagne (1197–1201)

Theobald IV of Champagne (1201–1253), also known as Theobald I of Navarre, Count of Champagne (1201–1253) and King of Navarre (1234–1253)

Theobald V of Champagne (c. 1239 – 1270), also known as Theobald II of Navarre, Count of Champagne and Brie (as Theobald V) and King of Navarre (1253–1270)

Theobald of Bec (c. 1090 – 1161), Archbishop of Canterbury (1138–1161)

Theobald, Bishop of Liège ( ?–1312), ruler of Liège (1302–1312)

Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1856–1921), German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor of the German Empire (1909–1917)

Theobald Mathew (temperance reformer) (1790–1856), Irish temperance reformer

Theobald Mathew (legal humourist) (1866–1939), English barrister and legal humourist

Theobald Mathew (Director of Public Prosecutions), (1898–1964) English Director of Public Prosecutions

Theobald Mathew (officer of arms) (1942–1998), English officer of arms

Theobald Stein (1829–1901), Danish sculptor

Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763–1798), Irish revolutionary figure and leader of the 1798 United Irishmen's rising

Thomas Innes of Learney

Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (1893–1971) was Lord Lyon from 1945 to 1969, after having been Carrick Pursuivant and Albany Herald in the 1920s and 1930s. He was a very active Lord Lyon, strongly promoting his views of what his office was through his writings and pronouncements in his Court. In 1950, he convinced the Scots Law Times to start publishing the decisions made in Lyon Court. By ruling on uncontested petitions, he was able to expound many of his theories in court but not under review of his superior court, and get them published in the judicial record. His treatise, Scots Heraldry, was first published in 1934 when he was Carrick Pursuivant; then a second, enlarged edition came out in 1956, and it has practically eclipsed earlier works on the subject. Following his retirement as Lord Lyon in 1969, he was appointed Marchmont Herald.

Innes of Learney's writings contain a number of theories which, at a time when English armorial law had come to dominate even Scottish heraldry, may have seemed quite novel, despite his claims that they were grounded in Scotland's feudal past. Most notable is the claim that a grant of arms in Scotland confers what he calls "noblesse" and equates with nobility in the original sense, namely basic untitled nobility possessed by everyone noble, from Gentleman to Duke – though the word is nowadays generally taken to mean exclusively the Peerage, which is why the French word noblesse seemed to him a better term. There are also other claims, such as his right to decide disputes over chiefships of clans or branches of clans, his right to decide disputes of precedence, his right to confer nobility to non-physical persons such as corporations or associations, etc. These rights are still (2007) being exercised by the Court of the Lord Lyon. As a jurist, in 'Scots Heraldry' and in his revision of Adam's The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands as well as in The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland he offers evidence from ancient legal documents as well as more recent parliament and court decisions to support his position.

Thomas Woodcock (officer of arms)

Thomas Woodcock (born 20 May 1951) is the Garter Principal King of Arms.

William Courthope (officer of arms)

William Courthope (1808–1866) was an English officer of arms, genealogist and writer, Somerset Herald from 1854.

William Flower (officer of arms)

William Flower (1497/98–1588) was an English Officer of Arms in the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. He rose to the rank of Norroy King of Arms, serving in that capacity from 1562 until his death in 1588.

York Herald

York Herald of Arms in Ordinary is an officer of arms at the College of Arms. The first York Herald is believed to have been an officer to Edmund of Langley, Duke of York around the year 1385, but the first completely reliable reference to such a herald is in February 1484, when John Water alias Yorke, herald was granted certain fees by Richard III. These fees included the Manor of Bayhall in Pembury, Kent, and 8 pounds, 6 shillings, and 8 pence a year from the Lordship of Huntingfield in Kent. The badge of office is the White Rose of York en soleil ensigned by the Royal Crown.



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See also


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