Heralds in History in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
by Leslie A. Schweitzer (writing as Dame Zenobia Naphtali, O.L., O.P.)
copyright Leslie A. Schweitzer, July 2002.
Reprinted here with the gracious permission of the author.
Class Outline and Handout for class originally presented in July 2002
Apology for Anglocentrism: Much of the information about the history of heralds which is available in English is about English Heralds. I have tried as much as possible to discuss heralds from all over Europe.
It is also important to realize that the heralds in England, particularly in the later portion of this period, did have some peculiar institutions that did not exist, or only existed in limited form, elsewhere in Europe. These are identified whenever possible.
How do we know about Heralds?
- Period Literature
- Earliest Literary Reference to a Herald: Le
Chevalier de la Charette (Chrestien de Troyes) c. 1164-1174. In this tale, Sir Lancelot is attending a joust in disguise. A
herald of arms enters, wearing only a shirt because his coat and shoes
are pledged at the tavern. He
sees Lancelot's (sham) shield and is, clearly contrary to his
expectations, unable to recognize it. [HH p.47]
- Records, especially financial accounts
Origins of Heralds
- When? - appx. 12th c.
- Where? - Where there were tournaments (all
over Europe -- but at first, only places which had tournaments)
- What? (the VERY basic job description)
- People who
- made proclamations
- knew about arms (the insignia painted on
- were literate
- (when working for a Lord) was considered
his representative to some degree.
- Expected to travel, either when working
freelance (following the tournament circuit) or when following their
Lord, all over Europe.
- Originally Tournament Officers
- Or minstrels
- Ensuing rivalry with Minstrels
- Social status starts out low, in accordance
with Medieval views of itinerants and entertainers, but does rise by the
end of the Renaissance.
- Who did they work for?
- Tournament Societies
- (the unofficial) "International
Heraldic Confraternity" (Wagner's term) - similar rules about conduct and expected
fees/perks between France, England and (to a lesser extent) other parts
of Europe. Some evidence exists of heralds in England claiming privileges
due them because those privileges were had by French heralds [HE p72 et
seq]. Much fraternization between heralds of different countries when on
embassies or on war duty [HE p.43].
- Working for Constables/Marshals when on
some duties: From some
time before the 15th c on, this is the case in France and England for
heralds, under the Constable's and Marshal's responsibility for
"deeds of arms or war which are not part of common law" [HH
- Colleges of Heralds: A later development of the work under the
Constables and Marshals. Not all
Kingdoms had Colleges of Heralds: English College most elaborate.
- Kings of Arms, Heralds, Pursuivants
- officers Ordinary and Extraordinary
- Associated Investiture ceremonies
- Areas of Responsibility (Marches) within
Kingdoms or Principalities
- under Kings of Arms
- often based on tournament Marches
- Uniforms or other Insignia of Office
- Expected to wear a Coat of Arms or
other distinctive herald's uniform. Freelance herald insignia/uniform different
than that of a herald working for a particular Lord. Less formal shield pendant
also marks a herald as someone working for a particular Lord. Either the Coat
of Arms or shield marks him as a representative of his master.
The Changing Job
Early (12th - 13th c.)
- Proclaim in advance of, and at, tournaments.
- Includes cheering. And other positive comment during the
tournament and possibly afterwards (composing songs etc). The fighters so cheered are expected
to show largesse to their heraldic entourage. The cheering should be a
legitimate opinion of the herald: an accusation that the fighter had paid
the herald to cheer was an unpleasant one.
- Unarmed and possibly Unarmored: Heralds required to be unarmed (except
perhaps for "pointless swords" [HH p.26]) and required to wear
their coat of arms. There is an
implication that they may have been required to be unarmored as well [HE
- Risky Business: In this period, the tournament was war
training with the weapons of war, fought between two sides of 30 or 40
knights each. The introduction of
plate armor after some time made these things a bit safer for the
fighters and other people near the action (partially because fewer
Knights could afford to participate) but one had to be careful [HE pps
- Recognize Arms
- State of Armory in this period: Recall that 'true heraldry' as defined as
'the systematic use of hereditary devices centered on the shield'
originated about the 2nd quarter of the 12th c. Was well established by end of 12th c. in the upper classes
[HH pps 12-14], and prevalent among Knights by 1250 [HE p.25]. The practice of 'unique' arms (similar
arms should imply blood or feudal connections) is well established by
1250 as well based on rolls of arms [HH p.18].
- Arms as Property: Private agreements about rights to arms are
found in 2nd half 13th c. in Germany, and are found elsewhere in Europe
soon. Therefore arms can be considered property of the owner, who can
then give rights to infringe upon those arms should he so desire [HH pps
- Compiling rolls of arms: This was not a specific job duty of early
heralds, but it was an action performed by the heralds, and compilations
of heraldic records became part of some heraldic duties. The earliest
such compilations are in the mid-13th c.
rolls (based on some occasion:
who was at this battle or tournament)
- general rolls
(compiled on a regional plan, often with attributed arms of legendary
characters in the beginning).
- These rolls
were considered important heraldic records and when they were copied by
later heralds were copied as exactly as possible (old art style).
- "Roll of
arms-like" constructions in other media: poems (Siege of
Caerlaverock), architectural decoration.
- Known by a Herald's Title: Only for non-freelance heralds, the earliest mention of such a title
is Norroy in 1276 [WR p.153]. But such heraldic titles remain uncommon
until some time in the mid 14th c [HE p.19]. Heraldic titles are
equivalent to surnames and heralds may be addressed equally correctly by
his family surname or his heraldic name. From the mid 14th c.
heralds are often referred to by their titles as alternate names [HE
The formation of titles is different
from place to place. In Scotland many of the titles derive from the name of
Royal castles [BP p.94 et seq]. In England, most Heralds take the titles from
the names of the original Lords. Most pursuivants take their title from Royal
badges or badges of Royal orders (such as Bluemantle referring to the mantle of
the Order of the Garter) [WR p.140] In 14th c. France, the early
Kings of Arms take their titles from sovereign territories or Orders of
Chivalry, with the Heralds' titles from provinces. The Pursuivant's titles were
"epithets of gallantry or good encountering on joyful terms" such
as Loyauté (Loyalty), Joli-Coeur (Merry
Heart) and Dis-le-Vrai (Tell the Truth) [George p.19]. These last might be considered instances of
motto titles (since such phrases could be mottoes) but the phrases were not,
apparently, mottoes of the Lords for the heralds.
In general, we find these patterns of
sources for heralds titles as well as heraldic charges or war
cries/mottos. As an interesting note, a
late 15th c. Burgundian herald states that the Duke gives to a new
herald the name of the country from which came the wine with which he was
baptized at his creation ceremony [HE p.87].
As a side point, but an important
one: Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland is referred to as “Lord” because he is
by modern job definition a Judge in the Court of Scotland and addressed as
Lord. Heralds would not generally be
addressed with “Lord” prefacing their titles.
- General help to their Lord and knights in
their company. "When the Chatelain of Coucy had spent
a whole night in singing and diversion, his herald told him to go to bed
for he would be calling him early in the morning. And when morning came,
the heralds roused up the whole company of knights and told them it was
time for church" [HH p.26]. This anecdote is from the end of the 13th
or early 14th c. but the spirit thereof was found earlier in
this period, including the part about waking people up before the battle,
which is referenced by Guiart in 1304 describing the Battle of Bouvines in
1214. Remember, waking fighters up as ordered by the Lord is appropriate
to the period. Presumably, given that this was an actual battle, they were
- Servants in times of War: In
this period this was limited to messenger service, and only found
sporadically. As in the tournament, they are expected to be unarmed.
Middle (14th-15th c.)
Early expectations and duties continue but are expanded.
- Continuing Tournament Work
- More Ceremony:
King René's 15th c. Book of the Tournament shows heralds involved,
not only in negotiating the tournament challenge (to set it up in the
first place), and announcing the tournament, but in a review of the
helmets for the Ladies after the tournament (so they could fink on any
fighter who had not acted well, which fighter would then be barred from
the evening's festivities). [Neubecker pps 16-17]
- Tournament Societies:
Well established by this point. Each tournament district formed a
tournament society, using a bird or beast as its emblem. Heralds were attached to tournament
societies in some way as well as being attached to nobles. [Neubecker
- Rules of Tournament: In general the practices of tournament
societies west of the Rhine were stricter than those east of the
Rhine. The Western heralds'
"marches" (areas of jurisdiction) derived from tournament areas
of jurisdiction. [Neubecker p.20]
- Servants in time of War:
- Messengers (but not Spies!) - developed
into Ambassadors Not
supposed to 'spy on' the message recipient [HH p.42], such discretion
helped along by gifts from the receiver of the message [Neubecker p.14].
However, heralds were allowed to give 'useful advice' without going into
specifics. Ocasionally there are
reports of heralds who let important information slip by accident, to the
detriment of the herald's Lord. Over time the role becomes more of
an ambassador than mere message carrier.
Quartered in their Prince's tents,
for easy access. [Neubecker p.14]
French heralds who were carrying
ultimatums or declarations of war delivered these with their faces covered with
a veil of wool. This symbolized the fact that they really were unhappy to have
to make such an announcement, and helped identify them as special (thus
inviolate) people [George p.24].
- Observers of the battle for their Lords.
This information was used not only on the spot, but eventually, by
historians (who interviewed heralds). Some heralds wrote their own
chronicles about their masters, or about the history they had seen [HE
- After the battle: The herald of the victor should raise his
Lord's standard immediately, and then ensure that the banner of the loser
was obtained. Heralds were to identify and count the dead (identification
based on armory and on physical characteristics), arrange for
burials, communicate with
prisoners and handle ransom requests. Heralds, in principle, were not
taken prisoner, although this was sometimes not observed. [Neubecker p.16-18]
- 'Master of Ceremonies' - officiating at feasts and other court
festivities, and attending great occasions with their Masters in their
Coats of Arms. An extension of the earlier 'general help in announcement
and social coordination'. Involved
in investitures of Peers, witnessing the dubbing of new knights before the
beginning of battles (which of course were opened in a formal fashion, no
guerilla warfare here). Expected to announce during the feast and cry
largesse during the feast, and to attend the King on feast days, coming to
and from the church with the King and attending the banquet.
- Wouldn't be Caught Dead without a Bunch of
Heralds: Heraldic funerals
a major prop and mainstay of herald for fees and other perquisites.
Earliest heraldic funeral (known to Wagner) was in 1462 [HE p.107].
- Arms as Property: Most disputes in this period though are
still private litigation, but Court of Chivalry (under the Constable and
Marshal) hears cases from the first half of the 14th c. on [HH
p.21]. Most famous English case
of armorial dispute: Scrope vs. Grosvenor 1385, case lasted for five
years in the Court of Chivalry.
In this period, heralds are called as expert witnesses, or
witnesses state that they have heard public proclamations from heralds,
as part of testimony considering right of arms. From 15th c. on in England heralds have official standing
in the Court (are paid by the court) [HH p.24].
- Right to Arms Question and Right to Grant
Arms: in England (not on the Continent!) Kings of
Arms get to grant arms. In 1417,
there is a Royal Enactment which gives Kings of Arms the perquisite of
granting arms, implying that perhaps some lesser ranked heralds did so
earlier. Arms are only to be
granted to persons who are neither 'vile' nor 'dishonest’ [HH p.61]
Meanwhile, on the continent, arms
were extended to all social classes (not just fighting) c. 1230-1330 based on
seals, even including peasant and Jews [Traité p.47]. Burgher (middle-class townspersons) arms in Germany and the Low
Countries became a very consistent system although with some distinctions (such
as helm types) from noble arms [WR p.21].
Arms = Nobility? This issue starts to arise in mid 14th c., soon after "arms =
property" The whole issue of the right to grant arms brings up the
question of arms and nobility. If Arms
= Nobility and Heralds can grant Arms then that implies a herald may be
"creating" (rather than "recognizing") nobility. This
becomes a particular issue in England, where most grants of arms are from heralds
rather than from the English crown. On
the Continent however grants directly from Kings of Arms are unknown so this
issue is much less of a problem, although questions arise occasionally.
All over Europe however arms become
strongly associated with nobility. People in tourneys are required to be noble
or gentlemen 'on 4 sides' in 15th c. France for the main level of tournaments
(a lesser level exists in which this is not a requirement) [HH p.71]. You could
be noble without arms, but arms
became expected of such individuals.
"I can't tourney with him, he has no arms, therefore he is not
noble" was one late 14th c. French Knight's assumption about an English
man at arms. On hearing this complaint, Richard II (on the spot) acknowleged
the English man at arms as a gentleman and said that he would be henceforth
known by Arms (and he was then allowed to participate in the tournament)
[Dennys p.152]. So one could certainly be a noble without arms (as was this man
at arms)-- but the two are strongly associated.
Henry V in 1417 spoke against the
assumption of arms and "tunics of arms called Cotearmures" by those
whose ancestors had not so borne in times past: no one was to do this without
having ancestral right, or a grant by someone with authority, except all those
who fought in Agincourt [HE p.36].
- in England,
with the enactments of 1417, we get more formal organization of heralds
involved in the matter of granting arms and heraldic organization. Kings
of Arms are to hold 'chapters' to resolve doubts of Heralds or
Pursuivants, or kick problems up to the Constable for resolution [JJ
- Roster for Service: From the end of the 15th c. on the heralds
of the English Crown had a known rotation of service. Aside from substitutions for sickness
or special business, a King of Arms, Herald and Pursuivant would always
be together in attendance on the King for each principal feast, great
council or other times the King needed heralds in attendance. Note that this distributes the fees
around [HE p.97].
- Introduction of Garter in England: Garter King of Arms is put over the
English territorial Kings of Arms in 1415 causing disputes about 'which King of Arms gets to grant
arms here anyways' which last through to 1530 [HH p.81]. Remember, granting arms = fee.
- Visitation-like things: An early 15th c. tract by
Toison d'Or King of Arms give the herald's oath of Montjoye King of
Arms, with explicit requirement that every 3 years each march should
have the names, arms, crests and “cris de guerre” of the tenants
noted. There are similar
requirements for French Marshals of Arms in the 15th c. [HE p.34] It is believed the English heralds
had similar activities which led to the 16th c. Visitations.
- Colleges of Heralds: English College is incorporated by Richard
III in 1484, although this is one of Richard’s acts that was later
undone by his successors. The
College was under the Earl Marshal with Garter acting as the effective
day to day head.
In France, the heralds incorporate Le
College des Hérauts de France, and acquire the Chapel of Petit Saint Antoine
for housing their library and their meetings in 1406/1407. The articles of incorporation of their
College confirm the traditional privileges of the heralds [HH p.96, George
- General Social Standing of Heralds:
Raised somewhat over the early days but the "vagabond
associations" stay with them.
In the 1st half of the 15th c. Heralds continue to be classed in a
homilectic work with crafts such as "harlots, jugglers, sham
cripples, beggars, public buffoons, professional champions, false toll
collectors and executioners." [HE p.19] Ongoing Minstrel vs. Herald friction seen in the works by
the minstrels about the heralds, which former see the latter as pompous,
expensive and arguably useless. In
the late 14th c. poem "Dit des Hyraus" the poet explains that
(in addition to other problems with the expense of tournaments)
"every knight has to maintain three or four heralds and cannot get
rid of them... So, one must be enterprising and it is [the author's] wish to become a herald;
for there is no profession more convenient for an idle, greedy man, nor
any in which one may talk so much and do so little." [HH p.30] Still,
the heralds in 15th c. London lived in a fashion as did the members of the
Guilds, and socialized with them, a fairly high social class for a
non-noble [HE p.126].
Late (16th c.)
The trend of heraldry continues towards a slightly more 'bourgeois' scale
now are no longer expected to be much like minstrels,
on embassy are generally ambassadors not message carriers
recognition of arms/armorial recordkeeping parts are expanded.
previous categories of work continue.
- Ceremonial- Heralds continue to attend major ceremonies,
and to make proclamations. For example at the baptism of the infant son of
James VI in 1594, the baby was preceded from his bedroom to the
christening chapel by Lyon and the heralds who proclaimed his style and
titles after the christening [BP p.102].
- Heraldic Funerals: Particularly big in 16th c, with huge
expense for the family. The family of the Duke of Rothes (in 1631, so
shortly after period) was almost bankrupted by the expense of his funeral
[BP p.101]. At the funeral of Henri IV in 1610 there were 22 Kings of
Arms and 55 heralds in the procession [George p.23].
- in 1530, the
big argument between Garter and the provincial Kings of Arms is settled
and the provincial Kings are given sole right to grant arms, with
associated fees etc [HH p.99].
- Visitations: official visitation as per English, is
peculiar to England. The official
start of such things was 1530 although there are implications of similar
activities earlier, for example, the 1530 writ is specifically written to
require the assistance of local authorities rather than making the whole
process sound new. The 1530 writ required [HH p.7]:
- A Visitation
write issued under Royal letters patent
- Conducted by a
King of Arms
- Could correct
(e.g. fix, deface or remove) any depictions of arms unlawfully borne
- Enter those
lawfully borne arms into records along with the pedigree of the bearer
directed to provide all assistance to the heralds
NOT Genealogists: The Visitations are
the introduction of genealogy into the herald's job description. Even so, a herald's involvement was to
assess whether a provided genealogy was likely to be correct. It was not to perform the genealogical
work. There is some small evidence that
some heralds may have done some genealogical research, but it was not part of
their job description [Dennys p.160, HE p.132]
Other areas’ Visitation-like
Activities: Ulster Herald in Ireland has some attempts at visitations at this
time as well [HH p.6]. In Scotland a 'visitation' involved only survey and
registration of arms (no genealogy), but the earliest actual legislation which
gives Lyon a requirement to inspect arms of noblemen in a visitation like
fashion is in 1592 [WR p.154].
- Colleges of Arms:
The English College of Arms is re-granted a charter in 1555, which
gives them a building in which to conduct their business and the normal
powers of a corporate body. It is
not explicitly stated to be under the Earl Marshal as previously, but
eventually after period (in 1673) it is clearly brought firmly back under
the Earl Marshal. It seems clear
that the heralds continued to act as a body to some degree between the
period of the first incorporation and this second incorporation. [Dennys
The Heralds in Ordinary are set forth in the 1555
charter [Dennys p.144]. The previous
‘chapter’ meetings continued, and after the 1555 charter the Officers of Arms
in the chapter meetings also handled corporate business. The College building becomes an office of
record due to the storage of important records, although the library is at
times neglected. The Earl Marshal rules in 1568 that the heralds’ records
should be kept in the library and none should enter the library without being
accompanied by a herald [WR p.145]. Replacement of English officers of arms
becomes chapter business in this century: the Officers of Arms agree to decide
on replacements for deceased officers and then present their choice as a body
The Elizabethan period is particularly difficult,
at least in part due to the awful, violent and incompatible personalities of
William Dethick (in College from 1540 on, Garter from 1550-1584) and Ralph
Brooke (in College from 1580-1625, ending as York Herald) [HE, chapter on the
- In the French
College, Mountjoy becomes the Principal King of Arms in 1515, previously other
Kings of Arms had rotated through the top precedence spot. In 1578, with the introduction of the
Order of the Holy Spirit, the French add an officer "The King of
Arms of the Orders of the King", who is given the duty of keeping a
list of the arms, crests and supporters of all persons received into
their orders, as well as being a general secretary of the orders. [George
- General Social Standing: Continues to improve in respect to the
herald being of a higher social class than the previous minstrel/itinerant
class. Balfour Paul says that the heralds in Scotland were often of the
lesser Lairds and their kindred [BP p.96], and while his assessment is
undated it seems very much to be true in the 16th c. This drawing of
heralds from the lesser gentlefolk seems to be a general trend at this
However, at the same time their
status lessens over this century, with accusations of living immoral lives and
selling arms for money (the standard accusation to levy at a herald one
does not like), or otherwise mis-granting arms to individuals who should be
ineligible. In France, the prestige of the heralds had
been declining for some time, and got sharply worse after the death of Henri II
in 1559, with accusations of these sorts of misconduct. [George p.26]
Large amounts of internal
squabbling in the English College in this century, described in gory detail in
Heralds of England. The bad blood spills over to heralds testifying against
other heralds in criminal actions, more accusations of sale of arms for money,
heralds tricking other heralds into granting arms to persons of vile status and
then complaining about the grants, and other lovely shows of cooperative
Perquisites and Fees:
- Inviolate: Certainly the case by the end of the Renaissance. In 1524, a whole
town in Provence was razed because a herald of Charles V was killed
[Neubecker p.19]. In 1514, Lord Drummond (the grandfather of the earl of
Angus) was imprisoned and his estates forfeited, for boxing Lyon on the
ear while Lyon was delivering a message -- although the severity of the
punishment may have been part of other political machinations [BP
p.82]. The inviolate nature of a
herald stems from the fact that he is the representative of his Lord, so
an assault on the herald is like an assault on the Lord -- treason, in the
case of a King.
- Tax Free: The heralds generally
considered themselves to be "exempt from payment of all taxes,
subsidies and relief, exempt from tolls and customs, freedom from jury
service or being required to serve in public office". This was
declared by Edward VI in 1549, but the declaration was reaffirming
traditional heralds' rights (after a change in law required them to be
subject to one such tax, and they complained) rather than being a new
declaration. Many of these tax
exemptions were standard rights of French nobility (not England), and the
French heralds generally had those prerogatives of a noble, but the
English heralds needed this stated explicitly [HE p.101]. Still, the French Kings of Arms once had
to ask the King to keep people from representing themselves as heralds to
evade taxes [Neubecker p.19]
- Footloose and Fancy-Free: Heralds were free to travel where they
wished, not a usual lifestyle in the Middle Ages or Renaissance.
"Free to travel" includes, as stated above, exemption from tolls
- We Have to Keep Telling You 'cause you Won't
Write it Down: Most
herald's fees were customary rather than legislated -- and many of them
came on infrequent occasions such as marriages, funerals and coronations.
Therefore, the heralds spend much time to keep records of said fees and
remind people of said records if the required fees are not
forthcoming. By understanding the
fees, we understand why certain parts of the profession flourished and others
didn't, and some of the internal squabblings and organization.
- Stuff, not Cash:
Many of the heralds' fees were actually in the form of tangible
objects rather than money, or tangible objects that might be redeemed by
their owner for a known standard fee.
- Tournament Perks: One of the major tournament perks of the
herald is the broken armor left on the field (recalling that the
tournaments were like war melees, that's a lot of broken bits). By the beginning of the 15th c. the
Heralds were also entitled to broken armor of combattants in a Court of
Chivalry combat (it had previously gone to the constable). Depending on the sort of lists, the
heralds might also have right to horse trappers and broken lances, and sometimes
even horses (of the overthrown party)
[HE pps 103-106].
- No Extra Pay for Routine Work: There were rarely particular fees for
proclamations nad tournament work, especially in the early days of
heraldry. Certain proclamations of
importance were sometimes paid for, especially those marking special
occasions [HE p.76].
- Messenger Tips: The occasional fee was paid by the
receiver of the message in wartime. This was more of a tip, and an
encouragement to the herald not to disclose what he had seen in the camp
of the enemy, than a set customary fee [Neubecker p.14].
- Ceremonial Attendance and Minstrelsy: Heralds generally paid for attendance at
grand functions (such as marriages) and general minstrelsy in England at
least by the late 13th c. Records show French heralds being likewise paid
at the beginning of the 14th c. Sometimes this was like largesse,
sometimes payment for a particularly clever or enjoyable act by a herald,
and sometimes just payment for doing something. [HE p.17]
Sometimes the party paying was the
Lord of the heralds (for having the heralds come along) but sometimes it was
the host: for example the host of a Marriage might pay the heralds of the
visiting Lords as well as their own heralds [HH p.27].
Customary fees and largesse at
Coronation and at the baptism of a prince and princess, "Giving the King a
New Year", and other occasions too numerous to enumerate here [HE is a
great source for this, many many pps.].
Funerals, as mentioned above, were a
big source of fees for heralds once heraldic funerals became popular.
Division of fees of heralds attending the Crown: "The sums were paid to the
office and shared out in the usual proportion to the heralds in attendance: a
King of arms’ share is is double a
Herald’s, and a Herald double a
Pursuivant, but something was set aside for ordinary officers who did not
attend and for extraordinary officers who did." The division of fees,
unsurprisingly, is subject to change and discussion/squabbling over time, but
the average practices, when they were set forth clearly, follow this guideline
- Ennoblement Fees: People being ennobled (either newly
ennobled, or acceding to greater estate) are expected to pay any Officers
of Arms present at the ennoblement [HH p.72]. This may be a gift or a fixed
price at various times and places [HE p.74-75]. Heralds present as witnesses at the dubbing of a new Knight
were also to be paid [Neubecker p.15]
- Shirt off your Back: In England, Garter had a special perk
traced to the early 15th c. and William Bruges' petition: to get the
clothing in which a prince, duke, marquess or earl was created -- this
right was said to be one already had by Montjoye King of Arms in France
so the right was perhaps an international one. This right was extended to Viscounts and Barons in 1522 by
Henry VIII. As an example, in
1513/14 Garter claimed a gown worth 200 pounds from Charles Brandon
(newly made) Duke of Suffolk, in violet furred with sable and decorated
with scrolls of fine gold with Charles' motto. Garter wore the garment
the whole next day but the Duke redeemed it for a gown of black velvet
furred with martin, a sum of 10 pounds, and a 4 pound annuity for life.
This was serious money at that time. Garter had similar rights at the
installation of Knights of the Garter. [HE p.75]
Some of the Knights of lesser estate
being dubbed were also expected to give their pre-dubbing garments to the
heralds, although there was a set price by which the garment could be redeemed. [Neubecker p.15]
- Cups: A Herald, Pursuivant or King of Arms generally got a cup at his
investiture, of silver or silver-gilt, which was considered part of his
fee (see investitures, below). [HE p.84]
- "Diet" and general household
expenses: The Crown's heralds are entitled to eat
in the feast hall and in other days: ranks determine how good the
situation is. (Garter gets his own table, the general Officers of Arms
share their own table, the Pursuivants sit at the head of the varlet's
table). In most of this period the
Crown Heralds were expected to attend the King at court and have expenses
approved for their food at that time. By the end of the 16th c. this was
no longer approved, presumably, because the heralds were not so much about
as they had been. Still Henry VIII ordered that each King of Arms must
keep 3 servants and 3 horses at Court, the six Heralds one servant and two
horses, and each of the 7 pursuivants one horse... all at Crown expense.
- Patents of Arms: For English Kings of Arms, who granted
arms, there was a fee to the herald. This wasn’t fixed for most of this
period but became fixed in the 2nd quarter of the 16th
c. [HE p. 107]
- Salary: By the end of this period there's a bit of one for important
members of the English College of Arms, above and beyond clothing
allotments. [HE p.99-100]
More about Herald Ranks, Uniforms, Ceremonies associated with Ranks…
- Kings of
Heralds first mentioned in 1276 in England with an associated territory
north of the Trent (what is later Norroy) [HE p.6]. Much earlier in France, where Kings of
Arms are mentioned in 1137 and 1180 [George p.19]. This term is roughly contemporary with
use of “Kings of Minstrels” and this may tie into the fool Kings of the
festivals (May King, Lord of Misrule etc.) Kings of Heralds almost exclusively in employ of sovereign
princes, although there is an early example of March King of Arms being
possibly attached to Henry Lord Percy c. 1298 before becoming a Royal
herald. [HE pps7-8]
Kings of Arms not only had higher status than
Heralds and Pursuivants but had territorial jurisdiction. This conferred some
sort of responsibility over the lesser heralds in the territory/march, but also
came with large share of fees and perks. In England, until the creation of
Garter, no King of Arms was without his march. [HH p.39]
Each King of Arms needed to deputize a herald
called Marshal of Arms of the March (this is clearly stated by most of the
English authors on the subject) [HH 43 et seq]. I’m still not quite clear on
the division of responsibility between the King of Arms and the Marshal of
Arms, perhaps this latter may be responsible for handling generic heraldic
matters in the march if the King of Arms is attending his Lord or on embassy.
It isn't clear to me if this is the same as the
French Marshal of Arms but if so it's a very different duty than what I posit
above. However, the French rank doesn't
sound like an automatic deputy to a King of Arms, so perhaps it is a different
thing indeed. In 1487 King Charles VIII
created Gilbert Chaveau, Bourbon Herald 'Marshal of Arms of the French' - a
rank lying between that of a King of Arms and a Herald, charging him 'to take
and receive in a catalogue all blazons of all nobles of the Kingdom, of the
Dauphine/ and other parts and to correct faults, if faults there should be
found.' Jean le Fevre, first Toison
d'Or King of Arms, was Charolais Marshal of arms before his promotion.[George
Normandy, there is a mention of a Duke of Heralds in 1347 and in 1480:
this seems to be peculiar to Normandy and ranks, as one might expect,
between a Herald and a King of Arms. (A Duke of arms is NOT, like Da'ud
ibn Auda, someone who was a King of Arms twice :-) [George p.23]
- Heralds: The generic term through this period
but (those fees again) the status of a Herald, as opposed to Pursuivant
or King of Arms, is an important one.
Heralds could be retained by ‘mere’ Lords and Knights. [HE p.7]
Junior or probationary heralds, found later than the other terms. One 15th c. writer claims this state
is like a novice in religion, so a Pursuivant could renounce the duties
of his office if needs be. By the 15th c. Pursuivants would not be
appointed without the reccommendation of two heralds who could attest to
their discretion virtue and honesty.
They needed to be "over 20, well educated and of good
standing." They had to serve
an apprenticeship of some years before promotion to herald, as much as 7
years (in the Burgundian court). [HE p.22]
In France, the Pursuivants were
almost always given the riskiest announcements: summoning towns to surrender to
the King's Writ or summoning rebellious nobles to court. "Louis XI was rather fond of promoting
Pursuivants to the rank of Herald for particular services, on the basis that it
gave them much pleasure without costing him a penny" [George p.24]. (It also, presumably, gave them rights to a
bigger slice of the fee division amongst their heraldic bretheren.)
Heralds’ Uniform/Regalia: Note that the best single
readily available source for information about Herald’s regalia is Neubecker
- Tabards: The herald’s “coat of arms”, probably originally a cast off
fighting surcoat of the Heralds’ Lord, became standardized as a tabard
with the Lord’s arms on back, front, and each sleeve. References to the herald’s distinctive
wear are found in the 13th c. [HE p.78]
Note that in some occasions, a herald might wear
the coat of arms of someone other than his master. In 1380 when the English were before Troyes, Chandos and
Aquitaine heralds were sent to offer battle wearing coats of arms of the Duke
of Buckingham rather than their usual tabards.
In 1463, some English Crown heralds attending the funeral of the Earl of
Salisbury wore coats of the deceased Earl’s arms, rather than the King’s. [HE
In some places and times (particularly England and
France), Pursuivants were supposed to wear their tabards “athwart” with the
sleeves forward and back (giving a ‘very large sleeve’ effect). References can be found as early as 1435-40,
and in 1576 Rouge Croix Pursuivant was fined for presuming to wear his coat as
a herald. [HE p.79]
Tabards ranged from being very expensive to much
less so, at least from 15th c. records. For example, when Henry VI
had to unexpectedly take the field he bought Lancaster King of Arms’ tabard for
20 pounds. But contemporary tabards could be found for down to one pound. As an example the Earl of Warwick in 1437
paid 10 pounds 10 s. for his coat of arms but 1 pound for that of his heralds.
In 16th c. England customs arose for
different materials for tabards for different ranks of herald but even during
the 16th c. the customs changed. [HE p.80]
“Freelance” heralds (who were not associated with a
Lord) wore tabards or capelets decorated with small plain or ‘generic’ shields
rather than with a large coat of arms.
(Neubecker specifically says "plain" shields, but the
illustrations show either plain shields or shields with simple armory).
- Escutcheons: Officers of Arms are given a small
escutcheon of the master’s arms to wear, on informal occasions or while
travelling. It is like a sort of a jewel (metal engraved or
enamelled.) It is generally worn
on the shoulder or on the breast, and period documents differ about where
exactly the shield should be worn, English favoring the left breast but
Sicily herald supporting the right.
Note that similar shields were sometimes given by a Lord to a
herald of some other Lord, as a mark of esteem. We can find examples from the 14th and 15th
c. of heralds wearing such shields of their own and other lords, or Lords
giving out such escutcheons.
Henry VI gave 40 s to a herald of the King of Aragon, so that the
herald might commission such a shield of Henry’s arms to be made. [HE
- Crowns: For Kings of Arms, only.
To the beginning of the 17th c. they were found in many
forms with points ending in fleurs, trefoils, balls, or plain points. The
present English form with the oak leaves was standardized ca. George
II. English Kings of Arms crowns
were copper gilt or silver gilt, until Garter came back from Scotland in
1636 saying complaining that Lyon's crown was gold, and Garter was
granted that right thereafter [HE p.90-91] French Kings of Arms wore
their crowns on ceremonial occasions until as late as 1555, using a
raised potenty motif. [George p.36]
- Rods or Sceptres:
Many pictures of heralds show them in conjunction with rods,
specifically (in England) white Rods, but exactly who has the right to
bear this rod is not clear, or how exactly it is used. At one point William Bruges asked to
be given the right to bear a long white rod with a little banner of the
arms of St. George at the end, which right to be exclusively his (as
Garter) – but it isn’t clear whether the exclusive right was to be the
rod, or the rod with the flag. [HE p.92]
- Mantles: Garter, as herald for the
Order of the Garter, has a mantle as officer of the Order. [HE p.93]
Heralds “created”: As early as 1180 (reference to
‘singer newly made herald’ of William the Marshal) there is an implication that
some form of admission or creation applies to heralds [HE p.4]. Creation ceremonies soon came to be
associated with this, although Creations could be done on an impromptu basis,
such as a Royal response to a particular service or welcome piece of news
[Neubecker p.18 etc.].
- Herald Creation Ceremonies: Found from 14th c. on, and
could only be performed by a sovereign or his deputy [HH p.31].
The creation ceremonies are more elaborate for higher ranks,
and become more elaborate over time.
Creation of the Pursuivants found later than for the other
ranks. As a general rule, if
there is some piece of regalia that goes with the office that would not
have already been borne by that herald, the regalia will be used in the
ceremony somehow. For example,
illustrations of the investiture of Garter show heralds in attendance
holding the robe due him as an Officer of the Order of the Garter. The
small escutcheon worn by various ranks of officers of arms is also given
at the creation of that officer.
Most herald creation ceremonies have oaths, with
the higher ranks building on the lower ranks.
- Pursuivant Creation Ceremonies:
Originally without an oath. By 1400 Anjou herald complains about
the newfangled custom of baptising pursuivants with a cup filled with
water [HH p.43]. Other
discussions of Pursuivant creation say watered wine is used [HE p.84].
Once a Pursuivant starts having an
oath in the ceremony, it goes more or less as follows: "He must swear to
be lowly and humble and serviceable to all estates universal that were Christian,
not lying in wait to hurt nor blame any of them in anything that might touch
their honor, to dispose himself to be secret and sober, not too busy in speech,
ready to commend and loath to blame, and diligent in his service, eschewing
vices and drawing towards virtues." [HE pps.43-44]
Pursuivants wore coats of arms, and
in those times and places where a Pursuivant wore his tabard athwart, the
investiture ceremony would put the tabard on in this fashion, as with the
investiture of Portcullis Pursuivant in 1588 “with the Manches before and
behinde”. [HE p.79]
- Herald Creation Ceremonies: Include an oath, and vesting with a coat
of arms. They are baptised with wine from a cup which he may keep. In areas where a Pursuivant wore his
tabard athwart, the ceremony might well include turning the tabard to
the more usual direction.
In England, once the Collar of SS is
found as officer regalia, the Herald may be invested with this collar during
the ceremony (it is not clear whether this was appropriate for heralds or just
for Kings of Arms early, but by the 16th c. it is a standard part of
a herald’s investiture). This collar may be considered part of Royal Livery
rather than part of the herald’s uniform: it is not clear. [HE pps. 89-90]
A herald swears the same oath as a
Pursuivant (during the period when Pursuivants did not swear, the contents of
the Pursuivant’s oath were presumably part of the herald’s oath.) The herald’s oath has the following
additions over the Pursuivant’s: "to be true to his Lord and to report any
treason he might hear spoken against him: to be serviceable and obedient to all
lords and ladies, gentlemen and gentlewomen, and to keep their secrets except
for treason, while seeking and reporting worshipful deeds: if he chanced to
meet any gentleman of name and arms, who had lost his goods in the Kings
service, to give or lend to him, if he heard any strife between gentlemen, not
to report it: to be serviceable and true to all widows and maidens and, if any
man would wrong them, to bear witness on their behalf to his Lord: and to
forsake all vices and take to him all virtues, avoiding taverns, dice and
playing at hazard, places of debate and the company of unhonest women."
Note that the Continental heralds’
oaths include clauses having to do with the professional interest of the
heraldic body. The English heralds’ oaths omit these clauses. These clauses
require the herald to "preserve and increase to the best of his ability
the rights, privileges and franchises of the office of arms; to make known to
his fellows any deeds of arms, feasts, tournaments, jousts and other assemblies
of arms and honour, at which they may be able to acquire thanks, honour, and
profit; and not to keep such things to himself for his private advantage or from
malevolence." [HE p.44]
- Kings of Arms Creation Ceremonies: Include an oath and vesting with a coat
of arms. They are baptised with wine from a cup which he may keep. As
noted with the Heralds, once the Collar of SS is found as officer
regalia, it is expected of Heralds – and Kings of Arms (the first known
example is from William Bruges, who was the first Garter King of Arms).
Lyon King of Arms was crowned with a
crown that was much like the Royal Crown (without jewels). It is unclear how early
this custom was, David Lindsay of the Mount II (created Lyon 1592) stated that
the King Himself put the ancient open crown of the sovereigns of Scotland on
his head, and he wore that crown at dinner with the King… the copies of the
crown without gems are definitely in place after the Renaissance. [BP p.85, 91] English Kings of Arms
developed their special crowns [Dennys p.150].
King of Arms swears a Herald’s oath with the following addition of a clause
where he must "promise to render a fair accounting and division of all
largesse received on behalf of his bretheren." [HH p.43]
- Those Cups: The cup for the creation of a King of
Arms, Herald or Pursuivant might be of silver or silver gilt depending
on the time and place. There are various written guidelines but the
records from the Master of the Jewel House do not show a consistent
application of any of these guidelines. Unsurprisingly any written
records call for more elaborate or more expensive cups for higher
heraldic ranks. [HE p.85]
Some interesting heraldic personality trivia
Sir David Lindsay of
the Mount: Lyon King of Arms (the
first of two Lyons of that name). He
was the effective Scottish National poet until Burns’ time, and a political and
religious thinker and reformer. He was a courtier to James V for his whole life
(including his childhood). A thorough history of his life and his place in
Scottish history is Court and Culture in
Renaissance Scotland, Carol Edington, University of Massachusetts Press,
Amherst 1994. His poetry is available
in collections of Scottish poetry of the 16th c. I have just recently found out
he is also the co-hero of a Nigel Tranter ‘fictionalized history’ about the
life of James V (but seen from the viewpoint of David Beaton and David Lindsay
of the Mount): The Riven Realm/James, by the Grace of God/ Rough Wooing. I know
one graduate student in Scots history who is afraid to read Tranter because
Tranter's history is good enough that it might make her confuse fact and
fiction. Having read through these novels once, they’re not a bad read
(although the plot might have been a bit tighter were it completely fictional),
the heraldry is good, but there isn’t much of an insight into the day to day
herald’s life provided therein.
Unicorn Pursuivant (in Scotland) in 1570, he was caught forging the Regent’s
signature, for which he had his right hand cut off and was banished from the
Kingdom. [BP p.95]
Sir William Stewart: Lyon
King of Arms in 1567, only held office for 6 months after which he was arrested
under charges of conspiring to kill the Regent via sorcery and necromancy, and
for which he was put to death in August 1569.
It is generally believed that the real problem was opposition to the
Regent and loyalty to the Queen. [BP p.84]
Ralph Brooke (various
offices held in English College 1580-1625):
Possibly most disagreeable herald who ever lived. See Wagner's Heralds of England for a blow-by-blow description. In many cases,
"blow by blow" is quite literal.
Bibliography for this class (Annotated)
Some of this material is footnoted/referenced in the
outline above: those abbreviations are given below in [Square Brackets]
[BP] Sir James Balfour Paul, Heraldry in relation to Scottish History and Art, Edinburgh, David
Douglas, 1900. Chapter 3 is on the Heraldic Executive in Scotland and is a very
thorough overview of the topic, including the origins of the Scottish herald’s
Charles Burnett, Contacts
between Scottish and English Officers, Tribute to an Armorist, John Campbell-Kease (editor), The Heraldry
Society, 2000 ed. John Campbell-Kease.
Gives a good history of the title subject. The author was at the time of
the writing Ross Herald in Scotland.
[Dennys] Rodney Dennys, Heraldry and the Heralds, Jonathan Cape, London, 1982. A
well-written book covering aspects of armory and of heralds from its origins to
the present day, with an English focus.
Dennys was a member of the English College of Arms.
[George] John George, The French Heralds, The Double Tressure No. 8 1986 pps. 19-39. A good discussion of this topic, in English,
including much information not in the other sources. The author was, at the
time of the writing, Kintyre Pursuivant in Scotland.
[Neubecker] Ottfried Neubecker, Heraldry, Sources Symbols and Meanings, Black Cat, 1976. One of the single most useful overviews of
all things heraldic, containing many color pictures of period artifacts. The author is not English, and provides a
useful foreign perspective. Many good
pictures of regalia, either actual extant regalia or pictures of manuscripts
Michel Pastoureau, Heraldry
(an introduction to a noble tradition), English translation copyright 1997,
Thames and Hudson. Another nice overview of all things heraldic, unfortunately
without much that immediately pertains to the topic of this class. Some
information about the classes of people who bore arms is provided in this book.
[Traité] Michel Pastoureau, Traité d'Héraldique, 2nd ed. Grands Manuels Picard, 1993. An excellent book on Medieval armory and
related topics, although unfortunately for most readers, in French. It has occasional information bearing on the
topic of this class, particularly concerning the classes of people who bore
arms. Most of the book is on the history of armory.
G.D. Squibb, Munimenta
Heraldica, Publications of the Harleian Society New Series Vol 4, 1985.
This book is an anthology of 500 years (1484-1984) of documents pertaining to
the English College of Arms, the Earl Marshal, and the Officers of Arms, with
translations and originals of Latin texts.
[HE] Anthony Richard Wagner, Heralds of England, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1967. All
about the Heralds of England up until the 20th c. Full of entertaining trivia, and an enjoyable "read"
(even though the book itself is large and unwieldy, don't let that scare you.
It has large type and large margins.)
Much of the material for this period is also covered in Wagner's book Heralds and Heraldry in the Middle Ages
(q.v.) However, this book contains an
additional wealth of detailed information about English herald's fees, herald’s
titles, personalities of individuals, College of Arms politics, and so
forth. Wagner was a member of the
English College for years.
[HH] Anthony Richard Wagner, Heralds and Heraldry in the Middle Ages, 2nd ed., Oxford University
Press, 1956. An excellent book with
much information on this topic, and a strong focus on the history of
Visitations and historical evidence showing that the Visitations were merely an
outgrowth of earlier heraldic activities along these lines. Much of this
information is also available in Heralds
in England, which is written more entertainingly. Advantages to this book: compact size and complete focus on the
Middle Ages, focus on heralds all through Europe (although with a main interest
in England), as opposed to Heralds in
England which is almost exclusively about English practices.
[WR] Thomas Woodcock and John Martin Robinson, The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, Oxford
University Press, 1990. A good modern
guide to heraldry in England from its origins to the present day, well written
and with good illustrations. While this does not have much material on the
topic of this class, it does have some information, and is more up to date in
its scholarship than the Wagner works in some cases. While Wagner's scholarship
is impeccable some new documents etc. have come to light since the books
mentioned above were written, and some of that information is in this
book. Thomas Woodcock is a member of
the English College.
Coat of Arms (Heraldry
Society [of England]), TheDouble Tressure
(Heraldry Society [of Scotland]), various proceedings of societies of
antiquaries occasionally turn up articles on this topic. None of these were
used as specific sources of the information in this class except as noted
above. David Hunter of Montlaw has provided the following list of articles
which apply to topics in this class:
Frere, J, "The Herald's
Duties on the Death of the King" Coat of Arms, Old Series vol. 2, p. 43
Maclagan, M., "Activities and Rewards of the Officers of Arms in the
Mid-Nineteenth Century" Coat of Arms, Old Series, vol. 6, p. 146
Rangel, M, "The Heraldic Executive in Spain" Coat of Arms, Old
Series, vol. 7, p. 145
Davies, T. R., "Heraldry in Medieval Warfare," Coat of Arms, Old
Series, vol. 9, p. 68
Davies, T. R., "Heralds in Medieval Warfare," Coat of Arms, Old
Series, vol. 9, p. 245
Squibb, G.D. "Heralds and Pursuivants Extraordinary" Coat of Arms,
Old Series, vol. 9, pp. 238, 274
Whitney, J.R.S. "Two 15th Century Chester Heralds" Coat of Arms, Old
Series, vol. 12, pp. 52, 124, 160.
Agnew of Lochnaw, yr, "The Mount- Lord Lyon" Coat of Arms, New
Series, vol. 2, p. 87
Enright, M., "A Note on the Inauguration of the Lyon King of Arms"
Coat of Arms, New Series, vol. 2, p. 7
Lester, G. A., "The Fifteenth Century English Heralds and their Fees: A
Case for Forgery" Coat of Arms, new Series, vol. 7, p. 32
"Lancaster & Annesley: A Record of Arms used in a 14th C. Single
Combat in Soc. Of Antiquaries MS 305," Coat of Arms, no. 174, p. 261
"Creation of the Office of Garter King of Arms" Coat of Arms, no.
172, p. 134
"Sir James Balfour of Denmylne and Kinnaird and his Coronation as Lyon
King of Arms of Scotland, 1630" Coat of Arms, no. 179, p. 117.
George, J. "The French Heralds," Double Tressure, no. 8, pp. 19-39
Heralds in History: Illustrations
(due to copyright
restrictions the actual photographs cannot be uploaded, but here are the descriptions)
1. From King René's book of the
Tournament (15th c.) The herald for the Duke of Brittany presents, to the Duke
of Bourbon, a roll of arms for possible umpires for the tournament, of which
the Duke of Bourbon may choose four (Neubecker p.14).
2. From the same
book, a pursuivant of the Duke of Brittany (bottom left), wearing his tabard
athwart, proclaims the start of the tournament. The umpires are wearing
armorial 'badges' fastened to their headgear. (Neubecker p.14)
3. (Left) "Sicily"
Herald, Jean Courteois c. 1420, "responsible for the most authoritative
written record of the rights and duties of a herald" (used frequently as a
source in this class.) Next to him, the
pursuivant of the elector Frederick II of Brandenburg, named Hans, titled
"Burggraf". The arms to the
right are his personal arms. Note that German pursuivants did not wear their
tabards athwart. These two tabards show
that the garment may be of varying length. Note the spiffy fringe on Hans'
tabard. (Neubecker p.19).
4. Herald of Nassau-Vianden
(note the lack of sleeves), the herald Jörg Rugenn (from Bavaria) (wearing a
tabard with more drape than is customary), and the herald Anton Tirol,
1510. Anton is wearing a freelance
herald's "tabard" (from Neubecker's description) although it appears
to be cut like a round cape. (Neubecker p.18)
5. Freelance heralds
conducting a review of helmets as part of the tournament. The arms of the participants are on small
shields on the helmets. Note the short capelets with two rows of shields worn
by the heralds. (Neubecker p.160, Konrad Grünenberg's Armorial 1483).
6. "Early 17th c.
painting of officer about to be created Garter King of Arms, surrounded by
heralds holding the objects to be used in the ceremony (his Patent, the book on
which he is to swear his oath, his robe as an officer of te Order of the
Garter, his crown, a cup of wine for baptizing him, etc.) (Coll. Arms, Vincent
151, fo. 30v)" Also present appear to be Garter's white rod with the flag
at the end, and what possibly might be a seal. Woodcock and Robinson plate 26.