The College of Arms holds three artefacts that have a traditional association with the battle of Flodden, where English and Scottish forces famously met in September 1513.

Sword detail1 A4These items - a sword, a dagger and a ring - were deposited in the College of Arms in 1681 by the sixth Duke of Norfolk; the entry in the College Chapter book recording this deposit (which the duke ratified by a deed in 1682) describes the artefacts as "the very Sword and dagger and a gold ring set with a Turquoise Stone which his Ancestor the Duke of Norfolk took from James the 4th, King of Scotland, at the Battle of Flodden Field, where the said King was slain". Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (and subsequently second Duke of Norfolk), had been the English commander at the battle of Flodden; the defeat of the Scots and the slaying of their king played an important part in English historical identity generally and the story of the Howard family in particular. To this day the coat of arms of the Howards contains an 'augmentation' or small addition signifying the victory, being a version of the Royal arms of Scotland with the lion shown cut off at the waist and pierced by an arrow.

A sketch of the sword and dagger, made before 1774 by Francis Grose, Richmond Herald, was illustrated as the frontispiece to The Battle of Flodden Field by Henry Weber (Edinbugh 1808). In 1850 the then Garter King of Arms, Sir Charles George Young, wrote a short piece about the items and the tradition relating to them in the journal Archaeologia. The sword and dagger were exhibited in 1933 at a Grosvenor Place exhibition on the reign of Elizabeth I, and the following year all three artefacts were displayed at the Heralds' Commemorative Exhibition put on to mark the 450th anniversary of the College of Arms.

Unfortunately considerable doubts about the age of the sword and dagger have subsisted since the early part of the twentieth century, if not before. The 1934 Commemorative Exhibition catalogue stated (p. 42) that "According to expert opinion of the present day, the sword must be some forty or fifty years later" than the battle of Flodden. Expert opinion has been consulted again several times since and it has always tended to similar conclusions, confirming that the sword and dagger constitute a pair and dating them, on stylistic grounds, to the later sixteenth century at the earliest, and also stating that the ring cannot be reliably dated.

Dagger A4In February 2013, in commemoration of the forthcoming anniversary of the battle, and in the hope of learning more about the items in its custody, the College commissioned Dr Ralph Moffat, Curator of European Arms and Armour at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, an acknowledged expert on weaponry of the period, to conduct an examination of the sword and dagger. His report, which can be read in full here (a pdf file), points out that the use of a sword together with a shorter left-hand parrying dagger is itself characteristic of a later age than the battle of Flodden, and cites earlier scholarly opinion that would support a later date for the form of the hilt of both weapons. The report also points out that the sword blade has been refitted and may be older than its present hilt. It concludes that "the sword and dagger can be dated to the late sixteenth century. The sword blade, however, may well be an older example that has been reused and refitted to the hilt".

The probability that the sword in its present form and the dagger date from long after Flodden may be seen as disappointing, although the tantalizing possibility that the sword blade is older than its hilt and the undatability of the ring may hold out some hope that the tradition is not wholly unfounded. However it is of interest that here are three artefacts that have been - rightly or wrongly - associated with Flodden since the 1680s at the latest. Together with other traditions relating to or stemming from the time of the battle, they indicate the great significance that Flodden has held for subsequent ages throughout Britain.


Archive Department

The Librarian of the College of Arms, currently Peter O'Donoghue, York Herald, oversees the Archive Department. This department is responsible for the preservation, ordering, and cataloguing of the archive and library, and the accession of new acquisitions. The department's Archivist, Dr Lynsey Darby, also arranges the many loans of College manuscripts to major exhibitions in the United Kingdom and overseas.

Recent loans of this kind have been made to the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tower of London, and the National Maritime Museum, in London, as well as the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. The department also maintains a small students' room for academic or scholarly research. To contact the Archive Department please get in touch with the Officer in Waiting.

Online exhibitions posted by Dr Darby, College of Arms Archivist, give a good overview of some of the kinds of archival material held by the College. They include:

The Battle of Agincourt

The Battle of Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington

The Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill

The Accession of George I

The College's collection of pedigree rolls

The Great Fire of London

The Order of the British Empire and the Order of the Companions of Honour


Conservation Department

Christopher Harvey, Head of ConservationThe College of Arms maintains a respected Conservation Department, headed by Christopher Harvey, which is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the College's large archive of manuscripts and its library of printed books.

Working closely with the Archive Department, and overseen by Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald, the conservators perform all necessary repairs on volumes in the College's custody, including appropriate structural repairs to historic volumes, the binding of new records and collection care.

Much of the Department's conservation work is generously funded by donations via the College of Arms Trust.

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The official records of the College include registers of grants of arms, funeral certificates, the records of the heraldic visitations of the English and Welsh counties of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, registers of changes of name and arms by Royal Licence and deed poll, and the pedigree registers, as well as records of state ceremonials such as coronations and state funerals, and official enrolments of flags.

In addition to the official records created by the College, the archive also holds some seven thousand other manuscript volumes, and a similar number of unbound manuscripts, which have been deposited at the College or acquired by it over the centuries. These collections include working papers derived from the heraldic and genealogical practices of past heralds. Other significant holdings include the Arundel Manuscripts, primarily medieval chronicles and histories, and a large collection of manuscript pedigrees in roll form, dating from the medieval period onwards. Online exhibitions on this website give a useful overview of some of the College's holdings. The College maintains a large library of printed books.

The Records and Collections of the College of Arms, by Sir Anthony Richard Wagner (1952), gives an excellent account of the history and extent of the College archives. The College of Arms Catalogue, volume 1 (1988), is a detailed catalogue of a small but significant part of the records and collections, including the 260 volume manuscript collection of Augustine Vincent (d.1626), Windsor Herald, and the Tudor manuscripts with the pressmarks L and M. Volume 2 of this catalogue series is in preparation, with the kind sponsorship of the Marc Fitch Fund, the College of Arms Foundation, and the College of Arms Trust. The catalogue, which will appear in print form and online, will comprise a detailed catalogue of the records of the heralds' visitations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Past heralds have included a large number of eminent antiquarians and scholars, including Robert Glover (1544-1588), Somerset Herald, William Camden (1551-1623), Clarenceux King of Arms, Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686), Garter King of Arms, and Elias Ashmole (1617-1692), Windsor Herald. Sir Anthony Wagner (1908-1995), Garter King of Arms, was the most eminent scholar at the College of Arms in the last two hundred years.

Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), the famous architect and playwright, was for many years Clarenceux King of Arms, though he is said to have known nothing of heraldry and genealogy and to have ridiculed both. He was succeeded as Garter by John Anstis (1669-1744). It was mainly at Anstis's instigation that the Order of the Bath was instituted in 1725.  William Oldys (1696-1761), Norroy King of Arms, was a noted antiquary and bibliographer but wholly ignorant of heraldry and known for being 'rarely sober in the afternoon, never after supper', and 'much addicted to low company.'

However most heralds have been keen students of their craft, some distinguishing themselves in other fields as well. Gregory King (1648-1712), Lancaster Herald, was a celebrated  draughtsman, cartographer, statistician and town planner. J.R. Planché (1796-1880), Somerset Herald, was a historian of costume and a dramatist, and Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty (1847-1918), Garter King of Arms, wrote many popular songs and lyrics. Other characters had colourful careers before becoming heralds. 'General' John de Havilland (1826-1886), York  Herald, was a soldier of fortune, serving in Spain under Don Carlos and in other foreign countries. Thomas Morgan Joseph-Watkin (1856-1915), Chester Herald, spent his early life as a cowboy in Texas. Sir William Weldon (1837-1919), Clarenceux King of Arms, who took a leading role in the coronation of King Edward VII, once managed a circus.

For most of the time since their incorporation in 1484 heralds have been members of the Royal Household, directly appointed by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal. Since the re-incorporation in 1555 the College has consisted of thirteen officers of arms. Those officers of arms who make up the College of Arms are styled 'heralds in ordinary'. Their titles (and the current office holders) are as follows:

Kings of Arms

Garter King of Arms is the senior of the three English Kings of Arms. The office takes its name from the Order of the Garter. Henry V instituted the office of Garter in 1415 just before sailing for France.

Official arms in use by circa 1520: Argent a Cross Gules on a Chief Azure a crown enclosed in a Garter between a lion passant guardant and a fleur de lis all Or.

Clarenceux's province has always been the southern part of England, and at least from the sixteenth century has included all England from the River Trent southwards. He is the senior of the two provincial kings.

Official Arms in use by circa 1500: Argent a Cross Gules on a chief Gules a lion passant guardant crowned with an open crown Or.

The junior of the two provincial kings. In 1943 the office of Ulster King of Arms (vacant since the death of Sir Neville Wilkinson in 1940) was combined with that of Norroy. Norroy and Ulster has jurisdiction over the six counties of Northern Ireland as well as those of England north of the Trent.

Official arms approved 1980: Quarterly Argent and Or a Cross Gules on a Chief per pale Azure and Gules a lion passant guardant Or crowned with an open crown between a fleur de lis and a harp Or.


Badge of Lancaster Herald

Originally Lancaster, whether as herald of arms or as a king of arms, was retained by the earls and dukes of Lancaster. The title first appears in 1347 when Lancaster herald made a proclamation at the siege of Calais. On Henry IV's accession he was put on the Crown establishment and made king of the northern province. That arrangement was continued under Henry V and VI, but ceased by 1464. Thereafter Lancaster reverted to the rank of herald. Since the time of Henry VII Lancaster has been one of the six heralds in ordinary.

Badge: The red rose of Lancaster royally crowned.

Badge of Somerset HeraldThis title has been successively private, royal, at once private and extraordinary, and again royal. In 1448-9 Somerset was herald of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, but he must have been a royal officer in 1485, when he was the only herald to receive coronation liveries.

In 1525, when Henry Fitzroy was made Duke of Richmond and Somerset, the then Somerset herald was transferred to the duke's household and as such he must be counted a private officer, although he was appointed by the King and shared the heralds' fees as a herald extraordinary. On Fitzroy's death in 1536 the then incumbent returned to the Crown establishment, and since then Somerset has been one of the heralds in ordinary.

Badge: A portcullis or royally crowned, the Tudor version of the Beaufort badge.

Badge of Richmond HeraldRichmond occurs from 1421 to 1485 as herald of John, Duke of Bedford, George, Duke of Clarence, and Henry, Earl of Richmond, all of whom held the Honour of Richmond. Henry on his accession to the throne as Henry VII in 1485 made Roger Machado, the then Richmond, a king of arms, since whose death in 1510 Richmond has been one of the six heralds in ordinary.

Badge: The red rose of Lancaster and the white rose en soleil of York dimidiated per pale and royally crowned.

Badge of York HeraldIt has been suggested that York herald was originally the officer of Edmund of Langley, created Duke of York in 1385, but the first reliable reference to York is in a patent of 1484 granting to John Water alias Yorke, herald, as fee of his office and for services to Richard III, his predecessors and ancestors, the manor of Bayhall in Pembury, Kent, and £8 6s. 8d. a year from the lordship of Huntingfield, Kent. He is now one of the six heralds in ordinary.

Badge: The Yorkist white rose en soleil royally crowned.

Badge of Chester HeraldChester is said to have been instituted by Edward III as herald of the Prince of Wales. The title was in abeyance for a time under Henry VIII, but since 1525 Chester has been one of the heralds in ordinary. In 1911, when the future Edward VIII was created Prince of Wales, Chester was one of his retinue.

Badge: A Garb Or [from the arms of the Earl of Chester] royally crowned.

Badge of Windsor HeraldThe office of Windsor is said to have been instituted by Edward III. Windsor has been one of the six heralds in ordinary since 1419 at least.

Badge: Edward III's (Edward of Windsor) sun-burst, that is golden sun rays shooting upwards from a bank of white cloud, royally crowned.


Badge of Rouge Croix PursuivantRouge Croix or Red Cross took his name from the red cross of St. George, badge of the Order of the Garter and sometime national flag of England. He is said to be the oldest of the four pursuivants in ordinary, but the earliest known mention of the title is in the sixth year of the reign of Henry V, 1418/19, when Rouge Croix was at Caudebec.

Badge: A red cross, either couped or in a white roundel.

Badge of Rouge Dragon PursuivantInstituted by Henry VII on 29 October 1485, the eve of his coronation, in reference to the royal badge, the 'red dragon of Cadwallader'. One of the four pursuivants in ordinary.

Badge: A rouge dragon passant on a green mount.

Badge of Bluemantle PursuivantThis officer, now one of the four pursuivants in ordinary, is said to have been instituted by Henry V for the service of the Order of the Garter, from whose blue mantle the title is almost certainly derived.

Badge: A bluemantle lined ermine and with gold cords and tassels.

Badge of Portcullis PursuivantOne of the four pursuivants in ordinary, instituted by Henry VII, probably soon after his accession, in allusion to the well known badge inherited from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Badge: A portcullis chained or.

Heralds Extraordinary

There are also a number of supernumerary officers of arms who are not members of the College but who process with the other heralds on ceremonial occasions. These are styled 'heralds extraordinary':

  • New Zealand Herald Extraordinary Phillip Patrick O'Shea, C.N.Z.M., C.V.O.

  • Maltravers Herald Extraordinary John Martin Robinson, M.A. (St. Andrews), D.Phil. (Oxford), F.S.A.

  • Norfolk Herald Extraordinary David Rankin-Hunt, C.V.O., M.B.E., T.D.

  • WalesHerald Extraordinary Thomas Owen Saunders Lloyd, O.B.E., M.A., D.L., F.S.A.

  • Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary Alastair Andrew Bernard Reibey Bruce of Crionaich, O.B.E., D.L.

Heralds in ordinary receive yearly salaries from the Crown – Garter King of Arms £49.07, the two provincial Kings of Arms £20.25, the six heralds £17.80, and the four pursuivants £13.95. These salaries were fixed at higher levels by James I but reduced by William IV in the 1830s. The work of the heralds is otherwise unassisted from public funds. Garter King of Arms gives heraldic and other advice to The Crown and Government Departments and receives an honorarium to cover his time and expenses. In addition to their official duties, they have for many centuries had private practices in heraldry and genealogy, for which they are allowed to charge professional fees.


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