Accession of George I

18 September 2014

August 2014 saw the 300th anniversary of the accession of King George I to the throne of Great Britain, marking the start of the rule of the Hanoverian dynasty.

The heralds, under the jurisdiction of the Earl Marshal or his deputy, had an important rĂ´le to play in arranging and carrying out the ceremonial associated with the accession. This included the Proclamation of King George's succession, and of course the Coronation itself. The design and registration of Royal and national symbols was also undertaken at the College of Arms, as it is to this day.

In the course of George I's reign, the Most Honourable Order of the Bath was established. This was the fourth most senior British Order of Chivalry (after the Orders of the Garter, the Thistle, and St Patrick): its chief architect was John Anstis, Garter King of Arms, who was appointed by the King to draw up Statutes for the Order, design its motto, badge, and elements of the robes, and the ceremony for creating a Knight.

A temporary exhibition at the College of Arms presents a selection of facsimiles of documents held by the College relating to King George I's accession and Coronation and to the Order of the Bath.

 

Coronation Queen Anne Geo1 p19 compressed

Order of the Privy Council directing the Heralds to proclaim the accession of George I. The Order was issued on the day of Queen Anne's death. By the terms of the 1701 Act of Settlement, the Crown was to pass to her nearest surviving Protestant relative, meaning that it was inherited by George ahead of around 50 others who had stronger genealogical claims to the throne but were Roman Catholic. 1 August 1714. College reference: Coronations of King George I and Queen Anne, p. 19.

 

Coronation Queen Anne Geo 1 p26 compressed
Record of the appointment of a Commission of the Lords Justice to decide the cases of those who claim to have a hereditary or other right to play a role (to 'do a service') in the forthcoming Coronation ceremony. The Earl Marshal is to arrange for a notice to be put in the Gazette (the first official journal of record and the newspaper of the Crown). 6 Sept 1714. College reference: Coronations of King George I and Queen Anne, p. 26.

 

Coronation Queen Anne Geo 1 p32 compressed
Even the Earl Marshal had to set out his claim to do service at the Coronation, as laid out in this document. Here he claims the right to order and direct the building of the Galleries and seats in Westminster Abbey, and decide their 'disposal' (i.e. the allocation of seating). College reference: Coronations of King George I and Queen Anne, p. 32.

 

Coronation Queen Anne Geo 1 p51 A4 compressed
This document conveys the King's Order to the Earl Marshal that he enquire of the Heralds whether the First Earl of England (i.e. the Earl who takes precedence over others on ceremonial occasions by virtue of his Earldom being the oldest) may carry the Sword of State at the Coronation if he is not a Knight of the Garter. The Order was issued on 14th October, less than week before the Coronation on the 20th. 14 Oct 1714. College reference: Coronations of King George I and Queen Anne, p. 51.

 

I. 27 p 45 coin designs compressed
Design for coins to be issued by George I, combining the arms of the countries of the United Kingdom with those of some of his dominions in Germany. 1714. College reference: Earl Marshal's Book: I.27, p.45.

 

I. 27 p 44 compressed
Draft of design for arms of King George I, quartering the nations of the United Kingdom with those of some of his German dominions. 1714. College reference: Earl Marshal's Book: I.27, p.44.

 

Grant of Arms M  R Howard 1714 compressedOriginal patent of arms issued in the first year of the reign of King George I. This was granted to Mathew Howard, merchant of the City of London, and his brother, Richard. The grant was made after it was established that they were of good reputation, loyal to The King and the Protestant succession, and had sufficient estates to support the rank of gentility. The grant is signed by Sir Henry St George, Garter King of Arms, and John Vanbrugh, the famous architect and playwright, who was Clarenceux King of Arms. 21 Dec 1714.

 

The College of Arms was experiencing a period of some turbulence at the time of King George's accession, with two men vying to become Garter King of Arms. The incumbent, Sir Henry St George, was 89, and both John Vanbrugh and John Anstis wanted to be named his successor. Vanbrugh had been appointed Clarenceux King of Arms in 1704 from outside the College, despite an ignorance of, and professed lack of interest in, heraldry. This was naturally much resented by other Officers. Anstis, a strong personality and a divisive figure, persuaded Queen Anne to sign a patent by the terms of which he would become Garter when Sir Henry died.

Historically, however, Garter Kings of Arms had always been appointed on the recommendation of the Earl Marshal. On Sir Henry's death in August 1715, the Deputy Earl Marshal ignored Anstis's patent and appointed Vanbrugh instead.

The case went to the Attorney General and remained in dispute for four years. In the meantime, Vanbrugh acted as Garter, using the title 'Clarenceux nominated Garter'. However, in 1718 it was Anstis who became Garter. Vanbrugh continued to serve as Clarenceux until, with the permission of the Deputy Earl Marshal, he sold the office in 1725. (This practice was not uncommon in the 17th and 18th centuries, but had petered out by 1770, never to return). Portraits of Vanbrugh and Anstis hang at the left-hand side of the Earl Marshal's Court.

Procession Knights of the Bath compressedThe Most Honourable and Military Order of the Bath was founded by King George I in 1725. The idea was that of John Anstis, who took the name from the medieval practice of ritual bathing on special occasions when new knights were created (the more usual practice being that of dubbing with a sword). However, there had never before been an Order of the Bath. At first it was a military order, but there are now both military and civil divisions and 'Military' has been dropped from the title. It contained both Knights and Esquires. There are now three classes of member: Knight or Dame Grand Cross; Knight or Dame Commander; Companion.

The volume illustrated, The Procession and Ceremonies Observed at the Time of the Installation of the Knights Companions of the Most Honourable and Military Order of the Bath, was produced by the engraver John Pine (later Bluemantle Pursuivant of Arms) in 1730, from original drawings by Joseph Highmore, depicting the processions and ceremonies at the time of the first installation of Knights and Esquires of the Bath in 1725.

Procession Knights of the Bath heralds compressed
This page from Pine's work shows the heralds in procession at the ceremony to install the first Knights and Esquires of the Bath.

 

SML 23 p21  compressed
Copy by Stephen Martin Leake (Lancaster Herald, 1727; Norroy King of Arms, 1729; Clarenceux King of Arms, 1741; Garter King of Arms, 1754-73) of Anstis's Statutes of the Order of the Bath. This page shows an illustration of the badge to be worn on the mantle of a Knight of the Order. College reference: SML 23: Order of the Bath c. 1725-72.

1986 01 Box 2 Part 2 Drawing of Bath Collar Civil cropped compressed
Twentieth-century drawing of the collar and badge of a Knight Grand Cross (Civil), by the artist Gerald Cobb, who worked for the College from the 1920s to the 1970s. College reference: Acc 1986/1 Box 2 Part 2.

1986 01 Box 2 Part 2 Drawing of Bath Collar Military cropped compressed
Twentieth-century drawing of the collar and badge of a Knight Grand Cross (Military), by the artist Gerald Cobb, who worked for the College from the 1920s to the 1970s. College reference: Acc 1986/1 Box 2 Part 2.

By decision of the College of Arms all proceeds arising from the sale of The Armorial of Haiti will be donated to the international effort for the relief of Haiti
after the calamitous earthquake of 12 January 2010.

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