New £5 note

13 September 2016

27136331630 32fd02e7be bThe United Kingdom's first polymer bank note issued by the Bank of England, for £5, enters circulation today. It bears a portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, and features Sir Winston Churchill. On the reverse may be seen a view of the Palace of Westminster with the Elizabeth Tower; and the medal of the Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Sir Winston Churchill in 1953. The design of the note incorporates for the first time heraldic shields representing England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These shields are shaded with diagonal lines which should not be confused with hatching. Further information on the new note may be found on the Bank of England website.

The Great Fire of London

01 September 2016

In September 1666, Derby House, the home of the College of Arms, burned down in the Fire of London. As the fire spread from Pudding Lane, sufficient warning was given to allow almost all the books and manuscripts to be rescued. These were taken, probably by boat, to Whitehall. The Officers of Arms regrouped, and were given a room at the Palace of Westminster from which to conduct their business. Heraldic, genealogical, and ceremonial work continued, while at the same time the task of building a new College had to be faced.

In November 1669, three Officers of Arms visited the site to consider what might be done, and a year later Francis Sandford, Rouge Dragon, was appointed to enter into discussions with the bricklayer, Morris Emott or Emmett, about rebuilding the Office. Both Emmett, Master Bricklayer in thew Office of Works, who also worked for Christopher Wren, and his brother William, wood carver to the King, played important parts in the rebuilding of the College. Sandford, who was a surveyor by profession, prepared a model of the new College and Emmett laid a ground plot.

Raising the money for the undertaking presented great difficulties; demands on potential donors were high after the Fire due to the number of competing causes. In December 1670 the Officers of Arms presented a petition to the King, asking him to allow them to raise subscriptions for the rebuilding. The Warrant granting this permission is still held by the College. It is reproduced in part here, with a transcription of the eloquent wording employed in it to persuade the King's wealthier subjects to contribute.

British Olympic Association and Paralympic AssociationThe British Olympic Association and The British Paralympic Association: on the petition of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, President of The British Olympic Association, and His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex, Patron of The British Paralympic Association, a Coat of Arms has been established for the use of the two associations in connection with the Summer, Winter and Youth Olympic Games, and the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. The grant was made by Letters Patent of Garter, Clarenceux and Norroy and Ulster Kings of Arms dated 27 April 2016, to a specially established company 2016 Crest Holding Limited, for the use of The British Olympic Association and The British Paralympic Association. College reference: Grants 179/203. The Arms are illustrated here and are blazoned:

Arms: Quarterly Gules and Azure two Leeks in pale that in base reversed and conjoined at the fess point to two Thistles in fess two Roses in bend and two Flax Flowers in bend sinister all with heads outwards and slipped and leaved Or the whole enfiling four Links of Chain interlaced in a square Argent.

Crest: on a Helm with a Wreath Argent, Gules and Azure: Within a Coronet comprising a Rim set with six Batons erect Or between Roundels alternately of Silver Gold and Bronze proper a Lion statant guardant Gules crowned with a Laurel Wreath the dexter forepaw raised and holding a Torch enflamed Or.

Supporters: On either side a Lion guardant that on the dexter Azure that on the sinister Gules each crowned with a Laurel Wreath and holding in the exterior forepaw a Torch enflamed Or both upon a Compartment comprising a Grassy Mount Vert.

Her Majesty's Government has instructed that to mark Armed Forces Week, Government buildings should fly the Armed Forces Flag from 08:00 on Monday 20 June until 20:00 on Saturday 25 June 2016.

Departmental buildings in London with more than one flagpole are also to fly the Rainbow Flag during this period to celebrate Pride Week. Where there is only one flagpole the Armed Forces Flag will in most cases take precedence. 

Please note that 21 June 2016 is a designated flag-flying day. If there is only one flagpole, the Union Flag should be flown. If there are two, the Union Flag should be flown on the senior pole.

Local authorities are not bound by these instructions but may wish to follow them for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary.

For information about Armed Forces Day flags and issues relating to the flying of flags more generally, please contact the Officer in Waiting at the College of Arms.

TeamGBpatent003Unveiled yesterday, the kit designed by Stella McCartney for Team GB at the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio is centred on a coat of arms. This coat of arms, which is being granted both by the English kings of arms and by Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland for the use of the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations, combines symbolism for the Home Nations with references to the Olympics and Paralympics.

The initial procedural step leading to the creation of the coat of arms was a formal request to the Earl Marshal from HRH The Princess Royal, President of the BOA, and HRH the Earl of Wessex, Patron of the BPA. The resulting coat of arms was designed by Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald at the College of Arms, in a process that began over eighteen months ago between the College, adidas UK, and the two grantee Associations.

The principal element on the shield is a unified group of the floral emblems of the four Home Nations. Two of each are shown and arranged so as to avoid ascribing primacy to any individual emblem. Four chain links hold them together at the centre; these links stand for the four years of the Olympic/Paralympic cycle, but their shape is also intended to recall that of an athletics track. This is the only reference in the design to a specific event or group of events, and is sanctioned by the central role of the main stadium in all Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The motto IUNCTI IN UNO (‘Conjoined in One’) makes reference to the union of the Home Nations within the UK, thereby picking up on the central idea of the shield. But it also alludes to the unity of the representatives of separate sports and, more significantly, of the Olympic and Paralympic teams within Team GB.

Harris Hawk3 compressedPeregrine Falcon and Harris Hawks: In March and April this year these birds, long popular in heraldic design, could be seen flying at the College of Arms, in the hope that their presence would deter birds such as seagulls from nesting on the chimneys. The presence of birds' nests can cause damage to the fabric of the historic building, as well as a nuisance to staff and members of the public. The sight of the birds of prey flying in the courtyard, controlled by the falconers, was enjoyed by those who work at the College.

As a mark of respect for those that have died and been injured in Brussels today 22 March 2016, the Prime Minister has asked that all Departments of Her Majesty's Government lower their Union Flag to half-mast from 2.05 p.m. this afternoon.

Any other UK national flags flown alongside the Union Flag when it is at half-mast should also be at half-mast. If a flag of a foreign nation is normally flown on the same stand as the Union Flag, it should be removed.

Flags will be raised to full mast no earlier than 10 p.m. on Thursday 24 March but before 7 a.m. on Friday 25 March.

Local authorities are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary.

Queen Mary I of England

19 February 2016

Queen Mary I – Mary Tudor – was born 500 years ago, on 18 February 1516. The eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, in 1553 she inherited the throne when her only brother, King Edward VI, died without children. Her inheritance was not a foregone conclusion, as King Henry's efforts to annul his marriage to her mother, Catherine of Aragon, had led to that marriage being declared invalid and therefore Mary herself illegitimate. Mary was also a Roman Catholic coming to the throne of a country whose links with Rome had been severed almost 20 years earlier, and whose previous ruler had been a devout Protestant. However, Mary was able to defeat the attempts of a Protestant faction to put a rival claimant on the throne and had that claimant, Lady Jane Grey, executed. Mary's resolve to return England to the Roman Catholic religion led to the deaths of hundreds of Protestants in her 5-year rule, and earned her the posthumous sobriquet 'Bloody Mary'. In the year after her accession to the throne she married Philip of Spain, and under the marriage settlement they became co-rulers.

1 M. 6bis f. 85r compressedQueen Mary was a benefactor of the College of Arms, in 1555 granting it a renewed Charter of Incorporation under which it still operates today. We see here the opening clauses of this charter. Also displayed here are images of manuscripts held in the College's archives relating to Mary's baptism, coronation and funeral, at all of which the Officers of Arms played a significant administrative and ceremonial role. Sixteenth-century paintings of her achievement of Arms are also shown; these were made during her father's lifetime, before the split from Rome and when she was still his sole heir. A contemporary painted pedigree roll sets out Queen Mary's descent from King Harold, the Anglo-Saxon king who was defeated by William the Conqueror, proving her ancient ancestral right to the throne.

This manuscript describes the Christening of the Princess Mary, on Wednesday 20th February 1516, two days after her birth. The volume in which it is found (MS M. 6bis) is an early 16th century compilation of accounts of ceremonial occasions, with many of the entries being in the hand of Sir Christopher Barker, Garter King of Arms (d 1550).

WZ f 276v compressedShakespeare Documented: this significant online Shakespeare resource launched on 20 January 2016, aiming to be 'the largest and most authoritative resource for learning about primary sources that document the life and career of William Shakespeare.' This free and publicly accessible online exhibition is curated by Dr Heather Wolfe of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., and includes images, descriptions, and transcriptions of all known references and allusions to Shakespeare and his works during his lifetime and shortly thereafter, as well as additional references to his family. More than 30 institutions have contributed to the project.

Six documents in the archive of the College of Arms are included. Three of these relate to the grant of Arms by William Dethick, Garter King of Arms, to John Shakespeare, father of William; whilst three relate to the actions of Ralph Brooke, York Herald, in contesting twenty-three grants of Arms made by Dethick, including that to John Shakespeare. Illustrated right is the defence by Garter and Clarenceux Kings of Arms against Brooke's accusations, dated 1602. College reference: Coll Arm Ms WZ f.276v.

As a mark of respect for those that died in Paris on 13 November, the Prime Minister has asked that all Departments of Her Majesty's Government fly the Union Flag at half-mast from 8.00 a.m. on Sunday 15 November 2015.

There will be a Europe-wide minute's silence at 11.00 a.m. UK time on Monday 16 November 2015. Her Majesty's Government will observe this silence and other organisations may wish to follow suit. Flags should be kept at half-mast until after sunset on Monday, and raised to full mast thereafter.

Local authorities are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary. Any questions regarding the flying of flags should be directed in the first instance to the Officer in Waiting.

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