Two new British orders of chivalry were instituted 100 years ago this year, in June 1917: the Order of the British Empire, and the Order of the Companions of Honour. Until then, orders of chivalry were restricted both in terms of the number of awards which could be made, and the people to whom they were awarded, these being generally peers, high-ranking military personnel, members of the civil service, and those who had served the royal family. Moreover, women were eligible only for membership of a small number of the orders, there was very little that could be awarded to foreigners, and nothing specifically to recognise charitable work or, for example, contribution to the arts or science.

Both new orders had their origins in the First World War, when it was acknowledged that the current honours system was inadequate to recognise the contribution to the war effort of huge numbers of people in all walks of life, both on the field and off. A small committee was founded in early 1916 to discuss these matters and make recommendations. In July 1916 this became two committees, with some alterations and additions to their composition, and now including Sir Henry Farnham Burke, Norroy King of Arms. Reporting both to the King and the Government, and with various complex matters of precedence to take into consideration, it took around 18 months from the committee being founded for the first awards to be made.

As a mark of respect for those that have died and been injured in Westminster today 22 March 2017, the Prime Minister has asked that all Departments of Her Majesty's Government lower their Union Flag to half-mast from 8 p.m. this evening.

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.

All flags are to be raised to full mast no earlier than 8.00 p.m. on Friday 24 March, but before 8 a.m. on Saturday 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.

B22 Collingbornes bookCollingborne's Book: illustrated left is an opening from a manuscript in the archives of the College of Arms which consists of a roll of Arms dating from the mid to late fifteenth century. The original roll may have had few names, and in many places these have been supplied in a later hand. Bound into the same volume as this roll is other interesting material, including Basynges' Book, a roll of Arms on vellum of circa 1395. The volume, which has the College reference B22, was given to the College of Arms together with a number of other important manuscripts in 1669 by Thomas Povey of Grays Inn, London, treasurer to James, Duke of York.

Learning with sadness of the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, special instructions have been received that all Union flags on the buildings of Her Majesty's Government should be lowered to half mast as soon as possible today (13 October 2016) until 2000 hours tomorrow (14 October).

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.

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. Enquiries regarding the correct protocols for the flying of Union and other flags should be addressed to the Officer in Waiting at the College of Arms in the first instance.

Sir John Carre of Hart 1516 grant of BadgeGrant of a Badge to Sir John Carre of Hart co. Durham: The White Lion Society has generously given the College of Arms one of the earliest surviving patents granting a livery badge. Purchased at the Morningthorpe Manor sale on 9 September 2016, it is the grant of a badge to Sir John Carre of Hart in the Bishopric of Durham made by Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King of Arms, and John Yonge, Norroy, dated 14 March 1515/16 and bearing their armorial seals. Described as a device or cognizance, the badge is the head of a cerf (hart), so a clear pun on Sir John Carre's place of residence. It is depicted on a standard, a tapering flag with the Cross of St George in the hoist.

The patent is known to have been in the possession of the Marquess of Bristol in the 20th century, and is presumed to have been inherited by his family through the marriage in 1688 of his ancestor John Hervey, Earl of Bristol, to Isabella, daughter of Sir Robert Carr, Bt., of Sleaford in Lincolnshire. However, the link between the Carrs of Sleaford and Sir John Carre of Hart has not been established with certainty.

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.

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