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.

Arundel MS 29 f. 54r croppedArundel Ms 29 is a small manuscript volume with miscellaneous contents dating from the fifteenth century. It was part of the library of manuscripts collected by Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (died 1646), part of which came to the College of Arms later in the seventeenth century.

This page, headed 'bell'm de Agencowrt', shows a list of noblemen taken prisoner by Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415. It is one of the relatively few sources for casualties on the French side at that conflict, the 600th anniversary of which is commemorated this year.

An online exhibition of documents from the archives of the College of Arms relating to Agincourt can be seen here.

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.

The College of Arms Newsletter is produced every three months and sent automatically and free to those who subscribe. Other benefits for those who submit their names in this way include advance notice of College of Arms events, relevant publications, and media appearances.

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