Court of Chivalry
The legal forum for disputes relating to coats of arms, and where those regarded as having transgressed the law of arms can be prosecuted, is known as the Court of Chivalry.
This court, which has its origins in the martial law exercised by the medieval Constables and Marshals of England when on campaign, has for centuries had jurisdiction over all matters relating to coats of arms. It has had a complex and varied history, and has been used for different purposes at different times. Most of the records of the court's activities, for the post-medieval period, are held by the College of Arms.
A recent project by scholars from the University of Birmingham has entailed a great deal of research in these records, particularly for the seventeenth century.
The results of this research, and a large number of transcribed documents, can be be examined online. The Court of Chivalry web site has been created through a collaboration between the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies and the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing, both at the University of Birmingham, and the College of Arms in London.
Funding for the project was provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the research and editing of documents has been carried out at Birmingham by Dr Richard Cust and Dr Andrew Hopper, now at the University of Leicester.
There is a companion volume to this web site, containing an account of the court’s history and summaries of the cases for this period: R.P.Cust and A.J.Hopper (eds), Cases in the High Court of Chivalry, 1634-1640 (Harleian Society, N.S. vol. 18, 2006).