Online exhibitions posted by Dr Lynsey Darby, the predecessor to the current College of Arms Archivist Dr James Lloyd, give a good overview of some of the kinds of archival material held by the College. They include:
 
 

The Battle of Agincourt

Arundel MS 29 f. 54r cropped The Battle of Agincourt took place on 25th October 1415, one of a series of engagements between England and France in what would later be known as the Hundred Years' War. The English King Edward III in 1337 claimed the throne of France as his inheritance through his mother, sister of Charles IV, the last Capetian King of France. 
   

The Battle of Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington

 Bath Book vol 5 A4 compressed The Battle of Waterloo, which took place on 18 June 1815, was the last major battle of the Napoleonic Wars and saw the final defeat of the Emperor Napoleon by the combined forces of the armies of the Seventh Coalition, led by the Duke of Wellington, and the Prussian Army, commanded by Gebhard von Blücher.
   

The Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill

 WSC Funeral order of procession compressed

The year 2015 sees the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., C.H. Churchill received many great honours both domestically and internationally. Arguably one of the greatest followed his death on 24 January 1965: the grant of a State Funeral. This took place at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 30 January 1965.

   

The Accession of George I

 I. 27 p 45 coin designs compressed 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 College's collection of pedigree rolls

 09 58 cropped compressed In the middle of 2013, a project was begun to locate, rehouse and list comprehensively the large collection of rolled material held at the College. Pedigree rolls make up the most significant proportion of this collection. These pedigrees (genealogies, or 'family trees') take a surprisingly wide variety of forms.
   

The Great Fire of London

 7. Acc 1978 6 Fox Mason compressed 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 Order of the British Empire and the Order of the Companions of Honour

 4. Misc Enrolments p. 57 compressed 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.
   

Sir Henry Farnham Burke, Garter King of Arms

Burke Sir Henry Farnham 72dpi This year marks the 100th anniversary of the appointment of Sir Henry Farnham Burke, KCVO, CB, FSA, as Garter King of Arms. Son of Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms, and grandson of John Burke, the founder of Burke’s Peerage.
   

Investiture of the Prince of Wales

1 HRH Prince Charles was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester by Letters Patent dated 26 July 1958. Building on the ancient tradition of bestowing this title on the eldest son and heir apparent of the Sovereign, and following the precedent set by the future Edward VIII, who was formally recognised or invested as Prince of Wales at a ceremony at Caernarfon Castle in 1911, it was decided that Prince Charles should be formally invested in a ceremony there.
   
   

Other online exhibitions available on this website:

Dagger detail2 A4 Artefacts associated with the Battle of Flodden
   
29149 21 Crowns and Crests: Heraldry in the Round
   

 

The College of Arms and its officers process and retain personal data in a variety of ways according to the nature of the work being undertaken. This page explains our policy in this area.

As stated in full here, if you send an enquiry to the College through this website or otherwise by email your enquiry will be deleted after three years unless you have by then retained the professional services of the College or an officer of arms.

If you retain the professional services of an officer of arms for any purpose, the personal data relating to yourself or others that you communicate to that officer in the course of doing so will be processed together with your correspondence and held in the case file, in automated and non-automated searchable systems, as part of the records of that officer's practice. These files are not part of the records or collections of the College of Arms and material from them is not produced to public enquirers. An officer's practice files may in certain circumstances, and only with the officer's consent, be consulted by other officers of the College of Arms. The legal basis for this processing and retention is the legitimate interest of the officer's practice and the College of Arms in ensuring that professional work carried out for clients is properly recorded, so as to facilitate return or repeat work, general efficiency, and the investigation of complaints.

Some types of professional service that may be carried out for you by officers of arms necessarily require the College of Arms itself to process and retain personal data supplied by you. Broadly defined, these services are as follows.

  • If you receive a grant of arms, the text of the grant will contain some personal data supplied by you. A full copy of the grant will be enrolled in the College's official records and retained there permanently. The relevant series of the College of Arms records are a non-automated searchable system from which the grant will be extracted in full or abstracted in response to relevant public enquiries. In addition the College will retain your application for a grant of arms (the document known as a 'memorial') and the Earl Marshal's Warrant to the Kings of Arms instructing them to make the grant, together with the personal data therein. It may also retain a 'rationale' of the design of the coat of arms you are granted, which may contain some relevant personal data. This material will be retained in both automated and non-automated searchable systems; it does not form part of the College's official records and will not be produced in response to public enquiries. The legal basis for this processing and retention by the College of Arms is the College's public task as the recognised body administering and recording grants of arms on behalf of the Crown, as stated in law and affirmed in the letters patent appointing its senior officers, the Kings of Arms.

  • If you place a pedigree on record with us, or update a pedigree that is already on record, the pedigree or update may contain personal data relating to yourself and/or others (some of these data being potentially sensitive or 'special category' data). The pedigree and update will be enrolled in the College's official records and retained there permanently. The relevant series of the College of Arms records are a non-automated system, searchable by surname and not (in general) by individual name, from which the pedigree and any relevant updates will be extracted in full or abstracted in response to relevant public enquiries; however no such extract or abstract will contain personal data relating to persons who are living (or may reaonably be presumed to be living). The draft version of the pedigree (which may contain more personal data than the recorded version) will be retained by the College in a non-automated system searchable by surname and not (in general) by individual name; it does not form part of the College's official records and will not be produced in response to public enquiries. Before the pedigree or update is accepted for recording you will be asked to sign a data protection consent form indicating that you consent to the ways in which the College of Arms will process the personal data it contains.

  • If you seek and obtain a Royal Warrant or Licence for change of name, change or assumption of arms, or for precedence, a copy of your Petition to the Crown and of the resulting Royal Warrant or Licence will be entered into the College's official records and retained there permanently. The relevant series of the College of Arms records are a non-automated searchable system from which the deed will be extracted in full or abstracted in response to relevant public enquiries. The legal basis for this processing and retention is the College's public task to record such instruments as expressly imposed and affirmed by the Crown in each Royal Warrant or Licence.

  • If you enrol a change of name deed in the records of the College of Arms a copy of the deed will be entered into the College's official records and retained there permanently. The relevant series of the College of Arms records are a non-automated searchable system from which the deed will be extracted in full or abstracted in response to relevant public enquiries. In addition the College will retain the original of the deed itself and all affidavits you submit in support of the enrollment, as well as originals and/or copies of birth and marriage certificates. This material does not form part of the College's official records and will not be produced in response to public enquiries. The legal basis for this processing and retention is the College's public task to act as a recognised place of enrollment of change of name deeds.

The College of Arms produces an electronic newsletter in which selected instances of entries in the College's official records are briefly summarized. Grants of arms and enrolled Royal Warrants or Licences may be summarized in the newsletter, though this is done in such a way as to minimize the personal data relating to living persons. Recorded pedigrees may also be summarized, but without the inclusion of any personal data relating to living persons.

In no circumstances will the personal data you supply be used for direct marketing or publicity purposes, either by the College of Arms or by any officer of arms.

If you require further information on the data protection policies of the College of Arms and its officers in relation to enquirers or professional clients, please contact the Officer in Waiting through the enquiry form on this website (here) or an officer whose services you have already retained.

Finally, the College of Arms processes and retains personal data in other contexts such as the use of the Student Room by scholars and others to consult College books and manuscripts, the provision of images for reproduction or study, and the hosting of evening tours. If you contact us with a view to any activity where your or others' personal data will be processed and retained, our policy and its legal basis will be fully set out to you. The College of Arms and its officers take seriously all obligations to which they may be liable under applicable data protection legislation.

Archive Department

The Librarian of the College of Arms, currently Peter O'Donoghue, York Herald, oversees the Archive Department. This department is responsible for the preservation, ordering, and cataloguing of the archive and library, and the accession of new acquisitions. The department's Archivist also arranges the many loans of College manuscripts to major exhibitions in the United Kingdom and overseas.

Recent loans of this kind have been made to the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tower of London, and the National Maritime Museum, in London, as well as the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. The department also maintains a small students' room for academic or scholarly research. To contact the Archive Department please get in touch with the Officer in Waiting. This access will be by appointment with the archivist. A letter of introduction and photographic ID are required.

Online exhibitions have been created by Dr Darby, who was until recently College of Arms Archivist. A list of these can be seen here.

 

Conservation Department

Christopher Harvey, Head of ConservationThe College of Arms maintains a respected Conservation Department, headed by Christopher Harvey, which is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the College's large archive of manuscripts and its library of printed books.

Working closely with the Archive Department, and overseen by Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald, the conservators perform all necessary repairs on volumes in the College's custody, including appropriate structural repairs to historic volumes, the binding of new records and collection care.

Much of the Department's conservation work is generously funded by donations via the College of Arms Trust.

The College of Arms holds three artefacts that have a traditional association with the battle of Flodden, where English and Scottish forces famously met in September 1513.

Sword detail1 A4These items - a sword, a dagger and a ring - were deposited in the College of Arms in 1681 by the sixth Duke of Norfolk; the entry in the College Chapter book recording this deposit (which the duke ratified by a deed in 1682) describes the artefacts as "the very Sword and dagger and a gold ring set with a Turquoise Stone which his Ancestor the Duke of Norfolk took from James the 4th, King of Scotland, at the Battle of Flodden Field, where the said King was slain". Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (and subsequently second Duke of Norfolk), had been the English commander at the battle of Flodden; the defeat of the Scots and the slaying of their king played an important part in English historical identity generally and the story of the Howard family in particular. To this day the coat of arms of the Howards contains an 'augmentation' or small addition signifying the victory, being a version of the Royal arms of Scotland with the lion shown cut off at the waist and pierced by an arrow.

A sketch of the sword and dagger, made before 1774 by Francis Grose, Richmond Herald, was illustrated as the frontispiece to The Battle of Flodden Field by Henry Weber (Edinbugh 1808). In 1850 the then Garter King of Arms, Sir Charles George Young, wrote a short piece about the items and the tradition relating to them in the journal Archaeologia. The sword and dagger were exhibited in 1933 at a Grosvenor Place exhibition on the reign of Elizabeth I, and the following year all three artefacts were displayed at the Heralds' Commemorative Exhibition put on to mark the 450th anniversary of the College of Arms.

Unfortunately considerable doubts about the age of the sword and dagger have subsisted since the early part of the twentieth century, if not before. The 1934 Commemorative Exhibition catalogue stated (p. 42) that "According to expert opinion of the present day, the sword must be some forty or fifty years later" than the battle of Flodden. Expert opinion has been consulted again several times since and it has always tended to similar conclusions, confirming that the sword and dagger constitute a pair and dating them, on stylistic grounds, to the later sixteenth century at the earliest, and also stating that the ring cannot be reliably dated.

Dagger A4In February 2013, in commemoration of the forthcoming anniversary of the battle, and in the hope of learning more about the items in its custody, the College commissioned Dr Ralph Moffat, Curator of European Arms and Armour at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, an acknowledged expert on weaponry of the period, to conduct an examination of the sword and dagger. His report, which can be read in full here (a pdf file), points out that the use of a sword together with a shorter left-hand parrying dagger is itself characteristic of a later age than the battle of Flodden, and cites earlier scholarly opinion that would support a later date for the form of the hilt of both weapons. The report also points out that the sword blade has been refitted and may be older than its present hilt. It concludes that "the sword and dagger can be dated to the late sixteenth century. The sword blade, however, may well be an older example that has been reused and refitted to the hilt".

The probability that the sword in its present form and the dagger date from long after Flodden may be seen as disappointing, although the tantalizing possibility that the sword blade is older than its hilt and the undatability of the ring may hold out some hope that the tradition is not wholly unfounded. However it is of interest that here are three artefacts that have been - rightly or wrongly - associated with Flodden since the 1680s at the latest. Together with other traditions relating to or stemming from the time of the battle, they indicate the great significance that Flodden has held for subsequent ages throughout Britain.

 

Past heralds have included a large number of eminent antiquarians and scholars, including Robert Glover (1544-1588), Somerset Herald, William Camden (1551-1623), Clarenceux King of Arms, Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686), Garter King of Arms, and Elias Ashmole (1617-1692), Windsor Herald. Sir Anthony Wagner (1908-1995), Garter King of Arms, was the most eminent scholar at the College of Arms in the last two hundred years.

Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), the famous architect and playwright, was for many years Clarenceux King of Arms, though he is said to have known nothing of heraldry and genealogy and to have ridiculed both. He was succeeded as Garter by John Anstis (1669-1744). It was mainly at Anstis's instigation that the Order of the Bath was instituted in 1725.  William Oldys (1696-1761), Norroy King of Arms, was a noted antiquary and bibliographer but wholly ignorant of heraldry and known for being 'rarely sober in the afternoon, never after supper', and 'much addicted to low company.'

However most heralds have been keen students of their craft, some distinguishing themselves in other fields as well. Gregory King (1648-1712), Lancaster Herald, was a celebrated  draughtsman, cartographer, statistician and town planner. J.R. Planché (1796-1880), Somerset Herald, was a historian of costume and a dramatist, and Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty (1847-1918), Garter King of Arms, wrote many popular songs and lyrics. Other characters had colourful careers before becoming heralds. 'General' John de Havilland (1826-1886), York  Herald, was a soldier of fortune, serving in Spain under Don Carlos and in other foreign countries. Thomas Morgan Joseph-Watkin (1856-1915), Chester Herald, spent his early life as a cowboy in Texas. Sir William Weldon (1837-1919), Clarenceux King of Arms, who took a leading role in the coronation of King Edward VII, once managed a circus.

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