Parliament Rolls

17 October 2019

The College of Arms holds four painted Parliament Rolls, each showing the lords spiritual and temporal who attended specific Parliaments in the reign of Henry VIII, with their shields of arms in colour. The Rolls show the order of precedence in which the lords sat, those with the most important positions sitting nearest the King. Three documents are in the form of long vellum rolled manuscripts; the fourth is in a bound volume. Other similar but less elaborate documents held at the College also feature in this exhibition.

1. NumSch 06 40Top portion of the Parliament Roll recording those who attended the Parliament held in the 31st year of the reign of Henry VIII, 1539. Depicted are the arms of Thomas (Cromwell), Earl of Essex, ‘Vicegerent of the Spirituality’; Thomas (Audley), Baron Audley of Walden, Lord Chancellor; Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; Thomas (Howard), Duke of Norfolk and Lord Treasurer. Thomas Howard was also Earl Marshal, a role which involves oversight of the College of Arms. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/40


 2. NumSch 06 40 dorse compressedThis writing on the back of the 1539 Parliament Roll, now difficult to make out in places, explains that the roll shows the order in which the noblemen attending Parliament were seated. Beginning with Thomas Cromwell, Vicegerent of the King in spirituals, who is placed at the King’s right hand above the Archbishop of Canterbury. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/40


 3. NumSch 06 40 Gardiner compressed
Arms of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, on the Parliament Roll for 1539. A note, no doubt made by an observant herald, states that the artist has made a mistake: “thes ii keys shold be sett thother way”. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/40

4. NumSch 06 40 Cromwell Arms of Thomas Cromwell, showing his position in 1539 as the King’s principal advisor. A year later he was arrested for treason and executed. The Parliament Roll has been amended accordingly – a cross has been drawn through the arms and beneath his name has been added the Latin for traitor, ‘traditor’ (here spelled ‘traditur’). College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/40


5. 2H. 13 f 3v Roll of lords attending Parliament, 1529-1536. The document’s title states that the Parliament began in November 1529 at Blackfriars, and then moved to Westminster. The roll seems to have been created in or after July 1536, when the last of the earls to be listed was given his title. The Parliament that began in 1529, known as the ‘Reformation Parliament’, was in fact dissolved in April 1536, and a new one assembled in June; the compiler of the Roll has treated them as one event. The last shield is that of Thomas Cromwell, admitted to Parliament on the last day it sat. College of Arms Ms 2 H. 13 f 3v.


6. 2H. 13 f 4r 
Page from roll of lords who attended Parliament between 1529 and 1536. On this page, the arms of both Lord Darcy and Lord Hussey have the first and fourth quarters crossed out, on which the main paternal arms are depicted. Both men were found guilty of treason for their complicity with the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 and were executed. As is the case on other Parliament Rolls, this crossing out of their arms denotes their status as traitors: their blood was ‘attainted’ and all honours, including their arms, were forfeit. College of Arms Ms 2 H. 13 f 4r.


 7. NumSch 06 41 Courteney compressedArms of the Earl of Devonshire, Lord Henry Courteney, on the roll of those who attended Parliament in 1523. The arms have been crossed out and a note beneath Courteney’s name reads ‘Defaced for treson [treason]’. The note may be in the hand of William le Neve, an Officer of Arms from 1622 to 1646, who has written his name at the top of the manuscript. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/41


8. NumSch 06 41 This section of the Parliament Roll for 1523 includes the shields of several Knights of the Garter, recognisable by the distinctive blue Garter encircling the shields. They include Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester, Prelate of the Order of the Garter. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/41


9. NumSch 06 41 dorse compressed On the back of the Parliament Roll for 1523 is a record of the decision made by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in the dispute between Lords Clifford and Fitzwater over who had precedency in the Parliament Chamber. The disagreement, concerning whose seat was nearest the King, dated back to the time of their ancestors but was eventually resolved in favour of Lord Clifford. Evidence was provided by Garter King of Arms and by the Clerk of the Parliament. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/41


10. NumSch 06 42 royal arms The royal arms, painted at the head of the Parliament Roll recording those who attended in the 5th year of the reign of Henry VIII, 1514. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 6/42


11. NumSch 02 06 05 compressedThese pages list lords who attended the Parliament that began on 4 February 1512, but do not describe their coats of arms. At the head of those listed as ‘on the King’s side’ – nearest the King – is the Bishop of London, followed by the [Arch]bishop of Canterbury. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 2/6/5


12. NumSch 02 06 05.2 Pages from a Parliament Roll with written descriptions of arms (‘blazon’) rather than pictures of shields. The heading has been damaged, so that the date of the Roll is unknown. Below the word ‘King’ (the rest of the line is torn away) are the titles ‘The Prince’ and beneath that, ‘The Duke of York’. It is probable then that this is one of Henry VII’s Parliaments, that of either 1495 or 1497, after the future Henry VIII had been created Duke of York in 1494 but before his older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, died in 1502. College of Arms Ms Num Sch 2/6/5


13. P.e. 11 f 14r.2 This list created by John Philipot, Somerset Herald (died 1645), is modelled on Parliament Rolls. It is one of several compiled from earlier sources recreating attendance at medieval Parliaments, in this case one held in 1309. The arms of selected attendees are drawn or ‘tricked’ in the margin, with the colours denoted by abbreviations. College of Arms Ms Philipot Collection, P.e. 11 f 14r.


14. Vincent 97 cover The cover of this late 16th-century manuscript containing lists of those summoned to Parliament in the reigns of Edward I – Edward IV is bound in vellum from a late 14th-century liturgical manuscript. Such lists would have been used by the Officers of Arms in their genealogical research work. College of Arms Ms Vincent 97


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