Royal Arms I51.131 compressedThe Royal Arms: Queen Victoria was born 200 years ago, on 24 May 1819, and came to the throne on 20 June 1837, on the death of William IV. The German possessions of the Crown passed to her uncle Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who became King of Hanover. At a meeting of the Privy Council held on 21 July 1837 it was ordered that the Earl Marshal should appoint proper persons to attend a committee of the Council, who were to settle what alterations might be necessary to the Royal Arms as far as Hanover was concerned. The Earl Marshal appointed Sir William Woods, Clarenceux King of Arms, then acting as Deputy Garter, as well as Joseph Hawker, Richmond Herald and Charles Young, York Herald. A further meeting of the Privy Council held on 26 July received the report of the committee, which stated that the Officers of Arms had advised changes to the Royal Arms whereby the escutcheon representing the German possessions should be omitted. An illustration of the design is shown left, taken from the official records of the College of Arms. This was approved by Queen Victoria and a Royal Proclamation then issued dated 26 July 1837 setting out the new Royal Arms. The Royal Arms are still used in this form today. College reference: I.51/127.

Sir Henry Farnham Burke

25 February 2019

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, Sir Henry inherited the family enthusiasm for genealogy but brought to it a discernment it is said his father lacked. He built up a very large practice and at his death bequeathed to the College of Arms 184 volumes of material relating to his genealogical research cases. Born in 1859, Henry Farnham Burke was appointed to the College of Arms as Rouge Croix Pursuivant in 1880. He was promoted to Somerset Herald in 1887. He became Norroy King of Arms in 1911 and Garter Principal King of Arms by Patent dated 22 January 1919. He died in 1930. In Heralds of England (1967) Sir Anthony Wagner wrote that Burke “had studied all the branches of his profession and was thorough in all he undertook. His character was forcible and his energy and acumen brought him great professional success.”

Burke Sir Henry Farnham 72dpiPortrait of Sir Henry Farnham Burke

Acc 2018 01 pt 2 title pageThis beautiful pedigree book of the de Trafford family contains the genealogy traced by Farnham Burke in 1890 as Somerset Herald, the position he held from 1887 to 1911.

Acc 2018 01 pt 2 achievement comp

College of Arms Ms Acc 2018/1 pt 2

Burke’s working papers were bound into very thick volumes with the title of the office he held at the time stamped onto the spine. This is an example of a volume created when he was Somerset Herald, showing pages containing a draft pedigree, the blazon of his client’s arms, and a questionnaire filled out by the client with information about his own and the immediately preceding generations. Other material gathered might include correspondence, copies of certificates, notes from parish registers, and the occasional photograph. The different sizes of the papers bound, combined with the thickness of the volumes, makes them awkward to handle.

Somerset 93 compCollege of Arms Ms H. F. Burke Collection 93


One of the College’s treasures is the mediaeval volume of painted coats of arms known as ‘Jenyns’ Ordinary’ (after one of its 16th-century owners, William Jenyns, Lancaster Herald). The volume was created in c. 1380 and contains 1,611 coats, mostly shields, but also some banners. This volume is thought to have been purchased by Burke in c. 1880 – 1890 for £4 from a bookseller near the British Museum, and was presented by him to the College during his lifetime.

Jenyns Ordinary f. 3v comp

William Jenyns Ordinary f. 19r compCollege of Arms Ms Jenyns’ Ordinary ff. 3v. and 19r.


Sir Henry Farnham Burke’s practice is thought to be the largest the College had ever had, at the time and possibly since. Besides his genealogical work, this of course including designing arms for new armigers, such as the ‘canting’ arms shown below, granted to Sir Jesse Boot in December 1909.

Grants 79 Boot compCollege of Arms Ms Grants 79 p. 162

The image below shows a detail of a pedigree from the College records shows the ancestry of Edmund Beachamp Tucker, subsequently Edmund Beauchamp Beauchamp, who took the surname and Arms of Beauchamp alone by Royal Licence dated 19 June 1905. Burke conducted much of the genealogical investigations himself and directed others in their searches in regional repositories. His collections of Tucker material from Devon are now of considerable value as many of the originals were destroyed during the Second World War.

Norfolk 23.118College of Arms Ms Norfolk 23/118

The Arms of Beauchamp were therefore exemplified to Edmund Beauchamp Beauchamp by Letters Patent of the Kings of Arms dated 19 August 1905.

Grants 75.213College of Arms Ms Grants 75/213


Sir Henry Farnham Burke took an active part in the arrangements for the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in June 1911. This page from the Order of Service for the ceremony shows him standing in for Clarenceux King of Arms, George Edward Cokayne (author of The Complete Peerage and The Complete Baronetage) who was seriously ill and died two months later. On his death, William Henry Weldon, Norroy King of Arms, became Clarenceux, and Burke was promoted to become Norroy King of Arms.

Coronation George V vol 5 compCollege of Arms Ms Coronation of King George V, vol 5

In this letter to Lord Edmund Talbot, Deputy Earl Marshal during the minority of the hereditary Earl Marshal, a representative of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office outlines arrangements for Henry Farnham Burke to receive his insignia of Office as Garter King of Arms. Farnham Burke, who was also knighted in 1919, held the position until his death in 1930, although his duties were exercised by a deputy during the illness of the last few months of his life.

Acc 2019 01 pt 1 file 3 HFBCollege of Arms Ms Acc 2019/1 pt 1

Coll Arm Ms I38.197 compressedSir Harford Jones and the Arms of Persia: During the Napoleonic Wars both Britain and France competed to form an alliance with the Persian Empire. The records of the College of Arms contain a transcript of a letter sent to the Foreign Secretary, George Canning, from Sir Harford Jones, British Minister at the Persian Court, dated 29th March 1809 at Tehran, which recounts an unusual series of diplomatic manoeuvres resulting in an unique heraldic honour. Jones recounts how at the behest of the French Ambassador, the Persian Emperor created the Order of the Lion and the Sun, an order of chivalry on the model of those which existed in Europe, and awarded it to several French dignitaries, including the famous diplomat Talleyrand.

The Emperor then offered the order to Sir Harford, but on the grounds of its instigation by and award to Napoleon’s representatives, he viewed himself as unable to accept it. The Emperor expressed disappointment, and in order to mitigate the situation, Jones offered to accept any other honour that His Majesty could give, and therefore received a patent granting him the right to use the Imperial Arms of Persia, with Supporters and surmounted by the Imperial Crown on a cushion. The letter concludes by stating that Jones would await his Sovereign’s command as to whether to actually make use of this unique honour, and precisely a year later on the 29th March 1810, George III issued a warrant to the Earl Marshal giving such permission and directing it to be recorded at the College of Arms. While the text of the Persian patent does not specify any limitations on how Sir Harford used the Imperial Arms, as recorded at the College of Arms they were added as a chief to his personal arms of Argent a Chevron Sable between three Ravens in the Centre Chief point the Star of the Imperial Ottoman Order of the Crescent proper, and the Imperial Crown on a cushion used as a second crest. College Reference: I.38/193; illustration of patent I.38/197.

Learning with sadness of the death of George H. W. Bush, former President of the United States of America, who died on 30 November 2018, 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 (1 December 2018) until 2000 hours.
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.

10. Acc 2010 02 2 1919 p. 1 cropped compressedThe First World War ended for practical purposes with the Armistice of 11 November 1918, but the state of war between the belligerents came to an end only after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919. Following that Treaty the heralds were dispatched to proclaim the Peace, and this was done on 2 July 1919 from St James's Palace and other key points in London. This article by Oswald Barron, later Maltravers Herald Extraordinary, is from the July 1919 issue of Country Life. It shows Sir Henry Farnham Burke, Garter King of Arms, and Gordon Ambrose Lee, York Herald, making the Proclamation. College of Arms reference: Acc 2010/2.

An online exhibition of other documents from the archives of the College of Arms relating to the First World War can be seen here

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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