Kings of Arms

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The first English King of Arms was recorded in the 13th century, when, in one of the Harleian documents (Cl.54) one Peter (possibly de Horbury) is mentioned as "king of Arms beyond the Trent" (an English river), collecting a debt of 20 silver marks around 1276CE.

Later the area north of the Trent was to become one of the 2 recognised English heraldic provinces, whose king was generally titled as Norroy (although for periods the office appears to have been executed by the March and Lancaster Kings of Arms. The other English province (England south of the Trent) became the purview of Clarenceux King of Arms, whose first known incumbent is Andrew, from 1314CE.

A century later the senior-most King was created (and created specifically to be senior-most, as well as to cater to a new heraldic Order) -- Garter King, first incumbent William Bruges, formerly Guyenne King.

Other Kings within the English college were appointed to cater to new geographical possessions (some of them Heralds promoted):

  • Guyenne and Aquitaine (the titles were never both filled, and alternate according to an unknown rule) -- the English holdings in SW France. Ca.1306 to 1475, not continuously.
  • Ireland -- Between ca.1370 and ca.1483; later revived as Ulster, 1552 to 1558, then severed from the English College.
  • March -- apparently the Welsh and Scots border areas. 1384 (March Herald (a private, not a royal herald) promoted to King) to 1481, but few incumbents known in records.
  • Lancaster --- In 1386 he was the private herald to the Duke of Lancaster but was styled a King; became a Royal herald and King in ca.1399 reverted to status of a herald after 1450; undertook the duties of Norroy.
  • Anjou -- Records only show a brief office, from 1425 to 1436, with 2 incumbents, after which the office dies.

There were also a number of other short-lived Kings: Falcon from ca.1359 to 1412; Leicester, 1399-1419, after which reverted to the rank of herald; Agincourt, 1415-1419, then disappears; Gloucester 1483-4; Richmond, a herald, who gained Kingly rank briefly in 1485 before the incumbent (Roger Malchado) was made Norroy King. There are also single references to Normandy, Mascham and Vaillant Kings, to a King of Arms to the Black Prince, and to 6 other individuals named as Kings without titles being given.

Finally, one source (BM Cotton ms.) refers to one Bond as a 'king of arms' in 1225CE, but no title of office is cited and Mr. Bond is otherwise unknown. In all the circumstances most authorities treat this is a figment of fiction intended to back-date the office of King and enhance its antiquity.

Sources: Various, mostly amalgamations of published summaries etc.