Wednesday, 20 July 2011

College of Arms

Whilst heading away from the Embankment I just happened to come upon the “College of Arms”.  I almost passed the building without realising its significance.

The building looks Victorian but part of it were built in 1670.

Above the main door

The College retains the records of the coats of arms and pedigrees of all the families in the UK and Commonwealth.  I guess this is where you enquire to find out about your family crest or coat of arms!

Only recently I had been reading an account of the Battle of Agincourt and how the English and French Heralds met prior to the battle to agree the ‘rules’ and observe from the sideline they were followed.  At the conclusion of the battle the winner was agreed provided they had followed the rules. 

There was some suggestion the Heralds may have disagreed about Henry’s observance of the rules when, towards the end of the battle he ordered most of the French prisoners be killed as he needed their English guards to assist him fight of another expected French attack.  However the French has also managed to circle behind Henry’s army and attack his baggage train which was also a breach of the rules.

Originally the role of Heralds was to organise tournaments where the knights could demonstrate their prowess.  An early form of military training.  As the all were similarly equipped they took to wearing symbols and colours on their shields and helmets.  These became their coat of arms and it was the job of the Heralds to regulate the issue and identification of the arms. 

In addition to their role as custodians of coats of arms they are also responsible for the organisation of State Funerals and the Monarchs Coronation.

Interestingly, there is no coat of arms for a surname.  So when you see one of those crests in the High Street with your family name on it – it’s a fake! 

Heralds are responsible for the design of new honours and awards (the medals and their coloured ribbons).

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