International Heraldry - Officers of Arms

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Traditionally, officers of arms are of three ranks: kings of arms, heralds of arms, and pursuivants of arms. Officers of arms whose appointments are of a permanent nature are known as officers of arms in ordinary; those whose appointments are of a temporary or occasional nature are known as officers of arms extraordinary.

The medieval practice of appointing heralds or pursuivants to the establishment of a noble household is still common in European countries, particularly those in which there is no official heraldic control or authority. Such appointments are also still made in Scotland, where four private officers of arms exist.







England and Wales. In England, the authority of the thirteen officers of arms in ordinary who form the corporation of the Kings, Heralds, and Pursuivants of Arms extends throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of Scotland, Canada and South Africa. Officers of arms in ordinary who form the College of Arms in England are members of the royal household and receive a nominal salary. Heralds receive yearly salaries from the Crown - Garter King of Arms £49.07, the two provincial Kings of Arms £20.25, the six heralds £17.80, and the four pursuivants £13.95. These salaries were fixed at higher levels by James I but reduced by William IV in the 1830s.


Kings of Arms

King of Arms is the senior rank of an officer of arms. In many heraldic traditions, only a king of arms has the authority to grant armorial bearings.

In England, the authority to grant a coat of arms is subject to the formal approval of the Earl Marshal in the form of a warrant. In jurisdictions such as the Republic of Ireland the authority to grant armorial bearings has been delegated to a chief herald that serves the same purpose as the traditional king of arms. Canada also has a chief herald, though this officer grants arms on the authority of the Governor General as the Queen's representative through the Herald Chancellor's direct remit. Scotland's only king of arms, the Lord Lyon, exercises the royal prerogative by direct delegation from the Crown and like the Chief Herald of Ireland and the old Ulster King of Arms needs no warrant from any other office bearer. In the Kingdom of Spain, the power to certify coats of arms has been given to the Cronistas de Armas (Chroniclers of Arms).

English and Scottish kings of arms are the only officers of arms to have a distinctive coronet of office, used for ceremonial purposes such as at coronations. At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the kings of arms used a coronet trimmed with sixteen acanthus leaves alternating in height, and inscribed with the words Miserere mei Deus secundum magnum misericordiam tuam (Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; psalm 51). When this coronet is shown in pictorial representations, only nine leaves and the first three words are shown. Recently, a new crown has been made for the Lord Lyon, modelled on the Scottish Royal crown among the Honours of Scotland. This crown has removable arches (like one of the late Queen Mother's crowns) which will be removed at coronations to avoid any hint of lèse majesté.


English Kings of Arms

  • Garter Principal King of Arms.. Garter King of Arms is the senior of the three English Kings of Arms. The office takes its name from the Order of the Garter. Henry V instituted the office of Garter in 1415 just before sailing for France. Official arms in use by circa 1520: Argent a Cross Gules on a Chief Azure a crown enclosed in a Garter between a lion passant guardant and a fleur de lis all Or.
  • Clarenceux King of Arms.,Clarenceux's province has always been the southern part of England, and at least from the sixteenth century has included all England from the River Trent southwards. He is the senior of the two provincial kings. Official Arms in use by circa 1500: Argent a Cross Gules on a chief Gules a lion passant guardant crowned with an open crown Or.
  • Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. The junior of the two provincial kings. In 1943 the office of Ulster King of Arms (vacant since the death of Sir Neville Wilkinson in 1940) was combined with that of Norroy. Norroy and Ulster has jurisdiction over the six counties of Northern Ireland as well as those of England north of the Trent.

    Official arms approved 1980: Quarterly Argent and Or a Cross Gules on a Chief per pale Azure and Gules a lion passant guardant Or crowned with an open crown between a fleur de lis and a harp Or.



A herald of arms is an officer of arms, ranking between pursuivant and king of arms. The title is often applied erroneously to all officers of arms.

An officer of arms is a person appointed by a sovereign or state with authority to perform one or more of the following functions:

  • to control and initiate armorial matters
  • to arrange and participate in ceremonies of state
  • to conserve and interpret heraldic and genealogical records.

Heralds were originally messengers sent by monarchs or noblemen to convey messages or proclamations - in this sense being the predecessors of the modern diplomats. In the Hundred Years' War, French heralds challenged King Henry V to fight. During the Battle of Agincourt, the English and the French herald, Montjoie, watched the battle together from a nearby hill; both agreed that the English were the victors, and Montjoie provided King Henry V, who thus earned the right to name the battle, with the name of the nearby castle.

Like other officers of arms, a herald would often wear a surcoat, called a tabard, decorated with the coat of arms of his master. It was possibly due to their role in managing the tournaments of the Late Middle Ages that heralds came to be associated with the regulation of the knights' coats of arms. This science of heraldry became increasingly important and further regulated over the years, and in several countries around the world it is still overseen by heralds. Thus the primary job of a herald today is to be an expert in coats of arms. In the United Kingdom heralds are still called upon at times to read proclamations publicly; for which they still wear tabards emblazoned with the royal coat of arms.

There are active official heralds today in several countries, including the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Canada, and the Republic of South Africa. In England and Scotland most heralds are full-time employees of the sovereign and are called "Heralds of Arms in Ordinary". Temporary appointments can be made of "Heralds of Arms Extraordinary". These are often appointed for a specific major state occasions, such as a coronation. In addition, the Canadian Heraldic Authority has created the position of "Herald of Arms Emeritus", with which to honor long-serving or distinguished heraldists. In Scotland, some Clan Chiefs, the heads of great noble houses, still appoint private officers of arms to handle cases of heraldic or genealogical importance of clan members, although these are usually pursuivants.

English Heralds of Arms in Ordinary

  • Chester Herald of Arms in Ordinary.

    Chester is said to have been instituted by Edward III as herald of the Prince of Wales. The title was in abeyance for a time under Henry VIII, but since 1525 Chester has been one of the heralds in ordinary. In 1911, when the future Edward VIII was created Prince of Wales, Chester was one of his retinue. Badge: A Garb Or [from the arms of the Earl of Chester] royally crowned.

  • Lancaster Herald of Arms in Ordinary.

    Originally Lancaster, whether as herald of arms or as a king of arms, was retained by the earls and dukes of Lancaster. The title first appears in 1347 when Lancaster herald made a proclamation at the siege of Calais. On Henry IV's accession he was put on the Crown establishment and made king of the northern province. That arrangement was continued under Henry V and VI, but ceased by 1464. Thereafter Lancaster reverted to the rank of herald. Since the time of Henry VII Lancaster has been one of the six heralds in ordinary. Badge: The red rose of Lancaster royally crowned.

  • Richmond Herald of Arms in Ordinary.

    Richmond occurs from 1421 to 1485 as herald of John, Duke of Bedford, George, Duke of Clarence, and Henry, Earl of Richmond, all of whom held the Honour of Richmond. Henry on his accession to the throne as Henry VII in 1485 made Roger Machado, the then Richmond, a king of arms, since whose death in 1510 Richmond has been one of the six heralds in ordinary. Badge: The red rose of Lancaster and the white rose en soleil of York dimidiated per pale and royally crowned.

  • Somerset Herald of Arms in Ordinary.

    This title has been successively private, royal, at once private and extraordinary, and again royal. In 1448-9 Somerset was herald of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, but he must have been a royal officer in 1485, when he was the only herald to receive coronation liveries. In 1525, when Henry Fitzroy was made Duke of Richmond and Somerset, the then Somerset herald was transferred to the duke's household and as such he must be counted a private officer, although he was appointed by the King and shared the heralds' fees as a herald extraordinary. On Fitzroy's death in 1536 the then incumbent returned to the Crown establishment, and since then Somerset has been one of the heralds in ordinary. Badge: A portcullis or royally crowned, the Tudor version of the Beaufort badge.

  • Windsor Herald of Arms in Ordinary.

    The office of Windsor is said to have been instituted by Edward III. Windsor has been one of the six heralds in ordinary since 1419 at least. Badge: Edward III's (Edward of Windsor) sun-burst, that is golden sun rays shooting upwards from a bank of white cloud, royally crowned.

  • York Herald of Arms in Ordinary .

    It has been suggested that York herald was originally the officer of Edmund of Langley, created Duke of York in 1385, but the first reliable reference to York is in a patent of 1484 granting to John Water alias Yorke, herald, as fee of his office and for services to Richard III, his predecessors and ancestors, the manor of Bayhall in Pembury, Kent, and £8 6s. 8d. a year from the lordship of Huntingfield, Kent. He is now one of the six heralds in ordinary. Badge: The Yorkist white rose en soleil royally crowned.


English Heralds of Arms Extraordinary

  • Arundel Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Beaumont Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Maltravers Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • New Zealand Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Norfolk Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Surrey Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary




A Pursuivant pursuivant of arms, is a junior officer of arms. Most pursuivants are attached to official heraldic authorities, such as the College of Arms in London or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. In the mediaeval era, many great nobles employed their own officers of arms. Today, there still exist some private pursuivants that are not employed by a government authority. In Scotland, for example, several pursuivants of arms have been appointed by Clan Chiefs. These pursuivants of arms look after matters of heraldic and genealogical importance for clan members.


  • Bluemantle Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary
  • Portcullis Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary
  • Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary


English Pursuivants of Arms Extraordinary

  • Fitzalan Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary


Welsh Pursuivants of Arms in Ordinary

  • Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary



Procession of black robedheralds at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth I


Thomas Hawley, Clarenceux King of Arms as depicted in the initial letter of a grant of arms to John Fennar in 1556.


English Officers of Arms


An old (Stuart) Tabard


King of Arms in Tabard


Crown of an English King of Arms


A Medieval King of Arms


The Most Noble Edward William Fitzalan Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk, Premier Duke and Earl of England, Baron Beaumont, Baron Howard of Glossop, Earl Marshal, and Hereditary Marshal of England. One of the great Officers of State in England, responsible for the organization of state ceremonies (though not 'royal' occasions such as weddings), hereditary judge in the Court of Chivalry, and ultimately responsible to the Sovereign for all matters relating to heraldry, honor, precedence, etc. The Earl Marshal has jurisdiction over the officers of arms, but is not a member of the corporate body of the College of Arms.


The Earl Marshal displays behind his shield two gold batons saltirewise, the ends enameled black with the royal arms at the top, and those of the Earl Marshal at the lower end. These batons represent the virga or marshal's rod, a symbol of office dating from the Norman period.


Amongst the many heraldic manuscripts in the archives of the College of Arms are a number of heraldic compilations, collections of coats of Arms arranged in particular ways to serve different purposes. One type of manuscript is the alphabet, where descriptions of the Arms in blazon, or illustrations of the Arms, are arranged alphabetically by surname. Such manuscripts enabled heralds, painters and others swiftly to know something about the Arms of a particular person or family. Another category is the ordinary: here the coats of Arms are arranged by the devices shown upon them. These manuscripts, which have been created by Heralds since medieval times, enable Arms to be easily identified; they also assisted the heralds in designing new and original Arms. Illustrated below is an opening from Flower’s Ordinary [College reference: 2G9 ff. 58v, 59], a manuscript of c. 1520 once in the possession of William Flower (born c. 1498, died 1588), Norroy King of Arms. The distinctive Arms of Mortimer, Earls of March are in the top row of the left-hand page. The variations of tincture and additions of charges shown here illustrate medieval methods of differencing to indicate cadency or affinity.




Scotland. In Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, and the Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records control matters armorial within a strict legal framework not enjoyed by their fellow officers of arms in London, and the court which is a part of Scotland's criminal jurisdiction has its own prosecutor, the court's Procurator Fiscal, who is however not an officer of arms. Lord Lyon and the Lyon Clerk are appointed by the crown, and, with the Crown's authority, Lyon appoints the other Scottish officers. The officers of arms in Scotland are also members of the royal household.

Scottish King of Arms

  • Lord Lyon King of Arms

Scottish Heralds of Arms in Ordinary

  • Albany Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Islay Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Marchmont Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Rothesay Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Ross Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Snowdoun Herald of Arms in Ordinary


Scottish Heralds of Arms Extraordinary

  • Orkney Herald of Arms Extraordinary


Scottish Pursuivants of Arms in Ordinary

  • Bute Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary
  • Carrick Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary
  • Dingwall Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary
  • Kintyre Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary
  • Ormond Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary
  • Unicorn Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary


Scottish Pursuivants of Arms Extraordinary

  • Linlithgow Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary
  • Falkland Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary
  • March Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary


Privately Appointed Pursuivants

  • Slains Pursuivant of Arms
  • Garioch Pursuivant of Arms
  • Endure Pursuivant of Arms
  • Finlaggan Pursuivant of Arms



the Arms of Lord Lyon, King of Arms


Endure Pursuivant of Arms is a private officer of arms appointed by the the Earl of Crawford & Balcarres
(Chief of the Name and Arms of Lindsay).
This Endure Pursuivant is the Earl's younger son,
The Honorable Alexander Walter Lindsay.

Coat of Arms of theEarl of Crawford & Balcarres




In the Republic of Ireland, matters armorial and genealogical come within the authority of an officer designated the Chief Herald of Ireland. .

Chief or State Heralds

  • The Chief Herald of Ireland




Canadian Heralds of Arms In Ordinary

  • Chief Herald of Canada
  • Assiniboine Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Athabaska Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Coppermine Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Fraser Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Miramichi Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Saguenay Herald of Arms in Ordinary
  • Saint-Laurent Herald of Arms in Ordinary


Canadian Heralds of Arms Extraordinary

  • Albion Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Capilano Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Cowichan Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Dauphin Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Niagara Herald of Arms Extraordinary
  • Rouge Herald of Arms Extraordinary


Canadian Heralds of Arms Emeritus

  • Outaouais Herald of Arms Emeritus
  • Rideau Herald of Arms Emeritus

The full armorial bearings of the Canadian Heraldic Authority incorporate aboriginal symbolism, as seen in the mythical raven-bears, as well as traditional Canadian colours (red and white). The blazon, is: Arms: Argent on a maple leaf Gules an escutcheon Argent; Crest: Upon a helmet mantled Gules doubled Argent within a wreath of these colours a lion passant guardant Or Royally Crowned Proper its Dexter forepaw resting on an escutcheon Argent charged with a maple leaf Gules; Motto: HONORENTUR PATRIAM HONORANTES, Latin for “Let those honouring the country be honoured”; Supporters: On a representation of an outcrop of the Canadian Shield proper strewn with maple leaves Gules and maple seeds Or two raven-bears Gules over Argent wings elevated Gules beaked and armed Or.




In the Netherlands, officers of arms do not exist as permanent functions. Private heraldry is not legislated, and state heraldry and the heraldry of the nobility is regulated by the High Council of Nobility. During the royal inauguration ceremony however, two Kings of Arms and two or four Heralds of Arms have figured. These were usually members of the High Council of Nobility.




Portuguese King of arms

  • Rei de Armas Portugal or Portugal Rei de Armas (with Rei de Armas Algarve and Rei de Armas Goa)








Spain has a Cronistas Reyes de Armas


An Iberian tabard


South Africa


  • The National Herald (formerly State Herald) of South Africa




  • The State Herald (Statsheraldiker) of Sweden is the head of a branch of the National Archives of Sweden




Indian Empire Herald of Arms Extraordinary

  • Delhi Herald of Arms Extraordinary






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