Gifts to the College of Arms

Members of the White Lion Society, and those who are not members, may reasonably ask why the Society is necessary. The brief answer is that it is not; it is an indulgence, for it was established to provide little luxuries, touches of class if you like, that the College would not feel justified in acquiring. Chapter is so very appreciative of the efforts of the White Lion Society in giving the College these goodies which enrich our heritage and we hope are beginning to form close and intimate links between the givers and the grateful recipient.

John Brooke-Little 1987

From 1986 to date the Society has presented to the College gifts described below.


The White Lion Society made its first gift to the College of Arms in 1986. This consisted of Memorial Boards which were installed in the Heralds' Church of St Benet, Paul's Wharf, in the City of London – the magnificent Wren church just opposite the entrance to the College, where the Society's AGM has traditionally taken place. Many officers of the College are buried there.The Boards, situated on the South wall near the College Arms, record Officers of Arms and College Staff who have died since March 1984. In 1998 two further Memorial Boards were purchased to complement the initial two on which further names have been added of those who have died since 1986.


In July 1987, the Letters Patent of a grant of arms to Richard Garth of Morden, Surrey was offered at public auction and the Society assisted the College in purchasing it. The Society also helped fund cleaning and framing. It now hangs in the College in a room known as the Public Office. The grant made on the 8th July 1564 by William Hervy, Clarenceux King of Arms (1557-1567) is an attractive one with floral and armorial borders and a portrait of Hervy in the initial letter. It has one seal (slightly damaged) in a wooden skippet but the other seal is missing. The grant is recorded in the College of Arms (Old Grants R21, folio 134) and the original document was brought to the College in 1837 and the full text entered (Old Grants 0, page 1-3). Added to the full text there is a note stating that the entry was examined with the original on 22nd of April 1837, signed ‘Chas, Geo. Young, York and Registrar’ (one seal missing at that time).The pedigree of the family is entered in the 1623 Visitation of co. Surrey (C2, folio 228), where Richard and his two wives, Elizabeth and Joan are given together with his six children and twenty-two grandchildren.


Originally loaned to the College by Rodney Dennys Esq., Arundel Herald Extraordinary, an early 19th Century English oak settle was purchased by the Society in 1988 and gifted to the College for visitors to use when waiting by the entrance in the Earl Marshal’s Court. Some five years later, it was noted the settle was in need of repair, in particular to the leather seat, and the Society gifted the cost of repairs.


In 1989 the Society funded the framing of the Grants of the Badges of the College of Arms. One of these was the ‘White Lion Badge’ granted in 1988, which the Society uses with permission of the College. This Patent was painted by John Bainbridge, Herald Painter and engrossed by Keith Evans MVO, Clerk of the Records. The other Grant (in 1971) was for the ‘Dove Badge’. Both badge grants hang on the wall of the North-West stairs in the College.


At a Reception at the College on the 1st October 1991, in the presence of the Earl Marshal, President of the Society, a presentation was made of a gift of glasses, engraved with the White Lion Badge and the Achievement of the College of Arms. Two of the glasses were given to the College Housekeeper who had prepared a splendid buffet for the occasion! Subsequently, members of the Society were given the option of purchasing sets of the glasses which helped to offset the engraving costs.


In 1994 the Archivist of the College found that one of the College’s Parish Registers was ‘missing’. However, he was able to seek assistance from The Harleian Society who had a copy of the original in its possession. A copy was made for the College by its Conservation Department and the White Lion Society met the fee.


George Drewry Squibb Esq. LVO QC FSA FRHistS, Norfolk Herald Extraordinary, was born on the 1st of December 1906 and after University pursued a career at the Bar. He was the Earl Marshal’s Lieutenant, Assessor and Surrogate in the Court of Chivalry from 1976. George Squibb was a remote kinsman of Arthur Squibb, Clarenceux 1646-51, and of William Oldys, Norroy 1755-61. Following his death on the 3rd January 1994, aged 87, the Society assisted the Chapter in acquiring part of his library.


In 1994 the Society was able to make a further gift for the purchase of a rare Commonwealth Grant of Arms by private treaty sale. The grant was made by William Ryley (as Norroy) to Sir Christopher Crofts of York in 1649.


Having allocated considerably more funds for the before-mentioned Commonwealth Grant of 1649 than was expended at the sale, the Society was able to additionally assist the College in purchasing books from a private heraldic library in 1994.


Following the death of Sir Anthony Wagner KCB KCVO DLitt FSA, Clarenceux King of Arms and sometime Garter, his widow, Dame Gillian, offered the College books from his Library. The Society assisted the college to acquire these. A herald for over 50 years, Sir Anthony was appointed Portcullis Pursuivant in 1931, subsequently being appointed Richmond Herald in 1943 and Garter King of Arms in 1961. In 1978 he resigned from the office of Garter and was appointed Clarenceux; remaining so until his death on the 5th of May 1995, aged 86.


Commissioned in 1999 and presented and dedicated at the Heralds’ Carol Service in the Guild Church of St Benet that year, this superb painting, executed by Andrew Jamieson, is a permanent memorial to those 25 officers of Arms who are buried in the environs of St Benet’s but have no other memorial there. It hangs in the Church behind the pulpit, near the Memorial Boards. These officers of arms are listed down the centre of the vellum sheet, together with their titles. Their arms, where known, are illustrated in the two borders, beginning at the top left. Their shields hang from two oak trees, amidst whose foliage the White Lion Supporter of the College pursues one of the blue doves from the College’s arms.At the head of the sheet is a picture of the College’s arms, whilst at the base the White Lion supports a banner of the arms together with the four shields of the Officers of the Society responsible for this inspirational idea and bringing it to fruition.



“Crowns and Crests” consisted of a striking and colourful exhibition in the Earl Marshal’s Court of the College of Arms: forty-five carved and painted wooden heraldic crests and crowns originally made for Knights of the Garter, and displayed in the lifetime of each knight high above his stall in the Chapel of St George in Windsor Castle. The Order of the Garter is England’s oldest order of chivalry, and its knights have included many of the most prominent figures from recent British public life, as well as many foreign crowned heads. Each knight displays his arms, his banner and his crest (or, if he is a sovereign ruler, his crown) in St George’s. After his death, his banner is taken down and his crest or crown returns to the custody of Garter King of Arms. This exhibition collected together many of these crests dating from the present Queen’s reign, to create an impressive body of three-dimensional heraldry, most of it not seen in public for many years and all of it exhibited properly for the first time. The result was a glorious mêlée of golden crowns, lions, eagles, fabulous beasts and other elements of heraldic design. Famous Knights of the Garter represented in the exhibition included: Sir Winston Churchill; Field-Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke; Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein; Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis; the Duke of Windsor (sometime Edward VIII); the Duke of Wellington; the last Emperor of Ethiopia; Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone; the Earl of Longford; and Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. The exhibition was on show at the College of Arms from May 2002, until September 2003 to celebrate HM’s Golden Jubilee and subsequently toured the country.


The present system of enrolling grants of arms dates from 1673, and ensures that the full text of every single grant since then has been preserved for reference in the College’s Record Room. The College has records of a large number of grants before 1673, but the amount of detail found in the record varies – sometimes the full text, sometimes an abstract, and sometimes just an uninformative trick or sketch. Some grants have been found not to be recorded at all. As part of a long-term programme to ameliorate this situation, the College decided to photograph the 58 original grant patents owned by the College and dating from 1494 to 1664. The originals are stored in the Muniment Room vault at the College and were not easy to consult quickly. An album of photographs was made and shelved with other volumes of Old Grants, enabling the artistic development of patents over almost two centuries to be clearly seen. As this was successful, the College decided to assemble photographs of grant patents held outside the College, and started in the year 2000 with ones held by the Public Record Office and the British Library, together with one held by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. This yielded 27 photographs of patents from 1467 to 1647. Following the initial acquisitions, photographs have been assembled from originals held at many places including: the Bodleian Library; British Library; Centre for Kentish Studies; Clwyd Record Office; Connecticut Historical Society; Devon Record Office; Doncaster Archives; East Sussex Record Office; Essex Record Office; Eton College; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington; Godalming Museum; Groningen Archives, Holland; Guildhall Library; Hampshire Record Office; Houghton Library, Harvard University; Kings College, Cambridge; Lancashire Record Office; Leiden University Library, Holland; Lincolnshire Archives; Maidstone Museum; Museum of London; National Archives; National Art Library (V & A Museum); National Trust; North Devon Record Office; Northamptonshire Record Office; Royal Library, Stockholm; Sir William Turner’s Hospital, Kirkleatham, Yorks; Society of Antiquaries; Society of Genealogists; Somerset Record Office; Southampton Archives; Suffolk Record Office; Washington Library, California; West Sussex Record Office; Wiltshire Record Office; Yorkshire Archaeological Society; and in private hands. The Society has supported this ongoing project with regular cash contributions each year since its inception.


The White Lion Society’s gift to the College of Arms for 2003 marked a small but significant increment in the heralds’ corporate technological capability: a large and powerful digital camera. The College had felt for some time that it was uneconomical for the College, its officers and clients to continue to turn time and time again to professional photographers, when all that was needed was a basic, functional illustration of some item in the records, collections or elsewhere for the purposes of study or reproduction on the College website. With a digital camera, a photograph can be saved or (if not good enough) deleted, downloaded on to a computer, e-mailed, uploaded to the website, inserted in a document, turned into a slide or used in a PowerPoint presentation, and printed out for record purposes in any size that pleases. The top-of-the-range professional digital camera (a SIGMA SD9 single lens reflex camera) and accessories bought by the Society will enable College staff to meet all of the College's present needs and will take future requirements in its stride too.


Henry Cristophe, Haiti’s only King, was one of the most colourful and interesting figures in nineteenth-century Caribbean history. Of obscure origins, he served under the famous Toussaint L’Ouverture in the Haitian war of independence of 1794-1803, and in 1807 he was elected President of a Republic, heading a government made up of former slaves. Four years later, in March 1811, he made himself King. One of Henry’s first regal acts was to create a nobility, elevating his leading courtiers to the rank of chevalier, baron, count, duke or prince. So as to equip the new noblemen with armorial bearings appropriate to their rank, Henry created a College of Arms. Coats of arms were designed for every title-holder and painted in glorious colour in an official record volume, the Armorial Générale du Royaume d’Hayti. Since the mid-nineteenth century this volume has been in the possession of the College of Arms, and to mark the bicentenary of Haiti as an independent nation, the Armorial was published in an illustrated hardcover volume. The Society supported this project by contributing the cost of printing a leaflet in 2004 advertising the publication and inviting subscribers, and assisting with the cost of the book launch.


Within the College there is growing demand for digitisation of a wide range of archival and contemporary material and requests from publishers are increasingly for digital images. In 2005 the Society identified that the College needed a sophisticated computer scanner for making digital copies of the artwork produced within the College, including copying pages from the grant books and the grants themselves. The College also has a considerable holding of material in the form of transparency photographs. The Society therefore decided to make a major gift to the College in 2005 of a top-of-the range scanner also having the ability to scan large format transparencies.


The College does not have a wide collection of Armorials featuring foreign arms. To help remedy this to some extent in 2008 the Society undertook to meet the cost of acquiring the complete Siebmacher's Wappenbuch, which is an Armorial of thirty-six volumes plus an index covering arms of the Holy Roman Empire. Twenty-one volumes were purchased initially, and the set completed as volumes subsequently appeared on the second-hand market.


The Society funded the acquisition of two important works to be added to the College library, namely The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources and The Biographical Dictionary of Medalist, Coin, Gem and Seal Engravers with a modern index.


In 2011 the Society instituted a Bursary Scheme, setting aside £750 annually to create a fund (never to exceed a total of £1500) to defray the expenses of an officer of arms in registering for and attending international congresses or conferences on heraldry. In 2015 the scope of the scheme was extended to be available to members of the College's Conservation Department as well.


The College needed to raise funds for the creation of handrails to the double staircase at the main entrance. Funds had to be raised for this, and the Society made a contribution of five thousand pounds towards the costs of more than twenty-three thousand pounds. The handrails were a great improvement to safety in using the staircase, particularly in wet or icy weather.


An 18th century longcase clock by Mudge & Dutton (1754 to 1790) which had belonged to Stephen Martin Leake (Garter 1754 to 1773) was returned to the College by way of a bequest from his descendant. It was in need of repair and renovation, and the Society paid for this to be done by David Newell. The result was to restore the clock to its original magnificence, and it now once again occupies its place in the College's Waiting Room