- Heraldic visitation
to wpd|England's counties taken from "Burke's Landed Gentry", 1937 edition. [Heraldic Visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by
Kings of Armsin England, Wales and Ireland in order to regulate and register the coats of arms of nobility and gentry and boroughs, and to record pedigrees. They took place from 1530to 1688, and their records provide important source material for genealogists.
Visitations in England and Wales
Process of visitations
By the fifteenth century, the use and abuse of coats of arms was becoming widespread in
England. One of the duties conferred on William Bruges, the first Garter Principal King of Armswas to survey and record the armorial bearingsand pedigrees of those using coats of arms and correct irregularities. The officers of arms of England made occasional tours of various parts of the country to enquire about matters armorial during the fifteenth century. [Stephen Friar, Ed. "A Dictionary of Heraldry". (Harmony Books, New York: 1987).] It was not until the sixteenth century that the process began in earnest.
The first provincial visitations were carried out under warrant granted by Henry VIII to
Thomas Benolt, Clarenceux King of Armsdated 6 April 1530. [Julian Franklyn. "Shield and Crest: An Account of the Art and Science of Heraldry". (MacGibbon & Kee, London: 1960), 386.] He was commissioned to travel throughout his province and was given authority to enter all homes and churches. Upon entering these premises, he was authorized to "put down or otherwise deface at his discretion...those arms unlawfully used". [J.L. Vivian, Ed. "The Visitations of Cornwall, Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1530, 1573, &1620". (William Pollard and Co., Exeter: 1887), 248.] He was also required to enquire into all those using the titles of knight, esquire, or gentlemanand decided if they were being lawfully used.
writ, Henry VIII also compelled the sheriffs and mayors of each county or city visited by the officers of arms to give aid and assistance in gathering the needed information. When a King of Arms, or his deputy, visited a county, his presence was proclaimed by presenting the Royal Commission and the local gentry and nobility were required to provide evidence of their right to bear arms. The Sheriff would collect from the bailiffof each hundred within his county a list of all people using titles or arms. These were summoned to the visitation and the hope was that none would escape the enquiry. The people that were summoned were to bring their arms, and proof of their right to use the arms. Their ancestry would also be recorded. Where an official grant of arms had been made, this was recorded. Other ancient arms, many of which predated the establishment of the College of Arms, were confirmed. The officer would record the information clearly and make detailed note that could be entered into the records of the College of Arms when the party returned to London. These volumes now make up the Library of Visitation Books at the College, which contain a wealth of information about all armigerous people from the period. [ Anthony Wagner. "The Records and Collections of the College of Arms". (London: 1952), 24.] If the officers of arms were not presented with sufficient proof of the right to use a coat of arms, they were also empowered to deface monuments which bore these arms and to force persons bearing such arms to sign a disclaimer that they would cease using them.
The visitations were not popular with the landed gentry who were required to present proof of their gentility. Members of this class grew in power after the installation of William III in
1688, and further commissions to carry out visitations were not issued by William or his successors. This cessation of the visitations did not have much effect on those counties far removed from London. Over the period of visitations many of these counties were rarely visited. Those closer to London were more frequently subject to inspection. Also, there was never a systematic visitation of Wales. There were four visitations in the principality, and on 9 June 1551, Fulk ap Hywel, Lancaster Herald of Arms in Ordinary was given a commission to visit all of Wales. This was not carried out, however, as he was degraded and executed for counterfeiting the seal of Clarenceux King of Arms. This is regrettable, since no visitation of all Wales was ever made by the officers of arms. [Michael Powell Siddons. "Visitations by the Heralds in Wales". (The Harleian Society, London: 1996), v.]
The original notebooks of the heralds during the visitations were not retained by the College of Arms and have been used as the basis for other manuscript copies which have been published by various groups. The only definitive records of the visitations are difficult to examine as they form part of the library of the
Collegeof Arms. These published sources do provide a great amount of detail on the subject. Many have been published by the Harleian Society, some by county record societies, and a few have been printed privately. Many of the manuscriptson which these published copies are based can be found today in the British Library in London.
Visitations in Ireland
Since the practices of
Ulster King of Armsso closely followed those of the English College of Arms, it is hardly surprising that the Irish officers of arms undertook heraldic visitations in their province. The purpose behind these visitations was two-fold: to prevent the assumption of arms by unqualified people, and to record the arms of the gentry that were unknown to Ulster office. The first visitation was held by Nicholas Narbon, the second Ulster King of Arms, in 1569. He was authorized to reform practices which were contrary to good armorial practice. He conducted six visitations ( Dublinin 1568–1573, Droghedaand Ardeein 1570, Dublin in 1572, Swords in 1572, Cork in 1574, and Limerickin 1574). One of his successors, Daniel Molyneuxhad the commission renewed, and mounted several visitations. Although Molyneux's last visitation–of Wexford–was the last proper visitation, two other expeditions occurred after 1618 by subsequent Ulster Kings of Arms. It should be noted that the visitations were not very extensive. The officers would not often be found in the disturbed countryside. Thus the visitations are confined to areas under firm control of the Dublinadministration.
Today, the original visitation and related manuscripts are in the custody of the
Chief Herald of Ireland. Copies are also deposited at the College of Arms in London.
Visitations in Scotland
1672 Act of Parliamentthat created the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotlandgave Lord Lyon King of Armsthe authority to visit any part of Scotlandto execute his statutory duties. Such visits have been made in the past, however these visits are not organized information-gathering exercises in specific regions. Scottish heraldry, with its compulsory matriculations, is much more regulated and each generation must lodge an updated genealogy with Lyon Court in order to lawfully bear arms. Therefore the control of heraldryin Scotland is such that periodic inspections have never been necessary.
Court of the Lord Lyon
King of Arms
* [http://cheshire-heraldry.org.uk/visitations/ Heraldic Visitations of Cheshire]
* [http://harleian.co.uk/ The Harleian Society]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Visitation — may refer to: In law:* In United States Law, the term for the right of a non custodial parent to visit with their children, elsewhere known as Contact (law)* An official visit, usually for purposes of inspection, and the record of that visit.… … Wikipedia
Ernle — was the surname of an English gentry or landed family descended from the lords of the manor of Earnley in Sussex who derived their surname from the place where their estates lay. Origins OnomasticOnomasticians say that the surname s origin, in… … Wikipedia
Thomas Hawley — (died 22 August 1557) was a long serving officer of arms at the College of Arms in London. He began his career of royal service as a groom porter to Queen Margaret of Scotland from her marriage in 1503 until 1508. Although he may have been made… … Wikipedia
Mercia — This article is about the Anglo Saxon kingdom. For the Spanish city, see Murcia. For other uses, see Mercia (disambiguation). Kingdom of Mercia Miercna rīce ← … Wikipedia
Coat of arms of Poole — The coat of arms of the Poole Borough Council The Coat of arms of Poole were first recorded by Clarenceux King of Arms during the heraldic visitation of Dorset in 1563. The arms were recorded again at visitation in 1623 but in both visi … Wikipedia
Norwich — For other places with the same name, see Norwich (disambiguation). City of Norwich Norwich city centre … Wikipedia
Thomas Benolt — (died 8 May 1534) was a long serving officer of arms at the College of Arms in London. As part of his service, he was also a diplomat. He appears to have been born at Rouen, though his family had stronger links with Calais. Benolt is thought to… … Wikipedia
Prideaux Castle — coord|50.3689|N|4.7305|W|region:GB type:landmark source:dewiki|display=titlePrideaux Castle is a quadrivallate Iron Age hillfort situated atop a 133 m (435 ft) high conical hill near the southern boundary of the parish of Luxulyan, Cornwall, in… … Wikipedia
Harleian Society — The Harleian Society was founded in 1869 for the purpose of publishing manuscripts of the heraldic visitations of the counties of England and Wales, and other unpublished manuscripts relating to genealogy, armory, and heraldry in its widest sense … Wikipedia
Cecily of York — Infobox British Royalty|royal name =Cecily of York title =Viscountess Welles imgw = 180px spouse =1) Ralph Scrope of Upsall 2) John Welles, Viscount Welles 3) Thomas Kymbe issue =Elizabeth Welles Anne Welles titles = royal house =House of York… … Wikipedia