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Pictures of heralds from the 14th-17th century, from H. Strohl's Heraldischer Atlas Strohl Heraldischer Atlas t01 3.jpg
Pictures of heralds from the 14th–17th century, from H. Ströhl's Heraldischer Atlas
English and Scotish heralds, wearing tabards, in procession during the Coronation of Charles III and Camilla (2023). The King's Coronation (52874898271) (cropped).jpg
English and Scotish heralds, wearing tabards, in procession during the Coronation of Charles III and Camilla (2023).
Herald Gelre of the Duke of Gueldres (around 1380) Herald Gelre of the Duke of Gueldres.jpg
Herald Gelre of the Duke of Gueldres (around 1380)
Bavarian herald Jorg Rugen [de] wearing a tabard of the Coat of arms of Bavaria, around 1510. Jorg Rugen (ca 1510).jpg
Bavarian herald Jörg Rugen  [ de ] wearing a tabard of the Coat of arms of Bavaria, around 1510.
A 14th-century illustration showing an English herald approaching Scottish soldiers - an incident of the Anglo-Scottish Wars Scottish soldiers in the 14thC.jpg
A 14th-century illustration showing an English herald approaching Scottish soldiers – an incident of the Anglo-Scottish Wars
Tabard worn by an English herald in the College of Arms Pursuivant tabard.jpg
Tabard worn by an English herald in the College of Arms

A herald, or a herald of arms, is an officer of arms, ranking between pursuivant and king of arms. The title is commonly applied more broadly to all officers of arms.


Heralds were originally messengers sent by monarchs or noblemen to convey messages or proclamations—in this sense being the predecessors of modern diplomats. In the Hundred Years' War, French heralds challenged King Henry V to fight. During the Battle of Agincourt, the English herald 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. [1]

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. Heralds have been employed by kings and large landowners, principally as messengers and ambassadors. Heralds were required to organise, announce and referee the contestants at a tournament. [2] This practice of heraldry became increasingly important and further regulated over the years, and in several countries around the world it is still overseen by heralds. 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. 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 Scottish 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.

In addition, many orders of chivalry have heralds attached to them. These heralds may have some heraldic duties but are more often merely ceremonial in nature. Heralds which were primarily ceremonial in nature, especially after the decline of chivalry, were also appointed in various nations for specific events such as a coronation as additions to the pageantry of these occasions. In the Netherlands, heralds are appointed for the Dutch monarch's inauguration where they wore their tabards until 1948; these heralds proclaim the inauguration ceremony to have been completed to those inside and outside the Nieuwe Kerk.

English Heralds

English Heralds of Arms in Ordinary

English Heralds of Arms Extraordinary

Scottish Heralds

Scottish Heralds of Arms in Ordinary

Scottish Heralds of Arms Extraordinary

Canadian Heralds

Canadian Heralds of Arms In Ordinary

Canadian Heralds of Arms Extraordinary

Canadian Heralds of Arms Emeritus

Indian Empire Herald of Arms Extraordinary

See also


  1. Similar tabards are also worn by Officers Extraordinary, who are not formally members of the College of Arms, but take part in ceremonial occasions. Scottish heralds under the authority of Lord Lyon King of Arms also wear tabards, but these display the current royal arms of Scotland.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coat of arms</span> Heraldic design on a shield, surcoat or tabard

A coat of arms is a heraldic visual design on an escutcheon, surcoat, or tabard. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement, which in its whole consists of a shield, supporters, a crest, and a motto. A coat of arms is traditionally unique to the armiger. The term "coat of arms" itself, describing in modern times just the heraldic design, originates from the description of the entire medieval chainmail "surcoat" garment used in combat or preparation for the latter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tabard</span> Type of short coat

A tabard is a type of short coat that was commonly worn by men during the late Middle Ages and early modern period in Europe. Generally worn outdoors, the coat was either sleeveless or had short sleeves or shoulder pieces. In its more developed form it was open at the sides, and it could be worn with or without a belt. Though most were ordinary garments, often work clothes, tabards might be emblazoned on the front and back with a coat of arms (livery), and in this form they survive as the distinctive garment of officers of arms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lord Lyon King of Arms</span> Scottish official with responsibility for regulating heraldry

The Right Honourable the Lord Lyon King of Arms, the head of Lyon Court, is the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland and is the Scottish official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in that country, issuing new grants of arms, and serving as the judge of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the oldest heraldic court in the world that is still in daily operation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">College of Arms</span> Corporation responsible for heraldry in England and Wales

The College of Arms, or Heralds' College, is a royal corporation consisting of professional officers of arms, with jurisdiction over England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some Commonwealth realms. The heralds are appointed by the British Sovereign and are delegated authority to act on behalf of the Crown in all matters of heraldry, the granting of new coats of arms, genealogical research and the recording of pedigrees. The College is also the official body responsible for matters relating to the flying of flags on land, and it maintains the official registers of flags and other national symbols. Though a part of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom, the College is self-financed, unsupported by any public funds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Officer of arms</span> State officer for heraldic, armorial or ceremonial duties

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

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">English heraldry</span> English form of heraldic bearings and insignia

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Court of the Lord Lyon</span> Court which regulates heraldry in Scotland

The Court of the Lord Lyon, or Lyon Court, is a standing court of law, based in New Register House in Edinburgh, which regulates heraldry in Scotland. The Lyon Court maintains the register of grants of arms, known as the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, as well as records of genealogies.


  1. Keegan, John. The Face of Battle , 1983, Penguin Classics, ISBN   0-14-004897-9, pp 74, 77, 104–105.
  2. The Historical Atlas of Knights and Castles, Ian Barnes, 2007, pp.176–177.