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page vii. Burke's General Armory

page vii. Burke's General Armory

HERALDRY vii hundred and sixty persons. It still remains in the cottonian Library, British h Museum (Calig. A. xviii.). The Fourth ROLL, temp. Edward Ill., appears to have been compiled between the years 1337 and 1350. Its plan was most comprehensive, embracing the arms of all the Peers and Knights in England, arranged in the following order: 1. The King, the Earls, and the Barons. II. The Knights under their respective counties. III. The great Personages who lived in earlier times. Besides these Rolls, other collections of arms have been published, adding much to our information on the subject. In these ancient rolls Heraldry first assumes the appearance of a science, and it would seem that the rates by which it is governed then existed. The earliest writer on the subject, whose work has descended to us, is Nicholas Upton. His treatise was composed in the reign of Henry V., and translated in that of his successor, in the work well known to all admirers of the art as " The Boke of st. Albans," With the decline of chivalry the study of Heraldry was neglected, and the exaggerated dignity to which Ferne, Mackenzie, and other enthusiasts endeavoured to raise it, only gained for it contempt; but a taste for the study of antiquities generally has gradually revived ; and the use of Heraldry as a key to history and biography is becoming every day more and more acknowledged, not only in England, but throughout Europe. RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. ' Ensigns, ' says a learned writer, " were, in their first acceptation, taken up ac any gentleman's pleasure, yet hath that liberty for many ages been denied, and they, by regal authority, made the rewards of merit or the gracious favours of princes." In the reign of Henry V. the following proclamation issued, prohibiting the use of heraldic ensigns to all who could not show an original and valid right, except those " who had home arms at Agincourt : " " Quod nullus cujuscunque status, gradus seu conditionis fuerit, hujusmodi arms, sive tunicas armorum in se sumat, nisi ipse jure antecessorio vel ox donatione alicujus ad hos sufficientem potestatem hanentis, ca possideat aut possidere debeat, et quod ipse arms, sive tunicas ill" ex cujus dono obtinet, demonstratiouis sum personis ad hoc per nos assignatis manifeste dcmonstret, exceptis illis qui nobiscum apud bellum de Agincourt arms. portabant, &c." But, despite the royal ordinance, a multiplicity of abuses found their way into all matters touching descent and arms, which called aloud for reformation, and gave rise, in the early part of the sixteenth century, to the Heralds VISITATIONS, documents of high authority and value. Royal commissions were issued under the Great Seal to the two Provincial Kings of Arms, Clareuceux and Norroy, authorising and commanding each, by himself or his deputy, to visit the whole of his province as often as he should deem it necessary, to summon before him all those who bore or assumed to bear arms and were styled esquires, to cause them to produce authority for bearing and using same, " to peruse and take knowledge of all manner of coat armour, cognizances, crests, and other like devices, with the notes of the descents, pedigrees, and marriages, of all the nobility and gentry therein; and also to reprove, control and make infamous by proclamation, all such as unlawfully, and without just authority, usurped or took any name or title of honour or dignity." In these documents are set forth the principal hereditary achievements of the kingdom. All persons who can deduce descent from an ancestor whose armorial ensigns have been acknowledged in any one of the Visitations, are entitled to carry those arms by right of inheritance. When, however, no such descent can be shown, the party must, if it be possible, prove himself to be descended from some one whose right has been admitted ; from a grantee ; or, in fault of that proof, must become a Grantee himself

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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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