Early Heraldic Literature, part 4

Armorial de Berry 1These early writers of Heraldic literature, wrote in days when Heraldry was in everyday use and they constantly saw living illustration of coats of arms. Armoury or Heraldry was established to meet a practical need and was not under centralized control until a late period. Heralds did not come into existence until after Heraldry came into existence, just as registrars of births did not exist prior to births themselves. At first Heralds were unofficial personages attached to the Nobleman or King’s court just like any other domestic help. The functions of the Heralds expanded because among other things it was very useful to have lists of arms and their users. The early Rolls of Arms were compiled, not by officials as we know have at the College of Arms in London or the Lord Lyon Office in Scotland, but by men who had an amateur interest in the subject and who might have had some semi-official appointment with a nobleman or king.

The Armorial de Berry, the earliest Roll of Arms in Scotland was created by a French royal herald, Gilles le Bouvier, who was appointed Berry King of Arms and premier herald of France. Despite his official position , or perhaps because of it as heralds were used as envoys and ambassadors, he traveled widely and recorded the arms of persons in France, England, Scotland, Germany, Italy and other countries. He went to the homes of Noblemen and Gentleman whose arms he wished to record and no doubt received their hospitality. This explains some gaps in his work. In some cases the lord of the castle was not as home, in other cases Gilles le Bouvier did not think it worthwhile to enter that part of the country because he might not get paid for his efforts. A herald very often would not enter a coat of arms into the roll if he felt he would not be paid for it. In his preface to the Armorial de Berry Roll, le Bouvier adds that he was guided neither by love nor hate in setting down arms, but put them exactly as they were given to him. In other words he exercised no official control but accepted the coats of arms on the guarantee of their bearers.

Armorial de Berry 2Armorial de Berry 3  

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