Heraldry in Ireland, part 4. The Chief Herald.

Dublin civic coat of arms


The earliest reference to a herald of arms for Ireland is to Chandos Herald, the herald of John Chandos. Chandos Herald was appointed “Ireland King of Arms” in 1382. Chandos had a number of successors, who appear to have been regarded as members of the English College of Arms, up to the time of Edward IV of England (1442 – 1483). The last recorded incumbent was Thomas Ashwell. It is not known whether the post continued after him. In 1552 the Office of Ulster King of Arms was created by Edward VI, The first Ulster King of Arms was Bartholomew Butler, who by Letters Patent of 1 June 1552, was granted 'all rights, profits, commodities and emoluments in that office … with power … of inspecting, overseeing and correcting, and embodying the arms and ensigns of illustrious persons and of imposing and ordaining differences therein, according to the Laws of Arms: of granting Letters Patent of Arms to men of rank and fit persons; and of doing … all things which by right of custom were known to be incumbent of the office of a King of Arms'.

With the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Office of Ulster King of Arms continued despite the fact that most of Ireland was no longer under British rule. The office continued until the death of the existing holder Sir Neville Wilkinson who had been appointed in 1908 after the resignation in disgrace of the previous holder Sir Arthur Vicars following the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels. Thus Sir Neville Wilkinson, who had been appointed by the British Crown, continued as Ulster King of Arms under the Irish Free State Government. When he died in 1940 the deputy Ulster King of Arms carried on the duties of the post until the office was united with that of the Norroy King of Arms at the English College of Arms on March 31st 1943. It is incorrect to say that the office of Ulster King of Arms was abolished by the Irish Free State Government, since it could not abolish an office created by the British Crown, but it could and did make it clear that it did not want the continuance of the office in it’s territory. In 1943 matters were amicably concluded; the office of Ulster King of Arms was united with that of Norroy King of Arms. The Irish records were retained in Ireland, but copies were made of them and these are now in the College of Arms in London. The Irish Government then appointed in 1943 Dr Edward MacLysaght, styled Chief Genealogical Officer to which was later added Chief Herald of Ireland, succeeded to the functions and powers of Ulster King of Arms.

Irish coat of arms

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