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Duration 00:34:45

Heralds and heraldry at The National Archives

The National Archives holds possibly the greatest collection of untapped source material for heralds and heraldry in this country. This lecture examines evidence stretching back over eight and a half centuries: seals, illuminated manuscripts, medieval rolls, treaties, grants of arms, state occasions, architectural drawings, military badges and even wooden chests. The result is an astonishing and colourful display of what is often unknown heraldic material.


  1. william thayer says:

    looking for authorization form or letter authorizing the use of the
    Thayer coat of arms in 1884 and to what person had request that information at that time.

    Also a Humphrey Thayer born in 1595 was authorized a coat of arms, I have not been able to find any authorization form or letter from the college of arms in London given to that person.

    Can you help me.

    William Thayer

    1. Liz Bryant (Admin) says:

      Hi William,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we can’t answer research requests on Archives Media Player. However, if you go to our ‘contact us’ page at you’ll see how to get in touch with our record experts by email or live chat.

      Best of luck with your research.

      Kind regards,


  2. Jane says:

    Please can someone explain how the College ‘the official repository of the coats of arms and pedigrees of English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Commonwealth families and their descendants’ proves pedigrees when there is no primary evidence in the public domain to support them? An example is Cave where ancestry is apparently proven before Thomas Cave of Stanford on Avon d.1495. Is it that there is primary evidence but only existing in the College records? If so will any of these ancient records ever come in to the public domain? So much internet ancestry (family trees etc) is patent nonsense with no evidence to support much beyond the 19th century. I personally don’t see much satisfaction in having a family tree back to William the Conqueror or Alfred the Great if there is no primary evidence to back it up.

    1. Marion Downie (admin) says:

      Response from Adrian Ailes:
      I am afraid access to, and the veracity of, the records and collections of the College is a matter you need to take up with the heralds. The historian and genealogist J.H. Round took great delight in mocking the rather pliable conscience of a minority of Tudor Heralds when it came to satisfying the genealogical desires of their patrons but such practices were not uncommon at the time and, indeed, even the most fanciful pedigrees can tell us something of the mindset of the rising Tudor gentry. You might be interested in The National Archives’ research guide on Medieval and Early Modern Family History.

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