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ANONYMOUS, [Rolls of Arms], The Genealogie Royall and Lineall Discent of all the Kinges and Queenes of England; followed by other Rolls of Arms, including the Dunstable [Stepney?] Roll of 1308 and others

In English and Anglo-Norman, illuminated manuscript on paper
England, necessarily after 1558 but prior to 1603, c. 1590-1600

TM 627

49 ff., preceded by 3 paper flyleaves, apparently complete (collation i16, ii8, iii8, iv8, v8, vi2 [with ii used as lower pastedown]), on paper (watermark as found in Briquet, no. 2291, “Ecartélé au 1 à la Tour, au 2 à l’aigle, aux 3 et 4 au lion, et brochant sur le tout, l’écu d’Autriche”: paper from the Netherlands, Utrecht, 1592-1594; Amsterdam, 1592-1596; Rotterdam, 1596; Bruxelles, 1601; this paper stock could very well have been exported to England; watermarks of first three flyleaves differ, close to Briquet 13152, “Raisin et initiales”, Lyon (1563-1564); Bretagne, 1580; Narbonne, 1580-1596, hence French paper stock), no foliation or catchwords, written in a bastard Secretary bookhand, in brown ink, justification in double horizontal and double vertical lines in pale pink (only some leaves, most leaves with no justification), opening words in a larger display script, title copied between lines traced in bright red, numerous illuminated heraldic shields on every page (except blanks), all finely painted in bright colors, explanatory captions referring to heraldic shields copied in roundels lined in green paint, marital alliances between spouses are sometimes indicated by stylized arms shaking hands (ff. 1, 8, 8v, 9v, 13v), some shields left unfinished (e.g. f. 10), two paper flaps, one pasted, the other pinned on f. 14v correcting an erroneous roundel. Bound in contemporary full limp vellum, smooth spine (with faded inscription in brown ink: “[...] et armes regum et reginarum angliae...” (Binding stained and worn, parchment lifting at top of spine; some staining and soiling to paper, but generally in clean condition; important water stain generally simply affecting upper portion of flyleaves). Dimensions 430 x 280 mm.

Collection of rolls of arms, some known and published, others that merit further study and comparison with other similar manuscripts made in the later Elizabethan period, perhaps by heralds associated with the College of Arms. Finely drawn and colored, this collection of rolls of arms is a good example of circa 1600 Elizabethan heraldic production. The combination of these particular rolls is found in other manuscripts, but all that we have located are in public collections.


1. Copied in England, but on paper imported from the Netherlands. The script, linguistic features, and content all point towards an English production for these Rolls of Arms. The dating of the manuscript is suggested also by the presence of a last page (f. 10) in the first “Genealogie Royall and Descent...” dedicated to Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1558-1603), apparently the reigning monarch when this manuscript was copied. The unfinished aspect of the shields surrounding the main arms of Elizabeth suggests that the entire manuscript was probably copied during the reign of the Queen, likely circa 1600, just before the end of her reign (a much earlier origin is impossible because of watermarks and general style of script). Had the present manuscript been copied later, it is likely a page would have been reserved and announced for James I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland as of 1603 until 1625. Indeed there are a few blanks after Elizabeth left aside, but no shield for Elizabeth’s successor.

2. Inscription in brown ink on the upper pastedown, reads: “G. Edwards. 1753.”

3. European Continental Collection.


f. 1, Title, The Genealogie Royall and lineall discent of all the Kinges and Queenes of England since the Conquest together with their issue, unto the most happie and blessed raigne of Queene Elizabeth of ever blessed memorie: truly collected out of the best, and most authentique authors whatsoever;

ff. 1-10, Genealogy and heraldic shields of all the Kings and Queens of England from the Conquest to Elizabeth I, Queen of England, beginning with two first roundels for William, Duke of Normandy and Maulde, Queene of Englande (f. 1); including, f. 8v: “Henry the right of that name, kinge of England, France and Ireland who began his raigne in the 18 yeare of his age 1509 and died in the yeare of our Lord 1547 [effaced inscription placed after in the same roundel]; f. 9v: roundels for Philip and Mary, with caption for Mary: “Mary eldest daughter of kinge Henry the 8 after the decease of her brother was crowned Queene of England, France and Ireland 1553. She restored the popist religion and died 1558 when she had reigned 5 yeares 4 monthes and 22 days”; last shield, f. 10: “Queene Elizabeth,” her shield with the insignia of the Order of the Garter, the crown and double (Tudor) rose, circled by other planned shields, left unfilled: “England / France / Ireland / Wales / Normandy / Aquitaine / Anioy [Anjou]”;

The Order of the Garter came into being in the 1340s: Edward, the Black Prince, made a gift of 24 garters to knights of the Order. The insignia of the Order contained at least the garter worn buckled below the knee and the motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (On Elizabeth I and her tenure as sovereign of the Order of the Garter, see R. Waddington, “Elizabeth I and the Order of the Garter,” Sixteenth Century Journal 24/1 (1993), pp. 97-113).

ff. 10v-12, blank leaves;

ff. 12v-15, Heraldic shields of Spanish and French filiations, beginning with Alphonso II of Aragon (1157-1196), called the Chaste, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona; Alphonso II, Count of Provence (1174-1209); f. 15: ending with Charles II of Navarre (1332-1387), King of Navarre and Count of Evreux : “Charles the sonne of Phillip of Evreux after the decease of his mother was kinge of Navarre he died 1349. His wife was...daughter of the French king”;

ff. 15v-16, blank leaves;

ff. 16v-37v, Blazons of the Arms and Shields (Armes) of Knights Bannerets (Roll of arms), arranged according to counties, heading, Here followeth the Armes of the Knights Banneretts of England in the ...yeare of Edward the 1st; heading in larger display script: “Chivaliers Bannarettes, avec leurs armes”;

The Chivaliers bannarettes (or Knights bannerets), sometimes known simply as “banneret,” were medieval knights who led a company of troops during time of war under their own banner (which was square-shaped, in contrast to the tapering standard or the pennon flown by the lower-ranking knights) and were eligible to bear supporters in English heraldry. The military rank of a knight banneret was higher than a knight bachelor (who fought under another one’s banner), but lower than an earl or duke; the word derives from the French banneret or banerete: “petite bannière / enseigne / écriteau / signe pour indiquer” (see F. Godefroy, Lexique de l’ancien français, Paris, 1994, p. 46).

The Knights bannerets are here grouped according to their counties (spelling retained as found): Corneweile and Deveinshire (Devonshire); Dorset and Somerset; Wilteshire and Hampteshire; Suthsex (Sussex) and Suthrey (Surrey); Kent; Middlesex; barkshire; Oxenfordshire; Bockinghamshire; Bedefordshire; Hertfordshire; Essex; Southfolk; Northfolke; Cauntebrigschire; Le Counte de Nichole; Le Counte de Trewick, id est York; Huntingdoneschire; Northampton and Roteland; Leycestreschire; Warwikeschire; Wircestreschire; Gloucestreschire; Herefordschire; Chestreschire; Schopschire; Staffordschire; Northhumberland and Cumberland; Westmerland and Lancaschire.

ff. 38-38v, blank leaves;

ff. 39-40, Names and blazons of the arms of others of the nobility (grant seigneurs), heading, Ce sont les nomes de les armes abatues de grant seigneurs;

f. 40v, blank leaf;

ff. 41-42v, Names and arms of the knights present at the tournament at Dunstable (March 1308) [or rather Stepney Roll, May 1308?], heading, De la Tourney a la ville de Dunstable l’an second du Roy Edward fils Edward;

The first Dunstable tournament was held in 1308, second year of the reign of Edward II. The Dunstable tournament of 1308 is particularly important since it is the oldest surviving English Tournament Roll of Arms. It gives details of all 289 combatants: most of these had been in the Royal army service of Edward I during the 1290’s, in the campaigns in Wales, Scotland and Gascony. It was held in Dunstable in 1308, shortly after the death of Edward I and just after the coronation of his son Edward II. The Earls organized this Tournament prior to venting their grievances regarding the Kings favorite, Piers Gaveston, who was almost running the country as a Regent. Gaveston was later to be captured by the Earls and executed in 1313.

Certain of these fourteenth-century rolls of arms have been published, although apparently not the Dunstable Roll of 1308. For a similar example of published roll, see the Stepney Roll, 1308, which lists the knights present at Stepney Tournament, May 1308. Published in Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, pp. 63-67 (see link below in Online Resources). There is a possibility that, as is the case of the heading for the published Stepney Roll of 1308, there is a mistake and that “Dunstable” should really read “Stepney.” The shields and the list of knights present as published for Stepney are identical to those found in our manuscript and according to the heraldist “C.E.L”: “The heading of this Tournament is incorrect; it should undoubtedly be Stevenhithe, otherwise Stepney, not Dunstable” (Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, p. 62).

The final tournament held at Dunstable (Bedfordshire) was on 11 February 1342 under Edward III. Tournaments had a resurgence of popularity in England in the reign of the martial and crusading king, Edward I (1272–1307) and under his grandson, Edward III (1327–1377); yet nonetheless the tournament eventually died out in the latter’s reign. Edward III encouraged the move towards pageantry.

ff. 42v-43v, Names and arms of the Roll of the Count of Lancaster, heading, De la retennance du Conte de Lancastrie;

The edition of the Stepney Roll of 1308 is followed by the same roll as in our manuscript, preceded by the heading: “Cest la retenaunce du Conte de Lancastre.” The roll of the “retenaunce du Conte de Lancastre” is published in Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, pp. 67-70. The term “retennance” here means “following,” “enrolement.”

ff. 44-45, Names and arms of knights (Roll of arms), heading, De la Commnure;

We have not identified this roll. The heading has been read “De la commune” in British Library, Stowe MS 690. There are 71 shields. Probably this heading should be translated “An Ordinary of Arms” as found in the manuscript which contains the Stepney Roll of 1308 as found in a late sixteenth-century manuscript belonging to a Fellow of Trinity College (see Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, p. 61). The roll “De la commune” is published after the Stepney Roll of 1308 and the Roll of the “retenaunce du Conte de Lancastre” (Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, pp. 70-72).

ff. 45v-48, Names and arms of the nobles and knights present at the siege of Caerlaverock (Scotland) by Edward I [Roll of Caerlaverock], heading, Cy comense les noms de les armes des seigneurs de nobles hommes qui estoient avesques le roy Edward .i. l’ean de grace 1300 et 28 de son regne a la seige de Karlaveroke en Escoce;

The Roll of Caerlaverock dates from circa 1300 and contains 110 poetry blazons but no images (for a near contemporary copy, see London, BL, Cotton Caligula A XVIII, ff.23b–30b). The roll was made by English heralds during Edward I’s siege of Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland. In the present case the poetry is not included; only retained here are the shields that have been drawn according to the blazons.

ff. 48v-49v, Names and arms copied “from an old roll,” heading, These armes here were copied out of an old roll [same heading found in London, British Library, Stowe 690: “copied out of an old Roll” (f. 59)].

This manuscript contains rolls of arms (or armorials) which are collections of coats of arms, usually consisting of rows of painted pictures of shields, each shield accompanied by the name of the person bearing the arms and in some cases the blazon. We do not know for whom this manuscript was destined or copied. It was certainly executed with care, the shields being finely painted by a herald. Heralds were originally worked freelance, specializing in the running and scoring of tournaments. Early twelfth- and thirteenth-century) payment records include them with minstrels, and like them the heralds were migratory, going from tournament to tournament. Heralds became experts at identifying knights by their arms since that was part of the herald’s job as a tourney officiate. By the fourteenth century, lords began hiring their own private heralds. In the fifteenth century heralds were incorporated in the College of Arms with thirteenth officers by Elizabethan times.

During the Elizabethan age, when these rolls of arms were copied and painted, there was an increased emphasis on genealogy in the heralds’ work as the gentry class rose in importance. Wealthy “new men” were eager to prove their gentility and be granted arms. Only persons of gentry class or higher could bear arms so anyone with arms was by definition gentle: the heralds were effectively the gatekeepers to the gentry class.

This particular collection and association of rolls of arms clearly circulated in Elizabethan England. Copied and illuminated, this combination of rolls of arms is found in a group of extant codices all in British institutional holdings and all dating from the very last years of the sixteenth century or first quarter of the seventeenth century, sometimes with more or less other rolls and heraldic texts. See for instance, London, British Library, Stowe MS 690, which contains mostly the same rolls: “Knights Bannerets, with knights, arranged according to counties”; “Ces sont les nomes et les armes abatues de grant seigneurs”; “De la tournay a la ville de Dunstable l’an second du Roy Edward filz Edward”; “La retennance du Conte de Lancastre”; “De la commune”; “Cy comense les noms et les armes des seigneurs et nobles hommes qui estoient avesques le Roy Edward I. lane de grace 1300, et 28 de son regne, a la siege de Karlaveroke, en Escoce.” Stowe MS 690 is of similar length (63 leaves), and the last roll is said to “copied out of an old Roll” (Stowe 690, f. 59) as in our manuscript (f. 48v). Again the same texts are found in other codices, London, British Library, Harley MS 2213: “A Heraldic book in folio which seems to have been copied by Sir William Dethick “Garter” [Garter principal King of Arms, highest ranking officer in the College of Arms]...”; see also London, British Library, Sloane MS 1429 (17th century). There are certainly others with these (and other) rolls of arms associated. [ These rolls of arms all date from the later years of the reign of Elisabeth I or the reign of James I. The three other copies (Stowe MS 690; Harley MS 2213; Sloane MS 1429) do not seem to contain the first part or our manuscript, the Genealogie Royall and lineall discent of all the Kinges and Queenes of England.

Are these rolls of arms part of a common enterprise, ensured by the same herald (a member of the College of Arms?) and ordered by a specific group of knights? Were they made for a specific occasion, or was the combination simply popular and varied according to the patron who had his own copy made? Many questions arise that only the comparative study of the other extant codices presenting these rolls of arms (of which there are certainly others) might provide answers. English heraldry is a world in itself: the choices made by heralds and the continued copying of early rolls of arms in the Elizabethan times is interesting and offers insight into the world of heralds and those who commissioned such manuscripts.


C. E. L. “Tournament at Stepney, 2 Edw. II,” in Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, London, 1837, vol. 4, pp. 61-72.

Wagner, A. R. Aspilogia I: A Catalogue of English Mediaeval Rolls of Arms, Harleian Society, 100, Oxford, 1950.

Woodcock, Thomas and John Martin Robinson. The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Online resources

On Rolls of Arms:

Stepney Roll of Arms (May 1308, Stepney Tournament), edition:

Links for Medieval English Heraldry: