The College of Arms is the institution in the United Kingdom responsible for the granting of Armorial Bearings to persons or corporations and the recording of pedigrees for purposes of genealogy. This evolved from the Royal Heralds of the early mediaeval, who were responsible for the scoring of tournaments between knights. They became expert on heraldic devices, and then in genealogy (due to the hereditary nature of these devices). The College (or more specifically the Earl Marshal) is still involved in the State opening of parliament, and certain other ceremonies.

The Heralds began to operate together in 1420, and in 1484 they were incorporated by Richard III, and given a house in Coldharbour to keep their records, which was subsequently taken by Henry VII to house his mother. The current charter was given by Queen Mary, along with Derby Place, their current home. The building that currently stands there dates from the 1670s; after the previous building burnt down in 1666, during the great fire.

The college is part of the Royal Family but is self-sufficient, all monies come from fees payable in the granting of arms. Each officer acts individually as a researcher and genealogist whose services can be engaged at professional rates, as well as taking it in turns to be the officer in waiting, who deals with all official inquiries, as well as having the privilege of engaging members of the public as clients, should they require his services. Officers are, of course, remunerated for services they provide in the granting of arms.

The current officers are as follows:
Garter Principal King of Arms
Peter Llewellyn Gwynn-Jones, C.V.O., M.A. (Cambridge), F.S.A.

Clarenceux King of Arms
David Hubert Boothby Chesshyre, L.V.O., M.A. (Cambridge), F.S.A.

Norroy and Ulster King of Arms
Thomas Woodcock, L.V.O., B.A. (Durham), LL.B. (Cambridge), F.S.A

Richmond Herald
Patric Laurence Dickinson, M.A. (Oxford)

York Herald
Henry Edgar Paston-Bedingfeld

Chester Herald
Timothy Hugh Stewart Duke, M.A. (Cambridge)

Lancaster Herald
Robert John Baptist Noel, M.A. (Oxford), M.Phil. (Cambridge)

Windsor Herald
William George Hunt, T.D., B.A. (Southampton), F.C.A.

Somerset Herald
David Vines White, M.A. (Cambridge), M.A. (London)

Rouge Dragon Pursuivant
Clive Edwin Alexander Cheesman, M.A. (Oxford), Ph.D. (San Marino)

Bluemantle Pursuivant
Michael Peter Desmond O'Donoghue, M.A. (Cambridge)

Portcullis Pursuivant

Rouge Croix Pursuivant

The current salaries of the officers were set by William IV, reducing the levels previously set by James I. The Garter King of Arms receives, £49.07, the two provincial Kings of Arms £20.25, the six heralds £17.80, and the four pursuivants £13.95. These levels were probably previously in Guineas, and translated into the modern system in 1970.

The most interesting task the college undertakes is the granting of arms. The procedure is as follows:
  1. A member of the public approaches an officer and expresses intent to apply
  2. The officer draws up a petition if he feels the application may be successful
  3. The petition is submitted to the Earl Marshal, along with a non-refundable fee of £3525
  4. If the petition does succeed, the Earl Marshal mandates a King of Arms to design bearings. The design is totally at his discretion, but the member of the public is usually consulted
  5. The Arms are granted as Letters Patent to the applicant
These Arms then pass down through the male line of the family (or, under exceptional circumstances it can pass through the female line. In 2001 120 grants were made, of which 105 were to individuals, such as John Major, Cardinal Murphy O’Connor and John Birt. 102 grantees were English, and of the total 11 were life peers and 15 knights.

The college also acts as the registrar for changes of name by Deed Poll, and enters all of its activities in the London Gazette.

Using the official website of the College of arms,

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