Garter Principal King of Arms
The arms of office of the Garter Principal King of Arms
|Jurisdiction||England, Wales and Northern Ireland|
|Governing body||College of Arms|
The Garter Principal King of Arms (also Garter King of Arms or simply Garter) is the senior King of Arms, and the senior Officer of Arms of the College of Arms, the heraldic authority with jurisdiction over England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The position has existed since 1415.
The current Garter Principal King of Arms is Thomas Woodcock, CVO.
Garter is responsible to the Earl Marshal for the running of the College. He is the principal adviser to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom with respect to ceremonial and heraldry, with specific responsibility for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and, with the exception of Canada, for Commonwealth realms of which The Queen is Sovereign. He also serves as the King of Arms of the Order of the Garter and his seal and signature appear on all grants of arms made by the College.
The Garter Principal King of Arms was placed by King Henry V over all the whole body of heralds. He may be said to have two distinct capacities united in his person, one relative to the order of the Garter, the other as head of the College of Arms, and on this account he not only takes an oath in a chapter of the Garter, before the Sovereign and Knights, but as king at arms another oath before the Earl Marshal, and therefore he is stiled both principal officer of arms of the most noble order of the Garter and principal king of English arms.
He has power to appoint a herald for his deputy: he must be a native of England and a gentleman bearing arms. It was anciently held that he was to be neither a knight nor a clergyman; but there has been one instance of a Garter having been a foreigner; and since the reign of Henry VII many of them have received knighthood: one was created a knight of the Bath. The office entitles him to the privilege of correcting errors or usurpations in all armorial bearings, to grant arms to such who deserve them, to present to the House of Lords a genealogy of every new peer, to assign his place in the chamber of parliament and to give him and the knights of the Bath supporters.
The arms of his office are, according to the official source, Argent a Cross Gules on a Chief Azure a crown enclosed in a Garter between a lion passant guardant and a fleur de lis all Or. However, some writers have deemed the chief "gules" (red), not "azure" (blue).
Holders of the office
- 1415–1450 William Bruges
- 1450–1478 John Smert
- 1478–1504 John Writhe
- 1505–1534 Sir Thomas Wriothesley
- 1534–1536 Sir Thomas Wall
- 1536–1550 Sir Christopher Barker
- 1550–1584 Sir Gilbert Dethick
- 1584–1586 Vacant
- 1586–1606 Sir William Dethick
- 1607–1633 Sir William Segar
- 1633–1643 Sir John Borough
- 1643–1644 Sir Henry St George
- 1643–1660 Sir Edward Bysshe
- 1645–1677 Sir Edward Walker
- 1677–1686 Sir William Dugdale
- 1686–1703 Sir Thomas St George
- 1703–1715 Sir Henry St George
- 1715–1718 Disputed Gartership
- 1718–1744 John Anstis (Sr.)
- 1744–1754 John Anstis (Jr.)
- 1754–1773 Stephen Leake
- 1773–1774 Sir Charles Townley
- 1774–1780 Thomas Browne
- 1780–1784 Ralph Bigland
- 1784–1822 Sir Isaac Heard
- 1822–1831 Sir George Nayler
- 1831–1838 Sir Ralph Bigland, the Younger
- 1838–1842 Sir William Woods
- 1842–1869 Sir Charles Young
- 1869–1904 Sir Albert Woods
- 1904–1918 Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty
- 1919–1930 Sir Henry Burke
- 1930–1944 Sir Gerald Wollaston
- 1944–1950 Sir Algar Howard
- 1950–1961 The Hon. Sir George Bellew
- 1961–1978 Sir Anthony Wagner
- 1978–1992 Sir Alexander Cole
- 1992–1995 Sir Conrad Swan
- 1995–2010 Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones
- 2010–present Thomas Woodcock
- Noble (1804), p. 59
- The origin and history of the various heraldic offices. College of Arms. Accessed 4 September 2009.
- The College of Arms
- CUHGS Officer of Arms Index
- Rights and Duties of Garter King of Arms from the Constitutions of the Officers of the Order of the Garter circa 1522