Ralph Brooke

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Ralph Brooke, York Herald, frontispiece to the 1723 edition of A Discoverie of Certaine Errours Published in Print in the Much Commended 'Britannia' 1594

Ralph Brooke (1553–1625)[1] was an English Officer of Arms in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. He is known for his critiques of the work of other members of the College of Arms, most particularly in A Discoverie of Certaine Errours Published in Print in the Much Commended 'Britannia' 1594, which touched off a feud with its author, the revered antiquarian and herald William Camden.

Life and works[edit]

Brooke was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School. He was appointed Rouge Croix Pursuivant in 1580 and York Herald in 1593.[2] As York Herald, he bore the helm and crest in the funeral procession of Elizabeth I.[3]

In 1597, Brooke published A Discoverie of Certaine Errours Published in Print in the Much Commended 'Britannia' 1594, which occasioned a bitter controversy with its author, the antiquarian William Camden.

The fourth edition of Britannia (1594) contained a marked increase in the representation of the propertied classes ... Camden's authority in heraldry of which the 1594 Britannia provided convincing evidence, together with his association with the advocates of armorial reform (Fulke Greville, Sir Edward Hoby, and Baron Burghley as well as the queen) made him a logical choice, over Ralph Brooke, for elevation to Clarenceux King of Arms in October 1597. Brooke's quarrel with Camden was part and parcel of the College's troubles and was seen at the time as an instance of the jealous animosity for which Brooke was notorious. One of the ironies of Brooke's attack is that it was symptomatic of the conditions—rivalries and jurisdictional disputes among the heralds, for instance—that advocates of reform were attempting to remedy.[4]

Ralph Brooke in the funeral procession of Elizabeth I.

Brooke also challenged the work of other heralds; in 1602 he prepared charges against Sir William Dethick, Garter King of Arms 1586-1606, and Camden for improperly granting arms to 23 "mean" men, including John Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, the father of playwright William Shakespeare.[5] He complained in 1614 that Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms 1566-1593, had granted more than 500 new coats of arms and that Sir Gilbert Dethick, (Garter 1550-1584), and his son Sir William had exceeded these numbers.[4] Such bitter infighting among the heralds was common; Sir William Segar (Garter 1606-1633) also objected that Cooke made numberless grants to "base and unworthy persons for his private gaine onely."[4][6]

In December of 1616 Brooke tricked Segar into confirming foreign royal arms to Gregory Brandon, a common hangman of London who was masquerading as a gentleman.[7] Brooke then reported Segar to James I, who imprisoned both Brooke and Segar in Marshalsea.[7] They were released a few days later and the Lord Chamberlain hoped that the experience would make Brooke more honest and Segar more wise.[7]

Brooke's Catalogue and Succession of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marquesses, Earles and Viscounts of this Realme of England since the Norman Conquest was published in 1619.[2]

A revised edition of the Discoverie "...to which is added, the learned Mr. Camden's answer to this book, and Mr. Brooke's reply" was issued in 1622, as was an expanded edition of the Catalogue and Succession..., as Catalogue and Succession of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marquesses, Earles and Viscounts of this Realme of England since the Norman Conquest, to this present year 1622.[8]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dictionary of National Biography 2004, "Ralph Brooke"
  2. ^ a b Dictionary of National Biography 1903, p. 150
  3. ^ Annotated drawing of the funeral procession of Elizabeth I, from the British Library
  4. ^ a b c Rockett 2000
  5. ^ Evans 1997, p. 1954
  6. ^ Wagner 1967, p. 207
  7. ^ a b c Wagner 1967, p. 219-220
  8. ^ Open Library list of works by Ralph Brooke

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Heraldic offices
Preceded by
Thomas Dawes
Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms
1580–1592
Succeeded by
Thomas Knight
Preceded by
Humphry Hales
York Herald of Arms
1593–1625
Succeeded by
William Le Neve