Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society
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The Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society was formed as the result of the merger in 1957 of a previous Heraldic Society (founded 1948) with the Cambridge University Society of Genealogists (founded 1954).
Foundation of the society
The first Cambridge University Heraldic Society was founded in 1948 from the remnants of the late Nineteenth-century monumental brass society. In 1954, a separate Cambridge University Society of Genealogists was formed. Not surprisingly many members of one society were members of the other and on 10 June 1957, sponsored by some Vice-Presidents, by agreement between the secretaries, Special General Meetings of both societies were held and resolutions passed abolishing both societies on condition that a new joint society was formed later in the day. Meetings held earlier in the term had led to the formal culmination of a series of discussions for the consolidation and amalgamation.
The structure of the new society was to include a Patron and a number of Honorary Vice-Presidents. The committee was to consist of President, Secretary, Senior Treasurer, Junior Treasurer and ordinary Committee Members.
The society today
Four speaker meetings are held in each of the Michaelmas and Lent terms and a ninth at the beginning of the Easter term. These are in the general area of heraldry and genealogy but also include cognate subjects such as ceremonial dress, tartan, local history, customs, military medals or indeed anything of an antiquarian nature. There are generally two outings each year—one in Michaelmas and one in Lent-–to places of heraldic and genealogical interest. In recent years, the Society has visited the College of Arms, the Society of Genealogists and various cathedrals and museums. The Society also hosts one large dinner each term with the Annual Dinner (in the Lent term) attracting up to 70 diners. There is also a garden party in the Easter term.
Sir Arthur Cochrane (Clarenceux King of Arms) was Patron of the original Heraldic and Genealogical Societies until his death in 1954. The position was still vacant when the amalgamation took place. The Cambridge University Society of Genealogists had had a President in the person of the late Earl Mountbatten of Burma, a keen genealogist. Therefore, Lord Mountbatten was invited to be Patron of the new (1957) Society, a post which he held until his assassination in 1979. In honour of his memory and with the permission of his elder daughter, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, the Society inaugurated the Mountbatten Commemorative Lecture. This remains the most important meeting of the year and the lecture has frequently been given by senior members of the College of Arms.
Lord Mountbatten was succeeded as Patron by Archbishop Bruno Heim, a leading authority on the heraldry of the Roman Catholic Church who designed armorial bearings for several Popes. Heim donated a copy of a number of his own publications to the Society. After his death he was followed by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England.
Notable past officers include:
- Peter Spufford, President, 1959–60, and later Vice-President.
- David White, President, 1982-3.
- Toby Wilkinson, President, 1989–90.
- Peter O'Donoghue, President, 1993-4.
Past speakers and guests
The Society is primarily a discussion group. Notable past speakers have included:
- Sir Alexander Colin Cole, Garter Principal King of Arms, 1978–1992.
- Michael Maclagan, Richmond Herald, 1980–89, and Lord Mayor of Oxford, 1970–71.
- Sir Conrad Marshall John Fisher Swan, Garter King 1992-5.
- Wilfrid Scott-Giles, heraldic writer
- John Brooke-Little, Clarenceux King of Arms, 1995-7, and founders of the Heraldry Society.
- Hubert Chesshyre, Clarenceux King of Arms, 1997–2010.
- Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, 1994–2011.
- Cecil Humphery-Smith, founder of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies
- Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones, Garter King, 1995–2010.
- Rodney Dennys, Somerset Herald, 196-82, High Sheriff of East Sussex, 1983-4.
- Bobby Milburn, Anglican priest, successively Dean of Worcester and Master of the Temple.
- John George, Officer of Arms in the Court of the Lord Lyon.
- Sedley Andrus, Lancaster Herald, 1972–82.
- Patric Dickinson, Clarenceux King, 2010–present.
- Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, 10th Baronet, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, 2010–14, and Master of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners, 2012-3.
- Thomas Woodcock, Garter King, 2010–present.
- Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia
- Prince Michael of Kent
- Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight, Lord Lyon King of Arms, 1981–2001.
- Timothy Duke, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, 2014–present.
- Marjorie Chibnall, mediaeval historian
- Alastair Lorne Campbell of Airds, Unicorn Pursuivant, 1986–2008.
- Maurice Couve de Murville, Archbishop of Birmingham, 1982–1999.
- Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary and Heraldic writer.
- Sir John Hamilton Baker, QC, Downing Professor of the Laws of England, 1998–2011.
- Robert Shirley, 13th Earl Ferrers
- The Lord Lingfield, educationalist
- Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald, 2010–present.
- David Sellar, Lord Lyon King of Arms, 2008–14.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Society transcribed the registers of the Cambridgeshire parishes of Shepreth and Westley Waterless and published a small number of copies. Its most ambitious project, however, was to produce The Cambridge Armorial showing the arms of all the corporate armigers in Cambridge (including town, university, colleges, theological colleges and schools) with blazons and brief histories of each. Although begun in 1966, it was to be nineteen years before it was published through the efforts of Wilfrid Scott-Giles, Heather Peak and Cecil Humphery-Smith. In 1995 the Society launched a magazine, called the Escutcheon, which appears each term. It is edited by Derek Palgrave.