Institutional Identity and History in an Age of Learning: Heralds and their Alternative Pasts (Clive Cheesman)
The late middle ages furnished heraldry and the heralds with more than one imaginative narrative recounting institutional descent from Antiquity. Narratives like this were rendered less creditable or at any rate less attractive in the early modern era by the new antiquarianism of, among others, William Camden, himself a herald. In place of institutional descent, and alongside a better understanding of the specifically medieval origins of their business and profession, heralds reached for models of institutional parallelism. This was not, however, comparative history in any sense recognisable today. It had contemporary, vital significance for office holders in a range of ways, from the provision of linguistic and lexical resources to describe what they did, to the more general validation of their role in an age of erudition and learning. This work-in-progress paper looks at how early modern heralds imagined their predecessors and forerunners, and what this tells us about their concept of themselves.
Clive Cheesman (College of Arms)