Chapter 2: The “Story” of Heralds: Development of the Office (from 12th to 18th c.)

Chapter two shall give a first synthesis of the development of this office from its start at the tournaments of the 12th century in northwest Europe, its later spread all over the continent, to its further development until the end of the ancient regime. Even if they took place quite differently, there is apparently a common pattern of breaks in this history of office concerning the recruitment of heralds, their social background and their ascent into nobility – which, of course, is all also well linked to some changes in their functions and to some changes in the historical background.

Topics that could be discussed in this chapter:

  • the origins of the office
  • the inner hierarchy of the office
    • breaks in social background, from marginality to nobility, change in social status and prosperity
    • spread of the office all over Europe in the 15th century
    • relationship to their masters
      • heralds entering the service of nobility and princes (what came first?)
      • In whose name did heralds act? Tthe different kinds of masters: noblemen, kings and princes, orders of knighthood, cities and estates.
      • their own ascent to nobility
    • questions:
      • persons vs. institutions
      • how close was the relationship to their masters?
    • the community of heralds
    • rivalries among heralds (?)
  • mutations of the office
    • breaks in the social and professional background of the incumbents
      • the former professions of the future heralds : minstrels, messengers, artists, clerks
  • spotlights for different countries, for different époques
  • case studies for different heralds (short biographies on their backgrounds and careers)

Cite this blog post
Torsten Hiltmann (2014, April 17). Chapter 2: The “Story” of Heralds: Development of the Office (from 12th to 18th c.). History of Heralds. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from

Torsten Hiltmann

Torsten Hiltmann is Juniorprofessor for the High and Late Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences at the University of Münster. He is interested in medieval and early modern visual communication and heraldry, the medieval notion of kingship and the methods and technologies of Digital Humanities.

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