Ireland King of Arms
Ireland King of Arms was the title of an Irish officer of arms from 1392 until the accession of Henry VII as King of England in 1485. The office was replaced in 1552 by that of Ulster King of Arms, which in 1943 was merged with Norroy King of Arms forming the present office of Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. In theory, Ireland King of Arms enjoyed heraldic jurisdiction in the whole of the Lordship of Ireland.
Origins of the office
In 1392, King Richard II of England created the first in a succession of Ireland kings of arms. It is unknown why such an office was called into being. Froissart notes the creation of Chandos le Roy d'Ireland, but does not give any clues as to the reasoning. It does, however, fit into the general English policy in Ireland at the time. Richard II sought to re-establish English control in those areas of the colony where the native Irish had reasserted their independence. The appointment can be seen, then as a necessary part of the preparations for the appointment of the Duke of Gloucester as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1392. Richard planned Gloucester to lead a major military campaign and such a campaign would necessitate the involvement of heralds to marshal arms and provide advice and evidence in case of heraldic disputes.
Richard and Gloucester's campaign of 1392 never happened but Richard did leave for Ireland in 1394 with a large army and one John Othelake, who had succeeded Chandos as Ireland King of Arms in 1393. No details are given of Othelake's career as Ireland King of Arms, though he certainly had a connection with Ireland as an officer of arms to the Earl of March in 1381. The historical evidence does not even make clear how long Othelake served in this position.
It is clear that Othelake was no longer enjoying the office by 1420. By this time, John Kitley had been appointed to the post, though the exact date of his appointment is unknown. He was appointed by King Henry V of England on the insistence of the Earl of Ormonde. There is no evidence to suggest that Kitley had any connection to Ireland, or even that he visited it, but his connection to Earl of Ormonde is interesting. Kitley was succeeded by Thomas Collyer, who had previously served as Clarenceux King of Arms and Lancaster Herald of Arms in Ordinary. Nothing is known of his career as Ireland, and he was succeeded by one Thomas Ashwell.
Walter Bellinger enjoyed the office of Ireland King of Arms from at least as early as 1468. This is proven by the fact that on 3 June 1469, King Edward IV granted Bellinger a pension of £20 per annum for his service as Ireland. The same writ states that he had been appointed 9 June the year before. It has been established that Bellinger was a native of Dieppe and had served as a herald for fifty five years by 1477. He accompanied his King to France and acted as an ambassador from him to the French court in the discussions preceding the Treaty of Picquigny. The King gave him the value of 200 silver marks for his services in this affair. He appears to have continued to hold the office of Ireland King of Arms until the reign of Henry VII of England. After Bellinger, no one was appointed to fill the office.
Impact and Legacy
While the office existed, Ireland Kings of Arms made only three grants of arms. All of these were made by Bellinger and two of them were disallowed in the Court of Chivalry. It would seem that Ireland King of Arms was given no jurisdiction to make grants in England and the only grant that was upheld was made to one Jehan Baret of Picardy. There is no evidence to suggest that any of the holders ever attempted to exercise control over the heraldic practice of Ireland. In 1552, Bartholomew Butler was created Ulster King of Arms. This can be seen to some extent as a revival of the more ancient office of Ireland, but between the suspension of Bellinger and the appointment of Butler, there lapsed 60 to 70 years. During this time, no king of Arms existed for Ireland. Since the creation of Ulster King of Arms, there has been effective control exercised over the heraldic affairs of Ireland, but this has come from the College of Arms in London. It is interesting that heraldic authority in Ireland transferred from a national king of arms to a newly created provincial king of arms. Today, the office of Ulster King of Arms has been merged with that of Norroy King of Arms to form Norroy and Ulster King of Arms.