Office of the Chief Herald

Introduction

The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland is a branch of the National Library of Ireland. The functions of the Chief Herald of Ireland are the granting and confirming of coats of arms to individuals and corporate bodies. All arms granted are recorded in the Register of Arms, maintained since the foundation of the Office in 1552. The Register of Arms and other Office collections can be viewed by application through the Manuscripts Reading Room of the National Library of Ireland. Readers must hold a separate Manuscript Reader's Ticket in addition to their full Reader's Ticket in order to gain admission to the Manuscripts Reading Room. Please consult  the Readers' Ticket section for more details.

Heraldry

Armorial bearings, or coats-of-arms, originated during the late medieval period as a means of recognition on the battlefield and at the tournament. They were soon employed also to attest documents and identify property. Clearly, a system of identification, to be effective, required regulation because use of the same arms by more than one person would result in confusion. Specialists, known as heralds, were therefore employed to keep the necessary records and advise on all related matters. Such officers of arms have functioned for Ireland since 1382. The post of Ulster King of Arms, Herald of all Ireland, was created by the Crown in 1552 and continued under the name until 1943 when the Office of Arms was transferred to the Government of Ireland and renamed the Genealogical Office. Since then, the Office has operated as a branch of the National Library and under the direction of the Chief Herald of Ireland.

Detail from the Registration of Arms of Donogh McGillicuddy of Kerry 1688.
Detail from the Registration of Arms of Donogh McGillicuddy of Kerry 1688.
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