Norroy & Ulster King of Arms

By John J Kennedy Coat of Arms no 133 Spring 1985.
Arms of the office of Norroy & Ulster King of Arms with the insignia of the Order of St Patrick

I must respectfully point out a confusion in Mr. Louda’s recent equation (  Coat of Arms  Autumn, 1984, p. 71.) of the ‘office of the King of Arms of Northern Ireland’ with Ulster King of Arms.

This equation infelicitously demotes the former Ulster Kings of Arms from their former position as the All Ireland heraldic authority to that of the Kings of six counties! But, from their institution in 1552 under Edward VI until the closure of their office in Dublin Castle by Deputy Ulster T.U. Sadlier in May, 1943, these Kings of Arms regulated all Irish heraldic affairs. Moreover, they did so independent of either the Earl Marshal’s Warrant or the policies of the College of Arms.

Clearly, Mr. Louda intended in this context the Norroy and Ulster King of Arms as the ‘King of Arms of Northern Ireland’, though he mistakenly refers only to the latter conjunct. My point, however, is not merely to split hairs. The ambiguities of the name ‘Ulster’ are well known. The conjunction of that title, though not the entire jurisdiction, with the title of the Provincial King of Arms north of the Trent leaves much to be desired both logically and legally (vide, J. E. Flynn, “Commonwealth Heraldry” Letter, The Coat of Arms, Spring, 1982, p. 27).

In any case, the title used consistently by the Crown since 1943 has been Norroy and Ulster, and no longer either of the separate conjuncts by itself. What the College of Arms has joined together let not Mr. Louda cast asunder! Otherwise confusion will reign supreme.

The motivation for preserving the title of Ulster appears to have been to allow a great tradition to continue. But, as titles go, it is nowadays logically muddled. Whatever the original meaning of the name, ‘Ulster’ despite popular confusion, is not coextensive with Northern Ireland. At least three counties of the modern province (four if we keep to the original Elizabethan boundaries) are under the overt jurisdiction of the Chief Herald of Ireland. Hence, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms shares a conjoint jurisdiction with the Chief Herald over the modern province of Ulster.

Perhaps, in view of the many shades of ambiguity concerning the name ‘Ulster’, the most clarifying thing to do is to adopt a new and more apposite title, such as (thanks to Mr. Louda) ‘Norroy and Northern Ireland King of Arms’. While it relegates ‘Ulster’ to the past, this title at least has the virtue of reducing confusions about the proper jurisdiction.