Heralds In Love: A Pursuivant Fad

Spring has sprung (finally) and the promise of summer is in the air! This time of year makes me think of dancing, and courtly pastimes like scartino or bocce. It also sparks new research ideas in my daydreaming mind. I cannot take credit for this heraldic answer quest, though, as it came about due to a question from Gleann Abhann’s Grey Niche Pursuivant that I forwarded to Maestra Answer Lady (Orle). In a few moments she fired back several messages filled with useful information (as always).

I *loved* her responses and thought they might be fun to post here on the blog.


Italian Heraldry :)
Italian Heraldry 🙂


The research quest started with this question from a friend (C for Cugino):

(C) What are your thoughts on this: “It was once the custom for pursuivants to wear their tabards with the sleeves at the front and back”? Does this mean that in period pursuivants wore the tabard sideways?

Well, I had no idea. Plus I was at work so I couldn’t drop everything and hunt online. Hmmmmm.

So I let him know that I would forward it to the person who has always been the answer lady for me. She replied! Here is how our chat went:

(Orle) Apparently at some times. I’ve read this before, but it seems sort of ridiculous.

(Me) One GA Pursuivant asked me, so I told him I’d ask you. Seems like a sort of silly fashionable thing that may have been a fad?

(Orle) Sure enough, here are a pair of pursuivants (on the left) with their tabards on sideways:


English Officers of Arms, 1511
English Officers of Arms, 1511


And a Pursuivant wearing his tabard “athwart”. A drawing by Peter Lely dating from the 1660s:


Peter Lely, 17th Century
Peter Lely, 17th Century


(Me) Wow. Maybe it was more comfy to wear them that way? Or they wanted to be set apart from the “heralds” who wore theirs properly? Hmmm.. I could do a research paper on this!

(Orle) Pursuivants apparently could be fined for daring to wear their tabards “like a herald”. I just found a “parts list” for constructing the British herald’s tabard, quite interesting:


King of Arms Dress
King of Arms Dress


(Me)I’m sending *Cugino* all your info. He will love this!

(Orle) “A herald, in the tabard of his master advanced, leading in his right hand the person to be made a pursuivant, and holding in the left a cup of water mingled with wine. Having thus conducted him into the presence of their lord, he inquired by what name he should be called, and by that name baptized him, pouring the wine and water on his head. ‘Then the herald put his lord’s coat in the pursuivant overthwart, that is, so that the manches, or sleeves of it, may hang one over his breast, the other over his back; and thus he was to wear his lord’s coat-of-arms, as long as he continued in that office’.”


Pursuivant Ceremony
Pursuivant Ceremony


(Me) How romantic!! We should have a little ceremony for new pursuivants!

(Orle) I thought that looked like a neat little bit of pageantry.


Anyone else think this is the bee’s knees??

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