High Court of Chivalry

Her Majesty's High Court of Chivalry
Country United Kingdom
Composition method Appointed by Earl Marshal.
Decisions are appealed to Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Judge term length One hereditary, otherwise depends on the appointment
Earl Marshal
Currently Duke of Norfolk
Since 1672 (current office granted by Letters Patent)

Her Majesty's High Court of Chivalry is a civil court in all matters under English and Welsh law relating to the jurisdiction of heraldry. The court has been in existence since the fourteenth century however it rarely sits.[1] The sole judge is now the hereditary Earl Marshal of England, the Duke of Norfolk, though if not a professional lawyer, he normally appoints a professional lawyer as his Lieutenant or Surrogate.[1]

In Scotland, these types of cases are heard in the Court of the Lord Lyon, which is a standing civil and criminal court, with its own Procurator Fiscal (Public Prosecutor) under the Scottish legal system.[2]


A session of the Court of Chivalry being held in the College of Arms, depicted in 1809.

The court was historically known as the Curia Militaris, the Court of the Constable and the Marshal, or the Earl Marshal's Court.[3]

Since it was created in the fourteenth century the court has always sat when required, except for the short time between 1634 and its temporary abolition by the Long Parliament in 1640 when it sat on a regular basis. During this time the court heard well over a thousand cases, of which evidence survives from 738. [4]


The court was last convened in 1954[1] for the case of Manchester Corporation v Manchester Palace of Varieties Ltd;[5] prior to this, the Court had not sat for two centuries and before hearing the case, the Court first had to rule whether it still existed.[6] The proceedings opened with the reading of various letters patents in order to made clear that the Duke of Norfolk was indeed Hereditary Earl Marshal and that he had appointed Lord Goddard as his Lieutenant in the Court. It also had ruled that the Earl Marshal was allowed to sit in judgement without the Lord High Constable of England, an office which until 1521 was also held as an hereditary dignity by The Dukes of Buckingham.[1] The case itself was that the Palace theatre had been displaying the arms of the Manchester Corporation (now Manchester City Council) both inside and on its seal and this usage implied that it was linked with the city's council. The Corporation had requested for the theatre stop using it but this had been refused. The court ruled in favour of the Corporation.[1]

More recently, in Oct 2012, Aberystwyth Town Council declared its intention to take legal action against a Facebook page displaying unauthorised use of its coat of arms: these were subsequently removed.[7]

Appeals from the Court

Since 1832, appeals from the High Court of Chivalry are to be heard directly by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.[8] Before 1 February 1833, in common with the admiralty and ecclesiastical courts, appeal from the Court was to the Crown in Chancery, with appeals being heard by Commissioners appointed by letters patent under the Great Seal in each case.[9] Sittings by these Commissioners became known as the "High Court of Delegates" by the time of the 1832 Act.[10]



Historically the court had two hereditary judges The Duke of Norfolk as Earl Marshal of England, and The Duke of Buckingham as Lord High Constable of England, but in 1521 Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham was convicted of treason, stripped of his titles and offices, and executed. Since then the office of Lord High Constable of England has only been appointed to perform ceremonial duties during a Coronation[11] and there has only been the Earl Marshal acting as the sole judge.

Lieutenant, Assessor and Surrogate to the Earl Marshal

Joint Register to the High Court of Chivalry

Cryer to the High Court of Chivalry

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "A Brief Account of the Proceedings in the High Court of Chivalry on 21st December, 1954". theheraldrysociety.com. The Heraldry Society. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  2. Innes of Learney & Innes of Edingight, p.7
  3. G.D. Squibb, The High Court of Chivalry: A Study of the Civil Law in England, Oxford, 1959, pp.2-3; The Law of Arms in Mediaeval England
  4. "The High Court of Chivalry in the early seventeenth century". birmingham.ac.uk. University of Birmingham. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  5. Manchester Corporation v Manchester Palace of Varieties Ltd, P 133; [1955] 1 All ER 387
  6. G.D. Squibb, The High Court of Chivalry: A Study of the Civil Law in England, Oxford, 1959
  7. "'Disgusting' sex antics web page sparks fury". Cambrian News. Archived from the original on 2015-07-08.
  8. Privy Council Appeals Act 1832 (2 & 3 Will. 4 c. 92)
  9. Halsbury's Laws of England (3rd Edition), vol. 13, para. 1049
  10. Privy Council Appeals Act 1832 (2 & 3 Will. 4 c. 92), preamble.
  11. "Coronation Oath Act 1688: Section III. Form of Oath and Administration thereof". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
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