For further information about the historic use of arms I wrote in May 1990 to the
College of Arms, London, the authority on all matters relating to arms and heraldry
A search has been made in the College's official records and I must at once
report that there are no entries of your surname and the arms are a slight variation of
those recorded in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century for a family named
Gloucester. These arms are blazoned "gules on a chief indented of five points or a
lion passant sable". This coat is identical to that used by the family of your name
except that a chief occupies the top third of the shield whereas per fess is a division
across the centre of the shield. In many representations of arms it might be difficult to
tell whether the division of the shield was a large chief or a high per fess division.
The entries which attribute these arms without a crest to a family named
Gloucester commence with an entry in a roll of arms known as the Colour on Collour Roll of
circa 1450. This is in a manuscript numbered Vincent 164 on folio 222. It is followed by
shield number 2183 on the Domville Roll of circa 1480. The arms then appear in a
manuscript of circa 1520 numbered L1 on page 287 and another manuscript of the same date
numbered L2 on page 226. The arms are also in an early sixteenth century manuscript known
as Prince Arthur's Book in part 4 as shield number 120. Unfortunately none of these
entries give more than the name Gloucester. The arms are not those of the City of
Gloucester so they must relate to a family with the surname but no pedigree was
Between 1530 and 1689 the Heralds went round the counties of England and Wales
approximately every 30 years recording the arms and pedigrees of families of gentry
resident in each county. This system was known as the Heralds' Visitation and the Heralds
visited Hertfordshire on 1572, 1634, and 1664. On none of these occasions did a family of
Glenister establish a right to arms.
Since 1672 the complete text of every grant of arms has been kept in a
consecutive series of volumes now numbering 154 and each containing between one and two
hundred grants. There is no grant to anyone of your surname. Before 1672 the College
relies on the notebooks of the Kings of Arms and Heralds which record approximately ten
thousand further grants. Again there are no Glenister grants. Between approximately 1550
and 1700 the Heralds organised funerals and records of these funerals form part of the
College's official records. No funeral was organised for anyone named Glenister.
Since the end of the Heralds' Visitation system it has been for the families to
come to the College of Arms to record their pedigrees. Approximately twenty thousand have
been recorded but there are none for families of your name.
I have no doubt, however, that the arms were taken from some manuscript armory
which attributed them to Gloucester and they were simply misappropriated by a family of
your name. The very simple crest of "a lion passant" tends to support this view
as crests granted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tended to be much more
complicated and the Gloucester family did not have a crest.
This seems to be a definitive rebuttal of any official grant of arms! I have no doubt
that various Glenisters "adopted" (or, to use the Herald's word,
"misappropriated") arms at various stages.