Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society

The Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society was formed as the result of the merger in 1957 of a previous Heraldic Society (founded 1948) with the Cambridge University Society of Genealogists (founded 1954).

Foundation of the society

The first Cambridge University Heraldic Society was founded in 1948 from the remnants of the late Nineteenth-century monumental brass society. In 1954, a separate Cambridge University Society of Genealogists was formed. Not surprisingly many members of one society were members of the other and on 10 June 1957, sponsored by some Vice Presidents, by agreement between the secretaries, Special General Meetings of both societies were held and resolutions passed abolishing both societies on condition that a new joint society was formed later in the day. Meetings held earlier in the term had led to the formal culmination of a series of discussions for the consolidation and amalgamation.

The structure of the new society was to include a Patron and a number of Honorary Vice Presidents. The committee was to consist of President, Secretary, Senior Treasurer, Junior Treasurer and ordinary Committee Members.

The society today

Four speaker meetings are held in each of the Michaelmas and Lent terms and a ninth at the beginning of the Easter term. These are in the general area of heraldry and genealogy but also include cognate subjects such as ceremonial dress, tartan, local history, customs, military medals or indeed anything of an antiquarian nature. There are generally two outings each year--one in Michaelmas and one in Lent-–to places of heraldic and genealogical interest. In recent years, the Society has visited the College of Arms, the Society of Genealogists and various cathedrals and museums. The Society also hosts one large dinner each term with the Annual Dinner (in the Lent term) attracting up to 70 diners. There is also a garden party in the Easter term.


Sir Arthur Cochrane (Clarenceux King of Arms) was Patron of the original Heraldic and Genealogical Societies until his death in 1954. The position was still vacant when the amalgamation took place. The Cambridge University Society of Genealogists had had a President in the person of the late Earl Mountbatten of Burma, a keen genealogist. Therefore, Lord Mountbatten was invited to be Patron of the new (1957) Society, a post which he held until his assassination in 1979. In honour of his memory and with the permission of his elder daughter, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, the Society inaugurated the Mountbatten Commemorative Lecture. This remains the most important meeting of the year and the lecture has frequently been given by senior members of the College of Arms.

Lord Mountbatten was succeeded as Patron by H.E. Archbishop Bruno Heim, a leading authority on the heraldry of the Roman Catholic Church who designed armorial bearings for several Popes. His Excellency generously donated a copy of a number of his own publications to the Society. After his death he was followed by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England.

Past officers

Notable past officers include:

Past speakers and guests

The Society is primarily a discussion group. Notable past speakers have included:


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Society transcribed the registers of the Cambridgeshire parishes of Shepreth and Westley Waterless and published a small number of copies. Its most ambitious project, however, was to produce The Cambridge Armorial showing the arms of all the corporate armigers in Cambridge (including town, university, colleges, theological colleges and schools) with blazons and brief histories of each. Although begun in 1966, it was to be nineteen years before it was published through the efforts of Wilfrid Scott-Giles, Heather Peak and Cecil Humphery-Smith. In 1995 the Society launched a magazine, called the Escutcheon, which appears each term. It is edited by Derek Palgrave.


    External links

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