Robert Cooke (officer of arms)

The ceremonial of the state funeral of Sir Philip Sidney was managed by Robert Cooke as Clarenceux King of Arms in 1587.

Robert Cooke (or Cook) (born c. 1535, died 1592–3)[1][2] was an English Officer of Arms in the reign of Elizabeth I. In the College of Arms, he rose to the rank of Clarenceux King of Arms, serving in that capacity from 1567 until his death in 1592–3. He served as marshal for the state funeral of Sir Philip Sidney in 1587. Cooke was accused by fellow officers of arms of granting arms to unworthy men for personal gain.

Life and work

Cooke is supposed to have been the son of a tanner and to have been brought up in the household of Sir Edmund Brudenell, an ardent genealogist. Cooke matriculated as a pensioner in St. John's College, Cambridge, 10 November 1553, earning his BA there in 1557–8.[2] He was appointed Rose Blanche pursuivant extraordinary, 25 January 1561–2[3] and succeeded William Flower as Chester Herald of Arms four days later.[3][4] Both events were recorded in the diary of Henry Machyn, who twice identified Cooke as the servant of Lord Robert Dudley.[5] Cooke was promoted to Clarenceux King of Arms on 21 May 1567.[3] Cooke was appointed Acting Garter King of Arms on the death of Sir Gilbert Dethick on 3 October 1584, and served in that capacity until the permanent appointment of Sir Gilbert's son William Dethick on 21 April 1586. As acting Garter, Cooke, assisted by Robert Glover, Somerset Herald, accompanied the Earl of Derby to France to invest King Henri III with the Order of the Garter in 1584.[3][6]

As Clarenceux, Cooke was responsible for arranging the funerals of all knights resident south of the River Trent[7] In this capacity he oversaw the "magnificent" state funeral at St Paul's Cathedral of Sir Philip Sidney, who died in Flanders on 17 October 1586.[7][8] Detailed drawings of the funeral procession on 16 February 1587, with its hundreds of mourners, were published as The Procession at the Obsequies of Sir Philip Sydney, Knight, drawn and invented by Thomas Lant, Gentleman, servant to the said honourable Knight, and engraven on copper by Derick Theodore de Brijon, in the city of London. 1587.[8]

Cooke had campaigned to be appointed Garter (with the support of Dudley, by then the powerful Earl of Leicester),[9] and William Dethick, who secured the appointment, later charged Cooke with encroaching on the traditional privileges of Garter King of Arms. In 1595, after Cooke's death, William Segar, Norroy King of Arms, sided with Dethick, criticising Cooke for his inability to write clearly and for making many grants of arms to "base and unworthy persons for his private gaine onely."[3][10][11] Ralph Brooke, York Herald and sometimes deputy to Cooke, complained in 1614 that Cooke had granted more than 500 new coats of arms during his tenure.[11]


In 1530, Henry VIII had issued an instruction governing the conduct of heraldic visitations, in which Clarenceux and Norroy Kings of Arms (or their deputies) were to tour their areas of authority, recording coats of arms and pedigrees of armigers, with powers to forcibly prevent the bearing of unauthorised arms.[12]

As Chester Herald and deputy to William Harvey, who preceded him as Clarenceux, Cooke conducted visitations of Worcestershire in 1560, Devonshire in 1562, Lincolnshire in 1562 and 1564, and Leicestershire and Warwickshire in 1563.[13]

As Clarenceux, Cooke conducted visitations of London in 1568 and again in 1593; Worcestershire in 1569; Herefordshire in 1569 and 1584; Worcester in 1569; Shropshire in 1569 and 1584; Essex in 1570 and 1583; Surrey, Hertfordshire and Middlesex in 1572; Devonshire in 1572; Somerset in 1573 and 1591; Cornwall in 1573; Kent in 1574 and 1589; Dorsetshire in 1574; Hampshire and Cambridgeshire in 1575; Suffolk in 1577; Buckinghamshire in 1580; Bedfordshire in 1582 and 1586; Gloucester in 1583; Berkshire in 1584; and Norfolk in 1589. Robert Glover, Somerset Herald, Richard Lee (then Portcullis Pursuivant), and Ralph Brooke (then Rouge Croix Pursuivant), acted as Cooke's deputies on various visitations.[14]

Other manuscripts

Cooke's other writings in manuscript include An English Baronage, Heraldic Rudiments, An Ordinary of Arms and A Treatise on the Granting of Arms. On one copy of An English Baronage the antiquarian Sir Simonds d'Ewes wrote a title concluding "in which are a world of errors, ergo caveat lector."[3][9]


  1. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
  2. 1 2 "Cooke, Robert (CK553R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stephen 1887, "Robert Cook (herald)".
  4. The patent was sealed 8 February, the date given for the appointment in Maychen's Diary; see Nichols 1848 and Cooper et al. 1861.
  5. Nichols 1848, January 1561–2.
  6. Raines 1870, pp. x, xiii.
  7. 1 2 Bos, Sanders, Marianne Lange-Meyers, and Jeanine Six, "Sidney's Funeral Portrayed". In Van Dorten et al. 1986, p. 38.
  8. 1 2 Moule 1822, p. 34.
  9. 1 2 Cooper 1861, p. 145.
  10. Wagner 1967, p. 207.
  11. 1 2 Rockett 2000.
  12. Wagner 1946, pp. 20–21.
  13. Moule 1822, pp. 571, 584, 585, 598, 601.
  14. Moule 1822, pp. 560–563, 565, 569, 571, 573, 575, 577, 580, 586–588, 593, 594, 597, 601.


External links

Heraldic manuscripts by Robert Cooke


Heraldic offices
Preceded by
William Flower
Chester Herald of Arms
Succeeded by
John Hart
Preceded by
William Harvey
Clarenceux King of Arms
Succeeded by
Richard Lee
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