Sunday, 29 April 2007
John Brooke-Little: In Memoriam
John Philip Brooke Brooke-Little, CVO, FSA, FSG, FHS, FRHSC (Hon), founder, in 1947, of the Society of Heraldic Antiquaries (now The Heraldry Society) died on February 13, 2006. The legendary herald would have celebrated his 80th birthday this month. In tribute I post part of the obituary that I wrote following the announcement of his death.
John Brooke-Little was born 6 April 1927 and was educated at Clayesmore and New College, Oxford (MA). He served on the Earl Marshal’s staff from 1952-53 and as Gold Staff Officer at the 1953 Coronation. He was appointed Bluemantle Pursuivant in 1956, Richmond Herald in 1967, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms in 1980 and, finally, Clarenceux King of Arms in 1995 (he resigned from the College of Arms in 1997). In addition, Brooke-Little held three administrative positions at the College of Arms: Registrar (1974-1982), Librarian (1974-1994) and Treasurer (1978-1995). From 1991-1997 he was also Director of the Heralds’ Museum at the Tower of London (now closed).
Brooke-Little took great pleasure informing people that the commonly held view that the Order of Saint Patrick was extinct was quite false since, by virtue of his position as Ulster King of Arms (which was merged with that of Norroy), he remained ex officio an Officer of the (dormant) Order and, until such time as the Sovereign chose to formally abolish the position of Ulster King of Arms or to specifically declare otherwise, the holder of that office would continue to serve as the Order’s King of Arms, Registrar and Knight Attendant (the fact that the last knight had died in 1974 was of little consequence to this staunch traditionalist).
Brooke-Little served as Chancellor of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 1973 to 1977 and eventually held the rank of Knight Grand Cross of Grace and Devotion (having first been admitted to the SMOM as a Knight of Magistral Grace); he was also honoured with the Order of Merito Melitense in 1964. Brooke-Little was a Knight of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem and a Knight Grand Cross of Grace of the Franco-Neapolitan Branch of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George (British Delegation) and also held the Cruz Distinguida (first class) de San Raimundo de Penafort.
Other positions held by Brooke-Little included: Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies; Master of the Scriveners’ Company (1985-1986); Chairman of the Council of the Harleian Society, President of the English Language Literary Trust (1985-1996) and Trustee of the Royal Air Force Heraldic Trust.
Brooke-Little published at least ten books including Royal Ceremonies of State; Royal Arms, Beasts and Badges; The British Monarchy in Colour; Beasts in Heraldry; An Heraldic Alphabet and Royal London and substantially revised Boutell's Heraldry (6 edns) and Fox-Davies' Complete Guide to Heraldry.
His armorial bearings were blazoned: Argent goutté Gules three unicorn heads erased Sable armed and crined Or langued Azure, and for a crest On a wreath Argent and Gules, a demi-unicorn erased Sable armed, crined and unguled Or, langued Azure and collared gobony Or and Gules with a chain Or, and with the motto RECTE AUT NIL, and a badge A Triquetra Or interlaced by an Annulet Argent. These were granted through the College of Arms on March 5, 1952.