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Humble, Expert, Righteous, Aduysed, Learned, and Dutifull

William Smith actively campaigned for a position in the College of Arms for at least two years before being appointed Rouge Dragon Pursuivant on October 23, 1597. Over thirty of his beautiful manuscript creations survive, as well as a treatise in which he criticizes unfair promotions within the College of Arms and the unfair system of distributing fees among the heralds. In the treatise, he describes the College of Arms as a monster with three heads (the Kings of Arms), six bodies (the Heralds), and four legs (the Pursuivants).


Smith compiled this extensive Alphabet of arms, which contains nearly eleven thousand coats of arms, to make it easier “to fynde such as a man desyreth to know.” As the title page records (image top right), he began the work on October 20, 1594 and completed it on October 30, 1597, just one week after he was elected to the College of Arms as Rouge Dragon Pursuivant. The coats of arms in each of the four corners of the title page are those of the families of his mother, father, and German wife. His motto, Silentio et spe (Silence and hope), adorns the bottom center of the page. Queen Elizabeth’s royal coat of arms decorates the facing page.

On another opening (image bottom right), Smith depicts a herald and describes his duties and attributes. Heralds are messengers of nobility, overseers of justice, and revealers of truth. They must be Humble, Expert, Righteous, Aduysed (Advised), Learned, and Dutifull.

Smith. Title page from the Alphabet or blazon of arms. Manuscript, 1597

Smith. Alphabet. 1597.

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