Lot 47
  • 47

The 'Balliol Roll' and 'Cooke's Ordinary', decorated manuscript roll-of-arms on vellum

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
132,500 GBP
bidding is closed


7 membranes (the first now a long and thin fragment from the left-hand side of the original leaf, approximately 100mm. wide; some repairs to edges of 2nd, 5th and 6th membranes with only small losses to coats-of-arms), 4,550mm. by c. 265mm., each membrane approximately 780mm. long, complete albeit with minor losses from first membrane, on verso of seventh membrane the 'Balliol Roll', five rows of armorial shields (7 shields per line; those on the end of the top two lines now somewhat trimmed), all below the arms of Sir Edward Balliol, king of Scots within a large circular boss decorated with brown penwork fleur-de-lys, now somewhat faded with some wear, with accompanying names in an accomplished cursive documentary script which has in many places been overwritten in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; and on recto: Cooke's Ordinary, eighty-nine rows of armorial shields (usually 7 shields per line) all on pale green grounds, with accompanying names as above, now somewhat faded and with some paint flaked from a number of shields; an early sixteenth-century addition in Welsh to the verso of the second leaf regarding the document's ownership by the 'brothers of Carmarthen' and fragment of a fifteenth-century Welsh land document from Carmarthen used as a medieval repair-patch and now kept with roll (see below), with professional modern repairs throughout, most probably those of  March 1948; receipt for work now kept with previous lot in this sale, in the biscuit tin used as a case for the roll by Sir Anthony Wagner


The present manuscript contains both the earliest Roll-of-Arms for Scotland, and the oldest extant Ordinary of Arms for England


1. Produced in England c. 1340, most probably by a professional herald,

2. Apparently owned by a monastery in Carmarthen in the sixteenth century; inscription in early sixteenth-century Welsh on dorse, Rowch honn y gwrtt brodyr Kaer Verdinn (ie. "Give this to [the] court [of the] brothers [of] Carmarthen"), and with substantial fragment of a fifteenth-century document regarding Villa de Drusselyn (Dryslwyn) and Villa de Kerm'd (Carmarthen), 338mm. by 150mm., cut from the accounts of an official entitled to hold sessions in Carmarthenshire, and noting for town of Carmarthen the Computus Resi ap Thoma[s], who is perhaps to be identified with either Rhys ap Thomas, High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire, who held office in 1413 or alternatively a local namesake who lived from 1449 to 1525, and was a Knight of the Garter; this fragment once used as a medieval repair-patch, presumably by the court of the brothers of Carmarthen, and now separate and kept with roll,

3. Robert Cooke, Chester Herald 1562, Clarenceaux 1567, acting Garter 1584-6 (d. 1592; a sixteenth-century copy by Richard Scarlet, now College of Arms MS. Vincent 164, fols. 89-109b, notes that it was copied Ex rotulo antique et fidedigno ... Ro. C. Clar: R. Armor. 18 December 1576. See Wagner, Catalogue of English Medieval Rolls of Arms, 1950, pp. 58-9 & 140.

4. Sir Thomas Phillipps; his MS. number '26463' on dorse.

5. Bought by Sir Anthony Wagner (1908-1995), F.S.A.,  Garter Principal King of Arms 1961-78; and by descent to the present owner.

Catalogue Note


The present manuscript contains two extremely important collections of coats-of-arms. On the dorse of the sixth and seventh membranes of the present roll is the only surviving copy of the Balliol Roll, the earliest roll of arms for Scotland. It contains thirty-five shields of Scottish noblemen arranged beneath the arms of Sir Edward Balliol, king of Scots (c. 1282-1364), and was almost certainly composed for that ruler. Edward Balliol, the last of the Anglo-Scots, was the son of John de Balliol (King John of Scotland) and Isabella de Warenne, daughter of John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey. In 1295, he was among the signatories of Scotland's famous 'Auld Alliance' with France, a treaty of mutual defence against England. However, the treaty did not hold, and  France failed to act as King Edward I of England invaded Scotland and deposed King John. John was eventually released and went to Picardy, but Edward remained in English captivity as a guarantee for his father's good behaviour.  The year 1306 saw a dramatic political shift in Scotland with the coronation of Robert the Bruce ending any prospect of a Balliol restoration, and three years later, the Bruce's first parliament, held at St. Andrews, declared that he was the lawful heir of Alexander III, disinheriting Edward in exile. Edward now became the figurehead of a new class of nobility, later to be known as the 'Disinherited'. Old allies of the Balliols still exited in Scotland, and did not fare well under the Bruce, and after the Battle of Bannockburn many of these lords were formally disinherited. They found their leader in Henry Beaumont, and on the death of the Bruce in 1329 and the accession of his infant son, David II , they seized their moment. With the unofficial support of Edward I of England, Beaumont put together an invasion-force and persuaded Edward Balliol to return with him to Scotland. In 1332 this force set out, landing at Fife, and after the resounding defeat of their enemies at the Battle of Dupplin Moor, Edward Balliol was crowned king of Scotland at Scone. However, he was a king only in name. His supporters controlled only isolated regions, and he was forced to draw back towards the border, closely followed by the supporters of the Bruce. Edward Balliol took up residence in the partially ruined fortress of Roxburgh, and wrote two open letters, recognising Edward I of England as his feudal superior and asking him for help. Weeks later the fortress of Roxburgh was taken, and reportedly Edward himself only escaped by making a hole in his bedroom wall and finding a horse in the confusion.  Edward may have been forced into flight, but the letters had been carried to England by Henry Beaumont. Edward I immediately declared his support for Edward Balliol, and launched what would come to be known as the Second War of Scottish Independence, defeating the Scots at the Battle of Halidon Hill, and restoring Edward Balliol. However, power proved difficult to hang on to, and with the outbreak of the Hundred Years War in 1337 Edward Balliol found his English allies occupied elsewhere. He left Perth in 1338, never to return, having begun the process of abdication of his crown to Edward I. Edward gave him an annual pension of £2000, and settled him on estates near Knaresborough in Yorkshire. He died in January 1364.

The present manuscript is the only extant recorded copy of his roll of arms. It includes Edward Balliol, and thirty-five of his supporters, including the well-known Henry Beaumont (no. 3 here; azure, three garbs or, banded gules) who held the earldom of Buchan (here styled Le Counte de Bogham); Geoffrey de Moubray (no. 17; gules, a lion rampant argent, crowned or; named here the Sr de Moubray); as well as the earls of Fife, March, Carrick, Ross, Moray, Atholl, Strahearn, Menteith, Sutherland, Angus, Caithness, Lennox and Mar, and a number of other influential supporters. It must date to the period 1332-40, and the original was perhaps made on the coronation of Edward Balliol in 1332 or on his formal act of homage to Edward I in June 1334. No Scottish copy survives, and this is most probably the copy of an interested English herald made as an addition to document otherwise dated c. 1340. Thus, this manuscript would appear to be written and decorated within a few years of the creation of this roll of arms, most probably while Edward Balliol was still struggling for power in Scotland. It has been edited by Sir Anthony Wagner (p. 54), and is the subject of a dedicated publication by B. A. McAndrew (The Balliol Roll, 2002). It is, of course, a document of great historical importance for the history of Scotland and England alike.

The other document, that on the inner side of the roll, is an Ordinary of Arms (ie. a collection of arms arranged by subject- and motif-order in order to allow the reader to quickly look up the name of any particular holder of arms), known by the title of its sixteenth-century owner, 'Cooke's Ordinary'. It is the oldest English Ordinary recorded in existence, and as Sir Anthony Wagner noted it must "be regarded as the father of all its kind" (p. xv, catalogued at pp. 58-9). It was clearly composed and written by a professional herald, as a work of reference, and is one of the few sources of evidence which testifies to the existence of this profession in England before the fifteenth century. With the proliferation of coats-of-arms among the English nobility from the second half of the thirteenth century onwards (see description of the previous lot), a need developed for the identification of the correct bearers of arms, and this appears to be behind the Plea of Arms on 17 September 1381 when Sir Robert de Laton, aged 52, gave evidence at York, and noted that his father, an old man of seventy, had "commanded him to write in a schedule all the arms that he had learnt from his ancestors of kings, princes, dukes, earls, barons, lords, knights, and esquires, which he had in knowledge and memory" (see Wagner, p. 65). It is not recorded if this lost roll was organised according to any system, but clearly the present manuscript was produced to be used in just such a case.