The Practical and the Playful: Fifteenth-Century Heraldic Texts and the Narrative Construction of Heraldry and Heralds

Sheri Chriqui

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This dissertation redirects attention onto the imaginative components of late medieval heraldic texts. Focusing on heraldic texts that were influential or composed in England, I argue for the creativity of heraldic texts and examine the diverse ways that they frequently intersect with late medieval chivalric and literary cultures, revealing an inventiveness and vitality that scholars have not yet substantially explored.

In the first chapter, I historically and culturally contextualise the practice and profession of heraldry. The second, third, and fourth chapters each begin by introducing the sources that will be discussed and considering who tended to write and to own them.

In the second chapter, I introduce late medieval heraldic texts and argue that they can be simultaneously practical and playful. In addition to overviewing two main types of heraldic textual sources, rolls of arms and treatises, I discuss some heraldic texts that are compiled in miscellanies, as this was another medium in which heraldic texts circulated. I then examine the imaginative interest of heraldic texts, assessing the creative ways that they draw upon a range of writing styles and traditions and appropriate chivalric and literary tropes and themes for heraldic purposes.

The third chapter studies heraldic mythmaking, analysing the narrative construction of the legendary origins of heraldry and heralds. I argue that these legendary narratives construct a professional mythology that integrates heraldry and heralds into foundational proto-national and cultural narratives, thereby aggrandising and legitimising them.

The fourth chapter studies heraldic professional self-construction. It examines how late medieval heralds present themselves in the heraldic texts they produced, revealing their desire to be recognised as learned men who are authorities on heraldry and as chivalric role-models.

Ultimately, this dissertation offers fresh paradigms for comprehending late medieval heraldic texts and the inventive ways that they interact with chivalric and literary cultures.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Nall, Catherine, Supervisor
  • Bennett, Alastair, Advisor
Award date1 Mar 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019


  • Medieval
  • medieval heraldry
  • Medieval literature
  • Medieval Studies
  • Medieval Manuscripts
  • origin legends
  • Arthurian literature
  • Trojans
  • Medieval heralds
  • Heralds
  • Nine Worthies
  • Fifteenth century
  • Heraldic Treatises
  • Heraldic Verse
  • Heraldic Miscellanies
  • Self-fashioning
  • Heraldry
  • William Bruges
  • William Ballard
  • John Writhe
  • Thomas Wriothesley
  • Malory
  • Chivalry
  • Richard Strangways
  • Upton
  • Brutus

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