351 Kings Of Arms v Tuckfield

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

This free content was Born digital. All rights reserved.

'351 Kings Of Arms v Tuckfield', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/351-kings-of-arms-tuckfield [accessed 1 March 2024]

In this section


Sir John Borough, knt, Garter King of Arms, Sir Richard St George, knt, Clarenceux King of Arms, Sir William Le Neve, knt, Clarenceux King of Arms, and Sir Henry St George, knt, Richmond Herald v Thomas Tuckfield of Crediton, co. Devon, esq

February 1635 - November 1637

Figure 351a:

The Tuckfield monument in Holy Cross church, Crediton, showing John Tuckfield on the left and his son, Thomas, on the right. The family coat of arms seems to have been removed, but the inscription (below) describing John as esquire, which caused such offence, has been restored after apparently being defaced (Photograph: Richard Cust, reproduced by permission of the Parish Administrator, Crediton, Devon)

Figure 351b:

(Photograph: Richard Cust, reproduced by permission of the Parish Administrator, Crediton, Devon)


This was a cause of office initiated by Sir John Borough, Garter, Sir Richard St George, Clarenceux, and Sir Henry St George, Richmond Herald, and then, after Sir Richard's death in May 1635, continued by his successor as Clarenceux, Sir William Le Neve. In February 1635 process was granted against Tuckfield, a justice of the peace, for setting up a large monument to his father John Tuckfield in Crediton church, Devon, which described the deceased as an esquire and carried a coat of arms, even though he had been obliged to disclaim in the Devon Visitation of 1620. In proof of his father's title, Tuckfield presented ten parcels of deeds dating back to Edward I's reign which Arundel referred to Sir Henry Spelman, Sir Edward Dering and Ralph Whitfield. At their examination on 16 May 1635 Spelman and his son-in-law, Whitfield, concluded that several of the deeds were clumsy forgeries. They based this on the appearance of erasures and insertions to make it appear that previous Tuckfields had been titled gent, and the fact that most of the wax seals appeared to have been added recently and the parchment used for a deed of Edward II was newly produced. Tuckfield introduced further evidence in the form of entries from the register of the Middle Temple and the commission of the peace to prove that he himself had the title esquire; but, after examination of witnesses on behalf of the Kings of Arms, he was found guilty and sentenced to pay a £100 fine. On 21 November 1637, this was reduced to a £5 fine, on appeal to Lord Maltravers; but it was also ordered that the forged evidences be retained by the court to justify their proceedings.

Initial proceedings

7/55, Award of process

'14 Feb 1635

A process is awarded against Tho. Tuckfield of Fulford in the Countie of Devon for assuminge to himselfe armes unjustly and for getting up a large monument in Crediton church in Devonshire for his father John Tuckfield whereon he hath placed armes and given his father the title of esq who in truth is noe gentleman nor hath any right to beare armes, but was disclaimed in the visitation of Devonshire made in 1620.'

9/4/3, Articles

[In Latin] The articles alleged that for up to 100 years last past Tuckfield and his parents had been and were non gentlemen and plebeian, and therefore had no right to bear arms. In the visitation of Devon in 1620 by the Kings of Arms his father was publicly proclaimed and proscribed as a plebeian, but notwithstanding Thomas Tuckfield had erected a monument to his father in the church at Crediton, and above it had set of a coat of arms, with a shield Argent, three fucells, sable and attached the appellation esquire to his father's name.

Sir Richard and Sir Henry St George seek justice against Tuckfield, that he be publicly declared and proclaimed to be no gentleman, enjoined not to bear the arms and condemned in costs according to the law of arms.

Endorsed 18 April 1635.

Signed by Arthur Duck 'for the promovents'.

9/4/6, Report on Tuckfield's evidences

[Partly in Latin] 20 June 1635. Reference by the Earl Marshal and Sir Henry Marten his lieutenant in the Earl Marshal's court, dated 2 May 1635, to Sir Henry Spelman and Ralph Whitfield, Sergeant at law, with Sir Edward Dering, bart, or any two of them to inspect certain evidences relating to Thomas Tuckfield. Spelman and Whitfield met at Whitfield's house in the Barbican on 16 May 1635 and inspected ten parcels of evidences presented by Tuckfield's proctor William Elworthie:

'Touching the first parcell of the saide evidence being a release from Mabella quae fuit uxor Alfredi de Tokefeild dated die jovis post festum S. Gregory Pape anno regni Regis Edwardi fil Reg. Edw decimo which is the

First for by that date it should be 318 yeares old; yet the inck wherwith it is written hath no other colour than some of our tyme, far differing from that of the third deed now also produced, made 17 Ed. I which was but about 35 yeares before it, and from other of the tyme of Ed. II.

Secondly the hande hath no semblance of the tyme of Ed. II, as may be perceaved by comparinge it with the deed laste before menconed and those of Ed. II tyme. Nor is it the sett or ordinary hande of any man as we conceive, but affected and written by way of imitation.

Thirdly the parchment wherein it is written is so far from being 318 yeare olde as we suppose it to have bene on the shepe's back longe since the one of us was borne, and is yet so grene and greasie as ynck may be wiped off of it without leavinge the marke of letters behinde it.

Fourthly the seale (as we conceive) hath neither the shape or shewe of Ed. II tyme, nor of antiquity or workmanship: for seales of armes in those dayes (as also in the tyme we lyve) graven by workemen were generally uppon sheilds embossed or raysed, not flatt as this is (though many such may be). And those sheildes were comonly like a cone or sharpe at the pointe, not so rounde as this is. Besides the fusills in the sheilde are peirced which is contrary to the bearinge of them. And the seale being redd wax a pinne will enter it mutch more easely then if it were of Ed. II: for then would it be mutch harder and crustie, apte to rise in scales and ponder[sic could be powder]. And whereas this Mabell, formerly the wife of Alfred Tookfield doth here affirme herselfe in 10 Ed. II to be owner of the lordshipp and mannor in Tetbourne, and to have had the same of the guifte of her father John de Tebourne, the son of John de Teborne, it doth not so appeare by a note out of Nomina Villarum in the Chequer, made as we take it 9 Ed. II. And by the booke there of feoda militum , made 24 Ed. I, it is said that Walter de Honyton ten villa de Tetborne de Tho de Tetteborne etc.'

The second parcell is a deed dated die veneris etc proxime post festu S. Joh ante portam latinam (which is on 6 May) anno regni Henrici IIII Anglie post conquestum primo (id est An. Dn. 1400). And this also is subject to the twoe firste, and parte of the last, objections before mencioned. Further, being indented, it wanteth the worde indentata in the beginning and misreciteth the king's stile in the ende of it, placeinge Anglie before post conquestum where it should followe. And though it hath scratches with a penn made uppon the indentinge, in imitacon of those in the tyme of Ed. II and Ed. III yet have they here no application to the letters of any worde, whereas in those daies they were comonly a parte of the worde cyrographus (or such other) cutt into 2 partes, whereof one parte remayned uppon the indentinge of the one counterpaine, the other uppon the indentinge of the other, and made out of the word being applied together.

The thirde parcell was truly a deed of 17 Ed. I, but the name Gostfeld (or such like) amonge the witnesses is defaced and in an unperfect mannor made Tokefeld (by turning the first letter into a T and the st into ke) as plainly appeareth. Yet doth it neither agree with the 2 former deeds where Tookfeld is written with a double o not a single, nor with any of the rest where it is alwaies written with Tuc or Tuck etc.

The fourth parcell is an indenture of 12 Febr. an. 28 Hen. 8 whereto William Tuckfield was a party, but whether the seale of 3 fusills in fesse of the scutchion, which it now semeth to have (though bruised and defaced), be the same it had at the firste we cannot decerne, nor whether the gravinge be according to that tyme. But we suppose that it was not then so common with many gentlemen and persons of great quality as it had bene before, and is since, to seale with sheilds and coates of armes, for that the use of them in warre was declined, leaste perhaps they should be markes for gunnes which then were very usuall. And this indenture hath bene otherwise ill delt with, for whereas it was saide in the laste lyne save one Hiis testibus Gilberto Gale generoso the worde generoso is bitten or torne out, yet not so entirely but that by some dashes of letters remayning it may be conceived. And wee take it to be done uppon this reason, that it might not appeare that Gilbert Gale, a witnesse, should be written gentleman when William Tuckfield the grantour in the deed using a seale of armes was neither stiled esq nor gentleman. Yet (to do him right) it semeth by it that he was a freehoulder of good ranck and ability, and not only an owner of divers messuages andlandes, but also of some seignoriall rights, as reservinge an heriot and havinge a bailiff.

The 5th parcell is an indenture dated 16 May 2 Ed. 6 whereby Humfrey Prydeaux selleth a grove of wood and underwoode to John Tuckefield of Crediton etc. But the addition of John Tuckefield is scraped out, and to colour the matter so also is the addition of Humfrey Prydeaux, with some other wordes whereby it may seme that some of the issue or kindred of the said John, mislikinge his addition, did thus deface it. And as touching the seale of this indenture we suspect, as of the last precedent, wishing that the counterpanes of them both might be produced.

The 6th parcell is the cyrograph of a fine levyed Ter. Pasc. 7 Eliz. by Richard Prydeaux, esq, and John Tuckfield, gent, to William Loveday; but whereas it was there saide Inter Willmum Loveday querent et Ricum Prideaux armiger et John Tuckfield sen defor the letter s in sen is rased and made a g that so it might be generosum . But the top of the s doth yet appeare in the 4th line above the bottom, it still remaineth Johis sen for senioris . To put all out of doubt the recorde itselfe in the fine office is inter Wilmum Lovedey querent et Ricum Prideaux arm et Johem Tuckfield sen defor. And besides it is there saide et Tetborne be Marie, but the words be Marie which was interlined betweene the 2 and 3 line of this cyrograph are scraped out.

The 7th parcell is an indenture of 8 Octob. an. 5 Jacobi, Edw Seimour, esq, and other on the firste and second parte, and John Tuckfield gent, on the thirde parte, where the seale of armes ['may' crossed through] put for John Tuckfield semeth considerable both for some reasons before delivered and for that the wax is a little fresher coloured, more in quantity and otherwise moulded then that of the other seales there annexed. The rest of the tenn parcells we medle not with as conceiving them not material to the matter in hande.

To conclude, we humbly conceive under reformation that it is like enough that one hande graved all the seales for that the fashion and manner of the scutchions is every where alike, without observinge any variety of ages as namely, that of 10 Ed. 2, 1 Hen. 4, 28 Hen. 8, 2 Ed. 6 and 5 Jacobi Rex. Those also of 10 Ed. 2, 1 Hen. 4 though by their dates the one should be 84 yeares older than the other, yet have they not only the same manner of scutcheon and gravinge, but both of them the like indented trayle rounde about the scutcheon. And as it semeth that one hand graved them all so likewise doth it seme that one hand wrott both that of 10 Ed. II and that also of 1 Hen. 4, and made the alteracon of the worde sen for seniorem into the word gen for generosum in the cyrograph, for the fashion of the letter g is constantly the same in all the 3 places, and so generally are many other letters in the first two deedes. All which (being but only as we conceive) we most humbly submitt to be reformed by this most honourable courte, craving pardon for what we have mistaken.'

Signed by Henry Spelman and Raphe Whitfelde.

7/90, Request for certificate

'Mr Dethicke, my Lord Marshall is pleased upon my humble request to give leave that I should have a copy of that certificatt that was given into the court upon the evidences that have beene produced by Mr Thomas Tuckfield; and therefore I pray you by this bearer to send that unto me. And soe I rest

Yours assured

T Reynell

June 29, 1635

Sir Tho. Reynell'

20/2d, Articles

[From the Latin] This was a cause of office in which the articles alleged that the defendant, after his father's death, placed arms on the monument and in other places in the church, on the walls, windows, seals, household goods and other things, and assumed such arms as those of his family; and after being called upon to justify his right to arms, assumed the titles of gentleman and esquire in various writings and muniments. Tuckfield had also exhibited various writings and muniments which on examination by learned men were deemed forgeries. Sir William le Neve seeks justice against him.

Dr Duck for the plaintiffs.

18/1a, Certificate of admission to Middle Temple

'Mr Thomas Tuckfield, son and heir apparent of Thomas Tuckfield of Crediton in the Countie of Devon, esq, was admitted of the Society of the Middle Temple, London.'

Dated 6 May 1623.

Signed by John Bayliffe on 29 January 1636.

18/1b, Certificate of commission of the peace

'Upon search I find that a commission of peace for the county of Devon was renewed for placing of Thomas Tuckfield esq therein'. 5 July 7 Charles I.

Dated 29 January and exhibited on 30 January 1636.

Signed by Thomas Willys.


3/98, Defendant's petition to Arundel

'Your petitioner, being questioned in the Court of Honor by the Officers of armes for making use of a Coate of armes that your petitioner could not prove to belonge unto him, did submit himselfe unto your honor's sentence, whereupon your petitioner was by your lordship fined at 100li and to stand bound to the good behaviour.

Now for that your petitioner then did, and still doth humbly submit himself unto your said sentence.

His humble sute unto your honor is that you would be pleased to remitt his fine, and that your petitioner's evidences, bonds and exhibits may be delivered upp. And your petitioner as in dutie will ever pray for your increase of honor and felicitie.'


'November 21. 1637.

My lord is pleased to abate and mitigate the fine to his Majesty to the sume of five pounds, to be payd at such tyme and in such manner as his lordship shall direct by anie signification under his hand. And Mr Dethick is to take bond of the petitioner for payment of the sume accordingly. And thereupon such former bonds as have been given by the petitioner in this cause, together withal evidences and other things that have been exhibited into the court concerning this cause, and doe belong to the petitioner, are to be delivered unto him.

Those evidences or writings that were forged, counterfeited, or false, and did give occasion or motives for the decree, are in noe wise to be delivered, but kept still in court to justifie the decree, and the whole proceeding'.

Signed by Maltravers.

3/87, Defendant's bond of payment to crown

22 November 1637

Tuckfield was bound to pay to the king £5 at such time and place as Arundel directed.

Signed by Thomas Tuckfield.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of Gilbert Dethick.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for the Kings of Arms and Dr Eden for Tuckfield. On 9 May 1635 the cause continued before Sir Edward Dering, knight and baronet, Sir Henry Spelman, knight, and Ralph Whitfield, and it was decreed that Tuckfield was to be attached. On 30 May the certificate of Dering, Spelman and Whitfield was presented and Tuckfield was warned to appear and reply to the libel. On 9 June 1635 the court received a report of an investigation at the house of Ralph Whitfield, sergeant at law, dated 16 May 1635 before Sir Henry Spelman. Witnesses for Le Neve had been examined by May 1636. Tuckfield was required to appear on 27 January 1637 but had still failed to do so by 16 February, when Dr Duck petitioned to hear the sentence, and Dr Eden to relate the material for the defence. On 29 April 1637, Dr Eden petitioned for the verdict. Tuckfield exhibited his petition for mitigation on 18 November 1637.


Thomas Tuckfield of Tedburn St Mary was obliged to disclaim at Exeter on 12 August 1620.

F. T. Colby (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Devon in the year 1620 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 6, 1872), p. 361.

For the Kings of Arms, see S. A. Baron, 'Sir John Borough (d.1643)'; S. Wright, 'Sir William Le Neve (1592-1661)'; and T. Woodcock, 'Sir Henry St George (1581-1644)', Oxford DNB (Oxford, 2004).

For further reports on the various components of the case, see G. D. Squibb, Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), pp.19-20, 24, 28. For a transcript of the Articles, see G. D. Squibb, The High Court of Chivalry (Oxford, 1959), appx.xviii.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Award of process: 7/55 (14 Feb 1635)
    • Articles: 9/4/3 (18 April 1635)
    • Report on Tuckfield's evidences: 9/4/6 (20 June 1635)
    • Request for a certificate: 7/90 (29 Jun 1635)
    • Articles: 20/2d (c. late 1635)
    • Certificate of admission to Middle Temple: 18/1a (29 Jan 1636)
    • Certificate of commission of peace: 18/1b (29 Jan 1636)
  • Submission
    • Defendant's petition to Arundel: 3/98 (21 Nov 1637)
    • Defendant's bond of payment to the crown: 3/87 (22 Nov 1637)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings: EM348 (9 May 1635)
    • Proceedings: EM349 (30 May 1635)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 8/24 (9 June 1635)
    • Undated proceedings: College of Arms MS. 'Court of Chivalry' (act book, 1636-8) [pressmark R.R. 68C] (hereafter 68C), fos. 64r-67r (c. Apr 1636?)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 68C, fos. 74r-83v (7 May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 68C, fos. 51r-59r (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: R.19, fos. 381-2 (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 23r-36v (11 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 1r-11r (16 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 14r-20v (16 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 37r-41v (29 Apr 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/29 (18 Nov 1637)

People mentioned in the case

  • Bayliffe, John
  • Borough, John, knight (also Burrough)
  • Dering, Edward, knight and baronet
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Elworthie, William, proctor (also Elworthy)
  • Gale, Gilbert, gent
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Le Neve, William, knight
  • Loveday, William
  • Plantagenet, Henry II, king
  • Plantagenet, Henry III, king
  • Plantagenet, Henry IV, king
  • Plantagenet, Edward I, king
  • Plantagenet, Edward II, king
  • Prydeaux, Humphrey (also Prideaux)
  • Prydeaux, Richard, esq (also Prideaux)
  • Reynell, Thomas, knight
  • St George, Henry, knight
  • St George, Richard, knight
  • Seimour, Edward (also Seymour)
  • Stuart, Charles I, king
  • Stuart, James I, king
  • Tookfield, Alfred (also Tuckfield)
  • Tookfield, Mabel (also Tuckfield)
  • Tuckfield, John, gent
  • Tuckfield, Thomas, esq
  • Tuckfield, William
  • Tudor, Henry VIII, king
  • Spelman, Henry, knight
  • Whitfield, Ralph, sergeant at law
  • Willys, Thomas (also Willis)

Places mentioned in the case

  • Devon
    • Crediton
    • Exeter
    • Honiton
    • Little Fulford
    • Tedburn St Mary
  • London
    • Barbican
    • Middle Temple

Topics of the case

  • cause of office
  • coat of arms
  • false claim to gentility
  • forgery
  • funeral monument
  • Herald
  • inns of court
  • justice of the peace
  • King of Arms
  • office-holding
  • self-assumed arms