487 Officers Of Arms v Say

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'487 Officers Of Arms v Say', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/487-officers-of-arms-say [accessed 2 March 2024]

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Officers of Arms v William Say of the Middle Temple, London, esq

June 1636 - October 1637

Figure 487:

The Elizabethan Hall of the Middle Temple where William Say was a barrister.


This was a cause of office in which the Officers of Arms proceeded against Say, a Middle Temple barrister, and later parliamentarian and regicide, for contempt of court in 'publishing both by word and writing that my Lord Marshall's decrees and constitutions were contrary to lawe.' Say had been called on by Mrs Rose Rivers [see cause 486] to advise on the legality of the fees demanded by the officers for providing funeral certificates for her husband William Rivers and his uncle, Sir George Rivers. Say 'advised not to pay them, for it was not legal.' He was asked to answer for this before the Earl Marshal by John Philipot, Somerset Herald, where he claimed not to know what the heralds' fees were; so, in May 1636, Thomas Thompson, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, presented him with a written copy of the fees, supported by order of the Earl Marshal. Say told him that 'our constitution was of no validitie, and said that if he might be counsell for us he would wish us to be quiet and stirre no further in this business', because, whilst they might secure their fees now, 'it will prove worse for you' in the future. He was summoned again to appear in court on 3 June and was interrogated by Sir Henry Marten. He answered again that 'there was no such fees due by any law that he had seene', upon which Maltravers had him bound over for £100. Despite repeated warnings, Say had failed to appear by October 1637; however, he was eventually fined and imprisoned and his Middle Temple colleague, Edward Hyde, referred to the case as a particularly grievous example of the court's arbitrary proceedings in his speech to the Short Parliament on 18 April 1640.

Plaintiff's case

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 21-2, Rougedragon's report

Mr Thomson's report against Say:

When I was sent by the company to Mr Say with a note of those fees which were due to the office, by virtue of the constitution made by the commissioners for the office of Earle Marshal of England, and to demand the fees and certificates accordinglie, as likewise to admonish him to appear in court the next court daie, Mr Say refused absolutelie to paie the fees and returne the certificates, and said he knew well that our constitution was of no validitie, and said if he might be of counsell for us, he would wish us to be quiet, and stirre no further in the business:for, he said, noe doubt, but now you get monie of divers that knowe not somuch, but if you stirre further in this business, it will prove worse for you, or words to that effect. And for his appearance *he said he* conceived he need not appear because by the king's proclamation he was discharged. I advised him not to trust to that, but to appear in court, and soe I left him.

Mr Say's demenor in the Court:

When he came into the court the court day following he stood upon it that he knew not howe, nor by what law, the fees were due. Whereupon Sir Henry Marten replied, Howe would you knowe if? They have acquainted you with their constitution and given you a note of the fees in writing under their hands. Then he having formerly engaged himself both to the court, and by his letter to Mr Philpott to appeare in behalf of the gentlewoman whome he had diswaded from the paiement of the fees, the court demanded of him to enter into bond on behalf of the gentlewoman to that purpose, which then he refused; nor would he by any meanes enter any such bond, though he was pressed with his owne engagement as aforesaid under his owne hand. Whereupon, my lord commanded he should enter into bond in his owne behalf to answer his contempt which he had committed in trifling with the court, and in speaking contemptuous words against the decree, and advising the gentlewoman not to paie, and for offering monie to Mr Philpott under hand as he pretended to buy the gentlewoman's peace, but by noe as a fee or as part of a fee; and my lord ordered that a bill should be preferred against him to that purpose. But he likewise refused to enter any such bond, but told my lord that if my lord would advise him to enter such a bond he would do it. But otherwise my lord told him he would neither advise nor counsel him, but wisht him sodainely to give his answer, soe in the end he was contented to enter bond.'

No date [but refers to proceedings on 6 May and 3 June 1636].

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 23-4, Note of proceedings

'A Noate of the proceedings against Mr Say in the Earl Marshal's court for his contempt, 1637.

Mistress Ryvers, executrix to her husband Will., was required to give certificates to the Office of Armes of her husband's decease &c, and the like after the death of his uncle Sir George Ryvers : for that it did belong unto her as executrix to her husband. And [s]he was executor to both the other & [s]he desired time to be informed how far she was liable to performe what was demanded and whether the fees demanded for there several degrees must be payd by her. She had conference with Mr William Say, a councellor in the Temple. He writes to Mr Somersett that no such fees as were demanded of her were due by any law of this kingdome, and made a tender of twenty shillings to Master Somersett, not as a fee but a gratuity, which was by him refused. And Master Somersett, acquainting the office what had passed, the Officers of Armes move *by Dr Duck* for process against Mistress Rose Ryvers, which was granted by the Earle Marshall. But before it was served Mr William Say writes another letter to Master Somersett and againe affirmes under his hand that nothing was due; but offers Master Somersett forty shillings underhand to be a meanes she be no further questioned. But, that course not taking effect, she sends to Master Somersett to treat with him in London; and at the treaty Master Say came to advise her. And the order for fees being exhibited, and the demand as formerly being made (certificates for each of them and three pounds six shillings eight pence fee her husband's certificate, six pounds thirteen shillings fower pence for Edward Ryvers *if he were an esq* and ten pounds for Sir George Ryvers), Master Say advised not to pay them, for it was not legal. Then Master Somersett desired Master Say to come to my Lord Marshal's court and deliver so much there. Master Say did appear, and my Lord, perceiving he had diswaded Mistress Ryvers not to be conformable to the constitution for Funeral Certificates and Fees, injoyned him to attend the next Court there; *and* he did appeare and my Lord Marshal being gone in Embassy towards the Emperor, my Lord Maltravers sitting lieutenant to my Lord Marshal, was informed by Dr Duck what Master Say was charged with. Master Say excused himself as not knowing what the demands of the heralds were and the court ordered that there demands should be delivered in writing to Master Say. So Master Thomson went *on 6 of May 1636* to Master Say and shewed him the order and delivered the demands in writing. Master Saye againe told him that the order was not legal, and if he might advise the Heralds they should not take any fees by virtue of that order. And in Master Saye['s] discourse in the court my Lord Maltravers demanded whether he would answer touching Mistress Rivers not paying fees. He answered, There was no such fees due by any law that he had seene or words to that effect; whereupon the Register drew up an act that doth set downe as much. And then my Lord Maltravers directed he should be bound in 100 ld to attend the court, and that Dr Duck should exhibit articles against him for publishing both by word and writing that my Lord Marshall's decrees and constitutions were contrary to lawe. Yet those decrees and constitutions have bin affirmed by second decrees in the Chancery, in the Court of Wards and in the Ecclesiastical Courts.'

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for the Officers of Arms and Dr Eden for Say. On 3 June 1636 William Say entered bond to the king for £100. On 8 November 1636 William Say had to appear to respond to the Officers of Arms. On 28 January, 11 and 16 February, and 29 April 1637 William Say was warned to appear to respond to the articles. On 14 October 1637 Say was warned to appear to make answer and the court issued warning to the witnesses to undergo examination and reference was made to John Philipot and Thomas Tompson. There were further proceedings at the request of Dr Duck on 31 October and 18 November 1637.


William Say of Slinfold, Sussex, had been a barrister since 1631. During the Personal Rule he was fined as the ringleader of a group who drank a toast to a meeting of parliament. He was a staunch parliamentarian and friend of Bulstrode Whitelocke. He was elected as M.P. for Camelford, Cornwall in 1647 and signed the king's death warrant in 1649.

J. T. Peacey, 'William Say (1604-1666)', Oxford DNB (Oxford, 2004).


  • Plaintiff's case
    • Rougedragon's report: Cur Mil 1631-42, fos. 21-2 (Jun 1636)
    • Note of proceedings: Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 23-4 (1637)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Sir Henry Marten: College of Arms MS. 'Court of Chivalry' (act book, 1636-8) [pressmark R. R. 68C] (hereafter 68C), fos. 105r-110v (3 Jun 1636)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 105r-110v (8 Nov 1636)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 68C, fos. 51r-59r (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 23r-36v (11 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 1r-11r (16 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 37r-41v (29 Apr 1637)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 8/26 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/27 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/28 (31 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/29 (18 Nov 1637)

People mentioned in the case

  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Hyde, Edward, esq (later earl of Clarendon)
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Philipot, John, herald (also Philpot, Philpott)
  • Rivers, George, knight
  • Rivers, Rose
  • Rivers, William
  • Say, William, esq
  • Stuart, Charles I, king
  • Tompson, Thomas, pursuivant
  • Whitelocke, Bulstrode

Places mentioned in the case

  • Cornwall
    • Camelford
  • London
    • Middle Temple
    • Sussex,
    • Slinfold
  • Sussex
    • Slinfold

Topics of the case

  • cause of office
  • civil war
  • contempt of court
  • Court of Chancery
  • Court of Wards
  • inns of court
  • Long Parliament
  • member of parliament
  • other courts
  • parliamentarian
  • regicide
  • Short Parliament