The Garter King of Arms is, as I am sure you know, the senior of the three English Kings of Arms. The office takes its name from the Order of the Garter. Henry V instituted the office of Garter in 1415 just before sailing for France.
My experience of his office is recounted here when he argued with me about the correct spelling of Haringey given the way it was done in the Domesday Book.
However, the College of Arms keeps itself up-to-date and in these straitened times is always on the look out for new sources of income.
A little bird tells me that he has written to all Chief Constables to remind them the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act abolishes police authorities and transfers their powers to elected Police and Crime Commissioners.
You may wonder why this is of concern to the Garter King of Arms (Chief Constables haave their own concerns about this).
The answer, of course, is straightforward: the Armorial Bearings used by most police forces on cap badges, letterheads, websites etc were granted to Police Authorities.
And, if Police Authorities disappear, the right to bear the Coat of Arms lapses with them.
This would potentially make the cap badges on police helmets illegal. I am sure many police officers – and certainly their Chief Constables – would find this a deeply discomforting situation.
Fortunately, the Garter King of Arms has a solution and says in his letter:
“The Kings of Arms think that it would be appropriate for a Royal License to be issued transferring the Armorial Bearings to the office of Chief Constable for use by the Constabulary.”
And just in case elected Police and Crime Commissioners feel hurt he has a solution for them as well:
“In such cases, the Kings of Arms would also be prepared to grant a variation of the Shield alone to the office of Police and Crime Commissioners for each authority.”
A wise compromise you may feel. However, such matters cannot be done on a shoe-string as Garter goes on to make clear:
“If you are interested in pursuing this I should be happy to give you particulars of the procedure and cost.”
And please form an orderly* queue outside the College of Arms …..
*Any disorderly behaviour will be dealt with the City of London Police – as the College of Arms lies within their territory – and of course they are one of the few forces not affected by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act and will not have an elected Police and Crime Commissioner.