This evening I was appointed as Herald of St. Michael's Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine. The Herald is the first appointed officer within the door of the Conclave and has duties similar to the Junior Deacon and Marshall within the Blue Lodge; attending to the door of the Conclave and making proclamations. As Herald, it is my duty to proclaim the installation of new Knights of the order. Unlike other Masonic bodies, there is no officer's jewel worn in the Red Cross of Constantine. All members and officers wear a tuxedo with the jewel of the Order.
The etymological roots of Herald originate from the old French word 'heraut' meaning "messenger or envoy" which is said to stem from an older Germanic word "hariwald" meaning "commander of an army." Some argue about the etymology as heralds were said to evolve from minstrels and were originally attached more with tournaments than actual warfare or the commanding of armies. To counter this though, it also thought that this title was originally with commanders, but came to be applied to a lower officer whose chief duty was to make proclamations. An alternate theory is that Herald is derived from the Old Germanic word "haren" which means "to call out."
A Herald was traditionally an officer who conveyed messages or proclamations, acted as diplomats or ambassadors for monarchs, served as Master of Ceremonies, presided over tournaments, and oversaw the adoption of arms. In regards to tournaments, the 12th-century herald took over the job from earlier used minstrels. Not only did they referee the tournament, but announce each of the fighters along with their lineage and heroic deeds. From this duty, they became experts on coat of arms they began to be used on the battlefield to help identify coat of arms of the opposing armies which could assist commanders in assessing troop strength and characteristics. Their success began to evolve them into messengers and ambassadors by the 13th century. Heralds wore a tabard (rather than a surcoat), a sleeveless jerkin consisting only of front and back pieces with a hole for the head, that acted as the proverbial white flag and bestowed the herald with what now would be considered diplomatic immunity. By the 14th century, heralds were permanent members of courts and noble houses. Ranks were being formed that would differentiate heralds from one another and with some monarchs, Heralds were referred to as "Kings of Arms" while with lesser noble houses Heralds were referred to as "Pursuivants." By the 15th century, the Herald reached the apex of its importance, but as the nature of warfare changed (more use of infantry over knights) and tournaments became too expensive, the use of the Herald began to decline though they did gain an extra duty. Monarchies by this time stopped directly granting coat of arms to knights and nobility, this duty is delegated to the herald.
The use of the Herald didn't completely die and today you see it used in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada, and South Africa. In England and Scotland, Heralds are still employed full-time by the monarchy and are referred to as "Heralds of Arms in Ordinary" while those Heralds hired on a temporary basis are called "Heralds of Arms Extraordinary." They are often used for public proclamations, coronations, and serving as historians. Scottish Heralds are officers of state. The Lord Lyon King of Arms, as an example, is the supreme officer in the matters of honor and counsels the monarch about matters of genealogy and ceremonies. The Controller of Her Majesty’s Messengers at Arms is a Herald that is in charge of the executive department of law in Scotland. Both English and Scottish Heralds still wear tabards as tie back to their historical roots.
It's interesting to note that the historical Herald duties are often split between multiple officers in various Masonic bodies. As an example, in the Grand Lodge of Idaho, the Senior Grand Deacon is the one who introduces and the Grand Marshal is the one who makes proclamations, but we also have a Grand Pursuivant who is an intermediate between the Junior Grand Deacon and the Grand Tyler. I am honored to serve as Herald and it's good to be back inside the Conclave.
1. de Alcazar, D. P. (2004). The Mediaeval Herald. Retrieved from SCA College of Arms: http://heraldry.sca.org/hduties.html
2. Herald. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=herald
3. Herald. (n.d.). Retrieved from Dictionary.com: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/herald
4. Herald. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herald
5. Herald. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/art/herald-medieval-officer
6. Herald. (n.d.). Retrieved from Medieval Occupations: http://hkcarms.tripod.com/oc11.html
7. What Is a Herald? (n.d.). Retrieved from University of North Carolina: http://www.unc.edu/~haggerty/herald_her.html