John Anstis (
29 August 1669– 4 March 1744) was an English officer of armsand antiquarian. He rose to the highest heraldic office in England and became Garter King of Armsin 1718 after years of plotting.
Anstis was born at St Neot,
Cornwallon 29 August 1669. He was the first son of another John Anstis and his wife Mary, the daughter of George Smith. Anstis matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, on 27 March 1685and entered the Middle Templeon 31 January 1690. On 23 June 1695he married Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Richard Cudlipp of Tavistock, Devon. They had eight sons and six daughters. Anstis was called to the baron 19 May 1699.
In March 1701, Anstis received permission from the
Earl Marshal, Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk, to collect materials from the College of Armslibrary to assist in the defence of the jurisdiction of the Earl Marshal, which was under attack. Anstis was also elected to Parliament for St Germans in 1702. When the Garter King of Arms, Sir Thomas St George, died in March 1703 Anstis was in a position to advise Lady Howard on how to protect her son's rights from the threat of a royal nomination of a new Garter on the one hand and the assumption of the nomination by the deputy earl marshal. Sir Henry St Georgewas nominated to be Garter and succeeded his brother in June 1703.
Anstis did not stand for election to Parliament in 1705. In May 1707 Anstis was nominated Carlisle Herald of Arms Extraordinary and Norfolk Herald. This was part of a plan to persuade Garter St George to administer the office jointly with Anstis doing most of the work. In spite of the nomination, Anstis was never appointed to either post. Anstis's main rival to succeed St George was now
John Vanbrugh, who had become as Clarenceux King of Armsin March 1704 in order to strengthen his own claims to the office. In December 1710 Anstis used a change in administration to try again at securing the Gartership. On 20 January 1711Anstis was re-elected to Parliament and changed his strategy with St George. He continued to secure offices related to public records for himself and he remained loyal to the tory ministry in Parliament. With his influential political friends Anstis was eventually able to obtain promise of an appointment to the office of Garter King of Arms, on 2 April 1714.
Anstis was elected to Parliament again in January 1715 for Launceston. By the time that Sir Henry St George finally died in August 1715, the political situation had shifted away from Anstis's political connections. Vanbrugh was nominated to the office and took measures to secure the passage of his grant. In addition, on
30 September 1715Anstis was arrested on suspicion of involvement in plotting a Jacobite uprising in Cornwall. A protracted legal battle ensued as Anstis and Vanbrugh both claimed the title of Garter. Anstis eventually emerged victorious in May 1718.
In 1724 he obtained an order for publishing the "Register of the
Order of the Garter", which was printed at his own expense. In the following year he interested Robert Walpolein a plan for a new order of chivalrybased on a revival of the medieval Order of the Bath. This led to his "Observations Introductory to an Historical Essay on the Knighthood of the Bath" is 1725 and to Anstis's drawing up the statutes for the new order.
Anstis duly presided over the
coronationof George II in 1727. In 1728 he embarked on extensive research to prove that his family was related to Archbishop Henry Chichele, the founder of All Souls College, Oxford. This research would have entitled his son, John Anstis, to a fellowship at the college. This was blocked by Archbishop William Wake, although Anstis did have his son made Blanc Coursier Heraldin 1727. In 1737 he secured the succession of his office of Garter to John.
Death and legacy
Anstis died on
4 March 1744at Mortlake, Surrey. He was buried at Duloe in Cornwall on 23 Marchaccording to his wishes. Anstis was an indefatigable antiquarian whose correspondence with fellow scholars such as Thomas Hearneand Humfrey Wanleytestifies to his wide interests. He left a mass of unpublished papers, including over 8000 pages of notes on "English history, Jurisprudence, Chronology, Heraldry, Ecclesiastical and Military Affairs". Many of his papers were sold in 1768 and in 1774 and are now held in the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and All Souls, Oxford.
* [http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk The College of Arms]
* [http://www.heraldica.org/topics/britain/heralds.htm Heraldic List of Officers of Arms]
*John Anstis. "The Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter". (London, 1724).
*Edward Cruickshanks. "Anstis, John". Parliament Records (London, 1715–54).
*Walter H Godfrey and Sir
Anthony Wagner, "The College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street: being the sixteenth and final monograph of the London Survey Committee". (London, 1963).
*Mark Noble, "A History of the College of Arms". (London, 1805).
*Sir Anthony Wagner. "A Catalogue of English Mediaeval Rolls of Arms". Harleian Society (London, 1950).
*Sir Anthony Wagner. "Heralds of England: a History of the Office and College of Arms". (London, 1967).
*Anthony Wagner and Albert Rowse. "John Anstis: Garter King of Arms" (London, 1992).
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