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Noble titles: Herald

The origins of the figure of heralds of arms can be traced to the classical world. Among the ancient Greeks, in fact, there was a similar figure with the task ok making public acts and regulations of the authorities, both civil and religious, and to maintain relations with foreign peoples or enemies.

However, it is only in the Middle Ages that the figure of the herald begins to emerge with clarity and to assume its common meaning of "officer of arms, ranking between pursuivant and king of arms”. Etymologically, the word “herald” comes from the Old French "hari-wald”, precisely "officer of arms, confidant of the king.".

Of course the role of heralds was strictly related to the development of heraldry, namely the “art or science of creating, granting and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol”. Heralds, in fact, had a fundamental role in managing the tournaments and that’s why they came to be associated with the regulation of the knights' coats of arms. They also compiled the records of the nobility and the rolls of the tournaments, where were reproduced the coat of arms.

By the time, heralds started to have important military and civil functions. They became messengers sent by monarchs or noblemen to convey messages or proclamations (e.g. in the Hundred Years' War, French heralds challenged King Henry V to fight) , were responsible for the proper conduct of tournaments between knights and took part in the solemn ceremonies of the court.

Like other officers of arms, a herald would often wear a surcoat, called a tabard, decorated with the coat of arms of his master. Towards the middle of the fifteenth century, with the cessation of tournaments, began the decline of the colleges of heralds, culminating in the next century.

Nowadays, however, in some countries, the figure of the herald continues to be present. In the United Kingdom heralds are still called upon at times to read proclamations publicly; for which they still wear tabards emblazoned with the royal coat of arms. In England and Scotland most heralds are full-time employees of the sovereign and are called "Heralds of Arms in Ordinary"; the Canadian Heraldic Authority has created the position of "Herald of Arms Emeritus", with which to honor long-serving or distinguished heraldists. In Scotland, some Clan Chiefs, the heads of great noble houses, still appoint private officers of arms to handle cases of heraldic or genealogical importance of clan members, although these are usually pursuivants.