|Born||22 June 1940(age 79)|
|Education||The King's School, Canterbury|
|Occupation||Officer of Arms|
|Employer||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Organization||College of Arms|
|Title||Clarenceux King of Arms|
|Criminal charge||Non-recent child sexual abuse|
|Criminal penalty||Absolute discharge|
|Criminal status||Allegations proven in a trial of the facts|
Chesshyre served for more than forty years as an officer of arms in ordinary to Queen Elizabeth II and as a member of Her Majesty's Household. He rose to become Clarenceux King of Arms, the second most senior heraldic appointment in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and many other Commonwealth realms. He held a number of other prestigious appointments, including those of Registrar of the College of Arms, Secretary of the Order of the Garter, and Honorary Genealogist to the Royal Victorian Order (he was himself formerly a Commander of the Order). Chesshyre undertook heraldic and genealogical work for many high-profile clients including former prime minister Sir Edward Heath. He has written seven books, including the official history of the Order of the Garter, as well as a number of chapters, articles, and reviews.
In 2015 a jury sitting in the Crown Court found that Chesshyre had committed non-recent child sexual abuse offences. He had been found unfit to plead, so the trial was a trial of the facts, for which no conviction is recorded. The jury found that he had committed the two offences charged, but he was given an absolute discharge due to the form of the trial.
In the patrilineal line Chesshyre belongs to the family of Isacke of North Foreland Lodge. On 4 and 5 July 1938, respectively, Chesshyre's father, Captain Hubert Chesshyre, RE (later a colonel), and uncle, Neville Chesshyre (later a brigadier and a Military CBE), executed, attested, and enrolled deeds at the College of Arms changing their surname from Isacke to Chesshyre. Colonel Chesshyre was the son of Major General Hubert Isacke, CB, CSI, CMG, six times mentioned in despatches, late Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment. Major General Chesshyre's father was Colonel Henry Isacke, late RA, himself the son of Robert Isacke, Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent, sometime Commander in the Honourable East India Company Maritime Service.
Robert Isacke's wife, Chesshyre's 2nd-great-grandmother, Matilda Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, was the daughter of Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, de jure 7th Earl of Dundee, and great-granddaughter of Charles Maitland, 6th Earl of Lauderdale, through his son Captain the Hon Frederick Maitland, RN. Chesshyre has written that he is proud, as an English herald, to be related, through his 2nd-great-grandmother, to both the Bearer of the Royal Banner (Alexander Scrymgeour, 12th Earl of Dundee) and the Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland (Ian Maitland, 18th Earl of Lauderdale).
Through Henry Isacke's wife, Louisa Chesshyre, subsequent generations of the family are descended from the family of Chesshyre of Barton Court, Canterbury. Louisa Chesshyre's father was the Reverend William Chesshyre, Rector of Canterbury St Martin and St Paul, Rural Dean of Canterbury, Proctor in Convocation for the Diocese of Canterbury, and Canon of Canterbury Cathedral. Canon Chesshyre's father was Vice-Admiral of the Blue John Chesshyre. Through this common ancestry Chesshyre is a first cousin twice removed of the Law Lord Lord Tomlin.
Through his paternal grandmother Ada Layard, Chesshyre is also descended from the Huguenot family of de Layarde, anglicised as Layard. Chesshyre's great-grandfather in this line is Sir Charles Layard, who was Attorney General of Ceylon 1892-1902 and Chief Justice of Ceylon 1902-1906, and was himself the son of Sir Charles Layard, KCMG, Government Agent for the Western Provinces of Ceylon 1851-78, himself in turn the grandson in the maternal line of Gualterus Mooyaart, Administrator of Jaffna for the Dutch East India Company. Another of Chesshyre's 3rd-great-grandfathers in this line was Lieutenant Colonel Clement Edwards, Assistant Military Secretary to Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, son-in-law of his 4th-great-grandfather the Very Reverend Dr Charles Layard, FRS, Dean of Bristol 1800-03, himself the son of Daniel Layard, DCL, DM, LCP, FRS. The family was established in England by Chesshyre's 6th-great-grandfather Pierre de Layarde, of Monflanquin, who attended William, Prince of Orange during the Glorious Revolution, eventually attaining the rank of Major, settled at Canterbury, and became a British subject in 1713, adopting the name Peter Layard. Appropriately, Peter Layard married his wife Marie Anne Crozé on 2 March 1716/17 at the church of St Benet's, Paul's Wharf, the church of the College of Arms.
Through his mother, Katharine Boothby, daughter of Major Basil Boothby, RE, Chesshyre's 3rd-great-grandfather was Major Sir William Boothby, 7th baronet, 51st (2nd Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment of Foot, and Chesshyre is therefore a relation of the Boothby baronets of Broadlow Ash. Chesshyre's uncle, his mother's brother, was Basil Boothby, CMG, who served as British ambassador to Iceland and married Susan Asquith, a granddaughter of the Prime Minister H. H. Asquith.
Chesshyre is the 10th-great-grandson of Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby (1485 creation), by his illegitimate son also called Henry Stanley. He is in turn descended from Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby, who in 1555 presented Derby Place to the Crown as the home of the Heralds' College (now the College of Arms). Chesshyre is therefore also the 12th-great-grandson of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk (1483 creation), himself the grandson of Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk (1397 creation), grandson of Margaret, Duchess of Norfolk (1397 creation suo jure for life), granddaughter of Edward I of England. Chesshyre is appropriately a relation of the Lords and Earls Marshal and Hereditary Marshals of England, who are the heads of the College of Arms, where he was an officer for so many years, and of many Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Garter, of which he was Secretary. Through his Derby ancestors, Chesshyre is descended from many of the rulers of medieval Europe, including Rurik, the possibly legendary founder of Russia.
Chesshyre is also a kinsman of Sir John Chesshyre (1662-1738), Prime Serjeant at Law to Queen Anne and King George I. It was his inheriting a portrait of Sir John that sparked Chesshyre's interest in genealogy. In 1976 Chesshyre attended the ceremony to mark the reopening of the Chesshyre Library, Halton, Cheshire, founded by Sir John in 1733. To mark the occasion a painting of the arms of Sir John and Lady Chesshyre, donated by the Chesshyre family, and produced by the College of Arms, was presented to the library.
Chesshyre was educated at St Michael's Preparatory School, Otford, where he was a contemporary of John Hurt and a pupil of Roy Martin Haines. He went on to The King's School, Canterbury (The Grange 1954-59). He maintains a close relationship with The King's School. In 2010 he helped design a tie for the school's Legacy Club, a club for Old King's Scholars pledging a proportion of their estate to the school. The tie is blue scattered with silver mitres and golden crowns, reflecting the dual influence of Church and State on the school and the ways in which OKS have served both Church and State in return.
Chesshyre undertook his undergraduate education at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking a BA in French and German which was later upgraded to an MA according to a tradition of the university. He is now a member of the Great Court Circle of Trinity College. After graduating from Cambridge Chesshyre spent about four years working as a schoolmaster and vintner, including working for Moët et Chandon and John Harvey & Sons. He then studied at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was awarded a Diploma in Education in 1967. In his book The Changing Anatomy of Britain, Anthony Sampson wrote, "Christ Church maintains its traditional disdain for twentieth-century activities, with an annual newsletter which reads like a parody of British snobberies, beginning with honours, Lords Lieutenants and royal service ('Mr D. H. B. Chesshyre, formerly Rouge Croix Pursuivant, aptly became Chester Herald of Arms'), and ending with vulgar achievements in business, journalism and sport."
Having received his Diploma in Education from Oxford, Chesshyre did not enter the teaching profession, but instead was appointed in 1967 to a position as an assistant at the College of Arms. He was a Green Staff Officer at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. Appointed a member of the Chapter of the College of Arms the following year, he served as Rouge Croix Pursuivant (1970-78),Chester Herald (1978-95),Norroy and Ulster King of Arms and Principal Herald of the North part of England and of Northern Ireland (1995-97), and Clarenceux King of Arms and Principal Herald for the South, East and West parts of England (1997-2010). From 1971 until 1978 he also served on the staff of Anthony Wagner. He was Registrar of the College of Arms from 1992 until 2000 and was the Founder Secretary of the College of Arms Uniform Fund in 1980, serving in that capacity until 1999.
Interviewed by Robert Hardman for The Daily Telegraph in an article about the arms of Margaret and Denis Thatcher, Chesshyre observed, "A herald gets £17.80 per annum from the Queen. We did get a 100 per cent pay rise in 1617 but they reduced it again in 1831. We get part of the client's fee but it's not a job you do for the money." Hardman joked, "Lady Thatcher would approve of the college's anti-inflationary wages scheme."
Chesshyre was Secretary of the Order of the Garter from 1988 until 2003, having been trained for the role by his predecessor Walter Verco and by Verco's predecessor-but-one, Anthony Wagner. Upon his resignation Chesshyre had an audience with The Queen at Buckingham Palace, during which he surrendered his badge of office. Following the 1992 Windsor Castle fire Chesshyre was, together with Peter Begent, appointed heraldic consultant for the reconstruction of St George's Hall. Chesshyre was also Honorary Genealogist of The Society of the Friends of St George's and Descendants of the Knights of the Garter.
As Ulster King of Arms (merged with Norroy) Chesshyre also held the extant, if effectively defunct, offices of King of Arms, Registrar, and Knight Attendant of the Order of St Patrick, meaning that he was, technically, briefly one of the two members of the Order, the other being Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign.
From early in his career Chesshyre from time to time served as a deputy to Garter Principal King of Arms for the purpose of introducing peers into the House of Lords. For example, in 1975 he introduced Baroness Vickers.
Chesshyre retired from the College of Arms on 31 August 2010. His last public duties took place at the State Opening of Parliament on 25 May 2010 and at the Garter Day ceremony on 14 June 2010. Commentating on the State Opening for the BBC, Huw Edwards remarked upon Chesshyre's forty years of service.
This is a partial list of clients for whom Chesshyre acted as "agent" at the College of Arms.
In the autumn of 1983 Chesshyre undertook genealogical research for the Rt Hon Michael Heseltine, MP, then Secretary of State for Defence. He succeeded in tracing Heseltine's ancestors down to the end of the eighteenth century, but dropped his enquiries after Heseltine was informed that further research would cost him £350. Between 1970 and 1975 Chesshyre also undertook work on behalf of the Rt Hon Sir Peter Rawlinson, QC, MP, Attorney General for England and Wales and Attorney General for Northern Ireland.
In his personal capacity, Chesshyre served as heraldic advisor to the committee that organised the re-enactment of the funeral of Arthur, Prince of Wales in Worcester on 3 May 2002. On the day of the re-enactment, Chesshyre processed through the streets of Worcester bearing Arthur's crested helm, followed by other heralds bearing his sword, tabard, gauntlets, and spurs.
In 2006 Chesshyre was a delegate to the 27th International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences at St Salvator's College, University of St Andrews, held in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal.
Chesshyre has enjoyed a long professional association with Westminster Abbey. In 1973 he completed at the request of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey a report entitled "The Restoration of the Regalia to the Tomb of Queen Elizabeth the First in Westminster Abbey: Research into the Identity of the Collar Missing from the Queen's Marble Effigy". He found "that there was no clear evidence that the missing collar was a Garter collar, suggesting instead that "the 'Three Brothers' pendant and collar shown in the Ermine portrait of Queen Elizabeth as a suitable model for the restoration". He was later a member of the Abbey's Architectural Advisory Panel, from 1985 until 1998, and then of its Fabric Commission, from 1998 until 2003. Chesshyre was also heraldic advisor for the west window of the Henry VII Lady Chapel, donated by John Templeton and devised by Donald Buttress, which The Queen unveiled on 19 October 1995.
Chesshyre has worked as a freelance lecturer in the United Kingdom and abroad. For many years he lectured for the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies and Speaker Finders.
A Cambridge graduate in German, Chesshyre was interviewed in 1981 for a story in Der Spiegel. He explained that heraldry had begun in the twelfth century when kings and noblemen had decorated their shields with mythical creatures in order to intimidate their opponents both in tournaments and in battle. He observed that medieval heraldic animals were typically depicted with very large sexual organs and also commented on the figure of a naked woman depicted on the Hanoverian coat of arms of Ireland.
Chesshyre has been credited with establishing the probable origins of the common error of using the term crest to refer to the whole achievement. He explains that in the 18th century it was common for smaller items, such as spoons and forks, to be engraved with the crest alone, while the full achievement was reserved for larger items such as salvers. For this reason a number of publications appeared from the late 18th century through to the early 20th century which recorded only crests. Chesshyre later successfully lobbied the chief revise editor of The Times to include an explanation of the precise meaning of the term crest in a new edition of the newspaper's staff manual.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, which Chesshyre co-authored with Peter Begent and Lisa Jefferson, enjoyed the distinction of a foreword by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (p. 2) and of being 'Dedicated with permission to|Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II|Thirtieth Sovereign of the Order' (p. 4). One of the book's reviewers, John Goodall, wrote that it had been 'eagerly awaited' and was 'the most comprehensive' study of the subject since that of Elias Ashmole, and he wrote that it was "unlikely to be superseded". Another reviewer, Maurice Keen, wrote that it was "invaluable to scholars whose interests touch on the history of the order, from the widest variety of points of view and period specialisation", and that "Altogether, Peter Begent and Hubert Chesshyre have put together a volume that for its thoroughness, its interest and its physical attraction is a worthy tribute to the longevity of England's highest order of chivalry."
M. K. Ridgway, reviewing The Identification of Coats of Arms on British Silver, wrote that Chesshyre "has the undoubted gift of making a difficult and complicated subject both exciting and interesting".
In the early 1970s Chesshyre met the distinguished architect Thomas Saunders when Chesshyre and one of his brothers unsuccessfully competed with Saunders to bid for a property in Bethnal Green, 17 Old Ford Road. Four years after he had purchased the property, Saunders contacted Chesshyre with a commission to write a history of Bethnal Green, with particular reference to the legend of the Blind Beggar. This resulted in The Green, co-authored with A. J. Robinson, which was later described by Victor E. Neuburg as "The best--indeed only--comprehensive account of the subject". During the period around 1970 to 1980 Chesshyre wrote another book on the history of Bethnal Green, Number Seventeen, or the History of 17 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green and the Natt Family. Although complete, the book has never been published, but a copy is held, together with notes, maps, and correspondence, at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.
Chesshyre was a choral clerk of Trinity College, Cambridge during his time as an undergraduate at the college. From 1979 until 1993 Chesshyre was a member of The Bach Choir, of which he is now an Associate Member. Chesshyre now sings for the London Docklands Singers, which he joined in 2002. He has been, since 1980, a member of the Madrigal Society, the oldest musical society in Europe (see Madrigal). He became a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1994 and a Liveryman of the Company in 1995.
Chesshyre was appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 11 June 1988 and was promoted to be a Commander of the Order (CVO) in the New Year Honours of 31 December 2003. Chesshyre was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. Chesshyre's appointment to be a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order was cancelled and annulled with effect from Tuesday 15 May 2018.
Chesshyre was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1977 and was a member of its heraldry committee, known as the Croft Lyons Committee. Since 1983 he has been a member of the Cocked Hat Club, the senior dining club of the Society of Antiquaries, serving as praeses (president) in 1986.
Chesshyre was a member of the Council of the Heraldry Society from 1973 until 1985, and he was elected a Fellow of the Society on 7 February 1990. Election to the Fellowship recognises "outstanding achievement in connection with the art and science of heraldry" or "armory, chivalry, precedence, ceremonial, genealogy, family history, and all kindred subjects". The Society has 24 Fellows, of whom Chesshyre ranks fourth in seniority by date of election.
Chesshyre currently serves as Vice-President of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, of which he was a Director until 31 December 1993. He has been honoured with the titles of associate member of the Society of Heraldic Arts and honorary member of the White Lion Society. He was also the Patron of the now defunct Middlesex Heraldry Society.
In 1998 the Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society appointed Chesshyre to deliver its annual Mountbatten Memorial Lecture (Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma was President of the Cambridge University Society of Genealogists and Patron of CUHAGS). Two years later, Chesshyre was a guest of honour (together with the Master of Fitzwilliam College, representing the Vice-Chancellor, the Deputy Mayor of the City of Cambridge, Garter Principal King of Arms, York Herald, and the Chairman of the Federation of Family History Societies) at the CUHAGS Fiftieth Annual Dinner held in the Great Hall of Clare College on 25 March 2000.
In 2015, Chesshyre was charged and tried by a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court with having committed child sexual abuse offences against a single victim during the 1990s. As he had been found unfit to plead due to having suffered a stroke and developed dementia, the trial was a trial of the facts. Consequently, although the jury found that on two counts he had committed the acts on the indictment, no conviction was recorded and he was given an absolute discharge. The Honours and Appointments Secretariat of the Cabinet Office said that it "takes the view that the outcome of the trial holds equivalent weight to a full criminal investigation [and a conviction]."
Despite the criminal finding of fact, Sir Alan Reid, GCVO, Secretary of the Royal Victorian Order, refused to recommend the cancellation and annulment of Chesshyre's honour because he had not been convicted and had received an absolute discharge. The award was eventually forfeited with effect from 15 May 2018, following intervention from the victim's MP and the Prime Minister. However, the forfeiture was not published in the London Gazette, which would normally be standard procedure in such cases. Chesshyre retains all of the many other honours bestowed upon him, despite calls for them to be revoked. The case did not become widely known (partly because of the misspelling of Chesshyre's name in court records) until March 2019, when it was mentioned at a public hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and subsequently given wider publicity by The Observer newspaper. According to journalist Jamie Doward, "When approached by the Observer, the various societies of which he is a member confirmed that they would not be dissociating themselves from him."
Chesshyre in uniform with his successor Patric Dickinson
Short film about heraldry featuring Chesshyre and others
| Rouge Croix Pursuivant
Sir Walter Verco
| Chester Herald
| Norroy and Ulster King of Arms
| Clarenceux King of Arms
Sir Conrad Swan
| Registrar of the College of Arms
| Green Staff Officer at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales
1 July 1969
Sir Walter Verco
| Honorary Genealogist to the Royal Victorian Order
Sir Walter Verco
| Secretary of the Order of the Garter
|Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom|
Companions of the Order of the Indian Empire
Companions of the Order of St Michael and St George
Commanders of the Royal Victorian Order
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire