The first Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society was founded in 1950. Shortly afterwards, in 1954, a separate Cambridge University Society of Genealogists was formed. Not surprisingly many members of one society were members of the other and on June 10th, 1957, Special General Meetings of both societies were held and resolutions passed abolishing both societies on condition that a new joint society was formed later in the day. Needless to say this was the formal culmination of a series of meetings held earlier in the term to discuss the amalgamation.
The New Society
The structure of the new society was to include a Patron and a number of Honorary Vice Presidents. The committee was to consist of President, Secretary, Senior Treasurer, Junior Treasurer and ordinary Committee Members.
Sir Arthur Cochrane (Clarenceux) was Patron of the original (1950) Heraldic and Genealogical Society until his death in 1954. The position was still vacant when the amalgamation took place. C.U.S.G. had had a President in the person of the late Earl Mountbatten of Burma, a keen genealogist. Therefore, Lord Mountbatten was invited to be Patron of the new (1957) Society, a post which he held until his assassination in 1979. In honour of his memory and with the permission of his elder daughter, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, the Society inaugurated the Mountbatten Commemorative Lecture. This remains the most important meeting of the year and the lecture has frequently been given by senior members of the College of Arms.
Lord Mountbatten was succeeded as Patron by H.E. Archbishop Bruno Heim, a leading authority on the heraldry of the Roman Catholic Church who designed armorial bearings for several Popes. His Excellency generously donated a copy of a number of his own publications to the Society.
Like its 1950 predecessor, the present Heraldic and Genealogical Society has awarded a number of Honorary Vice-Presidencies to those in the world of heraldry and genealogy who have been of especial help to it. One of the Society’s most notable Honorary Vice-Presidents was J.P. Brooke-Little, Esq. (sometime Clarenceux King of Arms) who wrote widely on heraldry and, in 1947, founded the Heraldry Society.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Society transcribed the registers of the Cambridgeshire parishes of Shepreth and Westley Waterless and published a small number of copies. Its most ambitious project, however, was to produce The Cambridge Armorial showing the arms of all the corporate armigers in Cambridge (town, university, colleges, theological colleges and schools) with blazons and brief histories of each. Although begun in 1966, it was to be nineteen years before it was published.
For the last few years, the Society has published its own journal called The Escutcheon.
In recent years, the Society has been fortunate in attracting a number of enthusiastic town members. Besides showing undergraduates that there is life after graduation (!), they have introduced a degree of stability to the Society which student societies, whose members are usually only in residence for three years, rarely know. In recent years, it has been the practice to elect two Town committee members as well as two (or more) University committee members.
The day-to-day activities of the Society revolve around speaker meetings (nine per year), outings (usually one in each of the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, but sometimes more) and dining (one large dinner per term besides the opportunity for members to dine with speakers before the actual meeting).