I was sad to read of the death of Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones who until a few months ago was Garter King of Arms. As Garter, he had to approve titles and also represent the monarch in the introduction of new peers. He was appointed to the post in 1995 and so, given the number of new introductions, was seen frequently in the House. He was a colourful sight in his regalia, his tunic not only being bright but also very heavy.
He was an expert in genealogy and also a first-rate designer of coats of arms. He designed mine (pictured) and did a splendid job: his draft design required no changes. He was also something of a character. He had a reputation for occasionally causing difficulty with a new peer’s choice of title (allegedly at times finding rules of which no one was previously aware) and was also keen to persuade a peer to have a coat of arms. When I saw him, he had no difficulty in accepting my choice of title (a relief) and instead moved quickly to give me a leaflet from the Passport Agency, explaining how smooth the process of changing my passport would be (in the event, it was anything but), to inquire if I would like a coat of arms, and then to chat about the USA. ‘How many states have you visited?’ He then proceeded to explain he had visited all fifty. The obituary in The Times records ‘He lectured widely on heraldry in the US and prided himself on having visited every state’, so I suspect I was not the only one to have that conversation.
His salesmanship in respect of coats of arms (designing them brought income to the College of Arms) did not necessarily persuade all new peers. One peer told me that he asked Garter what use he could make of a coat of arms. ‘Well’, said Garter, ‘You could have it woven into your carpet’. He will be missed.