This month marks the 80th anniversary of the office of Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. The office of Ulster King of Arms was created by King Edward VI on February 2, 1552, and for its first 36 years, appears to have been regarded as attached to the College of Arms; the two Ulsters in this period, Bartholomew Butler and Nicholas Narboon, had both been English Heralds before their appointment as Ulster. After the resignation of Narboon in 1588, subsequent Ulsters acted independently from the English College. On January 30, 1908, King Edward VII appointed Captain Nevile Rodwell Wilkinson King of Arms and Principal Herald of all that part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland called Ireland, with the title of Ulster. Wilkinson exercised this office, based in Dublin Castle, through a period of great political turmoil in Ireland until his death on December 22, 1940. The political circumstances in Ireland at this time led to the decision to return the office of Ulster to the College of Arms in London, with responsibility for Northern Ireland alone, and united with the office of Norroy.
On January 29, 1931, King George V had appointed Algar Henry Stafford Howard, M.C., as King of Arms and Principal Herald of the North Part of England, with the title of Norroy. Howard still held this office on April 1, 1943, when King George VI additionally appointed him King of Arms and Principal Herald of that part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland called Northern Ireland, without prejudice to his existing appointment as Norroy and with the title of Ulster to be borne after that of Norroy. Howard held these joint offices until his promotion to Garter the next year, and on June 2, 1944, King George VI appointed Sir Gerald Woods Wollaston, K.C.B, K.C.V.O., King of Arms and Principal Herald of the North Part of England and of Northern Ireland, with the title of Norroy and Ulster, which has remained the form of the office to this day. The present Norroy and Ulster, Robert John Baptist Noel, was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II on April 6, 2021. He proclaimed the accession of His Majesty The King at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland on September 10, 2022, the first time Ulster had performed such a duty in Ireland since the proclamation of King George V in Dublin on May 9, 1910.
Between 1943 and 1980, holders of the office of Norroy and Ulster used the arms of office of one of the two offices, or both arms impaled on one shield. In 1980, Queen Elizabeth II approved new arms for the joint office. These are: Quarterly Argent and Or a Cross Gules on a Chief per pale Azure and Gules a Lion passant guardant crowned between a Fleur-de-lis and a Harp Or. Norroy and Ulster King of Arms is also ex officio King of Arms, Knight Attendant, Registrar, and Keeper of the Records of the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, offices which are purely nominal since the death of the last Knight of the order.
Text taken from the College of Arms Newsletter, No. 71 April, 2023