Wednesday, March 14, 2018

RICHMOND HERALD | Michael Maclagan, 1980-89~

Michael Maclagan (1914-2003),
Richmond Herald (1980-1989)
Michael Maclagan was a major heraldic presence in Oxford as Richmond Herald during the years 1980-89, and was active in this role after his retirement from Trinity College in 1981.

He was previously, from 1948, Slains Poursuivant and, from 1970, Portcullis Poursuivant.

During this time he was consulted frequently on matters of college arms and gave advice to, for example, St Antony's College ( and St Hilda's on their arms.

I knew him both as senior tutor at Trinity and as Librarian of the Oxford Union. He chaired the Library Committee, on which I served for a couple of terms.  

remember having the temerity to oppose purchase of a restaurant guidebook, because it had no entries for Oxford itself. (There were entries for nearby locations.) Maclagan's response was: "I was the consultant for the selection of the Oxford area restaurants. We considered them, on their merits." In the presence of such authority, I withdrew my objection.

Having read some novels where aristocrats were identified as having certain vocations, I once asked Maclagan what the acceptable jobs were for aristocrats, expecting him to say: "architect, barrister, physician..."  Instead, he peered down at me and said: "There are no acceptable jobs for aristocrats." It was clear that he then considered the conversation terminated. He was, of course, enjoying himself immensely.

He once was sent a book to review entitled "The MacLagan Family." He gave it a one-sentence review: "The name Maclagan is spelled with a lower-case L."

Richmond Heralds Since World War II
1943–1961 Sir Anthony Richard Wagner, KCB, KCVO, DLitt, FSA. Author of "Heraldry in England (Penguin, 1946).
1962–1967 Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stuart de la Lanne-Mirrlees, Esq.
1967–1980 John Philip Brooke Brooke-Little, Esq., CVO, FSA. Author of a two-part series in 1951 on the coats of arms of the Oxford colleges.
1980–1989 Michael Maclagan, Esq., CVO, FSA, FRHistS
1989–2010 Patric Dickinson, Esq., LVO
2010–present Clive Edwin Alexander Cheesman, Esq., PhD.

From the Telegraph: Sep 16, 2003

Michael Maclagan, who has died aged 89, was a historian of early medieval England and Byzantium, an eminent authority on genealogy and heraldry, and for more than 40 years a tutor in Modern History at Trinity College, Oxford, where he is remembered for the formidable range of his interests and his elegance and precision.

In the late 1970s, when he gave a series of lectures at Trinity on the Crusades, Maclagan would arrive, punctually, in his gown and mortar board, get out his gold pocket watch, open it and place it carefully – and slightly shakily – on the high lectern, then lecture for the precise time allotted.

He was also a long-serving member of the College of Arms. When taking the train to London for a day at the college, he would often kit himself out in a dark three-piece suit, a shirt with an unusually long 1930s turned-down collar, tie, bowler hat, umbrella and, occasionally, spats. Yet he never looked affected, just very old-fashioned, like a retired Guards officer of an earlier era who had simply never thought to change the way he dressed.

Michael Maclagan was born in London on April 14 1914 into a remarkable Anglo-Scots family which had produced doctors, scholars, clergymen, soldiers and colonial administrators. His father, Sir Eric Maclagan, was for many years director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. His paternal grandfather, William Maclagan, Archbishop of York, had crowned Queen Alexandra in 1902.

From Winchester, Maclagan went up, in 1932, to Christ Church, Oxford, where he became president of the Archaeological Society, dabbled in Conservative politics and took a First in History in 1935. It was noted of him at the time: "With equal ease will he discourse to you on Tariff Reform or trace your genealogy from Adam." After two years as a lecturer at Christ Church, he was elected a Fellow of Trinity in 1939.

Commissioned into the TA in 1938, Maclagan served during the war in the 16th/5th Lancers. In the later years of the war, he served in Military Operations in the War Office, where his fluency in Italian and Serbo-Croat helped him plot the course of the Trieste motorised division in the Balkans. He was also able to employ his genealogical talents in compiling a pedigree of the Abyssinian royal houses when planning their Order of Battle.

In 1946 he resumed his duties at Trinity where he filled a succession of offices - dean, librarian, senior tutor, vice-president and wine steward. Although he had a slightly detached, distant air, his students found a kind, courtly man who enjoyed the company of young people and had a keen, dry sense of humour. The travel writer Gavin Young, a former pupil of Maclagan's at Trinity, mentions him with (somewhat uncharacteristic) generosity in his book Slow Boat to China.

Away from college life, Maclagan was a stalwart of the Oxford Union for around 60 years, serving as Senior Librarian and Trustee. He occasionally took part in Union debates, a task he undertook with his customary wit and panache. In 1950, for example, speaking on a motion deploring the fall of the House of Stuart, he suggested that the Stuarts and the Hanoverians were equally immoral and the real question was which of the two royal houses was immoral in a more agreeable way. In 1973, he was to be found debating Women's Liberation with Mary Warnock.

Maclagan's imposing figure – he was 6ft 3in tall and held himself ramrod straight – is immortalised in an oil portrait painted of him in his full regalia as Richmond Herald which now hangs in the entrance to Trinity College dining hall. ...

[T]he fine book which he produced with the Czech armorist, Jiri Louda, Lines of Succession (1981), for which he contributed the narrative passages on the various European monarchies, proved to be his last.

Maclagan was sustained by his long and happy second marriage to Jean Garnett, whom he had met during his time at the War Office and married in 1949. At their house in Northmoor Road, north Oxford, the former home of J R R Tolkien, the Maclagans entertained generations of Trinity undergraduate historians with unstinting generosity. …

From The Independent:

The ideal retirement job awaited him at the College of Arms. Heraldry had been an abiding interest from childhood. He was a walking encyclopaedia of armorial knowledge and had an allied taste for state ceremonial. The Princess Royal (married to the Earl of Harewood, his mother's cousin) procured a seat for him at the 1937 Coronation. Later, he acted as a staff officer at the 1953 Coronation and the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969.

Meanwhile, in 1948, he had been made Slains Pursuivant, personal herald to the Countess of Erroll, Lord High Constable of Scotland, an honorific position that he held until his appointment as Portcullis Pursuivant in 1970. Thereafter he regularly donned the colourful garb of a royal herald for ceremonies at Westminster and Windsor.

Promoted to Richmond Herald in 1980, he did not go into professional practice as a herald until his retirement from Trinity the following year. The College of Arms benefited from his scholarship, and for Maclagan it was an agreeable postlude to his academic career.

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