Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brooke, Ralph

BROOKE, RALPH (1553-1625), herald, describes himself (MS. penes Coll. Arm.) as the son of Geoffrey Brooke (by his wife, Jane Hyde) and grandson of William Brooke of Lancashire, who was a cadet of the family of Brooke seated at Norton in Cheshire. But the entry of his admission into Merchant Taylors' School, on 3 July 1564, simply records the fact that his father was Geoffrey, and a shoemaker (Registers of M.T.S. i. 6). In 1576 he was made free of the Painter Stainers' Company, and four years afterwards was appointed Rouge Croix pursuivant in the College of Arms. In March 1593 he became York herald, but attained to no higher rank. That he was an accurate and painstaking genealogist there can be no doubt ; it seems equally clear that he was of a grasping and jealous nature, and much disliked by his fellow-officers in the Heralds' College. In 1597 Camden, who was not a professional herald, was made Clarenceux king-at-arms in recognition of his great learning. Brooke took umbrage at his intrusion into the college, and published, without date or printer's name, what he termed 'A Discoverie of certaine Errours published in print in the much-commended Britannia 1594, very prejudicial to the Discentes and Successions of the auncient Nobilitie of this Realme.' To this Camden replied ; and Vincent, who had the college with him, sided with Camden and exposed certain mistakes into which Brooke himself had fallen. The controversy was long and acrimonious, the only good result being that, through the researches of Brooke, Camden, and Vincent, the genealogies of the nobility were closely investigated, and the first attempt at a printed peerage was made. Brooke died 15 Oct. 1625, aged 73, and was buried in the church of Reculver, Kent. His quaint monument, whereon he is depicted in his tabard dress, has been often engraved, but it has unhappily disappeared from the newly built church. In addition to the work already mentioned, Brooke wrote 'A Second Discovery of Errors,' which was published from the manuscript by Anstis in 1723 ; and two editions (1619 and 1622) of 'A Catalogue and Succession of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marquisses, Earles, and Viscounts of the Realme of England since the Norman Conquest to this present yeare 1619. Together with their Armes, Wives and Children, the times of their deaths and burials, with any other memorable actions, collected by Raphe Brooke, Esquire, Yorke Herauld, Discouering and Reforming many errors committed by men of other Professions and lately published in Print to the great wronging of the Nobility and prejudice of his Majestie's Officers and Armes, who are onely appointed and sworne to deale faithfully in these causes,' printed by Jaggard.

[Dallaway's Heraldry, 1793, pp. 226-239 ; Noble's College of Arms ; Nichols's Herald and Genealogist, ii. ; for a full account of Brooke's quarrel with Vincent and Camden see Sir H. Nicolas's Life of Augustine Vincent (1827).]

C. J. R.