George Edward Cokayne

George Edward Cokayne, FSA (29 April 1825 – 6 August 1911), was an English genealogist and long-serving herald at the College of Arms in London, who eventually rose to the rank of Clarenceux King of Arms. He wrote the authoritative and standard reference works The Complete Peerage and The Complete Baronetage.

George Cokayne

George Cokayne at work in 1900.
George Edward Adams

(1825-04-29)29 April 1825
Died6 August 1911(1911-08-06) (aged 86)
Alma materExeter College
OccupationGenealogist and herald
Known forThe Complete Peerage


Cokayne was born on 29 April 1825, with the surname Adams, being the son of William Adams by his wife the Hon. Mary Anne Cokayne, a daughter of Viscount Cullen. He was baptised "George Edward Adams". On 15 August 1873 he changed his surname by Royal Licence to Cokayne. (Such changes were frequently made to meet the terms of bequests from childless relatives, often in the maternal line, who wished to see their name and arms continue.[1])



He matriculated from Exeter College on 6 June 1844, and graduated BA in 1848 and MA in 1852. He was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 16 January 1850, and was called to the bar on 30 April 1853.[2]

College of Arms

He began his heraldic career at the College of Arms in London with an appointment in 1859 to the post of Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary, and was promoted in 1870 to the office of Lancaster Herald of Arms in Ordinary. In 1882 he was promoted to Norroy King of Arms, which office he held until his appointment as Clarenceux King of Arms in 1894, which he held until his death in 1911.[2]

The Complete Peerage

Cokayne wrote The Complete Peerage, the first edition of which was published between 1887 and 1898 [2]

Marriage and progeny

On 2 December 1856 he married Mary Dorothea Gibbs, daughter of George Henry Gibbs by his wife Caroline Crawley. The couple had eight children, of whom two sons and two daughters survived their father.[2] One of his sons, Brien, became Governor of the Bank of England from 1918 to 1920 and was ennobled in 1920 as Baron Cullen of Ashbourne.


He died on 6 August 1911 aged 86.


Coat of arms of George Edward Cokayne
A cock's head erased as in the arms.
Argent, 3 cocks gules with legs, beaks, etc. sable.[3]
Virtus in Arduis


  1. See for example Mark Rolle.
  2. Woods, Gabriel Stanley (1912). "Cokayne, George Edward" . Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. "Clarenceux King of Arms | British History Online". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
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