World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Coat of Arms of England

Article Id: WHEBN0006585158
Reproduction Date:

Title: Coat of Arms of England  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, Three Lions, List of British flags, Royal coat of arms of Scotland, St Etheldreda's Church, Longhope, List of English flags
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Coat of Arms of England

"Royal Banner of England" redirects here. For the English heraldic flags used in battles and pageancy, see Royal Standards of England.
Royal Arms of England
lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure
Armiger Monarchs of England
Adopted High Middle Ages
(with various modifications)
Escutcheon Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure.
Supporters Various
Motto Dieu et mon droit
Orders Order of the Garter
Use National symbol of England

In heraldry, the Royal Arms of England[1] is a coat of arms symbolising England and its monarchs.[2] Its blazon is Gules, with three lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure,[3][4] meaning three identical gold lions (also known as leopards) with blue tongues and claws, walking and facing the observer, arranged in a column on a red background. This coat, designed in the High Middle Ages, has been variously combined with those of France, Scotland, Ireland, Nassau and Hanover, according to dynastic and other political changes affecting England, but has not itself been altered since the reign of Richard I.

Royal emblems depicting lions were first used by the Norman dynasty,[5][6][7] later a formal and consistent English heraldry system emerged during the 12th century. The escutcheon, or shield featuring three lions is traced to King Richard I of England's Great Seal of the Realm, which initially used a single lion rampant, or else two lions, but in 1198, was permanently altered to depict three lions passant.[4][5][6][7] In 1340, King Edward III laid claim to the throne of France and signified his pretence by quartering the Royal Arms of England with the Royal Arms of France.[5] This quartering was adjusted, abandoned and restored intermittently throughout the Middle Ages as the relationship between England and France changed. After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when England and the Kingdom of Scotland entered a personal union, the arms of England and Scotland were combined in what has now become the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.[8] It appears in a similar capacity to represent England in the Arms of Canada and the Queen's Personal Canadian Flag.[9] The coat of three lions continues to represent England on several coins of the pound sterling, forms the basis of several emblems of English national sports teams,[10][11] and endures as one of the most recognisable national symbols of England.[2]

When the Royal Arms is in the format of a heraldic flag, it is variously known as the Royal Banner of England,[12] the Banner of the Royal Arms,[13] the Banner of the King of England,[14][15] or by the misnomer of the Royal Standard of England.[note 1] This Royal Banner differs from England's national flag, St George's Cross, in that it does not represent any particular area or land, but rather symbolises the sovereignty vested in the rulers thereof.[3]



Lions had previously been used by the Norman dynasty as royal emblems, and arms have been attributed to kings who pre-dated the systematization of hereditary English heraldry that occurred in the second half of the 12th century.[5] King Henry II is thought to have used a coat with two lions on it;[17] his children experimented with different combinations of lions. Richard the Lionheart used a single lion rampant, or perhaps two lions affrontés, on his first seal,[4] but later used three lions passant in his 1198 Great Seal of England, and thus established the lasting design of the Royal Arms of England.[4][17] Although King John had a seal in 1177, with two lions passant guardant, the three golden lions passant on a red shield were used as the Royal Arms (or King's Arms) by John, Henry III, Edward I, and Edward II.[4]


In 1340, following the death of King Charles IV of France, Edward III asserted a claim to the French throne through his mother Isabella of France. In addition to initiating the Hundred Years' War, Edward III expressed his claim in heraldic form by quartering the royal arms of England with the Arms of France. This quartering continued until 1801, with intervals in 1360–1369 and 1420–1422.[4]

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, the throne of England was inherited by the Scottish House of Stuart, resulting in the Union of the Crowns: the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland were united in a personal union under King James I of England and VI of Scotland.[18] As a consequence, the Royal Arms of England and Scotland were combined in the king's new personal arms. Nevertheless, although referencing the personal union with Scotland and Ireland, the Royal Arms of England remained distinct from the Royal Arms of Scotland, until the two realms were joined in a political union in 1707, leading to a unified Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.[8]

Escutcheon Period Description
1154–1189 Arms of Henry II of England, duke of Normandy, has no coat of arms directly attested for him. Based on the bearings of his immediate family, it has been deduced that he most likely bore a coat with two lions passant (tinctures unknown). John Lackland (1166 † 1216; later King John) as Lord of Ireland and Count of Mortain may also have used such a coat[19] Only by later tradition did Henry II come to be said to have used the arms that now designate the Duchy of Normandy (gules, two lions passant guardant in pale or)'[20]
1189–1198 The arms of Richard I are only known from two armorial seals, and hence the tinctures can not be determined. His First Great Seal showed one lion on half of the shield. It is debated whether this was meant to represent two lions combatant or a single lion, and if the latter, whether the direction in which the lion is facing is relevant or simply an artistic liberty. A simple lion rampant is most likely.[21]
The arms on the second Great Seal of King Richard I, used by his successors until 1340: three golden lions passant guardant, on a red field.[4][5]
King Edward III quartered the Royal Arms of England with the Royal Arms of France – the fleurs-de-lis on a blue field – representing his claim to the French throne.[5][22]
1395–1399 King Richard II impaled the Royal Arms of England with the attributed arms of King Edward the Confessor.[5][22]
1406–1422 King Henry IV, imitating Charles VI of France, reduced the fleurs-de-lis to three.[5][22]
King Henry VI impaled the French and English arms, symbolising the dual monarchy of England and France.[22]
King Edward IV restored the arms of King Henry IV.[22]
1554–1558 Queen Mary I and King Philip impaled their arms.[5][22] Although Queen Mary I's father, King Henry VIII, assumed the title of King of Ireland and this was further conferred upon King Philip, the arms were not altered to feature the Kingdom of Ireland.
1558–1603 Queen Elizabeth I restored the arms of King Henry IV.[5]
James VI, King of Scots, inherited the English and Irish thrones in 1603 in the Union of the Crowns, and quartered the Royal Arms of England with those of Scotland. The Royal Arms of Ireland was added to represent the Kingdom of Ireland. Last used by Queen Anne, this was the final version of the Royal Arms of England before being subsumed into the Royal Arms of Great Britain.[5][22]
1689–1694 King James II is deposed and replaced with his daughter Mary and son-in-law and nephew William. As co-monarchs, they impaled their arms: William bore the Royal Arms with an escutcheon of Nassau (the royal house to which William belonged) added (a golden lion rampant on a blue field), while Mary bore the Royal Arms undifferenced.[23]
1694–1702 After the death of Queen Mary II, King William III reigned alone, and used his arms only.[5]
1702–1707 Queen Anne inherited the throne upon the death of King William III, and the Royal Arms returned to the 1603 version.[5]

Union with Scotland and Ireland

On 1 May 1707, the kingdoms of England and Scotland were merged to form that of Great Britain; this was reflected by impaling their arms in a single quarter. The claim to the French throne continued, albeit passively, until it was mooted by the French Revolution and the formation of the French First Republic in 1792.[4] During the peace negotiations at the Conference of Lille, from July to November 1797, the French delegates demanded that the King of Great Britain abandon the title of King of France as a condition of peace. The Acts of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Under King George III of the United Kingdom, a proclamation of 1 January 1801 set the royal style and titles and modified the Royal Arms, removing the French quarter and putting the arms of England, Scotland and Ireland on the same structural level, with the dynastic arms of Hanover moved to an inescutcheon.[4]


English heraldry flourished as a working art up to around the 17th century, when it assumed a mainly ceremonial role.[4] The Royal Arms of England continued to embody information relating to English history.[4] Although the Acts of Union 1707 placed England within the Kingdom of Great Britain, prompting new, British Royal Arms, the Royal Arms of England has continued to endure as one of the national symbols of England,[2] and has a variety of active uses. For instance, the coats of arms of both The Football Association[10][24] and the England and Wales Cricket Board[25] have a design featuring three lions passant, based on the historic Royal Arms of England. In 1997 (and again in 2002), the Royal Mint issued a British one pound (£1) coin featuring three lions passant to represent England.[26] To celebrate St George's Day, in 2001, Royal Mail issued first– and second-class postage stamps with the Royal Crest of England (a crowned lion), and the Royal Arms of England (three lions passant) respectively.[27]

Crest, supporters and other parts of the achievement

Various accessories to the escutcheon (shield) were added and modified by successive English monarchs. These included a crest (with mantling, helm and crown); supporters (with a compartment); a motto; and the insignia of an order of knighthood. These various components made up the full achievement of arms.[22]

Royal crest

The first addition to the shield was in the form of a crest borne above the shield. It was during the reign of Edward III that the crest began to be widely used in English heraldry. The first representation of a royal crest was in Edward's third Great Seal, which showed a helm above the arms, and thereon a gold lion passant guardant standing upon a chapeau, and bearing a royal crown on its head.[29] The design underwent minor variations until it took on its present form in the reign of Henry VIII: "The Royal Crown proper, thereon a lion statant guardant Or, royally crowned also proper".[29]

The exact form of crown used in the crest varied over time. Until the reign of Henry VI it was usually shown as an open circlet adorned with fleurs-de-lys or stylised leaves. On Henry's first seal for foreign affairs the design was altered with the circlet decorated by alternating crosses formy and fleurs-de-lys. From the reign of Edward IV the crown bore a single arch, altered to a double arch by Henry VII. The design varied in details until the late 17th century, but since that time has consisted of a jewelled circlet, above which are alternating crosses formy and fleurs-de-lys. From this spring two arches decorated with pearls, and at their intersection an orb surmounted by a cross formy.[29] A cap of crimson velvet is shown within the crown, with the cap's ermine lining appearing at the base of the crown in lieu of a torse.[29] The shape of the arches of the crown has been represented differently at different times, and can help to date a depiction of the crest.[29]

The helm on which the crest was borne was originally a simple steel design, sometimes with gold embellishments. In the reign of Elizabeth I a pattern of helm unique to the Royal Arms was introduced. This is a gold helm with a barred visor, facing the viewer.[30] The decorative mantling (a stylised cloth cloak that hangs from the helm) was originally of red cloth lined with ermine, but was altered to cloth of gold lined ermine by Elizabeth.[30]


Animal supporters, standing on either side of the shield to hold and guard it, first appeared in English heraldry in the 15th century. Originally, they were not regarded as an integral part of arms, and were subject to frequent change. Various animals were sporadically shown supporting the Royal Arms of England, but it was only with the reign of Edward IV that their use became consistent. Supporters fell under the regulation of the Kings of Arms in the Tudor period. The heralds of that time also prochronistically created supporters for earlier monarchs, and although these attributed supporters were never used by the monarchs concerned, they were later used to signify them on public buildings or monuments completed after their deaths, for instance at St. George's Chapel, in Windsor Castle.[31][32]

The boar adopted by Richard III prompted William Collingbourne's quip "The Rat, the Cat, and Lovell the Dog, Rule all England under the Hog",[note 2][22] and William Shakespeare's derision in Richard III.[note 3][33] The red dragon, a symbol of the Tudor dynasty, was added upon the accession of the Henry VII.[22] After the Union of the Crowns, the supporters of the arms of the British monarch have remained as the Lion and the Unicorn, representing England and Scotland respectively.[22]

Period Description
Edward III


Lion and falcon (attributed); Two lions; two angels
Richard II


Two white harts (attributed)
Henry IV


Lion and antelope; antelope and swan (attributed); Two angels
Henry V


Lion and antelope (attributed)
Henry VI


Two antelopes argent; lion and panther; antelope and tiger (attributed)
Edward IV


Lion or and bull sable; lion argent and hart argent; two lions argent
Edward V


Lion argent and hart argent, gorged and chained or
Richard III


Lion or and boar argent; two boars argent; boar argent and bull sable
Henry VII


Dragon gules and greyhound argent; two greyhounds argent; lion or and dragon gules
Henry VIII


Lion or and dragon gules; dragon gules and bull sable; dragon gules and greyhound argent; dragon gules and cock argent
Edward VI


Lion or and dragon gules
Mary I


Lion or and dragon gules; lion or and greyhound argent
Philip and Mary I


Eagle sable and lion or
Elizabeth I


Lion or and dragon or; lion or and greyhound argent
James I

From 1603

Lion gardant or, regally crowned proper and unicorn argent, armed unguled, and crined or, gorged with a coronet composed of crosses paty and fleurs-de-lis or, a chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexing over the back or

Garter and motto

Main article: Order of the Garter

Edward III founded the Order of the Garter in about 1348. Since then, the full achievement of the Royal Arms has included a representation of the Garter, encircling the shield. This is a blue circlet with gold buckle and edging, bearing the order's Old French motto Honi soit qui mal y pense ("Shame be to him who thinks evil of it") in gold capital letters.[30]

A motto, placed on a scroll below the Royal Arms of England, seems to have first been adopted by Henry IV in the early 15th century. His motto was Souverayne ("sovereign").[30] His son, Henry V adopted the motto Dieu et mon droit ("God and my right"). While this motto has been exclusively used since the accession of George I in 1714, and continues to form part of the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom, other mottoes were used by certain monarchs in the intervening period.[30] Veritas temporis filia ("truth is the daughter of time") was the motto of Mary I (1553–1558), Semper Eadem ("always the same") was used by Elizabeth I (1558–1603) and Anne (1702–1714), James I (1603–1625) sometimes used Beati pacifici ("blessed are the peacemakers"), while William III (1689–1702) used the motto of the House of Orange: Je maintiendrai ("I will maintain").[30]

As a banner

Not to be confused with the Royal Standards of England.

The Royal Banner of England is the English banner of arms and so has always borne the Royal Arms of England—the personal arms of England's reigning monarch. When displayed in war or battle, this banner signaled that the sovereign was present in person.[16] Because the Royal Banner depicted the Royal Arms of England, its design and composition changed throughout the Middle Ages.[16] It is variously known as the Royal Banner of England, the Banner of the Royal Arms,[13] the Banner of the King of England, or by the misnomer of the Royal Standard of England; Arthur Charles Fox-Davies explains that it is "a misnomer to term the banner of the Royal Arms the Royal Standard", because "the term standard properly refers to the long tapering flag used in battle, by which an overlord mustered his retainers in battle".[13] The archaeologist and antiquarian Charles Boutell also makes this distinction.[16] This Royal Banner differs from England's national flag, St George's Cross, in that it does not represent any particular area or land, but rather symbolises the sovereignty vested in the rulers thereof.[3]

When displayed in war or battle, this banner signaled that the sovereign was present in person.[16] Because the Royal Banner depicted the Royal Arms of England, so its design and composition changed throughout the Middle Ages.[16]

In other banners

Other roles and manifestations

Several ancient English towns displayed the Royal Arms of England upon their seals and, when it occurred to them to adopt insignia of their own, used the Royal Arms, albeit with modification, as their inspiration.[36] For instance, in the arms of New Romney, the field is changed from red to blue.[36] Hereford changes the lions from gold to silver, and in the 17th century was granted a blue border charged with silver saltires in allusion to its siege by a Scottish army during the English Civil War.[36] The town council of Faversham changes only the hindquarters of the three lions to silver.[35] Berkshire County Council bore arms with two golden lions in reference to its Royal patronage and the Norman kings' influence upon the early history of Berkshire.[36]

The Royal Arms of England features on the tabard, the distinctive traditional garment of English officers of arms.[37] These garments were worn by heralds when performing their original duties—making royal or state proclamations and announcing tournaments. Since 1484 they have been part of the Royal Household.[38] Tabards featuring the Royal Arms continue to be worn at several traditional ceremonies, such as the annual procession and service of the Order of the Garter at Windsor Castle, the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster, the coronation of the British monarch at Westminster Abbey, and state funerals in the United Kingdom.[37]

See also

  • Royal Badges of England




Template:Royal heraldry in the United Kingdom Template:Kingdom of England

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.