Saxon steed

The Saxon Steed (German: Sachsenross, Niedersachsenross, Welfenross, Westfalenpferd; Dutch: Twentse Ros; English: White Horse of Kent: Low Saxon: Witte Peerd) is a favorite heraldic motif of the Saxons.

Origin and past uses

The Saxon Steed originated in the tribal Duchy of Saxony. It is said that it originates from the black (heathen) and white (Christian) horse the Saxon leader Widukind rode on, or Odin's horse Sleipnir. There is also a very common roof-sign on (farm)houses with 2 horseheads which can refer to Hengist and Horsa, the quasi-mythical progenitors of the English nation who led the Anglo-Saxon migration to southern Britain in the 5th Century AD. It was later adopted by the House of Welf, whose original symbol was a golden lion on red ground. It has also been used in several provinces in Westphalia (therefore, it is also called Westfalenross, meaning "Westphalian steed", or Welfenross, meaning "Welf steed"). After this, it became the heraldic animal of the Kingdom of Hanover (since 1866 the Prussian Province of Hanover), of the Prussian Province of Westphalia and since 1922 of the Free State of Brunswick. This tradition continues in two modern federal States of Germany: Lower Saxony and North-Rhine Westphalia.

Modern uses

The white horse is similar to the one used in the coat of arms for the county of Kent in England, which is likely to have originated in the Rhineland area.

The coat of arms of the German state of Lower Saxony shows a white Saxon steed (Sachsenross) on a red background.

The steed became the coat of arms of the Province of Hanover as a province of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866 after it had been in use for the Duchy of Brunswick and the Kingdom of Hanover since 1814. It was even in use after the abolition of German monarchy after World War I until 1935, when state flags were prohibited by the Nazis and only the flag of Nazi Germany was to be used.

Coat of arms of Lower Saxony

After World War II, the Province of Hanover became an independent state on August 23, 1946, and used the steed as its coat of arms again. Brunswick, which it was an independent state as well, had made the same decision some weeks before on July 8, 1946. When these two states were merged into the new state of Lower Saxony (along with Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe), the Saxon steed became the unofficial coat of arms of the new state.

Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia

The Saxon steed is also shown in one of the three sections of the coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia, particularly associated with the area Westphalia.

Coat of arms of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Since 1714 the House of Hanover was joined in personal union with the United Kingdom. Therefore the Saxon Steed is found in the Royal arms of the Hanoverian period.


See also

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