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Royal Arms of England
Royal Arms of England (1198-1340).svg
Armiger Monarchs of England
Adopted High Middle Ages
Blazon Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or armed and langued azure.
Supporters Various
Motto Dieu et mon droit
Order(s) Order of the Garter
Use Quartered in current royal arms;
National symbol of England

The Royal Arms of England are the armorials (or coat of arms) first adopted in a fixed form at the start of the age of heraldry (circa 1200) as personal arms by the Plantagenet kings who ruled England from 1154. In the popular mind they have come to symbolise the nation of England, although according to heraldic usage nations do not bear arms, only persons and corporations do. The blazon of the Arms of Plantagenet is: Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure, signifying three identical gold lions (also known as leopards) with blue tongues and claws, walking past but facing the observer, arranged in a column on a red background. Although the tincture azure of tongue and claws is not cited in many blazons, they are historically a distinguishing feature of the Arms of England. This coat, designed in the High Middle Ages, has been variously combined with those of the Kings of France, Scotland, a symbol of Ireland, the House of Nassau and the Kingdom of Hanover, according to dynastic and other political changes occurring in England, but has not altered since it took a fixed form in the reign of King Richard I (1189–1199), the second Plantagenet king.

Although in England the official blazon refers to "lions", French heralds historically used the term "leopard" to represent the lion passant guardant, and hence the arms of England, no doubt, are more correctly blazoned, "leopards". Without doubt the same animal was intended, but different names were given according to the position; in later times the name lion was given to both.

Royal emblems depicting lions were first used by the Norman dynasty, later a formal and consistent English heraldry system emerged at the end of the 12th century. The earliest surviving representation of an escutcheon, or shield, displaying three lions is that on the Great Seal of King Richard I (1189-1199), which initially displayed one or two lions rampant, but in 1198 was permanently altered to depict three lions passant, perhaps representing Richard I's principal three positions as King of the English, Duke of the Normans, and Duke of the Aquitaines. In 1340, King Edward III of England laid claim to the throne of France, and thus adopted the Royal arms of France which he quartered with his paternal arms, the Royal Arms of England. Significantly he placed the French arms in the 1st and 4th quarters of greatest honour, signifying the feudal superiority of France over England (The King of France was the feudal overlord of the Duke of Aquitaine). This quartering was adjusted, abandoned and restored intermittently throughout the Middle Ages as the relationship between England and France changed. When the French king altered his arms from semée of fleur-de-lys, to only three, the English quartering eventually followed suit. After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland entered a personal union, the arms of England and Scotland were marshalled (combined) in what has now become the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. It appears in a similar capacity to represent England in the Arms of Canada and on the Queen's Personal Canadian Flag. 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 (although with altered tinctures) and endures as one of the most recognisable national symbols of England.

When the Royal Arms are in the format of an heraldic flag, it is variously known as the Royal Banner of England, the Banner of the Royal Arms, the Banner of the King (Queen) of England, or by the misnomer the Royal Standard of England. This Royal Banner differs from England's national flag, the 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.



Richard I 2nd seal
The second Great Seal of King Richard the Lionheart (1189–1199) was the first Royal emblem of England to feature three lions
See also: English heraldry and Armorial of Plantagenet
Henry III, King of England, coat of arms (Royal MS 14 C VII, 100r)
The three lions passants guardants or attributed to William I and his Plantagenet successors (Henry I, Stephen, Henry II, John, Henry III) by Matthew Paris in Historia Anglorum and Chronica Majora in the 1250s.

Lions had previously been used by the Norman dynasty as royal emblems, and Attributed arms have been invented for kings who pre-dated the systematisation of hereditary English heraldry that occurred in the second half of the 12th century. King Henry II of England (1133–1189) had used a coat with a lion on it; his children experimented with different combinations of lions. King Richard I (1189–1199) used a single lion rampant, or perhaps two lions affrontés, on his first seal, 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. Although King John (1199–1216) had a seal in 1177, with two lions passant guardant, the three lions passant or on a field gules were used as the Royal Arms (or King's Arms) by Kings John (1199–1216), Henry III (1216–1272), Edward I (1272–1307), and Edward II (1307–1327).


See also: English claims to the French throne and Union of the Crowns

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.

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 VI and I. 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.

Escutcheon Period Description
Arms of William the Conqueror (1066-1087).svg
1066–1154 William the Conqueror is said to have brought two golden lions passant, the symbol of the Duchy of Normandy, to England, following the Norman Conquest. The blazon of the attributed arms of William I, William II and Henry I is "Gules, two lions passant guardant in pale or".
Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg
1133–1189 Arms of Henry II, King of England, and Duke of Normandy. 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)'
Arms of England (1189-1198).svg

Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg Royal Arms of England (1189-1198).svg
1189–1198 The arms of Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart) 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.
Royal Arms of England (1198-1340).svg
The arms on the second Great Seal of King Richard the Lionheart, used by his successors until 1340: Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or (Three golden lions on a red field, representing the ruler of the Kingdom of England, Duchy of Normandy and the Duchy of Aquitaine).
Royal Arms of England (1340-1367).svg
King Edward III adopted the Royal Arms of France Azure semé of fleurs de lys or (powdering of fleurs-de-lis on a blue field) and quartered the Royal Arms of England – representing his claim to the French throne.
Royal Arms of England (1395-1399).svg
1395–1399 King Richard II impaled the Royal Arms of England with the attributed arms of King Edward the Confessor.
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg
1406–1422 King Henry IV, imitating Charles VI of France, reduced the fleurs-de-lis to three.
Royal Arms of England (1470-1471).svg
King Henry VI impaled the French and English arms, symbolising the dual monarchy of England and France.
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg
King Edward IV restored the arms of King Henry IV.
Royal Arms of England (1554-1558).svg
1554–1558 Queen Mary I and King Philip impaled their arms. Philip's arms were: A. Arms quarterly Castile and Leon, B. per pale Aragon and Aragon-Sicily, the whole enté en point Granada; in base quarterly Austria, Burgundy ancient, Burgundy modern and Brabant, with an escutcheon (in the nombril point) per pale Flanders and Tyrol. 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.
Arms of Philip II of Spain as Monarch of Milan (1554-1558).svg As sovereigns of Milan, Mary and Philip added an escutcheon of the Duchy of Milan used since the time of the Sforza: It presented the Biscione, an azure serpent in the act of consuming a human, showing in argent and quartering with the Imperial eagle (the earlier single-headed) on a shield or. The order in what are shown the English and French arms on English quarters is altered respect the usual due to French Claims to the Duchy.
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg
1558–1603 Queen Elizabeth I restored the arms of King Henry IV.

Union with Scotland and Ireland

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom
The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom as used by Queen Elizabeth II from 1953 contains that of England in the first and fourth quarters
See also: Union of the Crowns, Commonwealth of England, Acts of Union 1707, and Acts of Union 1800

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. 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.

Escutcheon Period Description
Royal Arms of Great Britain (1707-1714).svg
1707–1714 The impaled arms of England and Scotland reflecting their merging into one kingdom of "Great Britain".
Royal Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801).svg
1714–1801 The 2nd quarter was replaced with a set of arms showing the origins of the House of Hanover as a result of the Act of Settlement.
Royal Arms of United Kingdom (1801-1816).svg
1801–1816 The arms showing the status of the constituent realms of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland and Ireland. The Hanoverian dynastic arms have been moved to an inescutcheon with an electoral bonnet.
Royal Arms of United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
1816–1837 The arms showing Hanover raised to the status of a kingdom after the Napoleonic wars.
Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
1837–present The Hanoverian dynastic arms have been dropped on the accession of Queen Victoria. As Hanover followed the salic law, she could not accede to the throne of Hanover.


See also: National symbols of England

English heraldry flourished as a working art up to around the 17th century, when it assumed a mainly ceremonial role. The Royal Arms of England continued to embody information relating to English history. 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, and has a variety of active uses. For instance, the coats of arms of both The Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board 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. 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.

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.

Royal crest

Coat of Arms of England (-1340)
The original royal crest as introduced by Edward III, borne upon a chapeau and with a red mantling lined in ermine. The steel helm has gold embellishments.

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. 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".

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. 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. 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.

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. 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.


Royal Arms of England at King's College, Cambridge (cropped)
The supporters of the Royal Arms of England, such as the dragon and greyhound seen here at King's College, Cambridge, can identify specific monarchs and assist with dating ancient buildings.

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.

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", and William Shakespeare's derision in Richard III. The red dragon, a symbol of the Tudor dynasty, was added upon the accession of the Henry VII. 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.

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

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.

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"). 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. 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").

As a banner

See also: Heraldic flag
Funeral Elisabeth (cropped)
At her funeral, the bier of Elizabeth I is accompanied by the banners of her royal ancestors, each banner being impaled: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, John and Isabella of Angoulême, Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, Edward II and Isabella of France, Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, Edmund of Langley and Isabella of Castile, Richard of Conisburgh and Anne de Mortimer, Richard duke of York and Cicely Neville, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

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 signalled that the sovereign was present in person. Because the Royal Banner depicted the Royal Arms of England, its design and composition changed throughout the Middle Ages. It is variously known as the Royal Banner of England, the Banner of the Royal Arms, 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". The archaeologist and antiquarian Charles Boutell also makes this distinction. 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.

In other banners

Other roles and manifestations

See also: List of arms of the county councils of England
Arms of Faversham Town Council
The Arms of Faversham Town Council is an example of the Royal Arms of England modified into a distinct civic emblem.

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. For instance, in the arms of New Romney, the field is changed from red to blue. 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. The town council of Faversham changes only the hindquarters of the three lions to silver. 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.

The Royal Arms of England features on the tabard, the distinctive traditional garment of English officers of arms. 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. 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.

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