Revealing royal arms

Uncover the beauty & meaning of these historical & political pieces of art

St Werburgh's Church, Derby. Close up of the Royal Arms of Queen Anne.

Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee could not be a more appropriate time to consider a fascinating, though often overlooked, feature of churches: the Royal Arms.

At one time we could have seen them displayed in nearly every Anglican Church in the land. Now we only see them in about 15% of our churches, but fortunately we have nearly one hundred magnificent examples in our care.

Find out what inspired us


What are they & why are they important?

The Royal Arms we see today have evolved over nine centuries, since Richard the Lionheart chose three lions to represent England: a symbol of strength and ferocity which would have immediately identified him in the midst of battle. The shield, crest, helm and mantling, which are all important elements of the Arms, also originated from Royal Arms in the stained glass at Kings College, Cambridge UniversityMedieval armour.

The Royal Arms were also used to symbolise the King’s authority and, after Henry VIII became Supreme Head of the Church of England in 1534, they began to appear in churches, representing the connection between the monarch and the church.

Now they represent the Sovereignty of the Queen, which is why they appear on the front of passports, official forms, police stations and Court Houses. They also illustrate the history of the United Kingdom…

By following the timeline of the Royal Arms, we can journey through the artistic changes from Stuart exuberance, through Georgian dignity to Victorian realism; and the political and territorial history from Edward III’s claim to the French throne, to the formation of the United Kingdom with the unions with Scotland and Ireland.

Feel inspired to learn about the history of the Royal Arms, of their life in churches and about our rich royal history... your discovery starts here...

We're surrounded!

English currency coins with parts of the Royal Arms on them from the Royal Mint MuseumThe Royal Arms are all around us. You come into contact with them nearly every day of your lives, but may not have noticed until now...

Click here to find out where to spot Royal Arms

Time changes everything

An example of the use of yellow ochre paint instead of gold on a Royal ArmsRoyal Arms have been in use for around 900 years, but they haven't always looked the same. How have they changed? What has influenced these changes?

Click here to find out more

And so it began...

An example of gold being used on the unicorn's mane, chain, coronet and horn on a Royal ArmsThere is a rich history that surrounds the Royal Arms: why were they created? What has influenced them? What is their symbolic meaning?

Learn about the history by clicking here

Conserving art & politics

An example of gold being cleaned on the unicorn's chain on a Royal ArmsNot only are Royal Arms vital in telling of our political and religious history, but they are stunning pieces of art, alive with the faith of the people. They must be protected.

Find out how we conserve Royal Arms