What do we have here?

Lions, flowers, chains, crowns... and more! There are so many images and symbols that make up the Royal Arms and they all have been chosen to represent something specific.

Roll your mouse over the Royal Arms below and click to explore what each element is
, why they were chosen and what they mean.

CCT_Heraldy Crest Crown Varient Shield Mantling Garter Lion Unicorn Moto Compartment
  • Crest
  • Crown
  • Varient Shield
  • Mantling
  • Garter
  • Lion
  • Unicorn
  • Moto
  • Compartment
 
 
Crest

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The crest is a collection of symbols on top of the helmet. This royal one is a splendid lion standing on the crown with his head turned towards us, wearing a gold crown himself.

The crest is based on real crests that were attached to a knight’s helmet so he could be easily distinguished in battle. What began as a practical object degenerated into farce when it became a drawn formality, rather than worn. This resulted in crests in the shape of strange ships, clouds or enormous monsters, for example, which would have considerably hampered a knight if they had been worn.

 

Crown

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The helm, or helmet, sits on top of the shield and is based on the real helmets that were worn in battle.

The shape of the helm was originally a simple, cylindrical steel design with a flat top and sometimes gold embellishments. This developed into more elaborate designs, which would never have been used on a real battlefield, but looked more convincing.

In the reign of Elizabeth I, a unique style of helm was designed for the Royal Arms – gold with a barred visor, facing the viewer – this has been used ever since.

 

Royal Arms of England

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The shape of the shield has evolved from its Medieval roots of a long, large ‘kite’ shape in the late 12th century into the ‘flat iron’ shape used today: mirroring the change in real shields. It is divided into four parts, or quarters:

First and fourth quarters (top left and bottom right): In both parts there are 3 golden lions, one above the other, on a red background, which represent England. They are walking along facing out with flexed blue claws and tongues sticking out.

Second quarter (top right): A red lion on a gold background lives here, which represents Scotland. He stands on his hind legs facing forward with blue flexed claws and his tongue sticking out. It has a double border decorated with fleur de lis which alternate in direction.

Third quarter (bottom left): Here a golden harp with silver strings sits on a blue background, which represents Ireland.

 

Mantling

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Tied to the helmet (helm) on top of the shield is the mantling. It is a cloth of gold lined with ermine fur.

The mantling is based on the small cloth or cloak that would hang from a knight's helmet, over his shoulders, to protect him from the elements. It was often depicted as torn or jagged - perhaps alluding to the cuts and slashes it would have received in battle, which would have greatly enhanced a knight’s reputation on his return home.

The mantling is usually in the principal colours (tinctures) and metals of the shield. Generally a colour on the outside and metal or fur in the lining is depicted, however; the Royal Arms is a rare exception to this as it uses a metal and a fur and no colour. It was originally a red cloth lined with ermine fur, but Elizabeth I altered it.

 

Garter

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Encircling the shield is the Order of the Garter. It is a French Royal blue ‘belt’ marked with the motto Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense, which means Shame on Him who thinks Evil of it.

The Order of the Garter was founded by Edward III in 1348 – inspired by King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is a symbol for one of the oldest and most senior orders of chivalry.

Although it was founded by Edward III, it was King Henry VIII who added the Order of the Garter to the Royal Arms. 

 

Lion

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The supporters are the living animals that stand on either side of the shield to hold and guard it. On the left, most important, side is a crowned, golden lion looking towards us, which represents England. On the rights is a silver Unicorn with a golden horn, mane, beard and hooves, which represents Scotland. He is chained to the compartment and has a coronet around his neck with alternating crosses and fleur de lis.

Originally, in England, supporters were not integral to the Royal Arms and were subject to frequent change. It was only in the 15th century that their use became consistent. Since then, all manner of imaginary and real beasts have been used, for example: greyhound, dragon, hart and bull.

 

Unicorn

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The supporters are the living animals that stand on either side of the shield to hold and guard it. On the left, most important, side is a crowned, golden lion looking towards us, which represents England. On the rights is a silver Unicorn with a golden horn, mane, beard and hooves, which represents Scotland. He is chained to the compartment and has a coronet around his neck with alternating crosses and fleur de lis.

Originally, in England, supporters were not integral to the Royal Arms and were subject to frequent change. It was only in the 15th century that their use became consistent. Since then, all manner of imaginary and real beasts have been used, for example: greyhound, dragon, hart and bull.

 

Moto

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Dieu et Mon Droit means God and my Right. It is in French, as that was the language of the Royal Court at the time of introduction by Edward III in the 14th century. In the Middle Ages it would have been interpreted that the monarchs were answerable only to God. 

This motto is not obligatory and although most monarchs used it, there were a handful that didn’t, such as Queen Anne who used Semper Eadem, which means Always the Same.

 

Compartment

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The lion and unicorn supporters must have something to stand on and this can vary depending on the heraldic artist. On the Royal Arms, it is a grassy mound incorporating the plant emblems of Scotland (thistle), Ireland (shamrock) and England (rose).

 

 

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