Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom
The royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, or the Royal Arms for short, is the official coat of arms of the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. These arms are used by the Queen in her official capacity as monarch of the United Kingdom. Variants of the Royal Arms are used by other members of the British royal family, by the British Government in connection with the administration and government of the country, and some courts and legislatures in a number of Commonwealth realms. In Scotland, there exists a separate version of the Royal Arms, a variant of which is used by the Scotland Office and the Judiciary. The arms in banner form serve as basis for the monarch's official flag, known as the Royal Standard.
|Royal coat of arms|
of the United Kingdom
|Armiger||Elizabeth II in Right of the United Kingdom|
|Crest||A golden lion, royally crowned and standing on a royal crown; gold and ermine mantling|
|Blazon||Quarterly: 1 and 4 England, 2 Scotland, 3 Ireland; quarters for England and Scotland are exchanged in Scotland.|
|Supporters||A golden lion and a silver unicorn|
|Compartment||Tudor rose, Shamrock, and Thistle|
|Motto||French: Dieu et mon droit (God and my right)|
|Order(s)||Order of the Garter|
|Earlier version(s)||see below|
|Use||On all Acts of Parliament; the cover of all UK passports; various government departments; adapted for the reverse of coins of the pound sterling (2008)|
In the standard variant used outside of Scotland, the shield is quartered, depicting in the first and fourth quarters the three passant guardant lions of England; in the second, the rampant lion and double tressure flory-counterflory of Scotland; and in the third, a harp for Ireland. The crest is a statant guardant lion wearing the St Edward's Crown, himself on another representation of that crown. The dexter supporter is a likewise crowned English lion; the sinister, a Scottish unicorn. According to legend a free unicorn was considered a very dangerous beast; therefore the heraldic unicorn is chained, as were both supporting unicorns in the royal coat of arms of Scotland.
In the greenery below, a thistle, Tudor rose and shamrock are depicted, representing Scotland, England and Ireland respectively. This armorial achievement comprises the motto, in French, of English monarchs, Dieu et mon Droit (God and my Right), which has descended to the present royal family as well as the Garter circlet which surrounds the shield, inscribed with the Order's motto, in French, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks evil). The official blazon of the Royal Arms is:
Quarterly, first and fourth Gules three Lions passant gardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure (for England), second quarter Or a Lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland), third quarter Azure a Harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland), the whole surrounded by the Garter; for a Crest, upon the Royal helm the Imperial Crown Proper, thereon a Lion statant gardant Or imperially crowned Proper; Mantling Or and Ermine; for Supporters, dexter a Lion rampant gardant Or crowned as the Crest, sinister a Unicorn Argent armed, crined and unguled Proper, gorged with a Coronet Or composed of Crosses patées and Fleurs-de-lis a Chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexed over the back also Or. Motto "Dieu et mon Droit" in the compartment below the shield, with the Union Rose, Shamrock and Thistle engrafted on the same stem.
The Royal Arms as shown above may only be used by the Queen herself. They also appear in courtrooms, since the monarch is deemed to be the fount of judicial authority in the United Kingdom and law courts comprise part of the ancient royal court (thus so named). Judges are officially Crown representatives, demonstrated by the display of the Royal Arms behind the judge's bench in almost all UK courts; notable exceptions include the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which displays its own badge and flag to symbolize its nationwide role, the magistrates' court in the City of London, where behind the Justices of the Peace stands a sword upright flanked by the arms of the City and the Crown. In addition, the Royal Arms cannot be displayed in courtrooms or on court-house exteriors in Northern Ireland, except for the courtrooms of the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast and the courts in Armagh, Banbridge, Downpatrick, Magherafelt, or Omagh, and the exterior of court buildings that had them in place prior to the 2002 law.
As the United Kingdom is governed in the monarch's name, the British Government also uses the Royal Arms as a national symbol of the United Kingdom, and, in that capacity, the coat of arms can be seen on several government documents and forms, passports, in the entrance to embassies and consulates, etc. However, when used by the government and not by the monarch personally, the coat of arms is often represented without the helm. This is also the case with the sovereign's Scottish arms, a version of which is used by the Scotland Office.
The Royal Arms have regularly appeared on the coinage produced by the Royal Mint including, for example, from 1663, the Guinea and, from 1983, the British one pound coin. In 2008, a new series of designs for all seven coins of £1 and below was unveiled by the Royal Mint, every one of which is drawn from the Royal Arms. The full Royal Arms appear on the one pound coin, and sections appear on each of the other six, such that they can be put together like a puzzle to make another complete representation of the Royal Arms. The series was replaced in 2016 by the Nations of the Crown bi-metallic coin.
The monarch grants Royal Warrants to select businesses and tradespeople which supply the Royal Household with goods or services. This entitles those businesses to display the Royal Arms on their packaging and stationery by way of advertising.
It is customary (but not mandatory) for churches throughout the United Kingdom whether in the Church of England or the Church of Scotland to display the Royal Arms to show loyalty to the Crown. If a church building of either denomination does not have a Royal Arms, permission from the Crown must be given before one can be used.
A banner of the Royal Arms, known as the Royal Standard, is flown from the royal palaces when the monarch is in residence, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace being her principal abodes; and from public buildings only when the monarch is present. This protocol equally applies to the monarch's principal residences in Scotland (the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Balmoral Castle), where the Royal Standard (Scottish version) is flown. When the monarch is not in residence the Union Flag, or in Scotland the ancient Royal Standard of Scotland, is flown.
The widely sold British newspaper The Times uses the Hanoverian Royal Arms as a logo, whereas its sister publication, The Sunday Times, displays the current version. Likewise, the Australian newspaper The Age uses the insignia as its logo.
The Royal Arms are also displayed in all courts in British Columbia, as well as in other Canadian provinces such as Ontario, where the judges are appointed by Crown authority. In Australia they were also displayed by all Viceroys as representation of their Crown authority, and by most state Supreme Courts across the country. Additionally the Western Australian Legislative Council has also adopted them as its own symbol.
The crest atop the Crown of Scotland is a red lion, seated and forward facing, itself wearing the Crown of Scotland and holding the two remaining elements of the Honours of Scotland, namely the Sword of State and the Sceptre of Scotland. This was also the crest used in the Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland. The motto, in Scots, appears above the crest, in the tradition of Scottish heraldry, and is an abbreviated form of the full motto: In My Defens God Me Defend.
The supporters change sides and both appear wearing the crowns of their respective Kingdom. The dexter supporter is a crowned and chained unicorn, symbolising Scotland. The sinister supporter is a crowned lion, symbolising England. Between each supporter and the shield is a lance displaying the flag of their respective Kingdom.
The coat also features both the motto Nemo me impune lacessit (No one wounds (touches) me with impunity) and, surrounding the shield, the collar of the Order of the Thistle. On the compartment are a number of thistles, Scotland's national flower.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Unlike the Acts of Union 1707 with Scotland, the Acts of Union 1800 with Ireland did not provide for a separate Irish version of the royal arms.[dubious ] The crest of the Kingdom of Ireland (on a wreath Or and Azure, a tower triple-towered of the First, from the portal a hart springing Argent attired and unguled Or) has had little or no official use since the union.
The harp quarter of the Royal Arms represents Ireland on both the English and Scottish versions. Likewise, one English quarter is retained in the Scottish version, and one Scottish quarter is retained in the English version. Thus, England, Scotland and Ireland are represented in all versions of the Royal Arms since they came under one monarch. When the Irish Free State established its own diplomatic seals in the 1930s, the royal arms appearing on them varied from those on their UK equivalents by having the Irish arms in two quarters and the English arms in one. By contrast, there is no representation at all for Wales in the Royal Arms, as at the Act of Union 1707 Wales was an integral part of the Kingdom of England pursuant to the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542; thus, it has been argued Wales is represented in the English coat of arms. However the argument is somewhat disingenuous as in 1535 the Welsh Dragon was already part of the Tudor Coat of Arms. Upon the accession of the Tudor monarchs, who were themselves of Welsh descent, a Welsh Dragon was used as a supporter on the Royal Arms. This was dropped by their successors, the Scottish House of Stuart, who replaced the Tudors' dragon supporter with the Scottish unicorn. In the 20th century, the arms of the principality of Wales were added as an inescutcheon to the coat of arms of the Prince of Wales, and a banner of those arms with a green inescutcheon bearing the prince's crown is flown as his personal standard in Wales. The so-called Prince of Wales's feathers are a heraldic badge rather than a coat of arms upon a shield, but they are not Welsh in any case. They derive, in fact, from the English Princes of Wales (who may owe them to an exploit of Edward, the Black Prince at the Battle of Crécy) and carry the motto Ich dien (German, "I Serve"). In any event, they do not form part of the Royal Arms, as opposed to the heraldic achievement of the Prince of Wales, who drops them upon his accession as King.
Kingdoms of England and Scotland
The current royal arms are a combination of the arms of the former kingdoms that make up the United Kingdom, and can be traced back to the first arms of the kings of England and kings of Scotland. Various alterations occurred over the years as the arms of other realms acquired or claimed by the kings were added to the royal arms. The table below tracks the changes in the royal arms from the original arms of King Richard I of England, and William I, King of Scots.
Union of the Crowns and the Commonwealth
|The Union of the Crowns places England, Ireland and Scotland under one monarch|
|1603–1649||James VI, King of Scots inherited the English and Irish thrones in 1603 (Union of the Crowns), and quartered the Royal Arms of England with those of Scotland. For the first time, the Royal Coat of Arms of Ireland was added to represent the Kingdom of Ireland. The Scottish version differs in giving the Scottish elements more precedence.|
These novel arms, already in use by parliamentarians in 1648, were adopted by the Commonwealth of England established in 1649.
|1655–1659||The arms of the Commonwealth from 1655 to 1659. Struck in 1655, the Great Seal included the personal arms of Oliver Cromwell on a shield in the centre.
Blazon: Quarterly 1 and 4 Argent a Cross Gules (England) 2 Azure a Saltire Argent (Scotland) and 3 Azure a Harp Or Stringed Argent (Ireland) on an Inescutcheon Sable a Lion Rampant Argent (Cromwell's arms). The supporters were a crowned lion of England and a red dragon of Wales. The Scottish unicorn was removed, as it was associated with the Stuart Monarchy. The motto read PAX QUÆRITUR BELLO ("peace is obtained through war").
Following the Protectorate, the 1654 arms were restored.
|1660–1689||Charles II restored the Royal Arms following the restoration after the civil wars.|
|1689–1694||King James II & VII is deposed and replaced with his daughter Mary II and her husband, William III. As King and Queen 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.|
|1694–1702||After the death of Mary II, William III reigned alone, and used his arms only.|
|1702–1707||Queen Anne inherited the throne upon the death of King William III & II, and the Royal Arms returned to the 1603 version.|
After the Acts of Union 1707
|At the Union creating Great Britain in 1707, arms were adopted for the new kingdom, and again in 1801 at the Union creating the United Kingdom|
|1952–present||The Irish harp was modified to a plain Gaelic harp, rather than a winged female [as above], in 1952 in accordance with the personal preference of Queen Elizabeth. The Royal Arms do not incorporate any specific element for Wales, a principality, incorporated into the Kingdom of England under Henry VIII.|
Members of the British royal family are granted their own personal arms which are based on the Royal Arms. Only children and grandchildren in the male line of the monarch are entitled to arms in this fashion: the arms of children of the monarch are differenced with a three-point label; grandchildren of the monarch are differenced with a five-point label. An exception is made for the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, who bears a three-point label. Since 1911, the arms of the Prince of Wales also displays an inescutcheon of the ancient arms of the Principality of Wales. Queens consort and the wives of sons of the monarch also have their own personal coat of arms. Typically this will be the arms of their husband impaled with their own personal arms or those of their father, if armigerous. However, the consorts of a Queen regnant are not entitled to use the Royal Arms. Thus Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has been granted his own personal arms.
Currently the following members of the royal family have their own arms based on the Royal Arms:
|Children and grandchildren of the monarch in the male line|
|Charles, Prince of Wales, outside Scotland||The coat of arms of the Prince of Wales is based on the Royal arms with the plain three-point label, augmented by an inescutcheon in honour of the traditional arms of the Principality of Wales. The Prince of Wales's feathers, the Red Dragon of Wales, Sable fifteen Bezants Or (the arms of the Duke of Cornwall, his subsidiary title in England) and his motto Ich dien are also added below the shield and the supporters. In Scotland, his arms as the Duke of Rothesay are displayed rather than those of the Prince of Wales.|
|Charles, Duke of Rothesay, in Scotland||Used in Scotland, the arms of the Duke of Rothesay are those of Clan Stewart of Appin adapted, namely the quartered arms of the Prince and Great Steward of Scotland and Lord of the Isles (secondary titles of the Duke) with an inescutcheon as Scottish heir apparent (the Royal Arms of Scotland with a blue three-point label).|
|Prince William, Duke of Cambridge||Three-point label with a red escallop, alluding to the patrilineal arms of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.|
|Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex||Five-point label with three red escallops in alternate points, alluding to the patrilineal arms of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.|
|Anne, Princess Royal||Three-point label, the points bearing a red cross, a red heart and a red cross.|
|Prince Andrew, Duke of York||Three-point label, the centre point bearing a blue anchor.|
|Princess Beatrice of York||Five-point label with three bees in alternate points.|
|Princess Eugenie of York||Five-point label with three thistles in alternate points.|
|Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex||Three-point label, the centre point bearing a Tudor rose.|
|Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester||Five-point label, the first, third and fifth points bearing a red cross, the second and fourth points bearing a red lion.|
|Prince Edward, Duke of Kent||Five-point label, the first, third and fifth points bearing a blue anchor, the second and fourth points bearing a red cross.|
|Princess Alexandra, The Hon. Lady Ogilvy||Five-point label, the first and fifth points bearing a red heart, the second and fourth points bearing a blue anchor, and the third bearing a red cross.|
|Prince Michael of Kent||Five-point label, the first, third and fifth points bearing a red cross, the second and fourth points bearing a blue anchor.|
|Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh||Prince Philip's arms post-1949 comprise four quarters, Denmark, Greece, and Mountbatten, representing his ancestry, and Edinburgh, representing the territorial designation of his dukedom.|
|Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall||The arms of the Prince of Wales impaled with those of her father, Major Bruce Shand, crowned with the single-arched Coronet of Prince of Wales.|
|Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge||The arms of the Duke of Cambridge impaled with those of her father, Michael Middleton, crowned with the coronet of a child of the heir-apparent.|
|Meghan, Duchess of Sussex||The arms of the Duke of Sussex impaled with those of her own design, crowned with the coronet of a child of the heir-apparent.|
|Sophie, Countess of Wessex||The arms of the Earl of Wessex impaled with those granted in 1999 to her father, Christopher Rhys-Jones, with remainder to his elder brother Theo. The new grant was based on an unregistered 200-year-old design. The lion alludes to one of the Countess' ancestors the Welsh knight Elystan Glodrydd, prince of Ferrig.|
|Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester||The arms of the Duke of Gloucester with an escutcheon of pretence granted to her by Royal Warrant on 18 July 1973.|
|Katharine, Duchess of Kent||The arms of the Duke of Kent impaled with those of her father, Sir William Arthington Worsley, 4th Baronet.|
|Princess Michael of Kent||The arms of Prince Michael of Kent impaled with those of her father, Baron Günther Hubertus von Reibnitz.|
HM Government generally uses a simplified version of the Royal Arms with a crown replacing the helm and crest, and with no compartment. In relation to Scotland, the Scotland Office and the Advocate General for Scotland use the Scottish version, again without the helm or crest, and the same was used as the day-to-day logo of the Scottish Executive until September 2007, when a rebranding exercise introduced the name Scottish Government, together with a revised logo incorporating the flag of Scotland.
The Scottish Government continues to use the Arms on some official documents.
The simplified Royal Arms also feature:
- on all Acts of Parliament;
- on the cover of all UK passports and passports issued in other British territories and dependencies;
- as an inescutcheon on the diplomatic flags of British Ambassadors; and
- on all acts of the Anguilla House of Assembly, the Sovereign Base Areas, Pitcairn Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands administrations;
- on the London Gazette.
Various courts in the Commonwealth also continue to use the Royal Arms:
- The Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and Provincial Court of British Columbia
- The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador and Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador
- The Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory
- The Supreme Court of South Australia
- The Supreme Court of Victoria
- A version of the crest of the Royal Arms, as used in Scotland, is used by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the General Register Office for Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
- The crowned shield of the Royal Arms encircled by the Garter is used by the Home Office and by the Parliament of Victoria.
- The crowned shield of the Royal Arms is used by the Royal Mint.
- The Royal Arms with the crest but without the helm is used as the rank insignia for Class 1 Warrant Officers in Her Majesty's Armed Forces.
This table breaks down the official blazons to enable comparison of the differences between the general coat and the coat used in Scotland.
|Everywhere except Scotland||Scotland|
|Quarterly I & IV||Gules three lions passant gardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure||Or a lion rampant Gules armed and langued Azure within a double tressure flory-counter-flory of the second|
|Quarterly II||Or a lion rampant Gules armed and langued Azure within a double tressure flory-counter-flory of the second||Gules three lions passant gardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure|
|Surrounded by||The Garter circlet||The collar of the Order of the Thistle|
|Crest||Upon the Royal helm the imperial crown Proper, thereon a lion statant gardant Or imperially crowned Proper||Upon the Royal helm the crown of Scotland Proper, thereon a lion sejant affronté Gules armed and langued Azure, Royally crowned Proper holding in his dexter paw a sword and in his sinister a sceptre, both Proper|
|Supporters||Dexter a lion rampant gardant Or imperially crowned Proper, sinister a unicorn Argent, armed, crined and unguled Or, gorged with a coronet Or composed of crosses patée and fleurs de lis a chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexed over the back also Or||Dexter a unicorn Argent Royally crowned Proper, armed, crined and unguled Or, gorged with a coronet Or composed of crosses patée and fleurs de lis a chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexed over the back also Or holding the standard of Saint Andrew, sinister a lion rampant gardant Or imperially crowned Proper holding the standard of Saint George|
|Motto||Dieu et mon Droit (French)||In My Defens God Me Defend, abbr. In Defens (Scots)|
|Order Motto||Garter: Honi soit qui mal y pense (Old French)||Thistle: Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin)|
|Plants on the compartment||Roses, thistles and shamrocks (on the same stem)||Thistles only|
- Flag of the United Kingdom
- Cadency labels of the British royal family
- List of coats of arms of the House of Plantagenet
Of all the former Dominions only three retain elements from the British Coat of Arms:
Ireland uses the medieval arms of Ireland that are incorporated into the British Coat of Arms:
All other former Dominions have changed their coat of arms:
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