The royal coat of arms of England was the official coat of arms of the monarchs of England, and were used as the official coat of arms of the Kingdom of England until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Afterwards, the arms became an integral part of the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The spread of the British Empire has led to the arms being incorporated in various other coats of arms of the United Kingdom's former colonies.
Historical Arms of England
Kingdom of England
Following the Norman conquest
after 1066, the arms of the House of Normandy
were used in England, two golden lions on a red field. The succession of King Henry II
of the House of Plantagenet
in 1158 saw the first known arms of an English monarch used, a golden lion on a red field.
When King Richard I ("The Lionheart") came to the throne he first adopted his personal arms of two lions rampant on a red field, however by the end of his life he had adopted a shield with three lions passant, on a red field.
The origin of the third lion is unclear. According to one tradition, the extra lion was added to two existing Norman lions to represent the combined Anglo-Norman realm. According to another tradition the two leopards were combined with the single leopard of Aquitaine, as Henry II, the first Angevin king, had acquired the duchy of Acquitaine by marriage before inheriting the throne of England. Other heraldic authorities have claimed that at an early stage in the development of heraldry the number of Norman lions was not fixed and that it is simply a matter of design as to why England has ended up with three heraldic lions and Normandy with two.
In 1340, King Edward III laid claim to the throne of France and quartered the English arms with those of France, the "France Ancient", a blue shield with a tight pattern of small golden fleurs-de-lis of the French royal house.
When Richard II came to the throne in 1377, he decided to marshall the coat of arms of England side by side with the attributed arms of Edward the Confessor.
In 1406, the French quarterings were updated to the modern French arms, three fleurs-de-lis on a blue field.
During Mary I's reign, the arms of England were sometimes impaled (placed side to side with) with the arms of her husband, King Philip II of Spain.
Commonwealth of England
During the Commonwealth of England
(1649-60), a new non-royal coat of arms was created, replacing the three lions with the cross of St. George
and the lion rampant of Scotland
with the St. Andrew's cross
. It also incorporated the Irish Harp and an escutcheon featuring a white lion from Oliver Cromwell
's personal coat of arms.
Union of Crowns
On the death of Queen Elizabeth I
in 1603, King James VI
succeeded to the English throne, becoming King James I of England. The arms of England were quartered with those of Scotland
. A quarter for the Kingdom of Ireland
was also added, as the English monarch was also King of Ireland
The French arms were dropped from the royal arms of the United Kingdom in 1801 when King George III renounced the claim to the French throne. From that point, the heraldic representation of England reverted to the version used between 1198 and 1340, three golden lions on a red field.
The arms of England are not used in any official capacity on their own, although they do feature in the first and fourth quarters of the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom
and the first quarter of the coat of arms of Canada
The arms of both the Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board are based on the three lions design. In recent years, it has been common to see banners of the arms flown at English football matches, in the same way the Lion Rampant is flown in Scotland.
In 1996, "Three Lions" was the official song of the England football team for the 1996 European Football Championship, which was held in England.
Use in other arms
The spread of the British Empire
has led to incorporation of the royal arms of England, or elements thereof, in the coats of arms of many other countries and territories.
Overseas territories and crown dependencies
Lions or leopards
was the language of English government for a few centuries after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and in French blazon
, without further description, is always rampant; a lion passant guardant – one that is walking forward and facing outward toward the viewer – is always called a léopard
. A lion rampant guardant is a léopard lionné
, and one passant but with its head in profile is a lion léopardé
. The terms describe the animal's posture, not his species. Whatever the beast is called, the heraldic lion or leopard should always have at least a hint of a mane