Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom

From Academic Kids

The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom

The Royal Arms of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II are her arms of dominion in right of the United Kingdom. In the version used by the government and consequently as the official coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the crown is shown resting directly on the shield, with the helm, crest and mantling not displayed.

Recently, the UK government has started to use a differently painted version of the coat of arms. This artistic licence is permissible in heraldry. The "Queen's Printer" version, used on Acts of Parliament as shown on the Scotland Act 1998 (, has not been changed.


Present Coat

The shield is quartered, depicting in the first and fourth quarters the three lions passant guardant of England; in the second, the rampant lion and double tressure fleury-counter-fleury of Scotland; and in the third, a harp for Ireland.

The crest is a lion statant guardant wearing the imperial crown, itself on another representation of that crown.

The dexter supporter is a likewise crowned lion, symbolizing England; the sinister, a unicorn, symbolizing Scotland. According to legend a free unicorn was considered a very dangerous beast; therefore the British heraldic unicorn is chained.

The coat features both the motto of British monarchs Dieu et mon droit (God and my right) and the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shamed be he who thinks ill of it) on a representation of the Garter behind the shield.

The official heraldric description of the Royal Arms is as follows:

Quarterly, first and fourth Gules three lions passant gardant in pale Or (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 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 composed of crosses pate 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.
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom as used in Scotland
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom as used in Scotland

The Queen has a separate coat of arms for use in Scotland. Quarters I and IV are Scotland; II, England; and III, Ireland. The supporters also change sides; the unicorn is imperially crowned, and is sometimes depicted gorged of an eastern crown (with pointed ends) rather than a coronet of crosses and fleurs de lis, and both supporters hold banners. The unicorn holds a banner of St Andrew, and the lion a banner of St George. The Scottish crest (a red lion sitting on a crown, holding a sword and a sceptre) is used instead of the royally crowned lion. Two Tudor roses are also in evidence. The Order of the Thistle and its motto Nemo me impune lacessit (No one provokes me with impunity) are used instead of the Garter.

History of the Royal Arms

The Coat of Arms of England, gules three lions passant gardant in pale or, was introduced by King Richard I in the 1190s. In 1328, King Edward III claimed the French throne through his mother Isabella, styling himself "of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King." The French rejected this claim on the grounds that the throne could pass through the male line only, due to Salic law. Edward III expressed his claim by quartering the arms of England with the arms of France, azure a semy of fleurs-de-lis or; to indicate the importance he placed on France, the French arms were placed in the first and last quarter, and the English ones in the second and third. Henry IV changed the French quarterings from a semy of fleurs de lis to only three fleurs de lis. In France this change from "France Ancient" to "France Modern" was made by order of Charles V of France in 1376.

During the reign of Queen Mary in the 16th century the arms of her husband, Philip II of Spain, were added to the Royal Arms but were removed under her successor, Elizabeth I.

Missing image
Stuart Coat of Arms

When James VI of Scotland came to the throne of England in 1603, the arms changed to reflect France, England, Scotland, and Ireland (which had been ruled by the Sovereign of England since 1541). The shield was divided into four quarters. The second quarter of the coat bore the arms of Scotland, or a lion rampant gules within a double tressure flory counterflory gules, while the third quarter bore the arms of Ireland, azure a harp or. The first and last quarters were "grandquarters" as each was divided further, to show Henry IV's quartering of the arms of France and England. The harp of Ireland derived from the badge assigned to that country in the reign of Henry VIII.

When William, Prince of Orange ruled along with Mary II, an estucheon of pretence, bearing the arms of Nassau, (azure billetty a lion rampant or) was added to represent William III's dynasty. When Anne succeeded to the throne, the estucheon was removed. Furthermore, the quarterings were changed: the first and fourth grandquarters each contained the arms of England and Scotland impaled, the second quarter the arms of France, and the third the arms of Ireland.

Missing image
Hanoverian arms as used by George II

When the Elector of Hanover George I succeeded to the throne, the fourth quarter changed to the arms of Hanover: (tierced per pale and per chevron - I gules two lions passant or; II or a semy of hearts gules a lion rampant azure; III gules a horse courant argent; overall an escutcheon of pretence gules charged with the crown of Charlemagne).

George III renounced the ancient English claim to France in 1801. The arms were changed to: 1st and 4th, England; 2nd, Scotland; 3rd, Ireland. The arms of Hanover were moved from the fourth quarter and instead shown on a small shield or estucheon of pretence in the centre of the shield. Above the estucheon was a bonnet representing the Electorate of Hanover. The bonnet changed to a crown when Hanover became a Kingdom.

The estucheon for Hanover was removed when Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. She did not inherit the Kingdom of Hanover, because under Salic law it could only pass to a male. Queen Elizabeth II inherited this coat as her personal arms upon the death of her father, George VI. The Queen is the only woman in England who is entitled to bear her personal arms upon a shield with a crest and helmet, rather than on a lozenge.

Some authors have misunderstood heraldic emblazoning, and so some texts erroneously state that during the time that the British monarch was also "Emperor of India" the royal crown was changed to the imperial crown (similar but with the centre depressed). On India becoming independent, the royal crown returned. However, the changes are purely due to personal choice. Both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have chosen to use St Edward's Crown, but the four kings who reigned between then used the "Tudor Crown" design similar to the Imperial State Crown. St Edwards crown is displayed on the helm; and the animals in both the United Kingdom and the Scottish versions of the arms.


This table breaks down the official blazons to enable comparison of the differences between "England & Wales" and Scotland.

  UK Scotland
Quarterly I & IV(gules, three lions passant guardant in pale Or, armed and langued azure) (Or a lion rampant, within a double tressure fleury-counter-fleury gules)
II(Or a lion rampant, within a double tressure fleury-counter-fleury gules) (gules, three lions passant guardant in pale Or, armed and langued azure)
III(azure, a harp Or stringed argent)(azure, a harp Or stringed argent)
Surrounded bya Garter with the words Honi soit qui mal y pense the collar of the Order of the Thistle
Crest Upon the Royal helmet an imperial crown proper, thereon statant gardant Or, a lion statant imperially crowned also proper. Upon an imperial crown proper a lion sejant affront gules, imperially crowned or, holding in his dexter paw a sceptre, and in his sinister a sword, both proper.
Lion of England, seen in the Kew Gardens, London
Dexter, a lion rampant gardant Or, crowned as the crest; sinister, a unicorn argent, armed, crined, and unguled Or, gorged with a royal coronet, a chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexed over the back of the last.
Missing image
a statue of a Unicorn, seen in St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster Palace, London

Dexter, an unicorn argent royally crowned Or gorged with a royal coronet, armed and chained Or holding the standard of St Andrew; Sinister, a lion guardant royally crowned Or holding the standard of St George
Motto Dieu et mon Droit' Nemo me impune lacessit
War-cry  In Defens

The Irish royal crest On a torse azure and or, a castle triple-towered of the second, from the portal thereof a hart springing argent attired and hooved or is rarely if ever seen on the arms of the United Kingdom, as unlike the Act of Union 1707 with Scotland, the Act of Union 1800 with Ireland did not provide for a separate Irish version of the royal arms.

See also

et:Suurbritannia vapp fr:Armes royales du Royaume-Uni pl:Godło Wielkiej Brytanii ro:Stema regală a Regatului Unit zh:英国皇家徽章


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