Royal Coats of Arms

Royal Coats of Arms

Richard I was the first King to have a connection with the Royal Coats of Arms from 1189-1199.

The coat of arms owned by Richard featured three lions, referred to as 'Gules three lions passant guardant'. The coat of arms layout which has remained on every royal coat ever since Richard was king has been used in the exact same way by John (1199-1216), Henry III (1216-1272),Edward I (1272-1307) and Edward II (1307-1327).

Although a change did happen to the royal coat of arms during Edward III’s reign between 1327-1377. After Edward claimed the French throne he made some changes to the traditional coat of arms, namely splitting the design into quarters to include the English sections in the top right and bottom left, and the ‘fleurs-de-lis’ of France on the rest of the coat of arms.

The next ruler, Richard II, chose to add Edward the Confessor’s arms but Henry IV (1399 to 1405) chose the original design of Edward III. Though when his reign was ending he made changes to the French quarters by stating there should only be three fleurs-de-lis in each. This reducing of fleurs-de-lis enabled the royal coat of arms to not be so cluttered up. Henry’s royal coat of arms remained unchanged for several hundred years.

Coat of Arms British Royal Family
Coat of Arms British Royal Family

Although the coat of arms stayed largely the same, each monarch adapted it slightly with lions, stags, boars and bulls. A dragon was adopted by Tudor monarchs, sometimes a greyhound. Richard II’s coat of arms had a white hart; while Richard III’s support for his coat of arms was a white boar. The Tudors traditionally used their infamous Tudor rose and white greyhound. Mary I chose a pomegranate in memory of her mother, whose heraldic badge featured the Pomegranate of Granada.

A significant change arrived in 1603, at the end of Tudor England and James I’s succession to the English throne - James brought in the Scottish lion (rampant) which was framed by a double tressure to the top right quarter and each corner had a decoration of a fleur-de-lis. The Irish harp (gold with silver strings on a field of blue) was also included to the bottom left corner to show that James was the King of Ireland too. This would become the foundation for all kings and queens during the Stuart dynasty and the only significant change was during Queen Anne’s reign between 1702-1714 when England and Scotland became united as a single country in 1707. After this, Anne’s coat of arms represented it, seeing as the individual English and Scottish quarters had been changed so both quarters represented England and Scotland – each quarter merged the three English lions guardant with the individual Scottish lion rampant. Then the final quarters were the Irish harp on the bottom left with three fleurs-de-lis in the top right - a historical representative of when the English king reigned over a significant part of France. 

During 1603-1714, the only real change took place during the Interregnum (1649-1660) after the royal coat of arms and monarchy were removed. Parliament’s adopted coat of arms during that time carried on with the four quarters - two were silver with a red cross to reflect England and Wales (but Wales wasn’t seen as separate) and one quarter was blue with a gold harp and silver strings, representing Ireland. In the middle of these quarters there was a small shield in black with a silver lion on it that represented Oliver Cromwell’s arms.

See also: Charges and Heraldry

MLA Citation/Reference

"Royal Coats of Arms". 2015. Web.