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; and by the British government in connection with the administration and government of the country. In Scotland, there exists a separate version of the Royal Arms, a variant of which is used by the Scotland Office. The arms in banner form serve as basis for the monarch's official flag, known as the Royal Standard.
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, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on he 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 all UK courts (with the exceptions of 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 Northern Ireland, the Royal Arms cannot be displayed in courtrooms or on court-house exteriors. There are a few exceptions, with the Royal Arms allowed to be displayed in the courtrooms of the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast and the courts in Armagh, Banbridge, Downpatrick, Magherafelt, or Omagh. They may be shown on 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 monarch grant Royal Warrants to select businesses and tradespeople which supply the Royal Household with goods or services. This entitles those business 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.
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 Royal Arms were also displayed by all Viceroys of Australia as representation of their Crown authority.
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.
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. When the Irish Free State established its own seals in the 1930s, the "Fob Seal" used on letters of credence varied the British arms by having the harp in two quarters.
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. 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 can be argued Wales is represented in the English coat of arms. Wales was a kingdom when ruled by native kings, some of whom united it under one Crown, but with the English conquest it largely ceased to exist as a distinct legal entity. The Prince of Wales has ever since been the monarch's heir apparent.
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.
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 Scots. 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.
|The Union of the Crowns places England, Ireland and Scotland under one monarch|
||1603–1689||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.)|
The Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (the Protectorate) was created in 1653. St Andrew's Cross was added to the arms in 1654.
||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.
||1603–1689||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.|
|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|
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||Plain three-point label, augmented by an inescutcheon in honour of the traditional coat of 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.|
|Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay (Prince of Wales), 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 Henry of Wales||Five-point label with three red escallops in alternate points.|
|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.|
|Anne, Princess Royal||Three-point label, the points bearing a red cross, a red heart and a red cross.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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 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 Crown 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.|
|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 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:
Various courts in the Commonwealth also continue to use the Royal Arms:
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|
|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|
|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|
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 with little or no British influence:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Royal Arms of the United Kingdom.|