The Arms of England

The Royal Arms

The Plantagenets

!5- and 16Th century

The Achievement



Back to United Kingdom




The Romans tried a first time to invade Britannia (the Latin name of the island) in 55 BC under Julius Caesar, but weren't successful until 43 CE, during the reign of Emperor Claudius. In 122 AD, Emperor Hadrian built a wall in the north of Britannia to keep the barbarian Pics at bay.

The Romans progressively abandoned Britannia in the 5th century as their Empire was falling apart and legions were needed to protect Rome.

With the Romans gone, the Celtic tribes started fighting with each others again, and one of the local chieftain had the not so brilliant idea to request help from the some Germanic tribes from the North of present-day Germany and South of Denmark. These were the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, who arrived in the 5th and 6th centuries.

However, things did not happen as the Celts had expected. The Germanic tribes did not go back home after the fight, and on the contrary felt strong enough to seize the whole of the country for themselves, which they did, pushing back all the Celtic tribes to Wales and Cornwall, and founding their respective kingdoms of Kent (the Jutes), Essex, Sussex and Wessex (the Saxons), and further north East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria (the Angles). These 7 kingdoms, which rules over all England from about 500 to 850 AD, were later known as the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy.

From the second half of the 9th century, the Norse from Scandinavia started invading Europe, the Norwegians raiding Scotland and Ireland, discovering and settling in the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. The Danes invaded the North-East of England, from Northumerland to East Anglia, and founded a new kingdom known as the Danelaw. After having settled in their newly acquired land, the Normans, adopted the French feudal system and French as official language.

During that time, the Kings of Wessex had resisted and eventually vanquished the Danes in England in the 10th century. But the powerful Canute the Great (995-1035), king of the newly unified Denmark and Norway, led two other invasions on England in 1013 and 1015, and became king of England in 1016, after crushing the Anglo-Saxon king, Edmund II.

Edward the Confessor (1004-1066) succeeded to Canute's two sons. He nominated William, Duke of Normandy, as his successor, but upon his death, Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex, crowned himself king. William refused to acknowledge Harold as King and invaded England with 12,000 soldiers in 1066. King Harold was killed at the battle of Hastings and William nicknamed the Conqueror became William I of England.

The English royals after William I usually contended  for the throne. William's son, William II was killed while hunting, and it is believed that he was in fact murdered, so that William's second son, Henry, could become king. Henry I's succession was also agitated, with his daughter Matilda and her cousin Stephen (grandson of William I) starting a civil war for the throne. Although Stephen won, Matilda's son succeeded him as Henry II (1133-1189). His descendants were the Plantagenets who uled in England until the sixteenth century.

Of them Edward III (1312-1377) succeeded his father at the age of 15 and reigned for 50 years His reign was marked by the beginning of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1416) 

Henry VI (1421-1471), who inherited the throne at just one year old, lost most of the English possessions in France to a 17-year old girl (Joan of Arc) and in 1455, the Wars of the Roses broke out. This civil war opposed the House of Lancaster (the Red Rose, supporters of Henry VI) to the House of York (the White Rose, supporters of Edward IV).

Edward IV's son, Edward V, only reigned for one year, before being locked in the Tower of Londonby by, Richard III (1452-1485), who was defeated by the  Lancastrian Henry Tudor (1457-1509), the half-brother of Henry VI, at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and became Henry VII, founder of the House of Tudor.

Henry Tudor's son is England's most famous and historically important ruler, Henry VIII (1491-1547).

Henry VIII, also notorious for his many divorces,  was the last English king to claim the title of King of France, as he lost his last possession there. It was also under him that England started exploring the globe and trading outside Europe, although this would only develop to colonial proportions under his daughters, Mary I and especially Elizabeth I who was the last Tudor ruler.

Her reign was marked by conflicts with France and Scotland (bound by a common queen, Mary Stuart), then Spain and Ireland. She never married, and when Mary Stuart tried and failed to take over the throne of England, Elizabeth kept her imprisoned for 19 years before finally signing her act of execution.

Elizabeth died in 1603, and Mary Stuart's son, James VI of Scotland, succeeded Elizabeth as King James I of England - thus creating the United Kingdom.




I. The Arms of England


The arms of England are Argent, a square cross Gules


A square cross is the chistian symbol of Administrative Authority and was adopted at the end of the 4th century AD. Its origin howeever reaches back to  the second millennium BC. In England a square cross is on 6-7th century Anglo saxon coins and an exampleof it  is the  Trumpington Cross A red square cross if known from Charles II the Bald 881-877 of the Carolingian Empire and  later a square cross is on all seals at the beginning of the royal title.


The Trumpington Cross,


made of gold and garnet, was found on the skeleton of a 14-18-year-old female laid to rest in the extremely rare ‘bed burial’ ceremony.

The 3.5 cm diameter Trumpington Cross comes from one of the earliest Christian burials in Britain, probably dating between AD 650-AD 680.  (Cambridge Arch. Museum, 2012)).


Æ See also: The Ixworth cross / the Staffordshire Hoard cross


At the beginning of the 12th century a cross is on the shields of crusaders replacing the christogram  or XP monogram as a symbol of armed authority.

In 1155 the red cross on a white field is described as “Album vexillum cum cruce D.N.J.C. rubeum colorem habens”.[1]


St. George chasing the Saracens before Jeruzalem ca. 1170

ensigned with a latin cross and a square cross.

K.B. Den Haag, Hs. 76 F 5 fol. 1 v°.


The arms with the red latin cross on a white shield is the coat of arms of the Ecclesia and St. George and as such of the realms and organisations subordinated to the Holy See.


The council of Oxford decreed in 1222 that the nameday of St. George should be a national feast-day but only in the time of d Edward III he became the patron saint of the kingdom  (Brittanica: George, Saint).  

The shield with the red cross is, probably not by accident, extensively described and explained in “The Quest of the Holy Grail” Ch. [2]: The Shield (pp. 53-66) after a manuscript from ca. 1225.

In about the middle of the 13th century this emblem became the coat of arms of England symbolizing the vassalage of the Holy See.

Somewhat later it is explicitely named the coat of arms of the King of England in a German poem of arms:



1242/49 a. Conrad von Mure, Clipearius Teutonicorum: "Angli­ce rex, clipeus tuus albus habetur ibi­que/Crux transit rubea, spes terra ubique".

(O king of England, white is your shield and a red cross, the hope of the whole world intersects it)


St. Gregory Church Norwich ca. 1500


II The Royal Arms


R.J. Parsons


The arms of the King of England are Gules, three lions passant guardant Or, langued and unguled Azure.


Early Emblems


Cunobelin 10-40 AD

Cunobelin AV Stater, Wild type, 5.43 gr, 17.72 mm. Camulodunum. 10-40 AD. CA-MV, to left and right of upright ear of grain / CVN, beneath Romanized horse prancing right, circle to right of horse's head / BMC 1787-1792; Ev IX 10; Mack 211 var (field mark); Van Arsdell 1931-1 var (field mark).


According to Flavius Vegetius in his Epitoma Rei Militaris (390 AD.) the eagle was the emblem of the roman legions and the dragon the standard of the cohortes: “Dracones etiam per singulas cohortes a draconariis feruntur ad proelium” (Every cohors has its own standard in battle, a dragon, borne by the draconarius) (Vegetius XIII).

The hierarchy of the standards was (lib. III, cap. 5) ”muta signa sunt aquilæ, dracones, vexilla, flammulæ, tufæ, pinnæ”. (eagles, dragons, banners, pennons, tufts and points). Apparently the eagle-dragon system was also adopted on the British Islands which belonged to the Roman Empire from 55 BC until 410 AD.  In 293 Diocletian made the roman part of the island the diocese of Britannia, divided in four provinces: Britannia prima, (Corinium/Cirencester)  Maxima Caesariensis,(Lindum/LIncoln)  B. secunda (Eboracum/York)  and Flavia Caesariensis (Londinium/London)







Britannia 43-early 3rd c

Capital Camulodunum

(43-c.65), then Londinium





























Britannia Inferior,

Early 3rd c. - 293,

capital at Eboracum


Britannia Superior

Early 3rd c. - 293,

capital at Londinium






































Flavia Caesariensis,


capital Lindum


Britannia Secunda


capital Eboracum


Maxima Caesariensis,


capital Londinium


Britannia Prima,


capital Corinium




As Britannia, Roman Britain was a consular province, its governors needed to be appointed consul by Rome before they could govern it. While this rank could be obtained either as a suffect or ordinares, a number of governors were consul ordinares, and also appear in the List of Early Imperial Roman Consuls. Later governors could be of the lower, equestrian rank.

The consulares or præsides resided in Londinium (London). The emblem of rank of a consul was an eagle.


At te beginning of an almost one thousand years span of the ocurrence of an eagle in British heraldry stands the socalled Silchester Eagle



The Silchester eagle is a Roman bronze casting dating from the first or second century CE, uncovered in 1866 at Calleva Atrebatum in Silchester, Hampshire, England, and subsequently purchased by Reading Museum in Berkshire where it remains on display as of 2017. The eagle was discovered wingless and damaged in 9 October 1866 by Rev J.G. Joyce during the excavation of a Roman basilica where it was likely part of a larger statue. It stands approximately 15cm high and has a hollow space inside of it which was accessed through a [now missing] square lid located on the top of the back of the bird. [1]


In 2017 a late first early second century eagle-and- erpent were unearted in a London graveyard. 

Æ See: The Minories Eagle [2]


In the Notitia Dignitatum the governor of Brittanny was called a vicar. The insigne of the vicari brittanniarum  fol. 212r (69) was a Liber Mandatorum or Book of Mandates spelling out his duties and giving him imperial instructions, and a codicillum, or official document of appointment. [3]


Apart from the vicar there were the military leaders: the Dux Britanniarum and the Comes Britanniarum.


comes britanniæ fol. 214r


The comes were the commanders of the locally encamped troops in Britain.

To the first comes, Gratian the Elder may apply the mosaic of Hinton St. Mary, showing a roman official with a christogram behind his head. This christogram is the symbol of Christian armed authority and consequently qualifies the man using it to be a (christian) soldier or warrior. On the same mosaic there is a picture of the hero Bellerophon mounted on his winged horse, Pegasus. He is spearing the mythical, Chimaera, a scene perhaps intended to illustrate the triumph of good over evil.


Mosaic from Hinton St. Mary (G.B.) (Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England)



Valentinian I († 375), and Valens (†378) , sons of Gratian the Elder.


dux britannia fol. 220r (85)


The dukes were commanders defending the borders


In early britannic heraldry the classical emblems of rank occur now and then but it is not possible to construct an uninterrupted series spanning the middle ages. The eagle was adopted by some rulers who could pretend to be the most important rulers of Britannia for a while and were residing in London or were in its possession. The dragon apparently was maintained in Wales and Wessex and the lion, the christian counterpart of the dragon, in Northumbria and later in all of Britanny.

The adoption of the eagle and the dragon in the Britannic middle ages would imply that the successors of the consulares could bring about 5000 soldiers in the field and the rulers of the smaller kingdoms about 500 to 1000.

Epatticus 25-35 AD. Head of ruler, l. EPATI. R. Eagle


The earliest appearance of an eagle as a symbol of rank dates from the reign of Epatticus, a Celtic ruler in southern Britain (25-35 A.D.). A silver coin from his reign shows his bust with the letters EPATI and an eagle of a more or less roman style on the reverse. We may suppose that this coin was inspired by the Romans because other early celtic coins from Britain generally show a horse


Even when the preserved eagles from Roman Britain are not abundant, some remains of them, for example the Silchester Eagle and some eagle-brooches, prove that this emblem of rank was known in Roman Britain. Nevertheless, more impressive evidences are some centuries younger.


Early Anglo-Saxon Period (575-775) coin.

Eagle and square cross, symbolizing royal (consular) christian government.


Bird, rings and Latin cross

H5190 – ANGLO-SAXON, East Saxon Kingdom, Lundenwic (London mint), (c. A.D. 680 - c. A.D. 710), Primary Series, Silver Sceat or Sceatta (Penny), 1.07g., 12mm, Series BI, diademed bust right, [VA]NTIAV, pseudo legend around, rev., bird on cross with small cross right, an annulet either side, within serpent circle, pseudo legend around, (S.777; Metcalf 100-106), (N° 361)


This coin was probably minted for Archbishop Theodore (668-690) of Canterbury and his protegé Earconwald of London (675-693). This would explain the Latin Cross whilst the bird, probably a peacock, would mean the rank of a prefect, borne by an archbishop.


Bretwaldas of Brittanny





477 - ca. 514



560 - 591



591 - 616

East Anglia


616 - 627



627 - 632



633 - 641



641 - 670



ca. 735 - 757



757 - 796



829 - 839



839 - 855



856 - 860



860 - 866



866 - 871



871 - 899



477 - ca. 514



560 - 591


Early Anglo-Saxon Period (575-775) coin.

Eagle and square cross, symbolizing royal (consular) christian government.



591 - 616



616 - 627


The most striking and well-known example of the use of an eagle is the north-german style eagle on the shield of Sutton Hoo. This has been found in a ship used for the interment of an East Anglian king from the middle of the 7th century, probably Rædwald (†625).[4] The interment in a ship makes his relationship with the sea visible. The eagle may be explained  by the fact that Rædwald is on the list of bretwaldas, king of Britain as given by the english historian Bede. [5]






From the conquered Dacians, the Romans in Trajan's time borrowed the dragon ensign which became the standard of the cohort as the eagle was that of the legion. Both symbols are represented on the shiel found in Sutton Hoo meaning that the bearer was as well the commander of a legion as well the commander of its first cohorts. This made together the position of the Centurio Primipili, the commander of the advance guard of 400 soldiers of a legion. [6]


Reconstruction of Sutton Hoo warrior

with position of eagle and drgon on the shield

B.M. Museum number 1939, 1010.160


No remains of a body have been found in Sutton Hoo and therefore it is proposed that the place was a cenotaph and not a grave or tomb. [7]


On this  reconstruction there is an eagle and a dragon, badges of military command and, as a crest on the ring of the sceptre, a stag. This is the badge of pagan- as well as christian religious leadership.

The sceptre is a quite arbitrary reconstruction, the ring-and-stag also thought to have been the crest of a 170 cm high standard. This makes no difference for the meaning of the stag.


Museum number



Iron pattern-welded sword blade, heavily corroded. The blade is broad and tapers slightly towards the pointed tip. Near the hilt, two circular indentations mark the position of the two scbbard bosses 1939,1010.26-27. Traces of the wooden sheath remain on the blade (1939,1010.95.C). For the hilt fittings, see 1939,1010.19-25.



Length: 720 millimetres (blade)

Length: 851 millimetres (overall, with scabbard and hilt)

Width: 64 millimetres

Curator's comments

The Sutton Hoo sword was not restored from fragments - it was lifted as a solid but rusted unit. A more proper description, based on the catalogue entry in Sutton Hoo, Volume I. p. 441, would read: pattern-welded iron blade rusted in an oxydised fur-lined wooden scabbard, bound round the top with tapes. ACE, 25 June 1990. Attached to 1939,1010.19 Attached to 1939,1010.20 




Museum number



Stone sceptre or whetstone comprising a four-sided stone bar of hard, fine-grained grey stone. Each end of the bar tapers to form a 'neck', and ultimately terminates in a carved, lobed knob, roughly onion-shaped and originally painted red. Each knob is enclosed by a cage of copper alloy ridged strips. At one end (interpreted as the bottom), the cage consists of six strips and is attached to a cup-shaped piece of copper alloy. The cage at the other end (interpreted as the top) consists of eight copper alloy strips surmounted by an iron ring (see 1939,1010.205.b), upon which is mounted a copper alloy stag (see 1939,1010.205.a). Immediately below each knob are four human masks carved in relief, one on each of the stone bar's four faces. Each mask is different; three are clearly bearded, and five are either beardless or bearded with an exposed chin. The masks are approximately triangular in shape, ending in curved oval terminals. All faces of the stone are extremely smooth and show very little trace of wear.

© The Trustees of the British Museum [8]



Length: 58.3 centimetres (Stone bar only)

Length: 82 centimetres (incl metal fittings)

Width: 5.1 centimetres (max)

Weight: 2.4 kilograms (Stone bar only)

Weight: 3048.2 grammes (incl metal fittings (excl. 2 separate strips))



627 - 632



633 - 641



641 - 670


7th century warrior on horseback



ca. 735 - 757



757 - 796


The main figure on fol 202 v° of the Book of Kellls probably represents Offa himself. That he is a worldly monarch can be seen in the first place at the nimbus he carries. This is decorated with Greek (square-) crosses and can thus be considered as the precursor of the later crowns and lilies set crowns that were worn in gold and precious stones by princes not behind but on the head. The confusion between a nimbus and a crown, both called corona, still remains in the Renaissance. The nimbus or corona is more or less carried by two hovering angels representing the phrase Dei Gratia. Such angels are from the end of the 4th century the usual  escorts of the imperial image. In contrast to the prelate on fol 32 v° he wears a short red beard or is unshaven. Furthermore, he has a scroll in his hand that refers to the insignia of the Roman officials in the 4th and 5th century. Scrolls, together with a folio, were part of the insignia of the administrators of the third echelon, the comes, the duces and others. According to the Notitia Dignitatum, the folio contained the text: FL [oreas] in [all] [ectos] co [mites] ord [dinis] PR [imi] (= That you may flourish between the elected plenipotentiaries of the first rank). [9]In later times the foliant was put away in a tube that was closed with two caps. In this sense, the scroll that holds our figure in the hand is a forerunner of the marshal’s baton on the one hand, and a forerunner of a scepter on the other.

The prince on the leaf is seated at a table covered with a cloth on which the imperial image, provided with nimbus and two crossed sceptres, is arranged at the front. In the Late Roman period these tables were covered with a blue cloth on which the imperial image had been placed on the front. These tables are the forerunners of our tables of credence on which the regalia are displayed. The image on the rug can be from Constatine VI who was emperor from 780-797 In that case, the image would date from his reign.

On either side of the table are the members of the entourage of the monarch, prelates or other dignitaries seated. Those on his left hand have been rubbed out and replaced with an image of the devil so that the picture can serve as an illustration of the story of the temptation of Christ.

Finally, an aisle has been kept free at the front of the table. On this side, other people or "representatives" stand or sit by way of parliament. The same order also occurs on the king's side of the Irish ring crosses and can still be found in the British parliament to this day.

The surprising outcome of our excercise is therefore that with folio 202 v° we have an old, if not the oldest, image of the British Parliament.




 King of Wessex 786-802


Beorhtric (d. 802), also Brihtric; meaning "Magnificent ruler" was the King of Wessex from 786 to 802, succeeding Cynewulf, but his wife and father-in-law had ...




Bretwalda 829-839








Aethelred I



Kings of England     


Alfred the Great



Alfred the Great was the first to be considered king of Engeland. The same was true for his successors and therefore the title 'Bretwalda' was not used anymore.

He ruled in the time of the Emperors Charles the Bald (875-877) and Charles the Fat (882-887).

The Alfred Jewel is goldsmith's work formed around a tear-shaped slice of rock crystal. Its inscription: AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN – 'Alfred ordered me to be made’ – connects the jewel with King Alfred the Great (r. 871–899) making it among the most significant of royal relics (Brooke, fig. 27-29, Michel de Grèce p. 72,

Ashmolean Museum North Petherton, Somerset

AD 871–899

Gold, enamel and rock crystal

6.2 x 3.1 x 1.3 cm

Presented by Colonel Nathaniel Palmer, 1718

AN1836 p.135.371



Jewelled terminal of aestel (The Alfred Jewel)

Associated people Alfred, King of Wessex (871 - 899) (commissioner)

Associated place SomersetBath & North East SomersetNewton Park (find spot)

Date AD 871 - AD 899 Late Anglo-Saxon Period (Britain) (AD 850 - 1066)

Material and technique cloisonné enamel, gold, rock crystal

Material index processed materialmetalgold;


Mercia and in this way York was a part of the possessions of the House of Wessex in the time of Æthelred II (879-911)


Edward the Elder






King Æthelstan presenting St. Cuthbert with this copy of Bede’s biographies of the saint

CCCC MS 183, fol. 1r: Frontispiece


At the end of the 10th century the kings of England began to wear crowns of roman- or byzantine design consisting of a circlet set with decorations in the form of pearls on raised points or leaves. [10]



Penny of King Æthelstan

Minted in Norwich


Crowned bust and square cross on the reverse.


Olaf Guthfrithson 















King Edgar presenting a charter

for one of Bishop Æthelwold’s monasteries to Christ, St Peter and the Virgin Mary

British Library, Cotton MS Vespasian A VIII, f. 2v


Thre king crowned, the Virgin Mary with a cross and a palm-leaf and St. Peter with a key, both nimbused.


 Edward the Martyr



Edward "the Martyr" (975-978), Silver Penny, Sole type – Reform Small Cross type, 1.50g., Bedford - Bealdic, draped diademed bust left, +EADPEARD REX AN, rev., cross pattée, +BALDIC MONETA BEDA, (N.763; S.1142; (York Coins)


Aethelred II the Unready



Aethelred II. 978-1016.

AR Penny (19.5mm, 1.64 g, 9h). Long Cross type (BMC iva, Hild. D). Hereford (Hereford) mint; Æthelwig, moneyer. Struck circa 997-1003. + ÆÐELRÆD REX Λ(NG)LΘ, draped bust left; pellet behind neck / + ÆÐELPI M•Ω•O (HE)RE, voided long cross, with pellet at center and triple-crescent ends. SCBI 7 (Copenhagen), 425; Hild –; BMC –; North 774; SCBC 1151. 




Coin of king Æthelred of England (978-1016)


Agnus Dei type: R°: lamb with cross. V°: Eagle. (Aethelred II, 978-1016)


Edmund II, Ironside



Henry of Huntingdon assumes that at the Battle of Assendun in 1016 between Edmund Ironside and Cnut the Dane, the first took his heels  "loco regio relicto, quod erat ex more inter draconem et insigne quad vocatur 'Standard'".


In a manuscript from the 13th century Edmund is dressed in a coat of arms with crosslets. (Cambridge Corp. Christi Coll. 26, p. 160.)  


House of Denmark


Cnut the Dane, the Great


King of England 1016-1035

King of Denmark 1019-1035


King Cnut and Queen Emma (Ælgyfu) present a latin cross to the New Minster, Winchester.


The king crowned and with a sword. On the altar a latin cross


In a manuscript from the 13th century Knut bears a shield with two rigged drakkars. (Cambridge Corp. Christi Coll. 26, p. 160.)  


Harold I



Harthacnut I

King of Denmark 1035-1042

King of Engeland 1040-1042


House of Wessex


Edward the Confessor



Edward on his throne with crown and sceptre:

 Bayeux 1, Edward Rex; 13/14, Edvvardvs regem.


In the lower margin at his feet two eagles respecting  regardant.


A King Enthroned from a Ms of ca. 1050. (Brooke fig. 5)


Two sides of the seal of Edward the Confessor (1059)


The king with crown, cross, orb, and sword and eagle-sceptre on the reverse.






Sovereign type: R°: Ruler with crown, cross staff and orb. V°: cross between four eagles.



Harold (II) Godwinson

Earl of East Anglia 1044-1053

Lord of Hertfordshire 1044-1057

Earl of Cambridgeshire 1044-1066

Earl of Kent 1053-1066

Earl of Wessex 1053-1066

Earl of Herefordshire 1057-1066

King of England 1066


The Battle of Stamford Bridge, (26.09.1066)

from The Life of King Edward the Confessor by Matthew Paris.13th century.

 Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.3.59, f. 32v; MS produced c. 1250-60.


King Harold defeated at Stamford Bridge


Æ Here Mattthew Paris ascribes a 13th century armour to Harold, his arms Azure, a lion rampant Argent, his coat of arms also Azure with parts of lions Argent and his crest an eagle issuant.


Harold on his throne with sceptre, crown and orb.

Hic residet : harold Rex : anglorvm).

(Bayeux tapestry scene 30, Coronation of  Harold)


Harold Godwinsson was the successor on the English throne appointed in 1066 by Edward the Confessor and the "Witan"


Arms: A grey shield with a cross wavy between 14 bolts

Standard: Dragon       

The dragon standard is represented at the death of Harold

(Bayeux tapestry scene 57, Hic Harold Rex interfectvs est.)


The Golden Dragon


Ca. 1136 By Geoffrey of Monmouth (p. 248) a golden dragon  is said to have been the standard of  King Arthur.


The same Geoffrey of Monmouth writes in the Prophecies of Merlin:...the White Dragon, which stands for the Saxons" en "The Red Dragon represents the people of Britain" (p. 171).

"Two more Dragons shall follow, one of which will be killed by the sting of envy, but the second will return under the cover of authori­ty.

'The lion of Justice shall come next, and its roar the towers of Gaul shall shake and the island Dragons tremble. In the days of this Lion gold shall be squeezed from the lily-flower and the nettle, and silver shall flow from the hoofs of lowing cattle." (pp. 173-174)


Ascribed coat of arms: Azure, a lion Or. (ca 1250)


Chronica Maj. Cambridge Corp Christi Coll Ms 26 fol. 172: Coronation of Harold, 1066: Azure, a lion rampant or. L.: Scutum et corona regis Haroldi sibi regnum usurpantis.

Chronica Maj. Cambridge Corp Christi Coll Ms 26 fol. 174: Death of Harold 1066: Azure, a cross moline sable and over all a lion rampant or. L.: Scutum Haroldi regis.  

Hist Ang. B.L. Ms Roy 14 C VII fol. 10: Death of Harold, 1067: Azure, a lion rampant queue fourchée or. L.: Clipeus Haraldi.


House of Normandy


William the Conqueror

*1027 - †1087

Duke of Normandy 1035

King of England 1066


First seal (reverse)

The king on horseback to the right, in coat of mail and conical helmet and spurred; in right hand a long lance with three streamers ; in left hand a kite shaped shield, held by a strap, showing the interior. Horse trappings: a small, plain saddle, and stirrup, breast-band, girth, and head-gear. X HOC NORMANNORVM WILLELMVM NOSCE PATRONVM S[I.]  between dotted circles


First seal (obverse)

The king, enthroned, with a crown fleury of three trefoiled points, and loose robe falling in folds between the knees, with arms and feet apparently bare; both arms extended and raised fom the elbow; in right hand a sword erect in left hand an orb, surmounted by a tall cross pattée fitchée. Throne without back; cushions on the seal ; the base having three small arches, which rest on a plnth also having arches in nearly verticall corresponding positions. X HOC ANGLIS REGEM SIIGNO [FATERARIS EVNDEM] between two dotte ld circles


The legend taken together, form a distcih:

Hoc Normannorum Willelmum nosce patronum,

Si hoc Anglis regem signo fatearis eundem [12]


About the heraldic emblems of William the Conqueror something is known from the Bayeux Tapestry, now in Caen (Fr.)


                                                                                     Banner with eagle                       

The ensign bearers of William the Conqueror 1066.

 Bayeux Tapestry scene 48-49: Ad prelivm contra harold dvm rege


a. Square banner with five lappets and a cross witin a bordure

b. Semi circular flamed banner with bird (eagle?) within bordure


To the benefit of his campaign to England he would have received a specially blessed flag of Pope Alexander II (1061-'73).[13]  This flag may be represented on the Bayeux tapestry (scene 38):



Banner: White, a yellow cross within a blue bordure


1. In the main of his ship is a banner with a yellow cross. It has a blue bordure and is crested with another yello cross (Bayeux 38: et venit ad pevensæ [the ducal vessel lands at Pevensey]).


2.One time in the hands of William himself (Bayeux 46: Hic nvntiatum est willelmo de harold: on a cloth with four lappets

3. One time in the hands of a servant (Bayeux 45: Iste ivssit: on a cloth with three lappets).

4. One time in the hands of a ducal ensign (Bayeux 55: "hic est dvx wilel" and "E[vsta]civs" (that is of Boulogne): a yellow cross between four black discs, a brown bordure and three green lappets


Arms: White, a yellow square cross within a bordure.


It is on the shield he bears at his campaign agains Duke Conan of Brittanny, that is to say before his campaign to England (Bayeux 20: Et cvnan claves rexit:)


The shield is almost identical to that of the Varanger Bodyguard of the Byzantine emperors (from 988): A l´avènement de Michel II (820-829), the patriarche Nicéphore lui écrit, pour l’inviter à rétablir le culte des images. Mais Michel refuse. (Madrid Chronicle by Johan Skylitzes. Palermo, ca. 1150 -75. Bibl. Nacional, Madrid, Vitr. 26-2 fol 28 v. Behind the patriarch a bodyguard with a shield with a cross.)


The Troops of William (See for this the Tapestry of Bayeux.)

In addition to the shield and the banner with the cross, there are also dragons on the shields of the Norman warriors. For example, Bayeux 7 (hic apprendehit wido haroldv et duxit evm, in the suite of Guy) Bayeux 11 (nvntii willelmi), Bayeux 13 (willelmi normannorvm dvcem, in the suite of William) and Bayeux 56 (et cecidervnt qvi erant cvm haroldo) . Since these are the only animal figures that appear on the shields, it is possible to assume that these are the shields of important people from William's environment, for example, suppliers of parts of the army. Dragons no longer appear as a charge in Normandy and England, but as an ensign, a crest and, in the 14th century, as a supporter.


The Earldoms

William the Conqueror had already brought the earldoms under the crown at the start of his reign.

“To make way for direct royal government in each shire, William deliberately broke up the half-dozen great Earldoms into which later Saxon England had been divided for purpose of administration. First Wessex disappeared with the House of Godwin, and has never again been a unit exept in Hardy's novels. Mercia and Northumbria vanished no less completely on the fall of Edwin and Morcar after their second rebellion. East Anglia was preserved for a while under a Norman Earl, but was resolved back into its component shires after the Norman Earl had himself risen in revolt against the Crown. When William Rufus died, there remained only three counties governed otherwise than by the King's officers - the hereditary Earldoms Palatine of Chester and Shrewsbury, and the County Palatine of Durham, governed by its Prince Bishop, the secular and spiritual lord of the Border.” [14]


William II, Rufus


William II Rufus

*1056 - †1100

King of England 1087


Equestrian seal:



Of the successors of William I no shields are known with readable charges and on their seals their shields are seen from the inside.



Apocrief wapen:


W.: Rood, drie gaande en aanziende gouden leeuwen. (Mattheus Parisiensis Cambridge Corp Christi Coll. Ms. 26, p. 212)


Henry I Beauclerc, the Lion

*1068 - †01.12.1135

King of England 05.08.1100

Duke of Normandy 1106



Crowned king with sword upright and orb ensigned with a long cross pattée pommentée


Rider, helmeted with banner charged with a cross moline, shield seen from within.  [15]



Na een stormachtige tocht over het kanaal werd koning Hendrik I van Engeland bezocht door nachtmerries. Het is een van de weinige gebeurtenissen die in de 12e eeuw werden weergegeven in een tekening in een kroniek van John of Worcester (ca. 1130-’40). John hoorde het verhaal van Hendriks lijfarts Grimbald, die in de marge is afgebeeld.

De Nieuw-Zeelandse historica Judith Collard schreef een uitvoerige analyse van deze plaatjes in het Journal of Medieval History juni 2010.







sceaux ; collection Bourgogne




Moulage du contre-sceau d'Henri Ier dit Beauclerc, roi d'Angleterre.

Légende en latin, restituée : "HENRICUS, DEI GRACIA REX ANGLORUM",


1102-01-01 / 1108-12-31


Seal of Henry I.: The duke on horseback with sword and shield. L.: henricvs dei gratia dvx normannorvm X


House of Blois


Stephen of Blois


King of England 1135

Duke of Normandy 1135-1144



Seal of majesty The king crowned on his throne with sword and orb  crested with a square cross and a bird (eagle). On his right a sun. Legend:  STEPHANVS • DEI • GRATIA • REX • ANGLORVM X [16]


Second Great Seal of King Stephen (reverse)

attached to a Market Charter for Great Bricett manor, Suffolk. 1152 (Ref GBR/22)
Image courtesy of King's College Archive Centre


Equestrian seal:  The duke on horseback with shield and spear with pennon with square cross. Legend.: STEP­HANVS • DEI • GRATIA • DVX • NORMANNORVM X.


That is to say that Stepen still bore the banner with the cross of William the Conqueror.


So a square cross, a sun and an eagle were used at the same time by Stephen.


Penny struck c.1140 at a previously unknown mint at Tutbury Castle.

Dug up Nov. 2017[17]

Obv. Very crude bust. STEPHANVS. X.  V°: Cross between four eagles. (Stephen 1135-1154).



*1103 - †1167

Heiress apparent of England 1127

¥ Geoffrey Plantagenet 1128

Queen of England 1141 - 1154




A succession crisis in England at the beginning of the 12th century was caused by the death of King Henry I who saw himself bereaved of a male heir due to the death of his son William IV, Duke of Normandy. His son-in-law Henry V, Roman Emperor, died in 1125. Henry I first forced the English nobles to take an oath of loyalty to his daughter Mathilda (January 1127) as his successor and then married her to Geoffrey Plantagenet, the son of Folco, count of Anjou. At his marriage on June 17, 1128, Geoffrey would have received from Henry I a shield adorned with golden lions: "clypeus leunculos aureos imaginarios habens in collo ejus suspenditur". Later he is said to have lions on his shield ("pictos leones proferens in clypeos").


Geoffrey V Plantagenet

*1113 -†1151

Count of Anjou 1128-1151

Duke of Normandy 1144-1151


John of Tours, a monk at Marmoutier, who wrote the "Historia Gof­fredi Plantagenistae", describes the ceremony in very flowery latin:


“Arising from the bath, Geoffrey, the noble offs­pring of the count of Anjou, put on a fine linen garment next to his flesh, assumed a mantle woven with gold over that and donned a mantle of state dyed with purple and the blood of the murex, was clothed with silken leggings, and his feet fitted with shoes that had small golden lions on their surface (pedes ejus soluta­ribus in superfi­cie Leonculos aureos haben­tibus muniuntur).

His companions who were awaiting the honour of knighthood with him were all clothed in linen and purple. The horses were brought, the arms were brought... He was clothed with an incomparable cuirass, woven with double links, unable to be pierced by any lance or javelin blow. He was shod with iron leggings also of double weave; golden shoes were fitted to his feet. A shield, bearing small gold lions figured on it, was hung round his neck (Clypeus Leonculos aureos imaginarios habens collo ejus suspen­ditur); on his head was placed a helm gleaming with many preci­ous stone...

He was brought his ashen spear... Lastly a sword was brought to him from the royal treasury, where it was recorded to have lain long, in the making of which the chiefest of smiths, Wayland, had spent much time and effort”. [18]




Æ http://archive.org/stream/chroniquesdescom00halpuoft#page/liv/mode/2up


The ceremony may have meant little else than that Geoffrey was recognized as an important warrior in England. Because while it had been agreed that Mathilde would be the sovereign, the military order should still lie with a man. The passage points to this: "At last he was brought a sword from the royal treasury in which it was said to have been preserved for a long time and to which the maker, Wayland (= Galannus), the best of all blacksmiths, had spent a lot of time and effort." Clearly this is not about the investment with Anjou, which belonged to the father of Geoffrey, the later king of Jerusalem Folco, and of which Henry I obviously had nothing to say, but about the investment of Geoffrey as the consort of the future Queen of England with executive power in the Kingdom of England.


 Dragmaticon von Guillaume de Conches, (1090-1154) Cologny-Genf, Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Cod. Bodmer 188 (frühes 13. Jh.). Represented are: Philosophy, Plato, Guillaume de Conches and Geoffrey Plantagenet (clockwise)


What the shield mentioned by Jean de Marmoutiers looked like is not known. It is usually assumed that the coat of arms of Geoffrey allegedly granted to him by Henry I in 1127, is depicted on the enamelled grave plate from the Le Mans Cathedral (1158 ca). On it is a warrior in full armor, his shield and helmet blue, decorated with six yellow lions (four visible). The plate is currently in the Le Mans Museum and described by the keepers of the Museum. [19] The authors conclude that it represents Geoffrey Plantagenet and must be dated to around 1158. However, given the year of origin and the person depicted, it is more likely that it is Henry II. In addition, Geoffrey Plantagenet is said to be named "Plantagenet" after the sprig of broom on his helmet. This is not visible on the plate. Moreover, it is nowhere recorded that the plate was affixed to the grave of Geoffrey. In the text there is no mention of "Count" (Comes) but of "Prince" (Princeps) which may relate to Henry II rather than Geoffrey.This is a hypothesis that was earlier proposed but is rejected by the authors..[20]

The number of lions could correspond to the aforementioned earldoms that were the administrative successors of the historic kingdoms in England at the time of William the Conqueror: Northumberland, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent and Wessex. (The kingdom of Sussex, the seventh in the Heptarchy, was then a part of Wessex.)


1158 Plaque of Le Mans:

Warrior with red beard, dressed in green tunica and blue cloak lined vair. Sword upright, on his head a blue helmet with a golden lion passant. On his arm a blue shield on which six  (Four visible) lions rampant of gold or in the natural color.

The color of the lions is rather dark now, because they were made with an émail brun (dark brown enamel made from baked linseed oil) and the lines depicting the hair of the lions were enhanced with gold now mostly gone. The color of the shield, however, is clearly blue. The field is strewn with fleurs de lys.

On the upper edge the inscription "ENSE TVO PRINCEPS PREDONUM TURBA FUGATUR / ECCLE (S) ISSQ (UE) QVIES PACE VIGENTE-DATE" (by your sword, prince, the gang of looters have been fled and by your watchful peace calm is given to the churches). [21]


Æ also Epitaphe en cuivre emaillé a gauche contre le deuxiême pilier proche le jubé dans la Nef de l'Eglise Cathédrale de St Julien du Mans : [dessin] / [Louis Boudan ?]

Gallica digital ID btv1b69050487




To: The Plantagenets



Back to Main Page


 © Hubert de Vries 2019-04-15




[1] ) Manaresi, C.: Gli Atti del Commune di Milano, fino all’anno mccvi.

[1] http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/39195/1/DurhamEagle.pdf

[2] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/britannia/article/minories-eagle-a-new-sculpture-from-londons-eastern-roman-cemetery/34A4069892F19CBEBEFC164B6A6883EF/core-reader

[3] Berger, p. 82

[4]  Bruce-Mitford, Rupert: The Sutton-Hoo Ship-Burial. London, 1972. Ch. VII: Who was He? According to B. …The evidence strongly favours Rædwald (d.  625/6) and no earlier king is possible.

[5] Bede (672-735) schreef de Historica Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum dat een belangrijke bron is voor de bestudering van de vroege Middeleeuwse geschiedenis van Engeland. (Brooke, C. 1963, p. 103) Bretwaldas Listed by Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Aelle of Sussex (488–c.514); Ceawlin of Wessex (560–92, died 593); Æthelberht of Kent (590–616); Rædwald of East Anglia (c600–24); Edwin of Deira (616–33); Oswald of Northumbria (633–42); Oswiu of Northumbria (642-70). Mercian rulers with similar or greater authority: Wulfhere of Mercia (658-675); Æthelred of Mercia (675-704, died 716); Æthelbald of Mercia (716-757); Offa of Mercia (757-796); Cœnwulf of Mercia (796-821). Listed only by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Egbert of Wessex (802–39).

[6] Vegetius Epitoma Rei Militaris Cap. VII & VIII

[7] https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=406695001&objectid=88895

[8] https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=724350001&objectid=88895

[9] The Roman  diocese Brittanniae, under a vicar, was divided in the provinces Maxima, Flavia Caesariensis, Brittannia I and Brittannia II. Mercia was located in the former. Flavia C.. Wessex and Kent in the provinces Brittannia I and II. In B. I ruled a een dux, in B. II a comes.

[10] Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles: The Art of Heraldry. An Encyclopaedia of Armory. Arno Press, 1904: pp 265-269: Davenport, Cyril: The crown o Great Britain

[11] https://archive.org/stream/catalogueofseals01brit#page/n893/mode/1up P. 2, Plate 1, n°9

[12] Gray-Birch, Walter de: Catalgueof Seals. London 1887-1900. Pp. 3-4

[13] Mann, Horace. K.:  The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages, London, 1925-'29, T. VI. 307.

[14] Trevelyan, G.M.: A Shortened History of England. Penguin Books. 1972. p. 110.

[15] Gray-Birch op.cit. 1887 p.6-8.

[16] Also: Francis Sandford in A Genealogical History of the Kings of England, London, 1677 and descibed by Douët d'Arcq: nos 10 003 en 10 003bis. and  Gray-Birch op.cit. 1887 p. 9-10

[17] Also: Seaby’s Standard Catalogue 1972. British Coins: n° 740

[18] Halphen, Louis & René Poupardin: Jean, moine de Saint Martin de Marmoutier: Historia Gaufredi ducis Norman­norum et comitis Andegravorum / Chronique des Comtes d'Anjou et des seigneurs d'Amboise, Paris, 1913 pp. 178-181) Jean, chroniqueur de la fin du XIIe siècle, moine de l'abbaye de Marmoutiers vers 1170. Il a remanié à cette époque la compilation connue sous le nom de Gesta consulum Andegavorurn, qu'il dédia au roi d'Angleterre Henri II, et a écrit une histoire de Geoffroy V le Bel (Historia Gaufredi ducis Normannorum et comitis Andegavorum). Ces oeuvres ont été plusieurs fois publiées et notamment par Marchegay, Salmon et Mabille dans les Chroniques des comtes d'Anjou (Paris, 1856-1874, in-8; Coll. de la Soc. de l'hist. de France) & Louis Halphen, René Poupardin. Paris 1913

[19] Nikitine, Serge & M.: L Email Plantage­net. Nancy, 1981.

[20] Ibid p. 5: Henri II

[21] Nikitine, Serge & M.: L Email Plantage­net. Nancy, 1981..