The Arms of England

The Royal Arms

The Plantagenets

!5- and 16Th century

The Achievement



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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).[1] 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. [2]


Ornamental Purse-lid from Sutton Hoo


One of the items found together with the shield is a purse-lid decorated with ornaments of eagles and quadrupeds arranged in achievements.

The one in the centre shows two ducks (a drake and a duck?) respecting “presented” to each other by two eagles. The meaning of this arrangement is unclear.

On both sides of this there are standing men supported by two lions (or controlling two lions). This is an achievement which is also known from merovingian France and perhaps symbolizes the office of a count palatine.

In the chief there are four quadrupeds, probably wolves, intertwined with serpents (?) of which the symbolic meaning is also unclear.



627 - 632



633 - 641


Another occurrence of the anglo-saxon eagle is in the recently unearthed 7th or 8th century Staffordshire Hoard (found at Hammerwich; not yet analyzed). This contains a crumpled pair of eagles and consequently is probably a part of booty taken from a vanquished bretwalda. For this vanquished bretwalda King Oswald of Northumbria (633-642) is an acceptable candidate because he died in battle against Penda of Mercia at the Battle of Maserfield, dated by Bede to 5 August 642.


The anglo-saxon eagles from the Staffordshire Hoard.



Reconstruction of the pair of eagles [3]


It shows an achievement of a fish, supported by two eagles. The meaning of the fish is not clear in this context



641 - 670



ca. 735 - 757



757 - 796


 King of Wessex 786-802




Bretwalda 829-839





Another pair of eagles, but of a more roman fashion occurs on the ring of King Aethelwulf of Wessex, a successor of the last bretwalda listed by the Anglo-Saxdon chronicle. On this ring the eagles serve as supporters of a pillar crested by a square cross.

Gold ring of  Æthelwulf, King of Wessex (839-’58)


Such a roman styled eagle is also on coins of Norse king Anlaf Guthfridsson who had settled in York, the former capital of Brittany. Not long after an eagle is on a coin of king Æthelred II from the House of Wessex. In  957-959 Wessex had conquered Northumbria and


Title (object) Æthelwulf Ring

Description Gold finger-ring decorated in the Trewhiddle style, the hoop flat and rising in front to a high mitre-shaped bezel. In the triangular portion a conventional 'tree', which divides the field into two halves, is flanked by two peacocks, all reserved in the metal upon a ground of niello. In the two lower corners are panels with foliage in relief without niello. The two discs with rosettes, which form part of the central ' tree', are treated in the same manner. Around the hoop is the nielloed inscription, preceded by a cross. The back of the hoop has a circle containing a rosette upon a nielloed ground, flanked by foliate designs, one of which is interlaced.

More : School/style Trewhiddle style

Culture/period Late Anglo-Saxon 

Date 828-858

Findspot Found/Acquired: Laverstock, Found in a cart rut. (Europe,United Kingdom, England, Wiltshire, Laverstock)

Materials niello gold 

Technique relief nielloed inlaid

Dimensions Æ 2.8 centimetres (max) Height: 3.048 c1.2 inches Weight: 285 grains

Inscription + ETHELVVLF RX (= Ethelwulf Rex)

Inv. Nr. British Museum nr. 1829,1114.1





Aethelred I



No achievements of British institutions, including royal institutions are known from England from late of the Carolingian era until the beginning of the 14th centiury. An achievement of the English arms occurs at almost the same time as such an achievement  in France at the time of King Philip IV (1285-1314). It however occurs almost a hunred years later than in Holland on the seal of count William I, 1222.


Edward II of Caernarvon


Heir of the Throne 1284-1307

Prince of Wales 1301-1307

Earl of Chester 1301-1320

King of England 1307-1327


By Edward II supporters were introduced. These were two lions at first placed around the throne. At the ame time dragons were introduced supporting the coat of arms on the purse for the seal.

Later, the lions became the usual supporters for the royal arms, replacing the dragons. By the House of Lancaster the supporters were of a arbitrary kind but the were cnsolidated  as the unicorn of Scotland and the lion for England under the House of Stewart.


Four lions around his throne

Embroidered cap for the Seal of Edward II. 8 June 1319


Arms: Gules, three lions passant guardant Or

Crown: Three crowns

Supporters: Two dragons


Edward III



Earl of Chester 1320

Duke of Aquitaine 1325-1375

Duke of Gascony 1325-1337

Duke of Guienne 1325-1375

Count of Ponthieu 1325-1375

King of England 1327

∞ 1329 Philippa of Hainault *1314-†1369

Tit. King of France 1337/1340-1360

Roman King 10.01.1348-23.04.1348



First seal of majesty of Edward III

Sandford, p.123


Edward on his throne between the lions passant guardant of his arms



Seal of majesty, 1340

Sandford, p.124


Edward seated between two lions sejant guardant, crowned and with sceptre and orb, between two coats of arms quarterly of France and England.

The royal title now augmented with France

L.: X : edwardVs : dei : gracia : rex : francie et : anglie : et : dominVs : hybernie :


Entrance Trinity College,  Cambridge University


Richard II



¥ Anne of Bohemia 1382

¥ Isabella of Valois 1396


Seal of Richard II

Sandford, p.190


Richard between the arms quarterly and two lions sejant guardant.  In base a seraphine



House of Lancaster


Henry IV



The ampulla, representing an eagle, after having been lost for a time, was again used at the coronation of Henry IV.


The Royal Arms remained of a strewn with fleurs de lis in the first and fourth quarters until 1411, when upon the second Great Seal of Henry IV. the fleurs-de-lis in England (as in France) were reduced to three in number, and so remained as part of the Royal Arms of this country until the latter part of the reign of George III.


Henry V



From: The wedding of Henry V and Catherine de Valois, 2 June 1420

Chroniques de Fance où de St, Denis, 1487

British Library, MS Royal 20 E VI, f. 9v


Arms: ¼ of France modern and England

Crest: On  aducal hat a lion passant Or

Supporters: D.: A dragon Gules; S. A greyhound Argent, collared Or.


Henry VI




Act with achievment during his minority


Arms: ¼ of France (m) and England.

Crest: On a ducal hat a lion passant guardant Or

Order: Of the Garter

Supporters: D.: a crowned lion guardant Or, and S.: A yale Argent, tufted, haltered with a crown and shackled Or.  


* The Yale was known to Pliny and the medieval bestiarists and is probably a garbled version of a real animal. The Lancaster yale is of the build of an antelope with a lion’s tail and is black or very dark brown in colour; but it has, of course, the fierce tushes in the lower yaw and the swiveling horns, which are his distinguishing feature, though in this case they are long and straight. [4]


Kings College Cambridge Royal Coat of Arms of King Henry VI,  1441


Crown: Of six hoops, three crosses and two lilies.

Supporters.: Two yales tufted, horned and haltered with a crown and shackled Or.  



King’s College, Cambridge. Founder’s Charter upon Act of Parliament, 16 March 1446 (deatail)

the Lords and Commons petition Henry VI, who prays for his College. The Virgin and St. Nicholas the patron saints of the College, are shown above. [5]



Arms: ¼ of France (mod) and England

Crown: A closed crown of five leaves

Supporters: Two multicoloured angels.


Elswhere on this leaf the arms of St. Edward and St Edmund both supported by a multicoloured angel and, in the middle the arms of France (modern):


Edward the Confessor

St. Edmund


Generally speaking, until the reign of Henry VI, the royal diadem was an open circlet adorned with fleurs-de-lys or stylised leaves. The crown of Henry VI was of  fleurs de lis, square crosses and three hoops. The crown of his queen of fleurs de lis and square crosses only.


1445 The arms of King Henry VI and his queen, Margaret of Anjou (¥ 1445). The latter impales the Royal arms of England with her own quartered shield showing Hungary, Naples, Jerusalem, Anjou, Bar and Lorraine. 1445 The arms of King Henry VI and his queen, Margaret of Anjou (¥ 1445).

The latter impales the Royal arms of England with her own quartered shield and a sinister half showing Hungary, Naples, Jerusalem, Anjou, Bar and Lorraine. It is crowned of a crown of five fleurs de lis and four square crosses  pattée and supported by a the lancastrian yale and the eagle of Lorraine.


Royal Seal of Queen Margaret of Anjou

Sigillum Margarete Dei gratia regine anglie et francie et domine hibernie filie regis sicilie et ier’lm.
The seal of Margaret, by grace of God queen of England and France and mistress of Iireland, daughter of the king of Sicily and Jerusalem.


House of York


Edward IV


Kight of the Fleece. n° 65, Brugge 1468


Achievement of Edward IV

Master of the London Wavrin. BL. Ms Royal 15E IV fol.14 [6]


Arms: ¼ of France and Engeland.

Crest:, a Lion passant guardant crested of  a fleur de lis Or on Lambrequines Gules and Argent

Order: Of the Garter

Supporters: Two lions sejant Argent


House of Lancaster


Henry VI




House of York


Edward V



Richard III





House of Tudor


Henry VII





Achievement of Henry VII, 1504

National Archives nr. E 33 / 2


Henry used a crown imperial (arched over), indicating that he ruled over the entire realm of England and Wales. Also on the coat of arms are the white greyhound of Richmond, for his father, and the red dragon of Cadwaladr.


Henry VIII





Arms: ¼ France and  Plantagenet;

Crown: A closed royal crown

Supporters: A cowned lion and a dragon

Mottoi: dieu et mon droit.


The arms between two roses the Garter missing (From: Willement, Thomas: Regal Heraldry. London, 1821.)


1515 The royal title was enlarged by Henry VIII in 1515 with the qualification: Fidei Defensor. (Defender of the Faith).


The inscription shows that the work was a gift for Francis Walsingham, to whose family its provenance can be traced. Along the bottom, it reads: "THE QUENE. TO. WALSINGHAM. THIS. TABLET. SENTE. MARKE. OF. HER. PEOPLES. AND HER. OWNE. CONTENTE". Inscription around the frame: "A FACE OF MUCHE NOBILLITYE LOE IN A LITLE ROOME. FOWR STATES WITH THEYR CONDITIONS HEARE SHADOWED IN. A SHOWE A FATHER MORE THEN VALYANT. A RARE AND VERTUOUS SOON. A ZEALUS DAUGHTER IN HER KIND WHAT ELS THE WORLD DOTH KNOWE. AND LAST OF ALL A VYRGIN QUEEN TO ENGLANDS JOY WE SEE SUCCESSYVELY TO HOLD THE RIGHT, AND VERTUES OF THE THREE". Mixing portraiture and allegory, the painting anachronistically shows Henry VIII, his three children, and Queen Mary's husband, Philip of Spain, alongside figures from mythology. Henry sits on his throne in the centre, with his son Edward, the future Edward VI, kneeling beside him receiving the sword of justice. Henry died in 1547, but on the left of the picture his daughter Mary is shown next to Philip, whom she didn't marry until 1554 when she was queen, with Mars, god of war, behind them, symbolising the wars they fought. Elizabeth, by contrast, stands on the right of the picture holding the hand of Peace, who treads the sword of discord underfoot, as Plenty attends with her cornucopia. Painted in Elizabeth's reign c. 1572, the picture stresses her legitimate descent from the Tudor dynasty and her role as a bringer of peace and prosperity to the realm. Owing to a similarity of style and composition with Lucas de Heere's Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (1559) and other works, the art historian Roy Strong has attributed the work to de Heere; the art scholar and curator Karen Hearn, however, regards the attribution as speculative. Another source for the composition may be the anachronistic (Queen Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to Prince Edward) group portrait The Family of Henry VIII (c. 1545). Prototypes for the portraits have been detected in paintings by Holbein (Henry), Scrots (Edward), Mor (Mary and Philip), and, less confidently, Hilliard (Elizabeth). (Reference: Hearn, pp. 81–82.)


 Edward VI



Changed the title of “Dominus Hibernie” into “Hibernie Rex”.

House of  Suffolk





House of Tudor





The achievement of Philip and Mary

on Windsor Castle


Arms: Impaled of Spain and England

Crown: A royal crown of three hoops

Order: of the Garter

Supporters: A crowned eagle in the dexter and a crowned lion guardant on the sinister

Motto: Truth is the daughter of time


Eilzabeth I



St. Catherine’s church. Ludham, Norfolk


Arms: ¼ of France modern and England

Crown: A royal crown of five hoops

Order: Of the Garter

Supporters: Dexter a cowned lion guardant Or and sinister a dragon Gules.


The inscription reads: I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ / long live queen Elizabeth




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 © Hubert de Vries 2019-05-02





[1]  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.

[2] 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).

[3] https://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/conservation-documentation-for-the-staffordshire-hoard

[4] Dennys, Rodney: The Heraldic Imagination.  Barrie & Jenkins Ltd. London, 1975. The Yale pp. 165-166

[5] https://kcctreasures.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/diamm-300-dpi.jpg

[6] https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=48836