Friday, October 07, 2022

The three coats of arms of Elizabeth II

While each of Her Gracious Majesty’s sixteen crowns has its own heraldic composition, the sovereign’s personal coat of arms only varies in three of these countries. In the United Kingdom, on a heraldic level, Elizabeth II was either Queen of England or Queen of Scotland… Canada.

English monarch

A coat of arms is a rebus. And in the case of the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth II, it is even a geographical and historical rebus which recounts, upon reading, the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The British shield is divided into four quarters. On the first and fourth, the arms of England, which British heraldry describes: “Gules three lions or passer guardant (watching).” In 13th-century French, the language of the coat of arms common to both shores of the Channel – the beginnings of heraldry coincide with the arrival of the Norman barons – they read instead: “De gules à trois leopards d’or.”

The nature of the feline in question does not come from a translation error, but more simply from the fact that the leopard, considered cowardly, and therefore less noble than the lion, emblem of neighboring Scotland, was banished from the vocabulary by the suspicious English heralds. We will therefore speak of “lions of England”, especially since the three beasts appeared in 1198, on the great royal seal of Richard the Lionheart, the knight and crusader king.

Tradition claims that to create this emblem, this romantic prince would have combined the two “gold leopards armed and langued azure (blue claws and tongue)” from the arms of his father, Henri Plantagenêt, count of Anjou, count of Maine and Duke of Normandy who became King of England, to the leopard of his mother, the beautiful Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers. These three leopards turned lions then symbolized the Plantagenet empire which extended from Hadrian’s wall to the Pyrenees, and rightly made Philippe Auguste, the king of France, tremble.

In the second quarter of the shield, James VI King of Scotland, the son of Mary Stuart, who became James I of England by inheritance from Elizabeth I Tudor, in 1603, featured the “lion rampant Gules on field of ‘or, armed and langued Azure, surrounded by a double trescheur fleurdelisé and contre-fleurdelisé Gules’. The animal appeared at the end of the 12th century, during the reign of William I of Scotland, aptly nicknamed “the Lion”. And the “fleurdelised double trescheur…” that surrounds him, under that of his son, Alexander II. According to tradition, the presence of lilies would symbolize the historical and family ties uniting the dynasties and kingdoms of France and Scotland.

The Queen's British Shield, divided into four quarters representing the creation of the United Kingdom.
The Queen’s British Shield, divided into quarters representing the creation of the United Kingdom. © Viewpoint / All rights reserved

The trescheur, a typical Scottish motif, could be the memory of the pieces that once reinforced the edges of the shield. Unless it appears, less chivalrous in origin but more refined, the border of the cushions on which the ladies of the country used to embroider badges and coats of arms. James I Stuart, in the 17th century, was also the first sovereign to include, in quarter III of the large coat of arms, the shield of Ireland, of which the English monarchs had called themselves Lord for five hundred years. The coat of arms “Azure with a harp of gold strung in silver” recalls the lyre of King David from whom, according to Irish tradition, the ancient kings of the country descended. The Order of the Garter, marked with its motto: “Honni be who thinks ill of it”, surrounds the shield, which is its grand master. The legend of the Countess of Salisbury losing her garter while bowing to Edward III is quite delightful. But the maxim rather justified the rights of this sovereign to the throne of France.

Heir to the Capétiens direct by his mother Isabelle of France, daughter of Philippe IV le Bel, Edouard considered himself despoiled by his Valois cousins ​​who had just, for this purpose, invented the “Salic law” to better establish what he considered to be a usurpation. Legitimate or not, this claim displayed by interposed coat of arms triggered a war… of Hundred Years! And until the beginning of the 19th century, Edward’s successors continued to quarter the “lilies of France” and “lions of England”, titled themselves Rex Franciae and Angliae. The motto “God and my Right” placed under the coat of arms, which appeared under King Richard, and definitively adopted by Henry V, at the beginning of the 15th century, also echoes this claim, like the “divine right” of kings. The heraldist painters, in an artistic vein in the 15th century, placed supports to hold the shields. Henry VII had chosen the red dragon of Cadwaladr, a Breton king from whom he claimed descent, and the white greyhound of Richmond, the county of his father Edmond Tudor. Even if they are not strictly part of the coat of arms, these supports, animals or characters, have become traditional.

In Scotland, land of legends with a fantastic bestiary, Jacques V of Scotland, the father of Mary Stuart, chose unicorns. When his grandson James VI, also King of Scotland, became King of England, he kept one of these unicorns “collared with a crown of gold and chained likewise”, and he confronted the crowned English lion. The stamps sum up the heraldic composition. They include the golden royal helmet, facing and openworked because the king “must see everything and know everything”.

It was Elizabeth I who adopted it with gold lambrequins (piece of scalloped fabric) lined with ermine. In England, he is crowned with the so-called Saint Edward’s crown, designed after the jewel worn by Charles II in 1661 for his coronation. On the jewel, the crowned “lion passant, guardant”. All these rooms rest on a terrace of sinople (a mound of grass) flowered with Scottish thistles, Irish clover and the Tudor rose. Composed for Edward VII, it unites the petals of the white flower of the princes of York with those of the red flower of the princes of Lancaster and symbolizes the end of the Wars of the Roses, a fratricidal struggle which exterminated the two rival branches of the Plantagenets. , fighting for the throne.

Her Gracious Majesty of Scotland

Her Gracious Majesty of Scotland.
The Raine’s Scottish coat of arms. © Viewpoint / All rights reserved

When the British sovereign stays in her royal palace of Hollyrood, in Edinburgh, or on her private estate of Balmoral, the “crawling lion of Scotland” then takes precedence, in districts I and IV, over the “passing lions guarding England” relegated to the second quarter. The Scottish unicorn joins the dexter of the shield, it brandishes a banner stamped with the cross of Saint-André, and the English lion passes in sinister, with a banner with the cross of Saint-George. The heraldic crown, placed on the golden helmet, represents the jewel made in 1540 by the goldsmith John Mosman, and worn by King James V on the occasion of the coronation of his second wife, Marie de Guise. It is topped by the crowned lion of Scotland, presented frontally and seated, brandishing scepter and sword. On a scroll floating above him, the royal motto: “In Defens”, contraction of “In My Defens God Me Defend”, for my defense, may God defend me. The thistles alone flower the terrace. And it is no longer the Garter, but the large collar of the Order of the Thistle that surrounds the coat of arms, accompanied by a listel bearing its stinging motto: “Nemo me impune lacessit”, no one provokes me with impunity.

Queen of Canada and her other kingdoms…

Queen of Canada and her other kingdoms.
The shield of Elizabeth II in Canada. © Viewpoint / All rights reserved

When she visits her North American kingdom, “Elizabeth II, Queen in Right of Canada”, uses an original trifecta composition in fess. The chief and the fess (first two bands) are quartered from England, Scotland, Ireland and France, i.e. “azure with three golden fleur-de-lis”, in memory of the French history of the country ; the third fess, at the point of the coat of arms, is “silver with three maple leaves joined by the same stem proper”. And since the “natural” of a maple leaf is green or red, its color is left to the discretion of the artist.

English-speaking heralds generally opt for red, Quebecers, for these same leaves on the coat of arms of their province, of course prefer green. On the tortil (braided crown) with gold and silver lambrequins, the English lion brandishes a maple leaf. A gold lion holds the shield on the dexter, brandishing the Union Jack, and a silver unicorn on the sinister, with the fleur-de-lis banner. The whole rests on a listello bearing the Latin motto: “A Mari Usque Ad Mare”, from sea to sea (Atlantic or Pacific), taken from the Book of Psalms, and on a terrace, flowered as for the United Kingdom with , in addition, natural lilies. Since the reign of Elizabeth II, the shield has also been surrounded by a ribbon gules, on which is inscribed in gold the motto of the Order of Canada: “Desiderantes meliorem patriam”, to desire a better country, taken fromEpistle to the Hebrews.

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