Coats of arms have been used for centuries as a way of representing families, institutions, and nations. These symbols are packed with meaning and are often rich in history and tradition. But what exactly is a coat of arms? In simple terms, it is a design that consists of various elements such as animals, plants, and objects, that are arranged in a specific pattern. Each element in the design has a symbolic meaning that represents the history, values, and accomplishments of the entity it represents. In this article, we will explore some of the most famous examples of coats of arms from around the globe and try to uncover the significances behind the different symbols and designs.
What are Coat of Arms?
Coat of Arms are unique heraldic designs that were originally used in medieval times to identify a person or family on the battlefield or in tournaments. They were also used to symbolize the status, achievements, and lineage of noble families. Each Coat of Arms typically features a shield or emblem with specific symbols, colors, and patterns that represented different aspects of the owner’s identity.
Over time, Coats of Arms became more widely used and were adopted by various organizations and countries as a symbol of national or collective identity. Many Coats of Arms from different cultures and time periods have unique designs and meanings.
In medieval Europe, Coats of Arms were typically composed of several components. These components included the crest, which was placed on top of the helmet, the motto, which was typically a phrase written in Latin, and the supporters, which were often animals or humans that flanked the shield.
As the use of Coats of Arms evolved over time, certain design elements became more standardized. For example, different colors and patterns came to represent certain qualities or aspects of the owner’s identity, and certain animals and objects became associated with different families or regions.
Today, Coats of Arms are typically associated with traditional cultures and institutions, but they can still be found in modern societies. Personal Coat of Arms are still used by some people to represent their identity or family history, while national Coat of Arms can be found on flags, government buildings, and official documents.
If you want to learn more about the history and evolution of Coats of Arms, the History of Coat of Arms provides in-depth information. Alternatively, if you want to learn about the different components of a Coat of Arms, the Components of a Coat of Arms provides a detailed breakdown of each element.
Famous Coat of Arms from Europe
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom is one of the most famous coats of arms in the world. It was first introduced in the 12th century during the reign of Richard I and was updated in 1837 during the reign of Queen Victoria. The coat of arms consists of four quarters representing the countries of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. It features the Three Lions of England, the Lion Rampant of Scotland, the Harp of Ireland, and the Dragon of Wales.
The Coat of Arms of France
The Coat of Arms of France, also known as the French coat of arms or the Arms of France, is a symbol of the French Republic. It features three golden fleur-de-lis on a blue background, which was originally the symbol of the French monarchy. The fleur-de-lis represents perfection, light, and life and is commonly associated with French culture and history.
The Coat of Arms of Spain
The Coat of Arms of Spain, known as the Spanish arms or the Coat of arms of the King of Spain, has been used in some form since the 15th century. The coat of arms consists of a shield with several smaller coats of arms in the center, representing various regions of Spain. The two Pillars of Hercules, which represent the Strait of Gibraltar, support the crown, and the ribbon motto reads “Plus Ultra,” meaning “Further Beyond.”
These are just a few examples of the famous coat of arms from Europe, each with their own unique history and symbolism. If you want to learn more about the evolution of coat of arms design or the role of personal coat of arms in society, be sure to check out the relevant articles here and here.
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom is one of the most recognizable coat of arms in the world. It features a shield supported by a lion and a unicorn, which are symbols of courage and strength. The shield is quartered, with each quadrant representing a different part of the United Kingdom. The first and fourth quadrants feature the three golden lions of England on a red field, while the second quadrant displays the lion rampant of Scotland on a yellow background, and the third quadrant depicts the harp of Ireland on a blue field. Above the shield is the royal crown, and the motto “Dieu et mon droit” which means “God and my right”. The Royal Coat of Arms has undergone several changes throughout its history and has been used by monarchs since the 12th century. Its intricate design continues to represent the heritage and traditions of the British monarchy.
The Coat of Arms of France
The Coat of Arms of France, or “l’écu de France” in French, has a long history dating back to the 12th century. It is made up of three golden fleurs-de-lis on a blue background. This iconic emblem was first used by French Kings and later became associated with the French monarchy.
The fleur-de-lis is a stylized depiction of the iris flower, and in heraldry, it is often used to symbolize purity, devotion, and royalty. The three fleurs-de-lis in the French Coat of Arms are said to represent the Holy Trinity, or the three medieval French provinces of France, Normandy, and Burgundy.
The design of the Coat of Arms has evolved over time, with different monarchs adding their own touches to the emblem. For example, during the reign of King Louis XIV, a crown was added to the top of the Coat of Arms to symbolize the divine right of kings.
After the French Revolution, the monarchy was abolished and the Coat of Arms was modified to reflect the new French Republic. The fleurs-de-lis were replaced with a simpler symbol of a blue, white, and red rosette, which is still used as the emblem of France today.
The French Coat of Arms is a symbol of the country’s rich history and cultural heritage. It has been featured on everything from flags to currency and is still recognized around the world today.
The Coat of Arms of Spain
One of the most recognizable coats of arms in the world is that of Spain. The coat of arms is a combination of different heraldic elements that are rich in history and symbolism. The main shield is divided into four quarters; the first and fourth quarters depict the royal castle of Castile, while the second and third quarters have the rampant lions of León.
The center of the shield features another shield, containing the fleur-de-lis of the House of Bourbon on the upper left, the lion of the House of Nassau on the upper right, the arms of Austria on the bottom left, and the arms of the House of Bourbon-Anjou on the bottom right. Above the shield is a golden crown, and below it is the Spanish national motto, “Plus Ultra,” which means “Further Beyond.”
Each element of the coat of arms has its own meaning and significance. The royal castle and lions of Castile and León represent the historical unity of Spain, as Castile and León were two of the most powerful kingdoms in medieval Spain. The four shields within the center of the main shield represent the different dynasties that ruled over Spain throughout history. The fleur-de-lis and lion represent the French and Dutch branches of the House of Bourbon, while the arms of Austria represent the Habsburg dynasty, which ruled over Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries. The arms of the House of Bourbon-Anjou represent the branch of the Bourbon dynasty that ruled over Spain in the 18th century.
The coat of arms of Spain has undergone several changes throughout history. The first version of the shield was created in the 16th century during the reign of Emperor Charles V, and subsequent monarchs made changes to it to reflect their own dynasties. For example, the arms of the House of Bourbon-Anjou were added in the 18th century, and the national motto was changed to “Una, Grande y Libre” (One, Great and Free) during the regime of Francisco Franco.
Today, the coat of arms of Spain is a valued national symbol that is prominently displayed on government buildings, official documents and coins, and national flags. It is a symbol of the rich and complex history of Spain and the different cultures and dynasties that have contributed to its development.
Famous Coat of Arms from Asia
The Imperial Seal of Japan is a symbol of the country’s monarchy and a highly recognizable emblem worldwide. It consists of a chrysanthemum with sixteen petals and a central disc.
The symbol dates back to the Japanese Middle Ages (1185-1600), and was used by the Emperor of Japan as a personal logo. Over time, it has become an official emblem of the state.
The chrysanthemum symbolizes longevity and rejuvenation, which are highly valued in Japanese culture.
Medieval coat of arms and emblems were often influenced by nature and mythology, and the Imperial Seal of Japan is no exception.
The National Emblem of India is a stunning display of India’s cultural heritage, featuring four Asiatic lions standing back-to-back on a circular base. The base has the phrase “Satyamev Jayate” (Truth Alone Triumphs) written in Sanskrit, which is India’s national motto.
The lions represent power, courage, and confidence. The circular base with the inscription signifies the world as eternity and the lions as eternal participants in the world’s affairs.
The National Emblem of India was adopted on January 26, 1950, the day India’s Constitution came into effect.
The Emblem of Azerbaijan is a complex symbol that has undergone many changes over time. It features an eight-pointed star inside three circles with flames beneath them. The star is an ancient symbol of the Turkic peoples and represents enlightenment and progress.
The emblem also includes a depiction of a flame, which symbolizes Azerbaijan’s immense oil reserves.
The mix of Eastern and Western influences in the emblem’s design represents Azerbaijan’s unique blend of Islamic and European cultures.
The current version of the emblem was adopted on November 17, 1990, after Azerbaijan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
|The Imperial Seal of Japan||Japan||Symbol of Japan’s monarchy|
|The National Emblem of India||India||Representation of India’s cultural heritage and national motto|
|The Emblem of Azerbaijan||Azerbaijan||Symbol of enlightenment, progress, Azerbaijan’s oil reserves, and the country’s blend of Eastern and Western cultures|
These three famous coat of arms from Asia are notable examples of how symbols can represent a country’s unique culture and values.
The Imperial Seal of Japan
The Imperial Seal of Japan, also known as the Chrysanthemum Seal, is one of the most famous coat of arms in the world. It features a sixteen-petal chrysanthemum flower with a yellow central disc on a red field. The design is steeped in Japanese legend and mythology, symbolizing the power and longevity of the emperor and the continuity of the imperial family. The seal is used for state documents, including money, passports, and official licenses, and it is also worn by the imperial family members as a badge during ceremonies. While the Imperial Seal of Japan is reserved for official use only, it remains a symbol of Japan’s rich history and cultural heritage.
The National Emblem of India
The National Emblem of India was adopted on January 26, 1950, when India became a republic. The emblem is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka, which was originally erected by Emperor Ashoka around 250 BCE.
The National Emblem features four lions standing back to back, symbolizing power, courage, pride, and confidence. The lions are mounted on a circular abacus. In the center of the abacus is a frieze depicting a galloping horse on the left and a bull on the right. The horse represents speed, while the bull represents strength and steadiness. Both animals are separated by a wheel (the Dharma Chakra) in the center, which represents the laws of the universe.
Below the abacus is the motto of India, “Satyameva Jayate,” which means “Truth alone triumphs” in Sanskrit.
The National Emblem is used for official purposes and appears on the official letterheads of government officials as well as on Indian currency. It is also depicted on the Indian passports and on the national emblem of the Indian military, the emblem of the Supreme Court and various other public bodies.
The Emblem has been used as a national symbol of India for over seven decades, signifying India’s unity in diversity and its constitutional framework. Its adaptation from the Lion Capital of Ashoka, an important Buddhist artifact, also highlights the country’s deep-rooted cultural heritage.
Interesting Fact: The National Emblem of India is also sometimes referred to as the National Coat of Arms. However, there are some differences between a coat of arms and an emblem. While both represent a country or an entity, a coat of arms relates specifically to a person, a family, or an organization, whereas an emblem is used to represent an entire country. To learn more about the difference between a coat of arms and an emblem, check out our article on National vs Personal Coat of Arms.
The Emblem of Azerbaijan
The emblem of Azerbaijan, also known as the State Emblem of Azerbaijan Republic, was adopted in 1992, shortly after Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union. The emblem prominently features a fire symbol, which represents the country’s ancient relation to fire worship and the Zoroastrianism religion. The fire symbol is located in the center of the emblem and is surrounded by other symbolic elements.
The elements surrounding the fire symbol in the emblem are a stylized representation of the country’s geographical location and cultural roots. The elements include an eight-pointed star, which represents the eight branches of Turkic peoples, a crescent moon symbolizing the country’s majority Muslim population, and an oil derrick, representing Azerbaijan’s vast oil reserves.
The green strip at the bottom of the emblem represents the country’s Islamic heritage, while the blue strip represents the country’s Turkic heritage. The red color of the emblem symbolizes the country’s progress and development.
The emblem of Azerbaijan is a powerful representation of the country’s cultural and historical roots, as well as its more recent struggles for independence and development. It is a source of national pride for the people of Azerbaijan and is displayed prominently throughout the country.
|Fire symbol||Represents the country’s ancient relation to fire worship and the Zoroastrianism religion.|
|Eight-pointed star||Represents the eight branches of Turkic peoples.|
|Crescent moon||Symbolizes the country’s majority Muslim population.|
|Oil derrick||Represents Azerbaijan’s vast oil reserves.|
|Green strip||Represents the country’s Islamic heritage.|
|Blue strip||Represents the country’s Turkic heritage.|
|Red color||Symbolizes the country’s progress and development.|
If you want to create your own coat of arms that represents your personal or family heritage, you can check out our guide on creating a personal coat of arms.
Famous Coat of Arms from America
The Great Seal of the United States
One of the most recognizable Coat of Arms in America is the Great Seal of the United States. It was first designed in 1782 and has undergone several changes since then. The Seal features an eagle with its wings spread holding arrows and an olive branch in its talons. The eagle represents power and strength, while the arrows and olive branch symbolize war and peace, respectively. The eagle also has a shield on its chest with 13 stripes and 13 stars, representing the original 13 colonies.
The Coat of Arms of Mexico
The Coat of Arms of Mexico is a complex and symbolic design. It features an eagle perched on top of a cactus with a snake in its beak. This image is taken from an ancient Aztec legend, which tells the story of how the Aztec people knew where to build their city, Tenochtitlan, when they saw an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak. The Coat of Arms also features a wreath of oak and laurel leaves, representing strength and victory.
The Coat of Arms of Canada
The Coat of Arms of Canada was designed in 1921 and features symbolic images of both England and France along with Canadian symbols. The image of a lion represents England, while the image of a fleur-de-lis represents France. The Canadian symbols include a maple leaf, a beaver, and a motto, which is written in Latin, “From Sea to Sea.”
The Americas have some of the most recognizable and meaningful Coat of Arms in the world. Each Coat of Arms tells a unique story and represents the history and culture of its country. From the eagle of the Great Seal of the United States to the complex symbolism of the Coat of Arms of Mexico, these emblems play an important role in the identity and pride of the people they represent.
The Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal of the United States is one of the most familiar emblems of the U.S. government. It is primarily used to authenticate official documents and has been adopted as a symbol of the authority of the President, Congress, and the judiciary. The seal features a bald eagle holding a shield with 13 red and white stripes in its talons, representing the original thirteen colonies. The eagle’s beak is clutching a ribbon with the Latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one), which is the official motto of the U.S. The Great Seal also includes a pyramid with 13 steps, symbolizing strength and durability, and an eye within a triangle, which represents God’s watchful eye over the nation. The Great Seal has undergone numerous revisions and modifications over time but remains an enduring symbol of the principles upon which the U.S. was founded.
The Coat of Arms of Mexico
The Coat of Arms of Mexico, also known as the Mexican national emblem, is one of the most recognizable symbols of Mexico. It was adopted in its current form in 1968, but its origins can be traced back to the Aztec civilization. The emblem is a composition of different elements, including a golden eagle perched on a cactus, holding a serpent in its beak and talons.
The eagle in the coat of arms represents bravery, strength, and the sun. The eagle is standing on a cactus, which is a symbol of Tenochtitlán, the ancient Aztec capital that is now Mexico City. The cactus represents the foundation of Mexico, which was built on Tenochtitlán. The serpent in the eagle’s beak is another important symbol, representing wisdom.
The oak and laurel branches on either side of the eagle symbolize strength and victory. The ribbon at the bottom of the emblem features the official name of Mexico, “Estados Unidos Mexicanos,” which translates to “United Mexican States”.
The current design of the coat of arms was created to replace the original emblem, which featured a different eagle. The original eagle was shown facing left, but in 1968, Mexico’s president at the time, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, requested that the eagle be changed to face right, to distinguish it from the presidential seal. This change was made to help avoid confusion between the symbols.
The Coat of Arms of Mexico has undergone several changes throughout Mexico’s history. In the early 19th century, the First Mexican Empire adopted a different coat of arms, which was similar to the current one, but with a more ornate eagle and lettering. The Second Mexican Empire, which lasted from 1864–1867, also adopted a different coat of arms. However, when the Republic of Mexico was established in 1867, the current design was restored.
The Coat of Arms of Mexico is a powerful symbol of Mexican heritage and culture. Its eagle, cactus, and serpent motifs represent the country’s history and values. The coat of arms is used on everything from government buildings to currency, and it is a testament to the importance of this iconic symbol in Mexican society.
The Coat of Arms of Canada
The Coat of Arms of Canada was created in 1921 and features a shield divided into five parts, each representing different aspects of Canada.
In the center of the shield is a red maple leaf, a symbol synonymous with Canada. Above the leaf is a St. Edward’s Crown, which is a symbol of Canada’s loyalty to the British Crown and its ties to the Commonwealth.
On the left side of the shield is a representation of England’s three lions passant guardant, symbolizing the historical ties between Canada and England. On the right side is a representation of the Scottish unicorn, symbolizing the Scottish heritage of many Canadians.
At the bottom of the shield is a representation of the Irish harp, symbolizing the Irish heritage of many Canadians. Finally, the banner below the shield bears Canada’s national motto in Latin, “A Mari Usque Ad Mare”, which translates to “From Sea to Sea”.
The Coat of Arms is surrounded by symbols representing Canada’s flora (maple leaves) and fauna (stalks of wheat). These symbols are arranged on either side of the shield in a wreath, which is a traditional heraldic symbol of victory.
The Coat of Arms of Canada is a representation of Canada’s diverse heritage and its ties to the British Crown and the Commonwealth.
Famous Coat of Arms from Africa
Africa has a rich history and culture that is reflected in the coat of arms of its nations. Let’s take a closer look at some of the famous coat of arms from Africa.
The coat of arms of South Africa was introduced in 2000, replacing the previous coat of arms which was used since 1910. The design is centered around a shield divided into six sections. Each section represents a significant component of the country, including agriculture, mining, and industry. The top of the shield is decorated with the national bird, the secretary bird, and a rising sun. The crest features the protea flower, which is South Africa’s national flower, and a rising eagle. The motto of the coat of arms is “ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke”, which means “diverse people unite” in the Khoisan language.
The coat of arms of Ghana was adopted in 1957, the year the country gained independence from Britain. At the center of the design is a depiction of the national symbol, the black star, surrounded by a gold circle. A sword, which represents the country’s willingness to defend its freedom, is placed in the middle of the star. The design also features a heraldic castle on a blue background, which represents the presidential palace and the government of Ghana. Above the castle is a heraldic eagle, which is a symbol of strength and a reminder of Ghana’s tradition of freedom.
The coat of arms of Nigeria was first used in 1960 upon gaining independence from Britain. The central figure of the design is a black shield with two white stripes that form a letter “Y”. The black shield represents Nigeria’s fertile soil, while the two supporting horses or chargers on each side represent dignity. The eagle represents strength, while the green and white bands on the top of the shield represent the rich soil. The red flowers at the base are Costus spectabilis, Nigeria’s national flower. This design was modified in 1979 to add a wreath of green and white over the top of the shield.
These coat of arms represent the national values and traditions of Africa’s nations and symbolize their pride and identity.
The Coat of Arms of South Africa
The Coat of Arms of South Africa features several significant elements that represent the country’s history and identity. In the center, there is a shield supported by two Kudus, an animal native to South Africa. The top half of the shield is a stylized representation of the Union Jack, the flag that represented British rule in South Africa, while the bottom half shows six bands of different colors that represent the country’s different regions and their natural resources. The motto “ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke,” written in the Khoisan language of the country’s indigenous people, means “diverse people unite.” This Coat of Arms reflects South Africa’s heritage as well as its unity as a diverse nation.
The Coat of Arms of Ghana
The Coat of Arms of Ghana is designed in the shape of a shield horizontally divided into four quarters. Each of these quarters contains a unique symbol that represents the history and values of the country.
One of the quarters features a sword, which represents the country’s readiness to defend itself and fight for its freedom. Another quarter features a depiction of Osu Castle, which was built by Danish traders in the 17th century and is now a historical landmark in Ghana. The third quarter features a representation of a cacao plant, one of Ghana’s main exports and sources of wealth. The final quarter features a golden eagle, symbolizing Ghana’s strength and aspirations.
Above the shield is a black star, which represents African freedom and the country’s commitment to this cause. The star is surrounded by a red ribbon carrying the national motto: “Freedom and Justice”. The green color of the shield represents the abundance of Ghana’s natural resources, and the gold color represents the mineral wealth of the country.
The Coat of Arms of Ghana was designed by Amon Kotei, a Ghanaian artist, and was adopted in 1957 when Ghana obtained independence from British colonial rule. Since then, the Coat of Arms has been a symbol of Ghana’s national identity and its aspiration to be a prosperous and independent country.
The Coat of Arms of Ghana is a beautiful and meaningful representation of the country’s history, values, and aspirations. It showcases the rich cultural heritage and natural resources of Ghana while also serving as an emblem of the country’s resilience and readiness to defend itself.
The Coat of Arms of Nigeria
The Coat of Arms of Nigeria was adopted in 1975, replacing the colonial emblem that had been in use since 1914. The emblem features a black shield with two white stripes that divide the shield into three sections. In the top section, there is a green triangle with a red sun rising over it, symbolizing the country’s agricultural wealth and its future. The middle section is white, representing peace, while the lower section shows wavy blue and white lines, symbolizing the Niger River and its importance to the country’s economy.
The black shield itself represents Nigeria’s fertile soil, and its two supporting horses or chargers on each side represent dignity. These elements are all enclosed within a green and white Y-shaped band, which represents the meeting of the country’s rivers at a common point. The green color of the band represents Nigeria’s lush vegetation, while the white color represents peace.
Interestingly, Nigeria also has a Presidential Coat of Arms, which is an adaptation of the national emblem. The Presidential Coat of Arms features a slightly different design, with an additional black stripe at the top of the shield and an eagle standing on the green band below the shield.
The Coat of Arms of Nigeria is rich in symbolism and reflects the country’s values and aspirations. It is a powerful representation of Nigeria’s past, present, and future, and provides a unifying symbol for its diverse population.
Symbols and Meanings in Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms symbols are chosen based on a family, organization, or nation’s significance, beliefs, and achievements. Each symbol on a Coat of Arms has a particular meaning, representing a unique story, history, and culture. Here are some of the significant symbols and meanings commonly featured in different Coat of Arms around the world:
Colors and patterns are the foundation of a Coat of Arms design and represent various traits and values:
- Red: denotes valor, bravery, and military strength. It can also represent martyrdom or sacrifice.
- Blue: signifies justice, loyalty, truth, and wisdom. It is a calm and trustworthy color.
- Green: symbolizes hope, joy, and loyalty in love. It also represents regeneration and nature.
- Yellow or Gold: represents generosity and elevation of the mind. It also signifies wealth and dignity.
- Purple: denotes sovereignty, leadership, and regal power.
- Black: represents seriousness, sorrow, or mourning. It can also signify constancy or grief.
- White or Silver: represents purity, faith, and sincerity. It can also denote peace and beauty.
Patterns in Coat of Arms include chevrons, stripes, diamonds, crosses, or other geometric shapes. These can symbolize construction, protection, and provision.
One of the most frequently featured Coat of Arm symbols are animals. Each animal has different meanings and represents different characteristics. Here are some of the most common animals found in Coat of Arms, and what they signify:
- Lion: represents courage, valor, strength, royalty, and leadership. It is among the most common symbols, especially in European heraldry.
- Eagle: represents strength, domination, nobility, and freedom. It also symbolizes wisdom and power.
- Bear: symbolizes strength, cunning, and ferociousness.
- Stag: represents bravery, peace, and harmony. It is a symbol of a calm and thoughtful ruler.
- Griffin: represents courage, vigilance, and military prowess. It also symbolizes strength, governance, and excellence.
- Dragon: represents power and ferocity. It can be a symbol of the devil in Christian heraldry.
- Unicorn: represents purity, gentleness, and innocence. It is a symbol of Christ and can denote healing and restoration.
Plants and flowers are often used in Coat of Arms to represent a family or group’s characteristics and origins. Here are some of the most common plants and flowers and what they signify:
- Rose: represents beauty, courage, and love.
- Lily: symbolizes peace, purity, and hope. It is also connected to the Virgin Mary.
- Thistle: represents bravery, loyalty, and devotion—also the national emblem of Scotland.
- Lotus: symbolizes enlightenment, creation, and rebirth. It is a symbol in many Eastern cultures and religions.
- Olive Branch: symbolizes peace, concord, and hope. It appears on the Coat of Arms of the United Nations.
Objects in Coat of Arms can include crowns, swords, shields, and other items. Here are some of the most common objects used in Coat of Arms and what they signify:
- Crown: represents royalty, authority, and power.
- Sword: signifies justice, honor, and military might.
- Shield: symbolizes protection, strength, and support.
- Key: represents knowledge, guardianship, and security.
- Anchors: symbolizes hope and strength.
- Chain: represents unity and succession.
Coat of Arms symbols and meanings have had a significant impact on different cultures and histories. The symbols incorporated into a Coat of Arms represent stories, values, and beliefs that people hold dear. Understanding these symbols can provide insights into a culture’s beliefs and achievements.
Colors and Patterns
Colors and patterns are crucial elements in the design of a coat of arms. Each color and pattern holds a specific meaning that reflects the values and traits of the family, organization, or country it represents. For instance, the color red symbolizes courage, bravery, and strength, while blue represents loyalty, truth, and wisdom. Gold or yellow is associated with generosity, elevation, and constancy, while black denotes prudence and humility. These colors are often combined with various patterns, such as stripes, checks, and chevrons, to create a distinct and recognizable design. Choosing the right colors and patterns for a coat of arms requires an in-depth understanding of heraldry, history, and symbolism, as well as a creative approach and attention to detail.
One of the most fascinating aspects of coat of arms is the use of animals as symbols. Each animal carries a significant meaning and represents the attributes associated with it. Lions, for example, are a common figure in many European coats of arms and are often associated with bravery, strength, and royalty. The mythical unicorn, on the other hand, is a symbol of purity and grace, and is often seen in Scottish heraldry.
Another animal that appears frequently in coat of arms is the eagle. The eagle is considered a noble bird and is often associated with courage and freedom. It is also a common figure in national coats of arms, such as the coat of arms of Germany and the United States. Similarly, the bear is often associated with strength and courage, which is why it is often seen in the coat of arms of Russia and Finland.
Other animals that appear in coat of arms include the wolf, which is often associated with loyalty and guardianship; the owl, which symbolizes wisdom and knowledge; and the horse, which represents beauty, grace, and freedom.
It is important to note that the position and posture of an animal in a coat of arms also carries significance. A lion, for example, is considered more regal and powerful when standing on its hind legs, as opposed to when it is depicted walking. Similarly, a bird of prey, like an eagle or falcon, is often shown holding a prey in its talons to represent dominance and strength.
The use of animals in coat of arms is a fascinating topic that speaks to the rich history and heritage of heraldic design. Whether representing strength, courage, wisdom, or beauty, each animal used in a coat of arms tells a unique story about the individual, family, or country it represents.
Plants and Flowers
Plants and flowers are often found in coat of arms, symbolizing various meanings and virtues. For instance, roses often represent love, beauty, and grace. A famous example is the English Tudor rose, which combines a white rose and a red rose. The former symbolizes the House of York, while the latter represents the House of Lancaster. Another example is the rose in the Coat of Arms of Iceland, which represents the country’s rugged landscape.
Lilies, on the other hand, often symbolize purity, innocence, and faith. They are commonly found in French heraldry, as seen in the Coat of Arms of the Bourbon dynasty. The lily is also an important symbol in various religious traditions, such as Christianity and Buddhism.
Thistles are often associated with Scotland, where it is the national emblem. It represents strength, resilience, and loyalty, and often symbolizes defiance against oppression. For instance, the Order of the Thistle is the highest honor in Scotland, given only to those who have shown great service to the country.
Leaves and vines are also commonly used in coat of arms, symbolizing growth, vitality, and strength. In English heraldry, the oak tree and oak leaves often represent strength and endurance. Meanwhile, vine leaves and grapes are often seen in French heraldry, representing abundance and prosperity.
Lastly, fleur-de-lis is a famous flower-like symbol that is often associated with French heraldry. It is commonly found in the Coat of Arms of the French monarchy, and also appears in the Coat of Arms of Quebec and Louisiana. The fleur-de-lis symbolizes purity, light, and life. However, its exact origin and meaning remain a subject of debate and conjecture among historians and heraldic experts.
Objects are another common type of symbol found in coat of arms. Swords, keys, crowns, and shields are just some examples of objects that can be used. A sword, for example, can represent strength, justice, and military valor. A key can signify trustworthiness and responsibility, as well as religious connotations of spiritual authority. The crown is one of the most iconic objects in heraldry, representing royalty, power, and authority. Shields are also common in coat of arms, and their design can give clues about the family’s history or occupation.
In addition to these traditional objects, contemporary coat of arms might also include more modern objects such as computers or smartphones to represent the importance of technology to the family or organization. Some designers might even include objects that are more abstract or subjective in meaning, such as a compass to symbolize guidance and direction or an hourglass for the fleeting nature of time.
The use of objects in coat of arms can be traced back to medieval times when such objects were often used on banners, shields, and armor. As society progressed and easier methods of communication became available, owning a coat of arms became less a matter of military necessity and more a symbol of status and heritage. The use of objects in the coat of arms remains a popular way to express meaning and convey a sense of identity, but it’s important to remember that symbolism can be highly personal and subjective, with different objects holding different meanings for different people.
Controversies and Changes in Design
Coat of Arms have been used for centuries, and as is the case with many historical symbols, there are controversies surrounding their design and use. Some heraldic symbols have been deemed controversial due to their historical associations with slavery, discrimination, or violence.
Controversial Heraldic Symbols
One example of a controversial heraldic symbol is the “Southern Cross” which can be found in the Coat of Arms of some southern US states. The Southern Cross has been linked to the Confederate battle flag and white supremacist groups. In recent years, there has been a push to remove this symbol from state Coat of Arms.
Another example is the swastika, which was originally a symbol of good luck and prosperity in many cultures, but was appropriated by the Nazi party in Germany during WWII. The swastika was used in the Coat of Arms of some German cities prior to the rise of the Nazi party, but has since been removed due to its association with hate and violence.
Changes in National Coat of Arms
National Coat of Arms can also change over time due to political or cultural reasons. For example, when South Africa became a democracy in the 1990s, the government decided to replace the old Coat of Arms, which had historical associations with colonialism and apartheid, with a new design that represented the country’s diversity and unity.
Similarly, in 2020, the Canadian government announced that it would be redesigning the Coat of Arms of Canada to be more inclusive and reflective of Indigenous peoples, immigrants, and visible minorities.
These changes reflect the evolving values and beliefs of societies, and highlight the importance of maintaining meaningful symbols that represent a nation or region.
Despite the controversies and changes that can arise in the design of Coat of Arms, they remain important symbols of identity, heritage, and history.
Controversial Heraldic Symbols
The use of certain heraldic symbols on coats of arms has been the subject of controversy over the years. One example is the swastika, which was adopted as a symbol of good luck and prosperity in many cultures but was later appropriated by the Nazi Party and now has strong associations with hate and genocide. Another controversial symbol is the Confederate flag, which is featured on some coats of arms in the southern United States. Although many Southerners view the flag as a symbol of regional pride and heritage, it is also seen by many as a symbol of racism and oppression. These symbols highlight the complex and often problematic history behind the use of heraldic symbols and the importance of considering their context and connotations.
Changes in National Coat of Arms
The design and symbolism of the national coat of arms of a country often represent its identity and values. Hence, any changes made to it are significant. Over time, several countries have made alterations to their national coat of arms, and each change has its story.
One example is the Coat of Arms of South Africa. In 2000, the country changed its coat of arms to a more inclusive design, reflecting its new democracy. The new design blended elements from different cultures and represented the ideas of unity, diversity, and reconciliation. The centerpiece of the coat of arms is a crest that consists of a secretary bird, a lion, two elephants, and a rising sun, all surrounded by a circle of rays. The shield features two human figures, a Khoisan man and a Xhosa woman, symbolizing the country’s indigenous people. The four flowers on the shield are national symbols, and the motto ‘ǃke e꞉ ǀxarra ǁke’ means ‘diverse people unite.’
Another example is the Coat of Arms of Canada. The first version of the coat of arms was granted in 1921, and it featured only the shield, which included symbols representing England, Scotland, and Ireland. In 1957, the design was updated, and new elements were added to represent the French and the indigenous peoples of Canada. The updated design now includes a royal crest, a lion and a unicorn holding flags, and a motto that reads ‘A Mari Usque Ad Mare,’ which means ‘From Sea to Sea.’ The shield itself displays the maple leaf, the fleur-de-lis, the rose, the thistle, and a beaver.
Similarly, the Coat of Arms of Mexico has undergone multiple changes over the years. The original design featured an eagle perched on a cactus while attacking a snake. In 1823, the eagle underwent a transformation, and its aggressive posture was toned down. The coat of arms was updated again in 1968, and the eagle was now shown facing forward, with its wings spread wide, clutching a serpent in its beak and talons.
Changes in a national coat of arms are a reflection of a country’s dynamics and identity, and each design has a story to tell. The new design should preserve the core values of the nation while representing its diversity and unity.
In conclusion, coat of arms have been an important part of heraldry for centuries and continue to hold significance in modern times. Throughout the world, famous coat of arms have been designed with unique symbols and meanings that represent the culture and history of their respective countries. From the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom to the Coat of Arms of Nigeria, each design carries a rich history worth exploring.
We’ve learned that the symbols and meanings in coat of arms are diverse and often represent important values to their country or family. Colors, patterns, animals, plants, and objects are all carefully chosen to create a unique representation of the entity that they represent. These symbols, along with the shield and crest, are used to distinguish the entity from others with similar names or purposes.
Despite the importance of coat of arms, there have been controversies and changes in design over time. Some heraldic symbols have been discontinued or modified due to negative connotations or inappropriate usage. National coat of arms have also changed throughout history, often reflecting political or societal changes.
Overall, coat of arms continue to fascinate and intrigue people around the world. Their intricate designs and historical significance make them an important part of heraldry and national symbols. Whether you are interested in exploring the famous coat of arms from Europe, Asia, America, or Africa, there is much to learn and discover.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of a Coat of Arms?
The primary purpose of a Coat of Arms was to identify individuals and families in battle. Over the years, they have also become a symbol of heritage and identity.
What are some common symbols found in Coats of Arms?
Animals such as lions, eagles, and wolves are commonly found in Coats of Arms. Plants like oak trees and roses are also popular. Objects such as swords and shields can also be found.
How do you read a Coat of Arms?
Coats of Arms are read from top to bottom, left to right. The top section represents the owner’s country or state, while the middle section represents the family or individual. The bottom section is typically reserved for a motto.
Why do some Coats of Arms use Latin phrases?
Latin was the language of scholarship and education during the Middle Ages. Latin phrases were often used in Coats of Arms to convey a message of wisdom and learning.
Can anyone create their own Coat of Arms?
Technically, anyone can create their own Coat of Arms. However, it is important to note that there are strict rules and regulations surrounding heraldry and Coat of Arms design in certain countries.
What is the difference between a Coat of Arms and a Crest?
A Coat of Arms consists of multiple pieces, including a shield, helmet, and crest. The crest is the topmost portion of the Coat of Arms and usually consists of a symbol or animal that represents the family or individual.
What is the oldest known Coat of Arms?
One of the oldest known Coats of Arms belongs to the Capetian dynasty of France. It dates back to the 12th century and features three fleurs-de-lis on a shield.
Are Coats of Arms still used today?
Yes, Coats of Arms are still used today. Many families and organizations still use them as a symbol of their heritage and identity.
What are some famous Coat of Arms in pop culture?
The Stark family from Game of Thrones has a famous Coat of Arms featuring a grey direwolf on a white field. The Gryffindor House from Harry Potter has a Coat of Arms featuring a lion and the motto “Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon”.
What should I consider when designing my own Coat of Arms?
When designing your own Coat of Arms, you should consider your heritage and family history, as well as any symbols or animals that hold personal significance to you. Additionally, it is important to follow the rules and regulations surrounding heraldry and Coat of Arms design in your country.