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Does the royal family have a crest?

Does the royal family have a crest?

The royal family of the United Kingdom does indeed have a crest that represents them. The royal coat of arms, known as a royal crest when depicted on a wreath, coronet or crown, has a long and storied history dating back hundreds of years.

The Origins of the Royal Crest

The royal coat of arms can trace its origins back to the early 13th century and the reign of King Richard the Lionheart. Elements of England’s coat of arms were used by King Richard during the Third Crusades. The coat of arms featured three golden lions against a red background – imagery that represented bravery and courage.

Over the next few centuries, the royal arms evolved with additional symbols and designs added by successive monarchs. Important additions included the coat of arms of France when England held lands there. The symbols of Ireland and Scotland were added when those nations joined with England under the Stuarts in the early 17th century.

By the Georgian era in the 18th century, the coat of arms was recognizably similar to what is used by the royal family today. It featured the shields of the nations of the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, and Ireland – surrounded by symbols of royalty like the lion and unicorn.

Modern Usage of the Royal Crest

Today, the royal coat of arms continues to represent the reigning British monarch and the United Kingdom. It usually consists of a shield divided into four quarters with imagery representing the four nations of the UK – the three lions of England, the lion rampant of Scotland, and the harp of Ireland.

The shield is supported on either side by a lion representing England and a unicorn representing Scotland. Atop the shield sits the royal helm and crest which consists of a lion standing on a crown overlaid with a filigree design. The classic motto of British monarchs, Dieu et mon droit (God and my right), usually sits beneath the shield.

This royal crest is used by official royal residences like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. It represents the sovereignty of the Crown and thus can only be used with permission from the monarch. When used by the government it represents the authority of the state derived from the Crown.

The Royal Standard is a flag that features the royal crest. The Royal Standard is flown when the Queen is in residence at one of the royal palaces. A unique Royal Standard is used by other members of the royal family like the Prince of Wales.

Usage on Documents

The royal coat of arms is printed on many official documents in the United Kingdom including royal proclamations, Acts of Parliament, and court documents. This usage can be traced back to the early 15th century when kings used seals featuring the royal arms to authenticate official documents.

Today, government documents like passports and military commissions will feature the royal crest along with the text ‘Her Majesty’s Government’ to denote the authority of the Crown. The crest is also printed on currency like the British pound.

On Flags and Military Symbols

Elements of the royal crest feature prominently on military insignia and flags used by British forces. For example, the badge of the British Armed Forces features the royal crest surrounded by a garter belt inscribed with the motto of the Order of the Garter – Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks evil of it).

Regimental flags and insignias used by individual British Army regiments will often feature the royal crest or one of its heraldic symbols like the lion or unicorn. The royal arms represented on these military symbols reinforces the role of the monarchy as ultimate head of Britain’s armed forces.

Use by Government Bodies

As a symbol of the ruling monarch and her governmental authority, the royal arms feature widely across Britain’s government infrastructure. For example, the royal crest is displayed at courts, on police uniforms and vehicles, and at post offices and other public buildings.

Use of the royal arms by government bodies and officials serves as a reminder of their role in carrying out the business of the state on behalf of the Crown. The visual presence of the crest reinforces the Queen’s position as not just a symbolic figurehead but the actual source of governmental power and sovereignty.

On Churches and Ecclesiastical Functions

The British monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, so it’s not surprising that the royal coat of arms is displayed in Anglican churches across Britain. Each parish church will feature a ‘royal arms’ plaque displaying the crest.

The royal arms are also prominent during important ecclesiastical ceremonies involving the monarch, like coronations, royal weddings, and funerals that take place in Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Episcopalian clergy often feature the royal crest on vestments and other regalia as a symbol of the Queen’s role as head of the Church. Overall, the presence of the royal arms in churches and religious functions helps reinforce the monarch’s unique role as both head of state and church.

On Public Buildings and Landmarks

The use of the royal coat of arms is not just limited to official government buildings – you can find it displayed on many prominent public structures and landmarks across Britain.

For example, the ornate royal crest forms the centerpiece of the silhouette crowning the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) in London. The Tyburn gallows that once stood on the site were used to execute sentences passed in the name of the monarch.

Royal coats of arms are often incorporated into the architecture of bridges, libraries, hospitals, train stations, and universities across the country. This both symbolizes royal patronage of these institutions, and the role of the Crown in public life.

Use by UK Nations and Commonwealth Realms

As well as representing the British monarch, versions of the royal arms are used by the individual nations of the United Kingdom – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The Scottish version swaps out the English three lions for the Scottish lion rampant. The Welsh version features the Prince of Wales feathers, while the Northern Irish arms have the Red Hand of Ulster.

Commonwealth realms where Queen Elizabeth II is head of state also make use of the royal arms alongside their own national symbols. For example, the Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag features a unique blend of Canadian and British royal symbols.

Royal Symbols on Consumer Goods

While the official royal coat of arms can only be used with permission, royal warrants make it possible for consumer product manufacturers to feature certain heraldic symbols like the royal lion and crown.

British companies that supply goods like tea, chocolate, beer, and agricultural products to the royal household can apply for a royal warrant. This allows them to place text like ‘By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen’ and royal symbols on their packaging and in advertising.

Consumers tend to see a royal warrant as a mark of prestige and quality. For companies granted one, being able to feature royal imagery provides a powerful marketing and branding tool.

Illegal or Inappropriate Usage

Because the royal coat of arms is an official state symbol, it’s important that it is not subjected to inappropriate, offensive or illegal usage that would degrade its value.

The College of Arms regulates use of the royal arms, and has strict rules against using them in contexts like political campaigning, advertising and commercial branding without permission. Even parodies and satires are frowned upon.

Penalties for improperly using the royal arms can include fines, seizure of goods and even prison time in some cases. However, charges are rare, as most business and individuals agree to cease usage when contacted by the College of Arms.


The royal coat of arms serves as a powerful national symbol that represents the long tradition and authority of the British monarchy. Its prominence across government, military, religious and public institutions highlights how the monarch remains a vital part of British national identity and culture.

While its use is restricted and regulated to uphold its dignity, the presence of the royal crest on landmarks, consumer goods and at public gatherings shows how deeply engrained the monarchy remains in the fabric of British society.

Place of Use Example
Official documents Passports, acts of parliament
Military symbols Regimental flags and badges
Government buildings Courts, police stations
Churches Parish churches, cathedrals
Public landmarks Old Bailey, bridges, universities
Nations of the UK Scottish, Welsh, N. Irish coats of arms
Commonwealth realms Canadian, Australian, etc. symbols
Consumer goods Products with royal warrants