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Which coat of arms has a dragon?

Which coat of arms has a dragon?

A coat of arms is a heraldic design on a shield or banner that was used in the medieval period to identify a noble family or individual. Coats of arms often featured animals as symbols, and one animal that was sometimes depicted was the dragon. Dragons were seen as fierce, powerful creatures and including one on a coat of arms conveyed strength and ferocity. So which coats of arms actually have dragons on them? There are a few notable examples from history and legend that stand out.

The Red Dragon of Wales

One of the most recognizable coats of arms with a dragon is that of Wales. The red dragon appearing on the Welsh coat of arms dates back to at least the 9th century. In Welsh tradition, the red dragon was a symbol of power and the freedom and independence of Wales. According to legend, the red dragon representing Wales fought against a white dragon representing the invading Saxons. The red dragon ultimately prevailed, helping establish independence for the region of Wales.

The red dragon appears on and off throughout Welsh history, but has been an official part of the Welsh coat of arms since at least the Tudor period. When Henry VII came to the English throne in 1485, the Welsh red dragon was united with the English coat of arms for the first time. The red dragon remains an iconic part of the Welsh national identity today and can be seen across the country on flags and other symbols.

Name Description
The Red Dragon of Wales A red dragon on the coat of arms of Wales dating back to the 9th century

The Dragon of Wessex

Another coat of arms featuring a dragon from medieval England was that of the Kingdom of Wessex. This region in southern England was ruled by Alfred the Great in the 9th century, who is credited with defeating the invading Vikings and laying the foundations for the Kingdom of England. The green and white dragon of Wessex is said to have been introduced by King Alfred.

The dragon of Wessex holding an Anglo-Saxon crown is described in writings dating back to the 12th century. It may have origins even earlier than Alfred’s reign, derived from Roman dragon standards. The white dragon is sometimes depicted fighting with the red dragon of Wales. The Wessex dragon continued to appear sporadically on English coats of arms over the centuries before becoming more standardized in the Tudor period. It remains a symbol of the historic Kingdom of Wessex.

Name Description
The Dragon of Wessex A green and white dragon on the coat of arms of the medieval Kingdom of Wessex

The Wyvern of the Kingdom of Mercia

The Kingdom of Mercia was another Anglo-Saxon region that used a dragon in its heraldic symbolism during medieval times. Their coat of arms featured a wyvern, which is a two-legged version of a dragon. The black and white wyvern of Mercia dates back potentially as far as the 7th century when the Kingdom of Mercia was established. It held power for centuries before being conquered by Wessex in the 10th century.

The black and white wyvern remained connected to Mercia and can be seen on the coat of arms of the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire today, sections of the historic kingdom. The city of Worcester also displays the wyvern on its crest, reflecting its Mercian heritage.

Name Description
The Wyvern of Mercia A black and white two-legged wyvern on the coat of arms of the medieval Kingdom of Mercia

The Double-Headed Eagle of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire, beginning in the medieval period and lasting until the 19th century, featured the black double-headed eagle on its coat of arms. In one version of the arms, a dragon is depicted on the eagle’s breast and wings in red, silver, and gold.

The double-headed eagle was adopted after the fall of Constantinople to represent the idea of a continuous Roman Empire from the East to the German lands. The addition of the dragon came later and was one of several different embellishments used on the arms over the centuries. The fearsome dragon conveyed the power and strength of the Holy Roman Empire.

Name Description
Double-Headed Eagle of the Holy Roman Empire A double-headed eagle sometimes depicted with a dragon on its breast and wings, on the arms of the Holy Roman Empire from the medieval period to the 19th century

Saint George and the Dragon

The legend of Saint George and the dragon is a famous story of a heroic knight slaying a menacing dragon. Saint George lived during the 3rd century AD and was likely from Cappadocia in what is now Turkey. The popular legend arose later during the Middle Ages of Saint George heroically killing a dragon that was threatening a town in Libya and rescuing the king’s daughter.

The Saint George and the dragon myth became so well-known that depictions of it began to appear on coats of arms, often as the crest above the shield. Saint George spearing a dragon was used on the historic coat of arms of Moscow. It also can be found on the coat of arms of Barcelona, which features four red stripes said to represent the dragon’s blood after Saint George killed it. The story clearly captured the medieval imagination and still resonates today.

Name Description
Saint George and the Dragon Depictions of Saint George slaying a dragon from legend on the arms of places like Moscow and Barcelona

The Dragon of Bhutan

In the Himalayan nation of Bhutan, dragons have played an important role for centuries and continue to appear on the country’s coat of arms today. Bhutan’s thunder dragon, known as Druk, is depicted on both the flag and coat of arms of Bhutan in silver. The Druk has claws of gold and appears holding jewels to signify the wealth of the nation.

The dragon’s origins trace back to the 12th century founder of Bhutan, Tsangpa Gyare, and the Buddhist Drukpa sect. In a vision, Tsangpa Gyare saw thunder and lightning appearing as a dragon. He named his sect Drukpa after this auspicious sign. The dragon became Bhutan’s national symbol seen everywhere from architecture to the national dress. The Druk reminds citizens of the nation’s independence and power retained through the centuries.

Name Description
The Dragon of Bhutan A thunder dragon known as the Druk depicted on the modern coat of arms of Bhutan

The Y Ddraig Aur of the Royal Badge of Wales

In addition to the red dragon on the coat of arms of Wales, there is also another prominent dragon used as a symbol of Wales. This is the gold Y Ddraig Aur dragon appearing on the Royal Badge of Wales. It is a popular flag design that shows this golden dragon passant on a green and white background.

The badge was approved for use in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II to represent Wales. The Y Ddraig Aur or Golden Dragon contrasts with the traditional red dragon in being golden in color. But it maintains that historic connection to dragons as symbols of Wales. The specific golden dragon insignia hearkens back to the banners used by King Henry VII, the first Tudor king who had Welsh roots. The Y Ddraig Aur reminds the people of Wales of their long heritage as a dynamic nation.

Name Description
Y Ddraig Aur of Wales A golden dragon passant on the Royal Badge of Wales approved in 1959

The Dragon Knights of the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, European knights founded chivalric orders that often incorporated dragons into their heraldry and coats of arms. Two significant examples are the Order of Saint George and the Order of the Dragon. Saint George was the legendary knight who slayed the dragon, so depictions of George and the dragon appeared on the insignia of knights who fought in the Crusades.

The Order of the Dragon was created in 1408 by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. The dragon crest represented defence of the empire and Christianity. Dragon knights could display this dragon symbol or figures of St. George spearing the beast. These knights propagated stories and images of dragons across Europe.

Name Description
Order of Saint George A knightly order using Saint George and the dragon in their 14th century coat of arms
Order of the Dragon A 1400s order of knights founded by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund featuring dragons on their crest

The Old Worm of Lambton

The coat of arms of the old English families of Lambton and Durham displayed a wyvern atop their shields. This commemorated the legend of the Lambton Worm, a dragon-like beast slain by the hero John Lambton in medieval England.

The legend tells of a serpent-like monster living in a river by the Lambton estate terrorizing villagers. After several failed attempts, John Lambton succeeded in killing the creature. The Lambton and Durham coat of arms depicts this act with a wyvern representing the mythical Worm of Lambton. Though likely more legend than history, it illustrates the prevalence of dragon imagery in English heraldry.

Name Description
Wyvern of the Lambton and Durham Arms A wyvern commemorating the legend of the Lambton Worm, a dragon slain by the hero John Lambton

The London Gog and Magog

An unusual and more lighthearted example of dragons in heraldry is the pair of legendary giants Gog and Magog who appear as supporters of the coat of arms of the City of London. According to myth, the giants were Albion’s original inhabitants. The Roman leader Brutus defeated them and chained them to the gates of his New Troy that would become London.

Lord Mayor’s parades in the City of London today feature large puppets of Gog and Magog that depict them as dragons or dragon-like giants. They represent the mythical protectors of London. Though not technically a coat of arms, the giants connect to the idea of dragons acting as defenders and protectors in heraldry and legends.

Name Description
Gog and Magog Giant statues paraded at London events that depict the mythical protectors of the city Gog and Magog as dragon-like figures

Dragons and Heraldry in Asia

In addition to European examples, dragons have been used in the heraldry and symbolism of many Asian nations and rulers. An early example is the dragon standard used by the Han Dynasty army in ancient China. The imperial seal during the Qing Dynasty also prominently featured a coiled, five-clawed dragon figure.

In Japan, dragons were used as symbols by samurai warriors. Stylized dragon crests known as tsuho appeared on battle standards and helmets to identify clans and inspire ferocity. The dragon kimonos worn by Japanese emperors likewise demonstrated imperial power and strength.

These instances underscore how pervasively dragons have been used in heraldry and national symbolism globally due to their legendary power and importance.

Name Description
Han Dynasty Army Standards The Han Dynasty army during China’s ancient period carried dragon standards into battle
Qing Dynasty Imperial Seal The imperial seal of China’s Qing Dynasty featured a coiled, five-clawed dragon
Japanese Samurai Crests Stylized dragon crests called tsuho appeared on the helmets and banners of Japanese samurai clans

Dragons in Modern Culture and Fantasy

Though no longer used formally on current coats of arms, dragons remain prominent in modern pop culture, movies, television, and games of fantasy and fiction. The popularity of properties like Game of Thrones and the continued use of dragon mascots for teams and organizations show their appeal endures. Some key examples include:

– Smaug the dragon appearing in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit
– Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, the dragons owned by Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones
– Figures like Spyro and Draco in video and computer games
– Dragon species like Charizard in the Pokemon franchise
– Dragon team mascots including Drake University’s mascot Spike and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors

So while no longer seen in formal heraldry, dragons survive as icons of strength, ferocity, and intimidation in modern popular culture. Their appeal and symbolic power continue as newer fantasy dragons follow in the footsteps of their historic heraldic counterparts.


In conclusion, dragons have been frequently depicted on coats of arms and standards for centuries in cultures across the world. Their legendary strength and fierceness made them natural symbols of power for medieval kingdoms, empires, knights, and warriors. The most iconic heraldic dragons include the red dragon of Wales, the Saint George dragon, the golden dragon of Bhutan, and figures from Asian rulers. Though no longer serving ceremonial purposes today, dragons continue to be popular mascots and symbols of intimidation and ferocity in modern fantasy worlds and fiction. When seen on a coat of arms, the dragon conveyed the message that this was a force to be reckoned with.