A Complete Guide to Heraldry/Chapter 39

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Royal arms in many respects differ from ordinary armorial bearings, and it should be carefully borne in mind that they stand, not for any particular area of land, but for the intangible sovereignty vested in the rulers thereof. They are not necessarily, nor are they in fact, hereditary. They pass by conquest. A dynastic change which introduces new sovereignties introduces new quarterings, as when the Hanoverian dynasty came to the throne of this country the quartering of Hanover was introduced, but purely personal arms in British heraldry are never introduced. The personal arms of Tudor and Stewart were never added to the Royal Arms of this country.

The origin of the English Royal Arms was dealt with on page 172. "Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or," as the arms of England, were used by Kings John, Henry III., Edward I., and Edward II. The quartering for France was introduced by Edward III., as explained on page 274, and the Royal shield: Quarterly 1 and 4, France, ancient (azure, semé-de-lis or); 2 and 3, England (gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or), was in use in the reigns of Edward III., Richard II. (who, however, impaled his arms with those of St. Edward the Confessor), and Henry IV. The last-mentioned king about 1411 reduced the number of fleurs-de-lis to three, and the shield remained without further change till the end of the reign of Edward VI. Queen Mary did not alter the arms of this country, but during the time of her marriage with Philip of Spain they were always borne impaled with the arms of Spain. Queen Elizabeth bore the same shield as her predecessors. But when James I. came to the throne the arms were: "Quarterly 1 and 4, quarterly i. and iiii. France, ii. and iii. England; 2. Scotland (or, a lion rampant within a double tressure flory and counterflory gules); 3. Ireland (azure, a harp or, stringed argent)." The shield was so borne by James I., Charles I., Charles II., and James II.

When William III. and Mary came to the throne an inescutcheon of the arms of Nassau ("Azure, billetty and a lion rampant or") was superimposed upon the Royal Arms as previously borne, for William III., and he impaled the same coat without the inescutcheon for his wife. At her death the impalement was dropped. After the Union with Scotland in 1707 the arms of England ("Gules, three lions," &c.) were impaled with those of Scotland (the tressure not being continued down the palar line), and the impaled coat of England and Scotland was placed in the first and fourth quarters, France in the second, Ireland in the third.

At the accession of George I. the arms of Hanover were introduced in the fourth quarter. These were: "Tierced in pairle reversed, 1. Brunswick, gules, two lions passant guardant in pale or; 2. Luneberg, or, semé of hearts gules, a lion rampant azure; 3. (in point), Westphalia, gules, a horse courant argent, and on an inescutcheon (over the fourth quarter) gules, the crown of Charlemagne (as Arch Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire).

At the union with Ireland in 1801 the opportunity was taken to revise the Royal Arms, and those of France were then discontinued. The escutcheon decided upon at that date was: "Quarterly, 1 and 4, England; 2. Scotland; 3. Ireland and the arms of Hanover were placed upon an inescutcheon." This inescutcheon was surmounted by the Electoral cap, for which a crown was substituted later when Hanover became a kingdom.

At the death of William IV., by the operation of the Salic Law, the crowns of England and Hanover were separated, and the inescutcheon of Hanover disappeared from the Royal Arms of this country, and by Royal Warrant issued at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria the Royal Arms and badges were declared to be: 1 and 4, England; 2. Scotland; 3. Ireland. The necessary alteration of the cyphers are the only alterations made by his present Majesty.

The supporters date from the accession of James I. Before that date there had been much variety. Some of the Royal badges have been already alluded to in the chapter on that subject.

The differences used by various junior members of the Royal Family will be found in the Chapter on Marks of Cadency.