Released today, 27 September 2013, are the conjugal Arms of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which were approved in February this year by Her Majesty The Queen. Conjugal Arms are those that show the separate shields of a husband and wife, side by side. In this case, the two Shields are the Duke's on the left and the Duchess's on the right with both supported by the Duke of Cambridge's Supporters of the Royal Lion and Unicorn, which is made to look different from The Queen's by adding his white label of three points around their necks with the central point charged with a red escallop shell taken from the Duke of Cambridge's mother's Arms of Spencer.
This is the conclusion of an heraldic story that began when the engagement between Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton was announced. It is an heraldic story that reflects what is available to anyone who wishes to follow it in the United Kingdom because British Citizens can apply for their own Coat of Arms. People who live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can apply to the College of Arms in London, while Scots have the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. Both maintain the records of every Coat of Arms granted in these countries back to the beginning of recognisable heraldic use in the 12th century.
The story for Prince William began when he was eighteen years old and The Queen granted him his own Coat of Arms by Royal Warrant. His Shield shows the Royal Arms as they have appeared since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, differenced by his label. They refer to the Act of Union of 1800 of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. In the first and fourth quarters are the three lions passant guardant of England, in the second quarter is the lion rampant of Scotland and in the third quarter the harp of Ireland. As a Knight of the Garter the Duke of Cambridge's Arms are shown within the Garter, the Order of Chivalry founded in 1348 by King Edward III of which the Duke of Cambridge was the thousandth Knight (see right).
The story of the Duchess of Cambridge's Coat of Arms begins more traditionally with an application for a Grant of Arms. In this case it was advised that her father should do this, which meant that the Arms granted could be used, enjoyed and inherited by the whole family. Thus in March 2011 the Duchess's father Michael Middleton was granted the following design, which followed a number of meetings in order to settle on something unique and that gave the family pleasure. The blazon or technical heraldic description of these Arms is Per pale Azure and Gules a Chevron Or cotised Argent between three Acorns slipped and leaved Or. The three sprigs of oak, described heraldically as acorns slipped and leaved, refer to Michael Middleton's three children and the area where the Duchess of Cambridge was brought up, which is surrounded by oak trees. The gold chevron across the centre of the Shield refers to the Duchess of Cambridge's mother's family who are named Goldsmith and the thin white chevrons refer to mountains and the Lake District.
For any person who petitions for Arms, the process of design is intended to be an enjoyable one. Following the payment of a fee, the petitioner can discuss things that are important for consideration in the design. The College of Arms develops a design for consideration, which is painted by hand in an Approval Sketch. If this is agreed, it can be immediately adopted. If not, further discussion and design ensues until both the petitioner and the Heralds are happy. The design is then painted onto vellum and the description written by hand, to produce what is called a Grant of Arms. This is then granted with the signatures and seals of the relevant Kings of Arms.
The Middleton Arms first appeared publically in the lozenge format, on 19th April 2011 (see below, left). The lozenge is the format used for an unmarried daughter to display her father's Coat of Arms. This was the Coat of Arms that she carried into the marriage.
Following the wedding at Westminster Abbey, The Queen approved a specific Coat of Arms for the new Duchess. This involved creating a single Shield that combined her Arms, on the right side, with Prince William's on the left. In addition the Royal Warrant of 10th July 2012 assigned a Coronet and Supporters to be used by the Duchess of Cambridge (below, centre). The Coronet is that of the Duke of Cambridge, which was laid down by a Royal Warrant of 1917 for the sons and daughters of the Heir Apparent. It is composed of two crosses patée, four fleurs-de-lys and two strawberry leaves.
In the Royal Warrant the Supporters are blazoned To the dexter the Lion as borne and used as a Supporter by Our Dearly Beloved Grandson His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and to the sinister a Hind Argent unguled and gorged with the Coronet of Our Dearly Beloved Grandson's degree Or. The hind is white (Argent) and is hooved (unguled) and has about its neck (is gorged) with the Duke of Cambridge's Coronet. Both the hooves and Coronet are gold.
It is customary for Supporters to be assigned by Royal Warrant to members of the Royal Family and for wives of members of the Royal Family to have one of their husband's Supporters and one relating to themselves. The Supporter assigned to the Duchess of Cambridge is a white hind. A white hind was the Badge of Joan of Kent (c. 1328-1385), Princess of Wales, better known as the Fair Maid of Kent, noted even as a child for her beauty and gaiety (above, right). The white hind has had continuing Royal connections in England since the fourteenth century. A hind as a forest dweller stands well next to a Shield in which acorns predominate.
In the painting of the Conjugal Arms that are released today, as is traditional for Royal Spouses who are not themselves entitled to surround their Arms with the Circlet of an Order of Chivalry, the Duchess of Cambridge's Arms are surrounded by a Wreath of Oak. This balances out the Duke's Garter, which carries the ancient motto "HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE", which means, "Shame to those who think evil of it". These Conjugal Arms and the Duchess's own Coat of Arms will be theirs forever. As their circumstances and roles alter, so will elements of the accoutrements around the Shields but the Middleton Arms are set in perpetuity. This is one of the attractions of heraldry: it is a unique scheme of personal identity that has evolved in Europe over the centuries, which can specifically identify a family and its story.