TeamGBpatent003Unveiled yesterday, the kit designed by Stella McCartney for Team GB at the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio is centred on a coat of arms. This coat of arms, which is being granted both by the English kings of arms and by Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland for the use of the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations, combines symbolism for the Home Nations with references to the Olympics and Paralympics.

The initial procedural step leading to the creation of the coat of arms was a formal request to the Earl Marshal from HRH The Princess Royal, President of the BOA, and HRH the Earl of Wessex, Patron of the BPA. The resulting coat of arms was designed by Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald at the College of Arms, in a process that began over eighteen months ago between the College, adidas UK, and the two grantee Associations.

The principal element on the shield is a unified group of the floral emblems of the four Home Nations. Two of each are shown and arranged so as to avoid ascribing primacy to any individual emblem. Four chain links hold them together at the centre; these links stand for the four years of the Olympic/Paralympic cycle, but their shape is also intended to recall that of an athletics track. This is the only reference in the design to a specific event or group of events, and is sanctioned by the central role of the main stadium in all Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The motto IUNCTI IN UNO (‘Conjoined in One’) makes reference to the union of the Home Nations within the UK, thereby picking up on the central idea of the shield. But it also alludes to the unity of the representatives of separate sports and, more significantly, of the Olympic and Paralympic teams within Team GB.

The coat of arms of Team GB as it appears in the digital artwork by Quentin PeacockThe supporters are lions holding Olympic torches and crowned with laurel wreaths. Lions have anciently represented at least three of the Home Nations, and have stood for the UK as a whole for many years – thus the combined British Isles rugby team has long been known as the British and Irish Lions. The laurel wreaths are of course an allusion to the ancient Olympic Games. A third lion in the crest emerges from a crown composed of discs (representing gold, silver and bronze medals) between relay batons; the latter are less a reference to the specific track team event than to the ethos of continuity, teamwork and shared responsibility.

Earlier versions of the design experimented with alternatives. At one stage the lion in the crest held, rather than a torch, four arrows – another reference to the four nations and the four years of the Olympic/Paralympic cycle, but also to the early role of archery as a Paralympic sport. Another option considered for the crest was a fox. This was a reference to the lines of the Greek poet Pindar who celebrated the skills of the champion athlete Melissus of Thebes by comparing him with lions and foxes:

"For when the competition is arduous his boldness is like that of roaring lions, but he is a fox for skill and cunning ..." (Pindar, Isthmian Odes 4.45-7)

Together with the lion supporters, a fox in the crest would have completed the imagery of Pindar’s poem on sporting prowess and made a reference to the Ancient Greek origins of the games.

Since it was clear from the outset that the design would be used in a wide range of contexts and media, while retaining a basic visual identity in all formats, high-quality heraldically correct digital artwork was produced at an early stage, even before the final content of the design was settled. This artwork was shared both with adidas UK and with Stella McCartney and her team so as to ensure the most suitable final design; the digital artist was Quentin Peacock of QxDesign, whose clean, elegant and heraldically precise work can now be seen in various forms on the Team GB kit and associated material.

When the design was finalized work could begin on the formal grant document, the ‘letters patent’ conveying the coat of arms to the grantee Associations. The work of longstanding College of Arms artist Tim Noad, the painting on the document closely follows the layout of the digital version but endows it with all the liveliness, vigour and subtlety of traditional heraldic artwork.

The result is an unusual and very successful example of close collaboration between old and new media in the rendition of a coat of arms. But there are of course many other styles and formats in which the new Team GB coat of arms can be represented and it is to be hoped that, in one form or another, it will see service for many Olympiads to come.

Harris Hawk3 compressedPeregrine Falcon and Harris Hawks: In March and April this year these birds, long popular in heraldic design, could be seen flying at the College of Arms, in the hope that their presence would deter birds such as seagulls from nesting on the chimneys. The presence of birds' nests can cause damage to the fabric of the historic building, as well as a nuisance to staff and members of the public. The sight of the birds of prey flying in the courtyard, controlled by the falconers, was enjoyed by those who work at the College.

As a mark of respect for those that have died and been injured in Brussels today 22 March 2016, the Prime Minister has asked that all Departments of Her Majesty's Government lower their Union Flag to half-mast from 2.05 p.m. this afternoon.

Any other UK national flags flown alongside the Union Flag when it is at half-mast should also be at half-mast. If a flag of a foreign nation is normally flown on the same stand as the Union Flag, it should be removed.

Flags will be raised to full mast no earlier than 10 p.m. on Thursday 24 March but before 7 a.m. on Friday 25 March.

Local authorities are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary.

Queen Mary I of England

19 February 2016

Queen Mary I – Mary Tudor – was born 500 years ago, on 18 February 1516. The eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, in 1553 she inherited the throne when her only brother, King Edward VI, died without children. Her inheritance was not a foregone conclusion, as King Henry's efforts to annul his marriage to her mother, Catherine of Aragon, had led to that marriage being declared invalid and therefore Mary herself illegitimate. Mary was also a Roman Catholic coming to the throne of a country whose links with Rome had been severed almost 20 years earlier, and whose previous ruler had been a devout Protestant. However, Mary was able to defeat the attempts of a Protestant faction to put a rival claimant on the throne and had that claimant, Lady Jane Grey, executed. Mary's resolve to return England to the Roman Catholic religion led to the deaths of hundreds of Protestants in her 5-year rule, and earned her the posthumous sobriquet 'Bloody Mary'. In the year after her accession to the throne she married Philip of Spain, and under the marriage settlement they became co-rulers.

1 M. 6bis f. 85r compressedQueen Mary was a benefactor of the College of Arms, in 1555 granting it a renewed Charter of Incorporation under which it still operates today. We see here the opening clauses of this charter. Also displayed here are images of manuscripts held in the College's archives relating to Mary's baptism, coronation and funeral, at all of which the Officers of Arms played a significant administrative and ceremonial role. Sixteenth-century paintings of her achievement of Arms are also shown; these were made during her father's lifetime, before the split from Rome and when she was still his sole heir. A contemporary painted pedigree roll sets out Queen Mary's descent from King Harold, the Anglo-Saxon king who was defeated by William the Conqueror, proving her ancient ancestral right to the throne.

This manuscript describes the Christening of the Princess Mary, on Wednesday 20th February 1516, two days after her birth. The volume in which it is found (MS M. 6bis) is an early 16th century compilation of accounts of ceremonial occasions, with many of the entries being in the hand of Sir Christopher Barker, Garter King of Arms (d 1550).

WZ f 276v compressedShakespeare Documented: this significant online Shakespeare resource launched on 20 January 2016, aiming to be 'the largest and most authoritative resource for learning about primary sources that document the life and career of William Shakespeare.' This free and publicly accessible online exhibition is curated by Dr Heather Wolfe of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., and includes images, descriptions, and transcriptions of all known references and allusions to Shakespeare and his works during his lifetime and shortly thereafter, as well as additional references to his family. More than 30 institutions have contributed to the project.

Six documents in the archive of the College of Arms are included. Three of these relate to the grant of Arms by William Dethick, Garter King of Arms, to John Shakespeare, father of William; whilst three relate to the actions of Ralph Brooke, York Herald, in contesting twenty-three grants of Arms made by Dethick, including that to John Shakespeare. Illustrated right is the defence by Garter and Clarenceux Kings of Arms against Brooke's accusations, dated 1602. College reference: Coll Arm Ms WZ f.276v.

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By decision of the College of Arms all proceeds arising from the sale of The Armorial of Haiti will be donated to the international effort for the relief of Haiti
after the calamitous earthquake of 12 January 2010.

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