Coat of arms of the City of London
Description and blazon
The Corporation of the City of London has a full achievement of armorial bearings consisting of a shield on which the arms are displayed, a crest displayed on a helmet above the shield, supporters on either side and a motto displayed on a scroll beneath the arms.
The blazon of the arms is as follows:
Arms: Argent a cross gules, in the first quarter a sword in pale point upwards of the last.
Crest: On a wreath argent and gules a dragon's sinister wing argent charged on the underside with a cross throughout gules.
Supporters: On either side a dragon argent charged on the undersides of the wings with a cross throughout gules.
The Latin motto of the City is Domine dirige nos, which translates as "Lord, direct (guide) us". It appears to have been adopted in the 17th century, as the earliest record of it is in 1633.
The coat of arms is "anciently recorded" at the College of Arms. It was in use in 1381, forming part of the design of a new mayoralty seal brought into use on 17 April of that year. The arms consist of a silver shield bearing a red cross with a red upright sword in the first quarter. They combine the emblems of the patron saints of England and London: the Cross of St George with the symbol of the martyrdom of Saint Paul. The 1381 arms replaced an earlier shield, found on an early 13th-century seal, and on two embroidered seal-bags of 1319, that depicted St Paul holding a sword. It is sometimes said that the sword in the 1381 arms represents the dagger used by Lord Mayor of London William Walworth to kill Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants' Revolt, on 15 June 1381. This tradition dates at least as far back as the first edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, published in 1577, but cannot be correct, as the arms were in use some months before Tyler's death.
The crest and supporters came into use in the 17th century, but were used without authority until 30 April 1957, when they were confirmed and granted by letters patent from the College of Arms.
The crest is a dragon's wing bearing the cross of St George, borne upon a peer's helmet. A primitive form of the crest first appeared in 1539 on the reverse of a new common seal. This showed a fan-like object bearing a cross. Over time this evolved into a dragon's wing, and was shown as such in 1633 when it appeared above the city's coat of arms in the frontispiece to the fourth edition of John Stow's Survey of London. The wing is specified as a dragon's "sinister" wing, i.e. its proper left wing. It has been speculated that the use of a peer's helmet (rather than that of a gentleman, as appears in other civic arms) relates to the use of the honorific prefix "The Right Honourable" by the Lord Mayor. The helm was confirmed in 1957. However, there are various representations that show the arms surmounted by a "Muscovy Hat", as worn by the City Swordbearer during the Stuart and Georgian periods: a notable example is seen carved above the main southern entrance to Guildhall.
On the seal of 1381 two lions were shown supporting the arms. However, by 1609 the present supporters, two silver dragons bearing red crosses upon their wings, had been adopted. The dragons were probably suggested by the legend of Saint George and the Dragon.
- Briggs, Geoffrey (1971). Civic and Corporate Heraldry: A Dictionary of Impersonal Arms of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. London: Heraldry Today. p. 240. ISBN 0-900455-21-7.
- Beningfield, Thomas James (1964). London, 1900–1964: Armorial bearings and regalia of the London County Council, the Corporation of London and the Metropolitan Boroughs. Cheltenham and London: J Burrow & Co Ltd. pp. 21–23.
- "The City Arms". Research Guide 11. London Metropolitan Archives. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
- Fox-Davies, A. C. (1915). The Book of Public Arms (2nd ed.). London: T. C. & E. C. Jack. pp. 456–458.
- Holinshed, Raphael (1577). The Laste Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande, with their descriptions. London. p. 1033.
- Scott-Giles, C Wilfrid (1953). Civic Heraldry of England and Wales, 2nd edition. London: J. M. Dent. pp. 245–246.
- Crosley, Richard (1928). London's Coats of Arms and the Stories They Tell. London: Robert Scott. pp. 14–21.