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.
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 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 taken 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 a charter of 1319, that depicted St Paul holding a sword. The sword is often erroneously supposed to commemorate the killing of Peasants' Revolt leader Wat Tyler by Lord Mayor of London William Walworth. However the arms were in use some months before Tyler's death, and the tradition that Walworth's dagger is depicted may date from the late 17th century.
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, 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.
On Tower Bridge
Plain shield on a coal-tax post
On a saddle blanket, photographed at the Lord Mayor's Show, 2011
On a hotel sign near Hammersmith Bridge
- 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" (PDF). Corporation of London Records Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
- Fox-Davies, A C (1915). The Book of Public Arms, (2 ed.). London: T C & E C Jack. pp. 456–458.
- 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.