Royal Coat of Arms of King Charles II

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Patrick Baty, paint/colour expert and all round gent, posted today a little bit of history about the ‘Royal Warrant’ on his ‘News from the  Colourman’ blog. Patrick and his company has first hand knowledge of the Warrant, so have a look at his post by clicking here. One of the perks of having it is that your company is entitled to display the Royal Arms on its product/premises and this reminded me of a mini-post that I’ve been meaning to write.

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By some quirk of internet fate a picture I posted last year of the Royal Coat of Arms of Charles II is now the first picture you get when searching for crest of Charles II on Google images. As such I regularly get people stumbling across the blog with that search.  So when I came across Charles’ crest at Mont Orgueil castle I thought I’d get a picture and add it to the blog for those people interested in such things. The crest was commissioned and placed in a prominent position in the castle after the Restoration in 1660. I’ll be honest here, I don’t know a great deal about Coats of Arms beyond the being vaguelly aware of them as carefully constructed acts of symbolism and (as above) patronage. How the royal symbolism developed up to Charles’ crest I know not. So, if anyone is an expert on this area I’d be fascinated to know. I’ve gathered a few of the simple details together and have listed below. Firstly here is slightly different, but more detailed version:

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  • The text of the motto surrounding the crest reads: Honi soit qui mal y pense (‘Evil to him who evil thinks’). This was the symbol of the Order of the Garter.
  • The text below is the Sovereign’s motto: Dieu et mon droit (‘God and my right’).
  • The crest represents England, Scotland and Ireland, with the three lions of England appearing in the first and third quadrant, the lion of Scotland in the second and the harp or Ireland in the fourth.
  • The plant badges (rose, thistle and shamrock) appear in the above picture but not in the Mont Orgueil crest.
  • The lion on the left is the ‘English Lion’ and the unicorn to the right is the ‘Scottish unicorn’.

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Where is Wales? Not sure. Why does Scotland have a unicorn? No idea. Can anyone help?

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UPDATE: The wonderful web has come up trumps again, I’ve got some plausible answers to the above questions. So, to begin with as you can see from the comments section Gareth Southwell (@philosophyonlyn) has answered the Wales question. Why isn’t Wales represented? Because Wales was seen as only a principality and by the 1660s had long been considered part of the English Crown Lands. Like other peculiar possessions of the crown (such as Jersey itself), it would come under the three lions of England. The Scottish unicorn required an additional call out to Twitter for some answers and I think that Megan Lynch (@may_gun) may be getting somewhere with this line from John Guillim’s ‘A Display of Heraldrie’:

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It seemeth by a question moved by Farnesius, That the Unicorn is never taken alive; and the reason being demanded, it is answered, That the greatness of his mind is such, that he chuseth rather to die than to be taken alive: wherein (saith he) the Unicorn and the valiant minded Souldier are alike, which both contemn death, and rather than they will be compelled to undergo any base servitude or bondage, they will lose their lives

The symbolic significance of the unicorn is in its indefatigable sense of independence and in this way is supposedly representative of that most independent of nations; Scotland.

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5 thoughts on “Royal Coat of Arms of King Charles II

  1. Hels

    I know this isn’t about crests, but I wonder why Charles II’s crest is at Mont Orgueil castle. The Prince of Wales was only a teenage boy when he fled the mainland and landed in Jersey.

    The only thing I can think of is that, much later, King Charles II gave Gov George Carteret a large grant of land in the American colonies for sheltering the family in the 1640s. I would hang a royal crest up for that :)

    It is not a coincidence, I think, that once the monarchy was restored, many of the commissioners who signed Charles I’s death warrant ended up in miserable prisons in Jersey.

    Reply
  2. Gareth Southwell

    I think Wales has no representation because it was considered part of England, having been annexed in the Edwardian conquest of 1282, and sharing the same laws since the 16th century. Wales, whilst it has had many princes, has not really had a king (unless you count its brief unification under Gruffydd ap Llewelyn in 1057), whereas Ireland was considered a separate kingdom, as was Scotland. A similar story is told on the Union Jack, which combines the crosses of St George and St Andrew, and for a period (the Protectorate flag) also the harp of Ireland – until it was removed by Charles II!

    Obviously, we have the Assembly now, and Kingship has been reinstated: All Hail King Carwyn!

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    i like Megan Lynch’s explanation of the Unicorn, but alas, if you look at the coat of arms the Unicorn has been captured and is tetheredby a chain. supposedly because they are dangerous if approached.
    D Morrison

    Reply
    1. Tom Sykes Post author

      good spot! Very true, though if we look at the current drive for a referendum on Scottish independence perhaps the chained unicorn is appropriate?

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      I think it relates to the threat they were thought to pose and how only a virgin can tame a unicorn.

      Reply

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