Heraldry and The Crusades, part 4. Richard the Lionheart

Richard the Lionheart
Islington, a borough of North London, recalls in its Coat of Arms its ancient association with the crusaders through the Knights of St. John, who once held the manor of Highbury, the gold cross potent on a red field in the first quarter of the borough shield being taken from that of the Arms of Jerusalem. Hackney’s Arms include a quartering divided horizontally in black and white ( like the Templars’ banner) and containing an eight pointed cross, white on the black half of the ground and red on the white half, in token that the Manor was once held by the Templars, and afterward by the Hospitallers. The nails of the Cross also appear in early Heraldry. The Anstruthers explain their three black piles on silver field as a conventional representation of Passion nails, Henry, Lord Anstruther accompanied St. Louis to the Holy Land on the early crusades.

Richard the Lionheart coat of armsContemporary writers compared the crusader King, Richard I, to a lion. Richard of Devizes said of him that “he raged like the fiercest lion, and vented his anger in a manner worthy that noble beast.” Passages of writing such as this, as well as his famous nickname Coeur-de-Lion, have reference to the King’s habitual use of a lion as a badge or banner; though the name has the usual explanatory fable which tells how Richard, being attacked by a lion, tore out with his hands the royal beast’s heart. 

The first Great Seal of Richard, used during the crusading period of his reign, represents him with a single rampant lion on his shield. But as the lion  faces the center of the shield, of which only half is visible, there has been conjecture that there was another lion on the hidden half, and consequently Richard I has been credited with the Arms of two gold lions combatant ( facing each other fighting) on a red field. There is strong evidence to suggest that Henry II bore two lions on his Coat of Arms; we know with certainty that his son John bore two lions; and the evidence is in favor of the theory that in the earlier part of his career Richard also bore two lions. The fact that Richard’s lions are “rampant combatant” while John’s are “passant reguardant” supports this view as the brothers would naturally have borne their paternal lions in different attitudes so that their Arms would be different. On his return from the crusade, Richard adopted the three lions “passant guardant” as his Coat of Arms and these have been the Royal Arms of England ever since and hold the premier place in the Regent’s shield. Richard embodied these Arms in a new Great Seal and obtained considerable sums of money from his subjects by requiring all existing charters to be confirmed under the new seal

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