The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom is the official coat of arms of the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. These arms are used by the Queen in her official capacity as monarch of the United Kingdom, and are officially known as her Arms of Dominion. Variants of the Royal Arms are used by other members of the Royal Family; and by the British Government in connection with the administration and government of the country. In Scotland, the Queen has a separate version of the Royal Arms, a variant of which is used by the Scotland Office.
The shield is quartered, depicting in the first and fourth quarters the three passant guardant lions of England; in the second, the rampant lion and double tressure fleury-counter-fleury of Scotland; and in the third, a harp for Ireland.
The dexter supporter is a likewise crowned English lion; the sinister, a Scottish unicorn. According to legend a free unicorn was considered a very dangerous beast; therefore the heraldic unicorn is chained, as were both supporting unicorns in the Royal coat of arms of Scotland.
The coat features both the motto of English monarchs, Dieu et mon droit (God and my right), and the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shamed be he who thinks ill of it) on a representation of the Garter behind the shield.
The official blazon of the Royal Arms is as follows:
The Royal Arms as shown above may only be used by the Queen herself. They also appear in court rooms, since the monarch is the fount of justice in the UK and the law Court is part of the Court of the monarch (hence its name). Judges are officially representatives of the crown, demonstrated by the Queen's Coat of Arms which sits behind the judge on the wall of every court in the land, with the exceptions of the magistrates court in the City of London, in which a sword stands vertically behind the judge which is flanked by the arms of the City and the Crown. Also, in Northern Ireland, the Royal Arms must not be displayed in any courtroom, excepting the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast, the courts in Armagh, Banbridge, Downpatrick, Magherafelt, or Omagh and on the exterior of an existing court, where they were displayed immediately before 2002.
The British Government also uses the Royal Coat of Arms as a national symbol of the United Kingdom, and, in that capacity, the Coat of Arms can be seen on several government documents and forms, passports, in the entrance to embassies and consulates, etc. However, when used by the government and not by the sovereign herself, the coat of arms is often represented without the helm. This is also the case with the sovereign's Scottish arms, a version of which is used by the Scotland Office.
The Royal Arms have regularly appeared on the coinage produced by the Royal Mint including, for example, from 1663, the Guinea and, from 1983, the British one pound coin. In 2008, a new series of designs for all seven coins of £1 and below was unveiled by the Royal Mint, every one of which is drawn from the Royal Arms. The full Royal Arms appear on the one pound coin, and sections appear on each of the other six, such that they can be put together like a puzzle to make another complete representation of the Royal Arms.
The Queen awards Royal Warrants to various businesses that supply the Royal Household. This allows the business to display the Royal Arms on their packaging and stationery.
A banner of the arms, the Royal Standard is flown from the Royal Palaces when the Queen is in residence; and from public buildings only when the Queen is present. At royal residences such as Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, the Queen's main residence, the Royal Standard is flown to indicate when the monarch is in residence. This protocol equally applies to the monarch's principal residences in Scotland, (the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Balmoral Castle), where the Royal Standard as used in Scotland is flown. When the monarch is not in residence the Union Flag, or in Scotland the ancient Royal Standard of Scotland, is flown.
A design similar to The Royal Arms is also a symbol for all the courts in British Columbia, Canada, as the Commission under which judges sit within its courts' rooms. In the Supreme Court, the Arms have mantling Gules and Ermine, instead of Or and Ermine, and in the inferior Provincial Courts, the mantling is correct, but the text of the Motto of the order of the Garter as well as "DIEU ET MON DROIT" are illegible. Thus, British Columbia uses false royal arms.
The royal arms is also used as a symbol for all the State courts and Viceroys of Australia to represent the power of the monarchy.
The crest atop the Crown of Scotland is a red lion, seated and forward facing, itself wearing the Crown of Scotland and holding the two remaining elements of the Honours of Scotland, namely the Sword of State and the Sceptre of Scotland. This was also the crest used in the Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland. The motto, in Scots, appears above the crest, in the tradition of Scottish heraldry, and is an abbreviated form of the full motto: In My Defens God Me Defend.
The supporters change sides and both appear wearing the crowns of their respective Kingdom. The dexter supporter is a crowned and chained unicorn, symbolising Scotland. The sinister supporter is a crowned lion, symbolising England. Between each supporter and the shield is a lance displaying the flag of their respective Kingdom.
The official Irish royal crest (on a wreath Or and Azure, a tower triple-towered of the First, from the portal a hart springing Argent attired and unguled Or) is rarely if ever seen on the arms of the United Kingdom, as, unlike the Act of Union 1707 with Scotland, the Act of Union 1800 with Ireland did not provide for a separate Irish version of the royal arms.
However, the harp quarter of the Royal Arms represents Ireland on both the English and Scottish versions. Likewise, one English quarter is retained in the Scottish version, and one Scottish quarter is retained in the English version. Thus, England, Scotland and Ireland are represented in all versions of the Royal Arms since they came under one monarch.
By contrast, there is no representation at all for Wales in the Royal Arms, as at the Act of Union 1707 Wales was an integral part of the Kingdom of England pursuant to the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542; thus, it can be argued Wales is represented in the English coat of arms. Wales was a kingdom when ruled by native Kings, some of whom united it under one Crown, but with the English conquest it largely ceased to exist as a distinct legal entity. The Prince of Wales has ever since been the monarch's heir apparent.
Upon the accession of the Tudor Kings and Queens, who were themselves of Welsh descent, a Welsh dragon was used as a supporter on the Royal Arms. This was dropped by their successors, the Scottish House of Stuart, who replaced the Tudors' dragon supporter with the Scottish unicorn.
In the twentieth century, the arms of the principality of Wales were added as an inescutcheon to the coat of arms of the Prince of Wales, and a banner of those arms with a green inescutcheon bearing the Prince's crown is flown as his personal standard in Wales. The so-called Prince of Wales's feathers are a heraldic badge rather than a coat of arms upon a shield, but they are not Welsh in any case. They derive, in fact, from the English Princes of Wales (who allegedly owe them to an exploit of Edward, the Black Prince at the Battle of Crécy) and carry a German motto ("Ich Dien", German for "I Serve"). In any event, they do not form part of the Royal Arms, as opposed to the heraldic achievement of the Prince of Wales, who drops them upon his accession as King.