As part of our Easter Heraldry event, we asked the Visitor Services team to look at different banner designs that existed in medieval times. Animals seem to feature on lots of banners so the team have come up with their Top Five Banner Animals!
5. The Swan
The Swan became a very popular heraldic animal due to the legend of the Swan Knight, a chivalrous warrior who saved a young damsel.
During the Wars of the Roses, the swan was used by many families: the Staffords, the Anjous, the Beauchamps, the De Bohuns and more.
Earlier, Henry V was also known to have used it and has a famous Swan pendant which is one of the finest jewels of its time.
In our visitor centre the Swan can be seen in the Stafford banners (the family fought on both sides of the Wars of the Roses).
Cool factor: 5/10
Not very frightening to anyone more than three feet tall. Although legend has it that a swan could take a man’s arm off!
Standard of Henry de Stafford featuring the Bohun Swan
4. The Dragon
The dragon is one of the oldest mythical creatures to appear in heraldry. Ancient Egyptians depicted winged serpents in their pantheon of gods and the Kingdom of Wessex used a wyvern, a type of dragon, as their standard up until their defeat at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
The Welsh standard used by Henry Tudor bore the red dragon.
Cool factor: 6/10
The dragon is pretty cool, but we’re a little bit biased against those pesky Tudors.
3. The Boar
The boar as an heraldic animal has its origins in the Pagan god Moccus, a human, pig god of agriculture, so the boar became synonymous with power.
Through hunting and heraldry, the boar retained its symbolism during the medieval period. The Earl of Oxford used a blue boar as his symbol and famously King Richard III himself used the white boar, a symbol of wealth, nobility and loyalty.
Cool factor: 7/10
Boars are terrifying, I wouldn’t want to fight one.
Richard III’s white boar featuring his personal motto: Loyalty binds me
2. The Eagle
The eagle has its heraldic roots in the Roman Empire. It was the banner and standard for Roman army legions across the empire.
The eagle remained in use by the Habsburg dynastic family which led to it being used a lot. Descendants of that royal family led to use of the eagle for the national flags of Austria, Albania, Czech lands, Serbia, and now the Great Seal of the United States of America.
Cool factor: 8/10
The eagle is a bit over used but eagles are very majestic
The coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire
1. The Lion
We have spoken about lions before on this blog but few heraldic animals are more synonymous with England, strength, nobility and courage.
The lion flag of William the Conqueror made it the first royal animal for our country. This did not stop other copycats like the De Montfort two-tailed lion and the Percy Lion.
Abroad you will find it in France, Bohemia, North Africa and numerous German city states from the time. The lion was famously used by Richard the Lionheart as well as the mighty William Marshall (the only man ever to beat Richard I in single combat).
Cool factor: 10/10
You don’t get much cooler than William Marshall!
All these different designs are available in our new colouring book available in our gift shop as well as other popular genuine designs like swans, stags and dragons.
Let us know in comments what you would have on your banner or come and visit the King Richard III Visitor Centre and make one this Easter.