Redirect|Lions passant|the flag used by the King of the English|Royal Standard of England
The '''lion+''' is a common charge+ in heraldry+. It traditionally symbolises bravery, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness, and valour, because historically it has been regarded as the king of beasts.
The animals of the "barbarian" (Eurasian+) predecessors of heraldic designs are likely to have been used as clan symbol+s.
Adopted in Germanic tradition+ around the 5th century+, they were re-interpreted ina Christian context+ in the western kingdoms of Gaul+ and Italy+ in the 6th and 7th centuries. The characteristic of the lion as royal animal in particular is due the influence of the Physiologus+, an early Christian book about animal symbolism, originally written in Greek in the 2nd century and translated into Latin in about AD 400.
It was a predecessor of the medieval bestiaries+.
The lion as a heraldic charge is present from the very earliest development of heraldry+ in the 12th century. One of the earliest known examples of armory as it subsequently came to be practiced can be seen on the tomb of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou+, who died in 1151. An enamel, probably commissioned by Geoffrey's widow between 1155 and 1160, depicts him carrying a blue shield decorated six golden lions rampant and wearing a blue helmet adorned with another lion. A chronicle dated to c. 1175 states that Geoffrey was given a shield of this description when he was knighted by his father-in-law, Henry I+, in 1128.
Earlier heraldic writers attributed the lions of England+ to William the Conqueror+, but the earliest evidence of the association of lions with the English crown is a seal bearing two lions passant, used by the future King John+ during the lifetime of his father, Henry II+, who died in 1189.Fox-Davies, ''A Complete Guide to Heraldry'', pp. 173–174. Since Henry was the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, it seems reasonable to suppose that the adoption of lions as an heraldic emblem by Henry or his sons might have been inspired by Geoffrey's shield. John's elder brother, Richard the Lionheart+, who succeeded his father on the throne, is believed to have been the first to have borne the arms of three lions passant-guardant, still the arms of England, having earlier used two lions rampant combatant, which arms may also have belonged to his father. Richard is also credited with having originated the English crest of a lion statant (now statant-guardant).
Unlike the eagle+, which is comparatively rare in heraldry because it was reserved as an imperial symbol+, the lion became a symbol of chivalry+ and was not restricted to royal coats of arms. The Zürich armorial+ (14th century) has a number of coats of arms with lions, most of them of ministeriales+ of the House of Habsburg.
As many ''attitudes+'' (positions) now exist in heraldry as the heraldist's imagination can conjure, as a result of the ever-increasing need for differentiation, but very few of these were apparently known to medieval heralds.Fox-Davies (1909), p. 172. One distinction commonly made (especially among French heralds), although it may be of limited importance, is the distinction of lions in the walking positions as ''leopards''. The following table summarizes the principal attitudes of heraldic lions:
| A "lion rampant" is depicted in profile standing erect with forepaws raised. The position of the hind legs varies according to local custom: the lion may stand on both hind legs, braced wide apart, or on only one, with the other also raised to strike; the word ''rampant'' is often omitted, especially in early blazon, as this is the most usual position of a carnivorous quadruped;
''Note:'' the term ''segreant'' denotes the same position, but is only used in reference to winged four-legged beasts like griffin+s and dragons+.
| A "lion passant" is walking, with the right fore paw raised and all others on the ground.Fox-Davies (1909), p. 181. A "Lion of England" denotes a ''lion passant guardant Or'', used as an augmentation+.
''Note:'' A lion thus depicted may be called a "leopard" (see discussion below).
| A "lion statant" is standing, all four feet on the ground, usually with the forepaws together. This posture is more frequent in crest+s than in charges on shields.Fox-Davies (1909), p. 183.
| A "lion salient" is leaping, with both hind legs together on the ground and both forelegs together in the air. This is a very rare position for a lion, but is also used of other heraldic beasts.
| A "lion sejant" is sitting on his haunches, with both forepaws on the ground.Fox-Davies (1909), p. 184.
| ''Sejant erect''
| A "lion sejant erect" is seated on its haunches, but with its body erect and both forepaws raised in the "rampant" position (this is sometimes termed "sejant-rampant").
| A "lion couchant" is lying down, but with the head raised.Fox-Davies (1909), p. 185.
| A "lion dormant" is lying down with its eyes closed and head lowered, resting upon the forepaws, as if asleep.
Other terms are used to describe the lion's position in further detail. It should be noted that each coat of arms has a right and left (i.e. ''dexter'' and ''sinister'') side - ''with respect to the person carrying the shield'' - so the left side of the shield as drawn on the page (thus the right side to the shield bearer) is called the dexter side. The lion's head is normally seen in agreement with the overall position, facing dexter (left) unless otherwise stated. If a lion's ''whole body'' is turned to face right, he is ''to sinister'' or ''contourné''. If his ''whole body'' faces the viewer, he is ''affronté''. If his ''head only'' faces the viewer he is ''guardant'' or ''gardant'', and if he looks back over his shoulder he is ''regardant''. These adjectives follow any other adjectives of position.
A lion (or other beast) ''coward'' carries the tail between its hind legs. The tail also may be knotted (''nowed''), forked (''queue fourchée'') or doubled (''double-queued''); as in the arms of the kingdom of Bohemia.
Both lions and leopards may have been among the earliest beasts to appear in heraldry. ''The Oxford Guide to Heraldry'' notes that the earliest English treatise on heraldry, a late-13th or early-14th century Anglo-Norman+ manuscript titled ''De Heraudrie'', mentions the crow, eagle, griffin, heron, leopard, lion, martlet, popinjay, and swan. Citing Bado Aureo, the ''Oxford Guide'' further suggests that the leopard, said to be "borne of an adulterous union between a lioness and a pard+," and like a mule+ incapable of reproducing, may be an appropriate charge for a person born of adultery or barred from reproducing (such as an abbot+).
As a general rule, English heralds tend to identify ''lions'' as rampant (upright, in profile facing dexter), and ''leopards'' as passant guardant (walking, head turned to full face), but the heraldic distinction between lions and leopards is often ambiguous and in some cases may be controversial (as in the case of the royal arms of England+, discussed below). Part of the confusion arises from international differences in translation or in the defining characteristics of each, particularly in charges that show some characteristics of each.
English herald Arthur Charles Fox-Davies+ asserted in 1909 that the ''leopard'', denoting a lion passant guardant, was a term of French origin that had "long since become obsolete in English armory. In French blazon, however, the old distinction is still observed." Fox-Davies continued, "[French heralds] term our lion passant a ''léopard-lionné'', and our lion rampant guardant is their ''lion-léopardé''." Dutch heraldist Johannes Rietstap+, however, defined a ''Léopard lionné'' as a lion rampant guardant (i.e., upright like a lion with its head turned to full face like a leopard) and a ''Lion léopardé'' as a lion passant (i.e., walking like a leopard with its head facing dexter like a lion). German-American heraldist Carl-Alexander von Volborth+ agrees with Rietstap's translations, in contrast to those of Fox-Davies as stated above.
As if to clarify the situation, English heraldist Hugh Clark wrote in his ''Introduction to Heraldry'' (1829):
:The true heraldic lion, according to French authors, is always to be represented in profile, or, as the ancient heralds say, showing but one eye and one ear. His attitude, also, should always be rampant or ravaging. When passant and full-faced, they blazoned him a leopard, ''vide Lion Leopardé'': in England, however, the lions in the royal and other achievements have always been blazoned as lions, however depicted since the time of Henry III, in whose reign they were called "Leopards".
:Lion Leopardé...is a French term for what the English call a ''Lion passant gardant''. The word ''leopard'' is always made use of by the French heralds to express in their language, a lion full-faced, or ''gardant''. Thus, when a lion is placed on an escutcheon in that attitude which we call ''rampant gardant'', the French blazon it a ''Lion Leopardé''. When he is passant only, they call him ''leopard lioné''.
English heraldist Charles Boutell wrote in 1890 that the lions of England were generally termed ''leopards'' until the end of the 14th century, including in the roll of arms of Henry III of England+, and in a statute of Edward I of England+, dating to 1300, which made reference to "''signée de une teste de leopart''—marked with the King's lion." In ''English Heraldry'' (1867), Boutell explained:
:Only when he was in this rampant attitude did the early Heralds consider any Lion to be a Lion, and blazon him by his true name. A lion walking and looking about him, the early Heralds held to be acting the part of a leopard: consequently, when he was in any such attitude, they blazoned him as "a leopard." The animal bearing that name bore it simply as an heraldic title, which distinguished a Lion in a particular attitude. These heraldic "leopards" were drawn in every respect as other heraldic "lions," without spots or any leopardish distinction whatever. This explains the usage, retained until late in the 14th century, which assigned to the Lions of the Royal Shield of England the name of "leopards." They were so called, not by the enemies of England for derision and insult, as some persons, in their ignorance of early Heraldry, have been pleased both to imagine and to assert; but the English Kings and Princes, who well knew their "Lions" to be Lions, in blazon styled them "leopards," because they also knew that Lions in the attitude of their "Lions" were heraldic "leopards."
In ''Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meaning'' (1976), German heraldist Ottfried Neubecker+ explained:
:When the blazon does not specifically mention a position, the lion may be assumed to be rampant. If he is in a different position, other terminology must be used, referring to the position of his head and limbs. An early heraldic convention found in medieval blazons uses the distinction between a lion and a leopard previously employed by the ancient Greeks. In antiquity, the lion, having a heavy mane, was generally shown in profile, while the leopard, having less hair, was shown looking towards the observer. A lion looking towards the observer therefore came to be given the name of the animal usually shown in that pose.
According to Neubecker, what in Old French+ is termed a ''léopard'' is always ''guardant'' (head turned toward the observer), thus the modern English heraldic terms "lion passant guardant", "lion passant", and "lion rampant guardant" correlate to the Old French terms ''léopard'', ''lion léopardé'', and ''léopard lionné'', respectively.
A wide variety of political entities across the world use lions in their official emblems. The following is just a sampling of these.
A small group of examples is depicted listed below.
Outside of classical heraldry, lions have also found their way onto the coats of arms or emblems used by modern states in Asia, often based on traditional depictions of lions in the respective cultures or regions.
Lion (heraldry)+ The lion is a common charge in heraldry. It traditionally symbolises bravery, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness, and valour, because historically it has been regarded as the king of beasts.