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Coat-of-Arms (Spain)

Last modified: 2000-01-21 by santiago dotor
Keywords: spain | heraldry | castile | leon | aragon | sicily | granada | navarre | jerusalem | hungary | anjou | naples | austria | burgundy | brabant | flanders | tyrol | portugal | farnese | medici | indies | france |
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[Coat-of-Arms (Spain)]
by Santiago Dotor and Antonio Gutiérrez
Coat-of-arms adopted 19 December 1981

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We should notice that the oval escutcheon isn't simply "azure three fleurs-de-lys or", arms of the Kingdom of France, but it also has a "bordure gules", making it identical with the arms of Anjou. This is a "brisure", because King Juan Carlos does not have the right to have the plain arms of France. Only his uncle, who is a direct descendant of the Bourbons (Louis XIV etc) could claim the throne of France, if France were to be a monarchy again. Also, the old arms, without any eagle, still exist with yugo and flechas and the chain of gold on the flag of the King. Blue square flag with the arms, adopted in 1976.

Pascal Vagnat, 17 April 1996

The escutcheon in the Spanish coat-of-arms represents the currently reigning dynasty - today the Anjou Bourbons, but in 1870-1873 the Savoys, so the escutcheon was then "Gules a cross Argent". A quite correct coat-of-arms from the heraldical point of view can be found in Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website, though it is not in the exact shape of the official one (shown above).

Santiago Dotor, 24 September 1998

As happens with several other national flags, the Spanish flag depicted at the Quid website has several mistakes: the lion's crown (should be or/gold), and the dexter/left crown (should be imperial). The red lion (should be purple) is a common mistake even in Spain... Also the azure/blue should be a darker shade and the pearls on the crown arches should be argent/white.

Santiago Dotor, 28 December 1998

The Spanish coat-of-arms in Graham Bartram's World Flag Database has a couple of incorrect hues. The lion should be purpure, that is (light) purple not blue; the waves beneath the pillars should be azure and argent, that is blue and white, not blue and yellow.

Santiago Dotor, 22 March 1999

Red vs. Purple Lions

Showing a red instead of a purple lion in the Spanish coat-of-arms is a usual mistake even in Spain. My understanding is that the Spanish coat-of-arms has always been blazoned with a purple lion for León, that is a "lion rampant purpure" (and usually also "crowned and armed or, langued gules"). Such is the coat-of-arms of the city of León. It can be argued that the old Kingdom of León used a red lion, but I believe in Medieval Spanish heraldry red (sometimes "dark red") and purple were often used as equivalent.

In spite of the Medieval identification of red and purple, I believe the use of red for the lion is of a more political nature. Since the Spanish Republicans adopted a red-yellow-purple tricolour, the purple colour tended to be seen as a republican or, more generally speaking, left-wing colour. This in spite of the purple being used by Republicans to represent the ancient Castilian "pendón" which was allegedly purple in colour (actually medieval purpure and hence indistinguishable from gules...). But I believe that it is frequent to find right-wing groups, and occasionally the Army, still using a red lion whereas the government etc. display a purple one.

Furthermore, even though the 1981 Law describing the coat-of-arms blazons a purple lion, the "official coat-of-arms design" which was made available shortly after shows a "violet pink" one, as can be seen above [es).gif]. Most heraldry specialists in Spain criticize this "official design", not only because of the lion's colour, but it still is the one used officially in flags and elsewhere.

This is just a crazy hypothesis, but maybe the violet-pink was an (unintentional?) intermediate solution between "Republican" purple and "Conservative" red...?

Santiago Dotor, 11 January 1999

"Purple" versus "purpure": originally "purpure" was a colouring matter made of the so called Purpurschnecke (purple-snail). The purple fluid was of a slightly bluish, brilliant medium dark red (a nice interpretation, isn't it?) colour shade and extremely rare, so it became the colour of rulers and kings. FIAV and some printers soon made it look more blue than it exactly should be shown. By the way, most crowns of kings and queens are purple inside! Have you ever seen a British crown printed in purple? No, they all are shown dark red...

Ralf Stelter, 27 June 1999

Is it true that the lion is not made a true purple to distance itself from the old Royal regime?

John Niggley, 11 October 1999

This explanation is in my humble opinion somewhat stupid, since Spain is currently a kingdom! Perhaps this is a misinterpretation of my own words above — what I intended to imply is that purple is seen as a republican, rather than monarchic colour. On the other hand, purple is indeed a royal colour...

Santiago Dotor, 14 October 1999

Spanish National Badges

somebody asked, "which is the national emblem of Spain (as the Rose is for England)?". The Tudor rose is one of the heraldical badges of England, the one which has been preferred and used far above others. To my extent of knowledge, the rose -or rather, probably, a certain variety of it- is also the national flower of England.

There is no such single heraldical badge for Spain - as happens with Great Britain, Spain is too a "united kingdom" made up of the historical kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre. Each of these, or rather some of the Kings and Queens of each of these, had their own badges. None of them has had enough popularity to become a Spanish badge.

The following three are frequently considered heraldical badges of Spain (though as I have said, none is really correct):

  • the Pillars (or Columns) of Hercules (which stand at the sides of the Spanish coat-of-arms, representing the two sides of the Gibraltar Strait)
  • the Cross (or Saltire) of Burgundy, heraldically a "saltire raguly couped"
  • the yoke and arrows (standing for the initials of the 15th Century Catholic Kings), previously part of the national coat-of-arms (they are also the badge of a para-fascist party, the Falange) but still in the royal arms.

Santiago Dotor, 24 June 1999

History of the Spanish Arms

The arms of the Reyes Católicos [Catholic Kings], Isabel and Fernando, whose marriage unified Spain, were: Quarterly, 1. and 4. quarterly Castile-Leon, 2. and 3. per pale Aragon and Aragon-Sicily. The arms were borne by the eagle of Saint John, sable, with an open royal crown. Fernando himself often used different arms, namely tierced per pale Castile-Leon, Aragon-Sicily, and Aragon. The conquest of Granada was symbolized by the addition enté en point of a quarter for Granada. The annexation of Naples and Navarra brought about the final change in the arms of the Rey Católico: the second quarter was changed to: per pale, 1. per fess Aragon and Navarre, 2. per fess Jerusalem and Hungary.

The arms as used in Navarre (until 1700) were: Quarterly, 1. quarterly Castile and Navarre; 2. per pale Aragon and per pale Leon and Jerusalem; 3. per pale, a. per pale Hungary and Aragon, b. Aragon-Sicily; 4. quarterly Castile and Leon; enté en point Granada.

The arms used in Aragon were either Aragon, or per pale, Castile-Leon and Aragon or tierced per pale, Aragon-Sicily, Aragon and tierced per pale Hungary, Anjou-Naples and Jerusalem.

In Naples, the arms were: Quarterly, 1. and 4. Castile-Leon, 2. per pale Aragon and per pale Jerusalem-Hungary; 3. per pale Aragon and Aragon-Sicily. Carlos V, from 1516, used as arms a quarterly of Spain (quarterly Castile-Leon and Aragon-Aragon-Sicily, with Granada enté en point) and Austria (quarterly Austria, Burgundy modern, Burgundy ancient and Brabant) with an escutcheon overall per pale Flanders and Tyrol. In 1520, the quarter of Aragon and Aragon-Sicily was replaced with a tierced per pale Aragon, Jerusalem and Hungary.

At the same time, especially in Flanders, a simplified version appeared, which placed the Spanish quarters and the Austrian quarters per fess. In this case the Spanish quarters are: per pale, Castile-Leon with Granada and per fess, a. tierced per pale Aragon, Jerusalem and Hungary, b. per pale Aragon-Sicily and Navarra.

The imperial arms used after 1530 were: quarterly: 1. and 4. Spain, which is quarterly A. and D. Castile-Leon, B. per pale a. per fess Aragon and Navarra, b. per pale Jerusalem and Hungary; C. per pale a. per fess Aragon and Navarra, b. Aragon-Sicily. 2 and 3. Austria, which is quarterly Austria, Burgundy modern, Burgundy ancient and Brabant. Enté en point Granada. Overall an escutcheon per pale Flanders and Tyrol. The arms are borne by an imperial double-headed eagle sable, surmounted by an imperial crown, surrounded with the collar of the Golden Fleece and accompanied by the pillars of Hercules and the motto PLUS ULTRA.

In Sicily Carlos V used Quarterly 1. and 4. Castile-Leon, 2. per pale Aragon and per pale Jerusalem and Hungary, 3. per pale Aragon and Aragon-Sicily, enté en point Granada. Overall in chief a double-headed eagle sable crowned or bearing an escutcheon of Austria.

Later, he used quarterly, 1. Castile-Leon, 2. quarterly Aragon, Aragon-Sicily, Navarre and Aragon, 3. quarterly Austria, Burgundy modern, Burgundy ancient and Brabant, overall an escutcheon per pale Flanders and Tyrol; 4. per pale Jerusalem and Hungary. Enté en point Granada, these arms borne by an imperial eagle.

With his son Felipe II came the adoption of the form per pale Spain and Austria, with the Spanish quarters further simplified. The resulting arms were: per pale: Spain, which is quarterly, 1. and 4. Castile-Leon and 2. and 3. per pale Aragon and Aragon-Sicily; enté en point Granada; Austria, which is quarterly Austria, Burgundy modern, Burgundy ancient and Brabant. Overall an escutcheon per pale Flanders and Tirol.

From 1580 to 1666 an escutcheon of Portugal was added in honor point, and the escutcheon of Flanders-Tyrol shifted to nombril point.

In Sicily, the arms used were: per pale, 1. per fess Castile-Leon and Austria (Austria, Bourgogne modern and ancient and Brabant, overall Flanders and Tyrol); 2. quarterly Aragon, Aragon-Sicily and Hungary. These arms remained in use in Sicily until 1700.

Felipe V, grandson of Louis XIV of France, introduced changes in the royal arms of Spain. The king's new arms were designed by the French heraldist Clairambault in November 1700, and were as follows: per fess: 1. per pale, quarterly Castile and Leon, enté en point Granada, and per pale, Aragon and Aragon-Sicily; 2. Quarterly, Austria, Burgundy ancient, Burgundy modern and Brabant; enté en point, per pale Flanders and Tyrol. Overall an escutcheon Anjou. The abbreviated arms were quarterly Castile and Leon, enté en point Granada, overall Anjou.

In 1761 Carlos III modified the arms as follows: Quarterly of six (in three rows of two each): 1. per pale Aragon and Aragon-Sicily; 2. per pale Austria and Burgundy modern; 3. Farnese 4. Medici; 5. Burgundy ancient; 6. Brabant; enté en point per pale Flanders and Tyrol. Overall an escutcheon quarterly of Castile and Leon enté en point of Granada, overall Anjou. Around the shield are the collars of the Golden Fleece and of the French Holy Spitirt. The abbreviated arms remained the same (they form the escutcheon en surtout of the state arms). They are accompanied by the Pillars of Hercules and the motto PLUS ULTRA and crowned with the royal crown, but do not show the collars. Already at this time the Anjou escutcheon was sometimes represented without its bordure gules.

In 1808, José Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon I of France) proclaimed a new coat-of-arms: Quarterly of 6, in three rows of two each, 1. Castile; 2. Leon; 3. Aragon; 4. Navarra; 5. Granada; 6. Indies (Azure, the old and the new world or between the pillars of Hercules argent). Overall an escutcheon with France Imperial.

In 1813 Fernando VII re-established the arms of Carlos III, both the state arms and the abbreviated arms. The Anjou escutcheon became increasingly frequently an escutcheon of France.

The Provisional Government of 1868 adopted the following territorial arms: Quarterly, Castile, Leon, Aragon, Navarra, enté en point of Granada. The crown was a mural crown.

During the brief reign of Amadeo of Savoy, the crown was a royal crown and an escutcheon of Aosta (Argent, a cross gules within a bordure compony azure and or) was placed en surtout.

When the Bourbons were restored with Alfonso XII, the same territorial arms were used with the Anjou (most frequently France) escutcheon; but the king also used the grand as well as the abbreviated arms of Carlos III as personal arms.

Alfonso XIII did away with the distinction between state and personal arms by combining the two. He took the arms of Carlos III, substituted the Aragon quarter with Jerusalem, and replaced the escutcheon with the former national arms: Quarterly of 6, in three rows of two each: 1. per pale Jerusalem and Aragon-Sicily; 2. per pale Austria and Burgundy modern; 3. Farnese 4. Medici; 5. Burgundy ancient; 6. Brabant; enté en point per pale Flanders and Tyrol. Overall an escutcheon quarterly of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra enté en point of Granada, overall France.

The Republic of 1931 used again the territorial arms, while Franco adopted in 1938 a variant: Quarterly, 1 and 4. quarterly Castile and Leon, 2 and 3. per pale Aragon and Navarra, enté en point of Granada. The arms are crowned with an open royal crown, placed on an eagle displayed sable, surrounded with the pillars of Hercules, the yoke and the bundle of arrows of the Reyes Católicos [as on the 1938-1981 flag].

Juan Carlos uses as personal arms those of the last kings of Spain, Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII, with the closed crown and the collar of the Golden Fleece. The same arms without the France escutcheon were already in use in the last years of the Franco regime as abbreviated arms.

In 1981, Franco's national arms were abolished and the following state arms were adopted, namely: Quarterly Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra, en surtout France. Closed crown, pillars of Hercules.

Description of Spanish and Austrian quarters [see the arms of the Two Sicilies for images of all the escutcheons]:

Gules, a castle triple-towered or, pierced and ajoure azure.
Argent, a lion purpure (or gules) crowned or.
Or, four pallets gules.
quarterly per saltire, in chief and base Aragon and in flanks Argent, an eagle displayed sable.
Argent, a pomegranate gules leafed vert.
Gules, a cross, saltire and orle of chains linked together or.
Barry of eight argent and gules.
Azure, on a semis of fleurs-de-lys or a label gules.
Argent, a cross potent between four crosslets or.
Gules, a fess argent.
Burgundy ancient
Bendy of 6 or and azure, a bordure gules.
Burgundy modern
Azure, on a semis of fleurs-de-lys or a bordure compony argent and gules.
Sable, a lion rampant or.
Or, a lion rampant sable.
Argent, an eagle displayed gules, crowned and bearing Kleestengeln (cloverleaves) on the wings or.
Argent, five escutcheons in cross azure in each as many plates in saltire, within a bordure gules thereon seven castles or.
Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or within a bordure gules.
Or, six fleurs-de-lis 3, 2 and 1 azure.
Or, six balls 1, 2, 2 and 1, that in chief of France, the others gules.
France Imperial
Azure, an imperial eagle or.

Source: Menéndez Pidal 1982.

François Velde, 30 June 1995

Arms of the Kings Felipe II, III and IV

I received the following comment on my pages from Rafael Gómez (my translation):

The only comment I can make about your page is on the chapter "Banners of Portuguese Kings", especially in the part about what you call "Filipin Domination". The flags that you have placed there (the banners-of-arms of those kings), show a small incorrect detail: the Bourbon escutcheon. Portugal was no longer attached to the Kingdom of Spain several decades before the entrance of the house of Bourbon in the Spanish monarchy (which happened in 1701).
This relates to an image showing both the Bourbon escutcheon and the portuguese coat-of-arms over all, which is at my site ilustrating the banners-of-arms of the (Spanish) Kings Felipe II, III and IV, who ruled Portugal between 1580 and 1640 (as Felipe I, II and III of Portugal).

António Martins, 5 May 1998

The arms of Bourbon were added in 1700 after Charles II (the last Habsburg Spanish king) died, and Felipe V from the house of Bourbon became king of Spain. The arms of Portugal were only removed from the Spanish arms a few years later, although Portugal was no longer Spanish from 1640. I think the image you describe are the arms of Filipe V, but I'm not 100% sure, and I think Grenada is missing.

The arms of the Spanish kings 1580-1598 and 1621-1700 (at least for the Netherlands) were like that, but instead of the eschuteon with Bourbon arms Flandres and Tyrol (so not in the point), and Grenada in the point of the upper part (the Spanish part), like this:

|  C  |  L__|__   |     |
|     |   |   |   |     |
|_____|___| P |Ar | 2SS |
|  L  |  C \_/    |     |
|     |     ^G    |     |
|          _|_          |
|     Au  | | |  NB     |
|          \|/          |
|     OB    |    Bb     |
Source: De Vries 1995 (the Southern Netherlands, or Belgium, were Spanish until 1714 when they became Austrian.)

Mark Sensen, 6 May 1998

About the question of the pomegranate [for Granada] in the spanish pabellón, the pomegranate doesn't exist in the model image. But I searched more info. I found the same image without pomegranate in Flag Bulletin Vol. 4 issue 4 (1965). I believe then that the pomegranate wasn't in the pabellón but certainly is in the arms of Charles III, in the escutcheon. The pomegranate was added to the state arms only by Royal Order of 20 December 1843 (and was until 1878), but was in the arms of the kings.

Jaume Ollé, 10 May 1998