York's Coat of Arms

The Corporation minutes of 1st February 1587 note that the Lord Mayor had received the Coat of Arms of the City, drawn on parchment, from the Queen's Herald of Arms.  York's coat of arms is now all over the city and is one of its best known brands but its meaning is rarely explained. 

There are two or three variations, but they all contain the red cross of St George, suggesting the city's religious connections, and five gold lions of England,  emphasising its strong support of the English royal line.  That was an important political statement for a city often at the centre of rebellions and wars with Scotland.

In heraldic terms, the five lions are 'passant', meaning that they are walking, and 'guardant', meaning their heads are turned to face the viewer.  They are active and aware.

The coat of arms is often shown with the civic sword and mace behind it - these represent the city's powers of self-government under the mayor.  A sword was given to the city by Richard II in 1387, which was allowed to be carried before the mayor on ceremonial occasions, and a charter in 1396 gave the right for a mace to be carried too.

Finally the arms are often topped by a 'chapeau' -  which represents the cap of maintenance worn by the bearer of the civic sword.  This symbolic cap was first given to the city in 1393, also by Richard II.