The Lion and the Unicorn

“The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town”

12108139_178889169119840_7382186694892650363_nThe Old English nursery rhyme described the enmity between these two great heraldic animals. They are symbols of the United Kingdom and appear in the full Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination therefore dates back to the 1603 accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland. By extension, they have also been used in the Coat of Arms of Canada since 1921.

The unicorn was chosen as Scotland’s symbol because it was seen as a proud and noble creature which would rather die than be captured, just as Scots would rather fight to remain sovereign and unconquered. The lion was chosen as England’s symbol because it symbolises bravery, valour, strength, and royalty, and is regarded as the king of beasts. Since the union of Scotland and England, two versions of the royal arms now exist, the one used in Scotland gives more emphasis to the Scottish elements, placing the unicorn on the right and giving it a crown, whereas the version used in England and elsewhere gives the English elements more prominence.

Adela