Bravery, Valour, Strength, Royalty
In the Heraldry of Europe, you will find many crests, shields and flags, festooned with the Lion Rampant. No doubt, the fact tht the lion is known as the king of beats and of course, due to the Judeo-Christian beliefs in the Lion of Judah (the Messiah), it is no small wonder that the Lion Rampant is the symbol of many great families in Europe.
Though I titled this article the Lion Rampant, it is really only one of the ‘attitudes’ or positions. And each of those positions has a different meaning when used in Heraldric Symbolism.
- Rampant – standing on one hind leg with its forepaws and the other hind leg raised in a fighting stance
- Passant – walking with the right forepaw raised
- Statant – standing, all four feet on the ground
- Salient – leaping, hind legs together on the ground and forepaws raised
- Sajant – sitting on it hind legs with forepaws on the ground as well
- Sejant Erect – sitting on hind legs with forepaws raised
- Couchant – lying down, head raised
- Dormant – lying down, head down and eyes closed
The position and number of tails on the lion were also used to denote different aspects of the people using the symbols, for instance, the lion with its tail between its legs was a cowardly lion and held an entirely different meaning. The color, the position of the head, the number of tails, all of these factors were known to mean something but it was the lions symbol as royalty that made its use so pervasive in the Middle Ages.
Richard the Lion heart had three lions on his crest. His was the first Royal crest to feature three lions. his name, his courage in battle, his willingness to fight on to the last man gave him the name Lionheart. The first version of Richard’s seal used two lions rampant, fighting snarling and then when he had retired from crusading, he used three lions passant on his crest. This crest with the three, more peaceful lions remained the crest for a long time. During the reign of Edward III, the English crest was attached to the belief that the English monarch also held claim to the throne of Franc so the fleurs-de-lis was added in quarters on the English crest. Over the years, monarchs changed the crest to fit the assimilation of Scotland and then of course the development of Great Britain itself. In more modern times, the coat of arms of England has gone back to using the lions passant as the symbolism on its crest and on flags.
The lions certainly stand for bravery, valour, strength and royalty. The majesty of the lion, the use of the lion throughout pre-heraldric cultures, whether it was Egypt or Israel or any other society made the lion a quick choice for the symbolism of a nation and of rulers of those nations. If you are looking for a wonderful bit of symbolism to tie your Ren Faire garb into a royal house or to make yourself royalty for the day, then the lion is the best option. Get it emblazoned on your tabard, get it embossed on your vambraces. Wear that lion with pride.