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Beasts of Yore

The Lion of England assumed royal beast status in the early twelfth century during the reign of Richard I (1189–99), when heraldry was formally established.


Images and iconography of real beasts and mythical creatures have been adopted and used by the nobility as emblems and on coats of arms throughout history.

The Tudors used beasts as a form of branding. The animals were meant to represent and be symbolic of the qualities and strengths of the Tudor lineage, pedigree, qualities and to legitimise the Tudors’ right to rule. Commissioned by King Henry VIII to represent his ancestry, the King's Beasts are a series of 10 statues of heraldic animals that stand on the bridge over a moat leading to the great gatehouse in Hampton Court Palace.

One of these is the The Lion of England which has featured on the shield of England for as long as it has existed. The lion represents English courage, strength, dignity and pride and remains an iconic heraldic symbol to this very day, and perhaps in modern times is more representative of Britishness rather than Englishness.

Here we present an impressive pair of polychrome wooden heraldic lion sculptures. Each lion in the "sejant-erect" or "sejant-rampant" (sitting on its haunches, with its body erect and both forepaws raised) position, holding a shield emblazoned with a cross. Measuring approximately 4 Ft 5 inches (138 cm) in height, these imposing beasts are modelled in the heraldic style, each with a thick mane, open jaw and big paws. It is possible that given their large scale and noble demeanour, these lions may have been commissioned for a castle or a manor.

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