The Arms of the City of London in the 21st century

The coat of arms of the City of London
The coat of arms of the City of London

The City of London is a place entirely at ease being both spectacularly ancient and ultra modern. It throws away nothing it finds to be useful while at the same time being at the vanguard of innovation in fields as diverse as government, law, finance, professional services, trade and education. This constant blending of the ancient and the modern makes the City a unique and special place with global standing and influence far greater than the sum of all its parts.

The emerging fields of Fintech and Blockchains are today developing in a City that boasts the world's oldest system of local government and has at its head a Mayor elected by members of medieval and modern guilds. Where else could coats of arms and displays of heraldry sit so comfortably alongside chrome and glass in high-rise office blocks?

Displays of heraldry are one of the most visible, and indeed omnipresent, ways in which the City embraces and celebrates the past in the present. One cannot enter the Square Mile without being met by the City's coat of arms on every road sign and traffic bollard. Look closer and you will see the City's arms are also to be found on litter bins, information boards, civic buildings, police cars, blocks of flats and even the corporation dust carts! The City's arms are such a common part of the street scene in the Square Mile that one knows immediately when one has left the City for one of the surrounding boroughs.

Waste collection vehicle in the Square Mile. Notice the City's arms on the cab door.

The City's arms have become so much a part of the street furniture of the City that they are part of the every day experience of living and working in the Square Mile - not consigned to a stained glass window in a medieval church (though you will find them there as well). The City's arms are also incorporated in the arms of other City institutions, notably Lloyd's of London, The Stock Exchange, The Honourable Artillery Company, City University London, The Honourable The Irish Society and beyond the City of London they feature in the arms of the City of Londonderry.

Variations on the City's arms may be seen in the arms of City University London, The London Stock Exchange, The Honourable Artillery Company Lloyd's of London and many other City institutions. They also appear in chief (that is the upper third) of the arms of the City of Londonderry - testimony to that cities links with London.

The City's arms are a masterpiece of simple, striking and effective design that mark the Lord Mayor's fiefdom. They are based upon the simple cross of St George, known in heraldic terms at the first honourable ordinary, and incorporate the sword of St Paul in the canton, St Paul being the patron saint of the City of London.

Interpretation of the City's arms is very much in the gift of the artist and tend to vary in style if not substance

There are a number of artistic interpretations of the City's arms and few are precisely correct in their depiction of the blazon (that is the written description of the arms) in particular the helmet atop the shield should always be depicted with a golden grille indicating that the City has noble status reflecting the fact that the Lord Mayor ranks with the nobility among the Earls.
The City of London's arms correctly depicted with a golden grille in the helm © Paul D Jagger
The supporting dragons from the City's arms are to be found at various points at the boundary of the City, marking the City limits and they are also used in the Lord Mayor's Dragon Awards for community engagement - recognising achievement in various aspects of corporate social responsibility. They present an all together more impressive and attractive prize than the usual engraved perspex trophies that gather dust in company display cabinets the world over.

The Lord Mayor's Dragon award
The Lord Mayor's Dragon Awards (Image Copyright City of London Corporation)
All good heraldic designs will be instantly recognisable and easily memorised, the City's arms achieve those aims so well that the Corporation of London has not been tempted into the clutches of the modern corporate branding agencies. The design that Lord Mayor Sir William Walworth came up with in April of 1381 continues to serve the City well and it is proud to display its arms in a manner that many other local authorities have deemed to be anachronistic, choosing instead some fashionable logo that will not stand the test of time.

The colours employed in the City's arms also form the basis for the markings of the City of London Police, the only police force in the UK to use red and white hatching rather than blue and white.

Stained glass window in Information Technologists hall showing the arms of the City of London
The City's ancient and noble arms in stained glass in IT hall © Paul D Jagger
The City's arms are not just limited to the physical world, they are also extensively displayed in the virtual world and form part of the masthead of the Corporation's website, the profile picture of the Corporations numerous Twitter accounts, its Facebook and LinkedIn pages and even the 'Enjoy the City App' for iOS and Android. Clearly heraldry is very much a part of the City in the 21st century and will continue to be so while the City's ability to successfully blend the ancient and modern continues. How very apt that the City's arms are on display in the hall of that most modern of Livery Companies: The Information Technologists.

Want to learn more about the Livery Companies?

The City of London Freeman's Guide is the definitive concise guide to the City of London and its ancient and modern Livery Companies, their customs, traditions, officers, events and landmarks. Available in full colour hardback and eBook formats and now in its fourth or Masterpiece edition. The guide is available online from Apple (as an eBook), Amazon (in hardback or eBook) Payhip (in ePub format) or Etsy (in hardback or hardback with the author's seal attached). Also available from all major City of London tourist outlets and bookstores.

The City of London Freeman's Guide is available in all major City retail outlets and online

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