Last modified: 2002-06-28 by
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by Graham Bartram
His arms include a lion and unicorn supporter, both wearing the escallop charged label as a collar.
He may not be using a personal Royal Standard yet as he currently has few, if any, state duties. He will keep these arms until his father inherits when he will likely inherit the title Prince of Wales with all the changes that involves. At that time he could choose to stop using the escallop charge, or he might decide to keep it in some form, given the very personal nature of its origin.
Here is the information from the College of Arms which includes a full colour rendition of Prince William's arms and his mother's:
In accordance with normal practice, Prince William has been given his own Coat of Arms to mark his 18th birthday. The design is derived from the bearings of his father, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, with an identifying addition evolved from the Arms used by his mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
On the instructions of The Queen and following the approval of both The Prince of Wales and Prince William, Mr Peter Gwynn-Jones, Garter Principal King of Arms, is preparing a Royal Licence granting these unique armorial bearings to the 18 year old Prince.
Prince William's new design incorporates the Royal Arms used by The Queen, with the addition of a white 'label' of three points with a red escallop shell on the central point. This will 'difference' him from his relations - many of whom bear similar heraldic 'achievements'.
The escallop is derived from the Spencer Coat of Arms: Quarterly Argent and Gules in the 2nd and 3rd Quarters a Fret Or over all on a Bend Sable three Escallops of the First. This has been borne by Prince William's ancestors, the Earls Spencer, for many centuries and was used by the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
Prince William, as heir apparent to the Heir Apparent, is the only one of The Queen's grandchildren who will be granted a label of only three points. Three-pointed labels normally identify the children of a monarch. Grandchildren are otherwise distinguished by labels with five points.
This label will also be placed at the neck of the well-known lion and unicorn, or 'supporters', which are placed either side of the shield of arms, and upon the crest - as can be seen from the practice demonstrated on The Prince of Wales's 'full achievement'. Prince William will use the coronet of his 'degree', as a Sovereign's grandchild, which has two 'crosses formy' and two 'strawberry leaves' alternating with four 'fleurs-de-lys'.
Mr Peter Gwynn-Jones, Garter Principal King of Arms, who is the senior herald and responsible for all matters of Royal Heraldry, said "It is a welcome innovation to incorporate maternal symbols into the Royal Family's arms and it is something that Prince William and his family wanted to do. In the fullness of time, Prince William's Arms will change, as The Prince of Wales's shall, but a precedent has been set here that others in the Royal Family may well follow". He went on to say that "Three escallops were added to the ancient "Despencer" arms when they were adopted by the Spencer family, in the latter part of the sixteenth century".
As to the escallop's symbolism, Garter said, "There are references to the escallop being worn by pilgrims to the shrine of St James of Compostella, in Santiago, during the twelfth century. It was a popular symbol among mediaeval pilgrims and inevitably became a favoured 'charge' in heraldry".
The full achievement of Prince William is 'blazoned', or described in heraldic language, as follows: Quarterly 1st and 4th, Gules three Lions passant guardant in pale Or (England) 2nd, Or a Lion rampant within a Double Tressure flory counterflory Gules (Scotland) 3rd, Azure a Harp Or stringed Argent (Ireland) the whole differenced by a Label of three points Argent the central point charged with an Escallop Gules.
Graham Bartram, 9 October 2000
To be precise, it was born by pilgrims returning from the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostella. This specific type of shell is supposed to have been quite common at the sea coast close to the shrine, and pilgrims would take a shell with them as a reminder, or as proof (pilgrimages didn't have to be voluntary affairs), of their visit. Similar customs were later adopted at other shrines.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 October 2000
If Prince William becomes a Prince of Wales upon his father's accession to the throne, is the transition automatic, or does it require special grants? As far as I understood, the first grant of arms is not automatic, and it's done at a certain special moment, so I'd guess that the "stepping forward" can't be done "at will" either.
Zeljko Heimer, 13 November 2001
Normally I think the change would be automatic, but the addition of the arms of Wales would wait until he was formally declared Prince of Wales. But this is a slightly different situation, usually the emblems that deface the label have no great significance to their bearer, but in this case William chose the emblem himself in honour of his mother - as far as I know no other Prince or Princess of Britain has had a scallop on their shield. So will he choose to drop it, or keep it? If he decides he wants to keep it I cannot really imagine anyone successfully arguing him out of it, certainly not his father the King. There are no real "rules" for Royal Heraldry - basically we do what we are told!
Graham Bartram, 13 November 2001