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  • Writer's pictureOxford, what's your story

The Story of Oxford's Crest

Yesterday I was outside Oxford town hall and I saw this crest of the city of Oxford.

Can you write down any other places where you have seen it in or around Oxford?

Today we’re going see what Oxford's crest tells us about Oxford's story. Because the colours, patterns and pictures on a crest, what we call 'heraldry', are another way of telling the story of a group of people.

Heraldry is like a code. Each colour on a coat of arms stands for a good character trait and the animals and objects are symbols for particular character or skills. The colours often have a French name. Here is a description of what the different colours mean.

Silver / White – known as argent - signifies truth, peace and purity.

Gold – known as or signifies wisdom, generosity and faith.

Black – known as sable signifies wisdom, grief, constancy and prudence.

Green – known as vert signifies abundance, joy, hope and loyalty

Blue – known as azure signifies loyalty, truth, strength and faith.

Red – known as gules signifies military strength, warrior and martyrdom.

Purple – known as purpure signifies justice, royal majesty, and sovereignty.

What do the colours on the city of Oxford’s crest stand for?

In heraldry, each animal was also a code for something.

What animal is on the Oxford crest? Can you use the link below to find out what it stands for? Why do you think it was appropriate for the Oxford crest?

Oxford’s motto is Latin: ‘fortis est veritas’. It is the Latin for ‘truth is strong’. Discuss with others in your home how truth is strong. (You could do this by considering the opposite, in what way lies are weak).

On the coat of arms, around the crest are all three more wonderful animals. The elephant and lion are easy to spot. Can you see what the third one is (there is a clue in its tail which looks like a lacrosse racket!)?

Can you describe the colour of each one using heraldic terms? (you might need some extra help with the elephant).

I spotted another crest when I was out on my walk. It's the crest of the University Oxford.

Write down the different things you can see on the crest (colours, animals, symbols).

Using the colour code above, can you work out what the colours show?

Using the link above, can you work out what the figures on the crest show?

Can you find out what the meaning of the motto is? It runs along the left side of the page and then goes onto the right hand side so spells 'dominus illuminatio mea'.

I was just on my way home when I spotted another coat of arms:

Do you know who it belongs to? And can you work out why it is here?

So you might be wondering, how does anyone get a coat of arms?

When Kate Middleton married Prince William, her family had a coat of arms designed. They had to commission a coat of arms through the Garter Principal King of Arms.

Here is the story of how it was designed.

What story would you like your coat of arms to tell?

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