INVICTAE FIDELITAS PREMIUM – Hereford City’s Coat of Arms
Hereford City Coat of Arms.
Hereford City Coat of Arms is as fine a Coat of Arms as will be found in any Guild or Town Hall throughout the realm. A simple description of it would be that it comprises the arms of one sovereign of England surrounded by an award for gallantry given to the whole city by another sovereign of the realm.
The Hereford Coat of Arms conforms to standard British Heraldic practice in that it consists of four main elements in correct juxta position. The arms central, flanked by supporters, with a crest at the top and a motto at the bottom. Central to the design is a red shield bearing three lions passant guardant. This device was the personal arms of King Richard l, Sovereign of England. He gave this city its first Royal Charter in 1189 and the City of Hereford shares with the City of London, the unique distinction that they are the only two places in the realm allowed to wear a Sovereign’s Coat of Arms within their own.
The entire remainder of the design dates from much later to 1645 at which time England was in a state of civil war. The City of Hereford stood for the King and at the time in question was garrisoned by Royalist troops; the garrison, however, was very small – no more than 150 or 200 men at the most. A large force of Scottish troops – 14,000 men – under the command of Leslie, Earl of Leven, arrived in Hereford. These were mercenary troops fighting for Cromwell. On gaining intelligence as to the size of the garrison within the City, they promptly surrounded it with the intention of capturing it. However, the citizens of Hereford joined with the soldiers and did the duties of soldiers so nobly that they kept the Cromwellian troops at bay for approximately five weeks. There was no penetration of the city defenses at any time by the Scottish troops whose sole achievement was destroying one span of the old bridge over the Wye and dislodging a few stones from the city walls.
At the end of five weeks, the Scots gave up trying to capture the city and, responding to a rumour that an army of relief for the city was en route, they left leaving the Royal Standard flying in triumph over the city. King Charles l on hearing of this was delighted and full of praise for the citizens of Hereford. He visited the city in order to thank them personally for their success. He dined at the Bishop’s Palace and at the end of this dinner he is alleged to have made the Grant of Arms which the City of Hereford now possesses and is known as the Coat of Arms. The actual grant of Letters Patent is dated 16th September 1645, and the Grant of Arms was as follows:
Around the Royal Shield of Richard there shall be a blue border representing the surrounding of the Royal stronghold by the forces of the Commonwealth.
On that blue border there will be placed ten saltires, which are white diagonal crosses, one for each of the ten regiments which comprise the Scottish besieging force. Thus the Arms of the City of Hereford represent the successful defense of the City for the Crown against the rebel forces.
On top of the Coat of Arms is found a lion crest, signifying loyalty to and defense of the Crown, and is rare in civic heraldry. Of even greater rarity is the barred peer’s helm supporting the crest found only in the arms of one other municipal authority in England – The City of London.
King Charles l also gave the motto:
INVICTAE FIDELITATIS PRAEMIUM
Reward for faithfulness unconquered
Did you know you can now see the charter of 1189 with your own eyes? The ancient document is on display at Hereford Town Hall in the Hereford Civic Museum, along with many other charters and items of historic local importance. Visit here to arrange a visit: www.herefordcitycouncil.gov.uk/your-city/hereford-civic-museum