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Civic heraldry of the United Kingdom
Additions : 1904 Portsea
Arms : Azure a Crescent ensigned by an Estoile of eight points Or.
Crest : On a Wreath of the Colours on a Mural Crown proper a Sea Lion sejant guardant Or murally crowned and tailed proper the dorsal and caudal fins Or.
Supporters : On the dexter side a Sea Lion guardant Or murally crowned and tailed all proper the dorsal and caudal fins Or on the sinister side a Sea Unicorn Argent armed crined and unguled Or the tail proper the dorsal and caudal fins Or gorged with a Naval Crown Or affixed thereto by a Ring and reflexed over the back a representation of 'The Mighty Chain of Iron' which defended Portsmouth Haven in the sixteenth century Sable each supporting between the forelegs a Staff proper flying therefrom a Banner of the Arms fringed Or.
Motto: 'HEAVEN'S LIGHT OUR GUIDE'.
The arms are not officially granted, but recorded at the visitation in 1622 and 1686. The motto was granted in 1929, the supporters in 1970.
The golden star and crescent on a blue backgound have been the City's arms for 800 years. There are various theories about their origin but it is likely that the device was copied from the arms of William de Longchamp, Lord Chancellor to Richard I at the time of the granting of the Town's first definite Charter on 2nd May 1194. However, as William de Longchamp had also adopted a variation of the arms used by Richard I on his first Great Seal, there is no reason why Portsmouth should not similarly have adopted a variation of Richard's Arms directly, as a compliment to the King for the favours that he had shown the Town during his brief reign.
Richard's first great seal showed on either side of his head a star with six wavy rays (known as an estoile) above a crescent moon. On some specimens of his first Great Seal an eight-pointed star was used. It is not known for certain whether Richard adopted this device as a result of going on the Crusades to Palestine in 1191, or whether it was a punning reference to the star called Regulus in the constellation of Leo, which is commonly known a "Cor Leonis", or "Heart of the Lion", a nice play on words on Richard's nickname.
The motto "Heaven's Light Our Guide", was registered in 1929, it is that of the Order of the Star of India and of the old indian troop ships which embarked their passengers at Portsmouth.
The supporters and crest were added in 1970. The sea lion and sea unicorn are a maritime version of the Royal Crest and Supporters. A rare privilege, reflecting Portsmouth's long association with the Crown. The unicorn wears a naval crown and a mighty chain of iron, which is a pictorial representation of the chain boom, which, from Tudor times, stretched from the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth, to Fort Blockhouse, Gosport, as a protection to Portsmouth Harbour. The mural crowns are civic emblems and also refer to the land defences which surrounded Portsmouth from Elizabethan times to 1862.
The arms on a token 1797
The arms as used on a JaJa postcard +/- 1905
The arms on a Wills's cigarette card, 1906
The arms on a Dexters cigarette card, 1905
The arms in the Coffee Hag albums +/- 1935
The arms on a Mitchell's cigarette card, 1911
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© since 1995, Heraldry of the World, Ralf Hartemink
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