The History of the White Lion
The latest coin in The Queen’s Beasts Collection from The Royal Mint has been released, continuing the heraldry themed range.
Each of the coins in the collection features a contemporary depiction of one of ten beasts, inspired by the statues that lined the entrance to Her Majesty The Queen’s coronation in 1953. The latest coin in the collection is the eighth in the series and features the White Lion of Mortimer. However, this regal lion reveals different qualities from the ferocious Lion of England that appeared on the first coin that launched the popular collection.
From ancient cave drawings to the watchful bronze statues at London’s Trafalgar Square, and modern-day emblems in football and cricket, lions have long been a symbol of courage, bravery and chivalry.
While lions are usually presented in aggressive and fearsome forms, they don’t always have to be ferocious. Unlike the rampant Lion of England, the White Lion of Mortimer sits uncrowned, with its tail tucked away, a pose representing loyalty and discipline. In the past some representations have portrayed the White Lion of Mortimer as particularly submissive, resembling a begging dog, but Royal Mint designer Jody Clark has chosen to imbue the animal with a certain amount of dignity.
The White Lion comes to The Queen through her Yorkist heritage. First used by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, a founder Knight of the Order of the Garter, it passed to the House of York and Edward IV by way of his grandmother, Anne Mortimer – the eldest of Roger Mortimer's children. The Lion holds a shield bearing the white rose of York combined with the sun’s golden rays – a symbol important to Edward IV, who may have seen the sun as a sign of good luck in battle.
That belief may have originated at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross, where a parhelion appeared on the morning of the conflict. Sometimes known as a 'sun dog' a parhelion is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs in cold weather. Ice crystals in the air reflect the sun's light and create the illusion of there being three suns in the sky. It is said that Edward IV – then known as Edward, Earl of March – managed to convince his men that the occurrence was a sign of God's being on their side.
Many believe that it is because of this event that the shining sun was incorporated into the 'white rose en soleil.' However, there is evidence of the sun being used in Yorkist crests before then.