New Zealand's Coat of Arms
The New Zealand Coat of Arms represents the sovereign nature of New Zealand and the Government’s authority. It is for government use only and is found on a range of documents and papers of national significance, from Acts of Parliament to passports.
What the Coat of Arms looks like
The supporters on either side of the shield are a Māori Chieftain holding a taiaha (a Māori war weapon) and a European woman holding the New Zealand Ensign. St Edward's Crown, shown above the shield, was used in the Coronation ceremony of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The crown symbolises Her Majesty as Queen of New Zealand under the New Zealand Royal Titles Act 1953.
The first recorded move to establish a Coat of Arms for New Zealand was a design competition in 1906. The competition was readvertised in 1908 and 75 designs featuring everything from kiwis, sheep, cows, moas and lions to stars, ships, British soldiers, Māori warriors and Union Jacks were received. Three entries were sent to England for judging. The winning entry was by James McDonald, a draughtsman in the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts.
An image of the first New Zealand Coat of Arms is available on the NZHistory.net website.
By the mid 1940s at least 20 versions of New Zealand's coat of arms were in use. As a result a committee was set up to redraw and standardise the Arms and The Queen approved a revised version in 1956. These Arms are still in use today.
Making your own Heraldy - Shield Designs
Coats of Arms date to the early Middle Ages. In the early twelfth century, helmets and other armour began making it difficult to tell armed warriors apart. The solution was for each knight or soldier to paint something personal on their shield. These designs were important in battle, but they also functioned like team uniforms when knights met in tournaments. Over time, shield emblem designs became enduring symbols of their owners, and of their owners' families.
After a while, the designs weren't just used on shields. They were applied on tunics, saddle blankets, banners and tapestries. They were duplicated in sculpture and architectural features. They were used in signs and advertisements. They were carved into coins, jewelery (e.g. signet rings) and the personalised stamps for sealing letters.
Soon, Coats of Arms weren't just for soldiers! In an era when few people could read or write, coats of arms made it easier for people to recognise each other's marks.
Observe the traditional design elements. What do you think they symbolised for the people who chose to wear them?
Coat of Arms: An Introduction
Watch the following clip to find out more about designing a coat of arms for your community
(Room 9 - Team Te Aroha)
Yellow or Gold - Generosity
White or Silver - Peace & Sincerity
Black - Constancy (& sometimes Grief)
Blue - Loyalty & Truthfulness
Red - Military Fortitude & Magnanimity
Green - Hope, Joy & sometimes Loyalty
Purple - Royal Majesty, Sovereignty & Justice
Axe - Dutiful
Bridge - (signifies a governor or magistrate)
Crescent - Enlightenment
Crosses - Christian sentiments
Crown - Authority
Fire - Zeal
Flaming Heart - Passion
Fleur-de-lys (stylized Iris flower) - Purity (associated with France)
Hand - Faith, Sincerity & Justice
Heart - Sincerity
Horns & Antlers - Fortitude
Lightning - Decisiveness
Moon - Serenity
Oyster Shell - Traveler
Ring - Fidelity
Scepter - Justice
Star - Nobility
Sun - Glory
Sword - Warlike
Tower or Castle - Fortitude & Protectiveness
Bear - Protectiveness
Bee - Industriousness
Camel - Perseverance
Dog - Loyalty
Double Eagle & Eagle - Leadership & Decisiveness
Dragon - Defender of Treasure
Falcon or Hawk - Eagerness
Fox - Cleverness
Griffin (part eagle, part lion) - Bravery
Horse - Readiness to Serve
Lion - Courage
Pelican - Generosity & Devotion
Raven - Constancy
Snake - Ambition
Stag, Elk or Deer - Peace & Harmony
Tiger - Fierceness & Valor
Unicorn - Extreme courage
Wolf - Constant Vigilance
Common Design Features (heraldic terminology):
Bend - a diagonal stipe
Chevron - an upside-down "V"
Chief - broad stripe across top of shield
Dexter - the righthand side of the shield (from its user's perspective)
Ermine - a white fur pattern (with black tail tips)
Fess - broad horizontal stripe through center
Pale - broad vertical stripe through center
Passant - an animal shown walking
Rampant - an animal standing on hind legs
Sinister - the lefthand side of the shield (from its user's perspective)