Ensigns of Public Authority

Victorian Coat of Arms

Victoria was the second State of Australia to achieve Arms, following the creation of the Commonwealth in 1901.
A request from the Victorian Government for the laying down of Ensigns of Public Authority for the new State was forwarded through the Colonial Office by a letter of late 1909 to the principal advisor of the Crown in such matters, Garter Principal King of Arms.

The request was put forward that the Arms should incorporate, in one way or another, the elements of the State Badge used in Victoria since 1877. It was hoped that Victoria's distinctive representation of the constellation of the Southern Cross could figure in the Arms and that the Crown could appear in the crest.

There would appear to have been little difficulty of incorporating these ideas in the total design for, by February of the next year, the State Premier, the Honourable John Murray, gave his approval to a design which had been forwarded by Garter. It is of interest to note that at the same time as indicating agreement on behalf of the Government of Victoria, Premier Murray especially asked that the Crown in the Crest be depicted in it's Imperial form.

The term 'Imperial' has, in heraldic terms, nothing to do with the Empire, although the Premier may well have thought that it did. It has been so called from the Tudor period. An 'Imperial' crown simply means a Crown, the arches of which rise in a dome-like manner to that point where they cross and are surmounted by a small orb and cross. This is in contradistinction to that form of Crown known as 'St. Edward's Crown' where the arches rise to a certain height and then descend again before receiving the small orb and cross at that point where the arches cross. The Imperial form of Crown was popular during the latter part of the reign of Victoria and continued so right down to the accession of Queen Elizabeth II who decided to revert to the St. Edward's Crown.

By June, 1910 the Royal Warrant assigning the Armorial Bearings was ready and on the 6th of that month, King George V - who had just succeeded to the throne - signed the Warrant and so established the armorial identification of his authority in right of the State of Victoria.

The blazon or technical description was as follows: In other words, the Shield was blue with five silver stars thereof arranged so as to represent the Crux Australis. Although now met with frequently in Australian heraldry, this is an early example of this particular heraldic charge.

Rising from a Crest Wreath comprising silver and blue alternate twists (the official colours of the State), the Crest is made up of the upper part of a kangaroo shown in it's natural colours. The beast supports with it's claws a Royal Crown, in its Imperial interpretation, which is shown gold throughout.

The Supporters, so called from their function of 'supporting' the Shield on either side, are human figures. They are both classical in conception. That to the viewer's left wears a laurel wreath crown and representing, as she does, 'Peace' carries a sprig of olive in her hand. The corresponding figure on the viewer's right is a personification of 'Prosperity'. She has upon her head a circlet of golden cereal, and with her exterior hand supports a Cornucopia, symbolic of the result of peace.

The image which inspired the Supporters is again expressed in the motto: Peace and Prosperity - interestingly enough, the first motto to be in English among the Arms of Public Authority in the country.

There were no changes for the next half century. However, in 1958 the Pink Heath (Epacris impressa Labill.) was formally proclaimed as the floral emblem of Victoria. This in turn led to a desire that it be included somewhere in the Armorial Ensigns of the State. To this end, correspondence was entered into with Garter King of Arms. The obvious solution was to have the plant shown growing from a grassy mound which would in turn supply a firm base for the two Supporters. Such a mound is called a Compartment in heraldry.

Accordingly, on the 28th March, 1973 Queen Elizabeth II signed a further Royal Warrant which added the desired component out of which the State flower was shown growing. While the remainder of the Armorial Bearings remained essentially the same as in the 1910 Royal Warrant, the opportunity was taken to reinterpret certain of the elements. For example, the Crest Kangaroo now holds a St. Edward's Crown. Yet again, the interpretation of the female Supporters was more in accord with the current 'conception of Australian womanhood' to quote the suggestion put forward at the time by the Premier's Department.