The coat of arms of
Belgium bears a lion or, known as Leo Belgicus
(Latin for the Belgian lion), as its charge. This is in accordance
with article 193 (originally 125) of the Belgian Constitution: The
Belgian nation takes red, yellow and black as colours, and as state
coat of arms the Belgian lion with the motto UNITY MAKES STRENGTH. A
royal decree of 17 March 1837 determines the achievement to be used in
the greater and the lesser version, respectively.
1.1 Greater version
1.2 Lesser version
4 External links
The shield is emblazoned: Sable, a lion rampant or, armed and langued
gules. It is surmounted by a helmet with raised visor, with mantling
or and sable and the royal crown in lieu of a crest. Behind the shield
are placed a hand of justice and a sceptre with a lion. The grand
collar of the Order of Leopold surrounds the shield. Two lions
guardant proper support the shield as well as a lance with the
national colours black, yellow and red. Underneath the compartment is
placed the motto L'union fait la force in French or Eendracht maakt
macht in Dutch, or Unity Is Strength in English. The riband of the
motto is red, with black stripes on either side. The lettering is
golden. Since the Royal Decree of 1837 never received an official
translation, the use of the Dutch version of the motto is customary
rather than official. The whole is placed on a red mantle with ermine
lining and golden fringes and tassels, ensigned with the royal crown.
Above the mantle rise banners with the arms of the nine provinces that
Belgium in 1837. They are (from dexter to sinister)
Antwerp, West Flanders, East Flanders, Liège, Brabant, Hainaut,
Limburg, Luxembourg and Namur.
The greater arms are used only rarely. They adorn the great seal that
is affixed to laws and international treaties.
Since the province of Brabant was split into Flemish Brabant, Walloon
Brabant and Brussels in 1995, the greater arms no longer reflect the
present territorial divisions of the state. The changes made to the
arms of the Flemish provinces as a result of this decision are not
reflected in the great seal either.
The lesser coat of arms (as used by the Belgian federal government, on
passport covers and the official sites of the monarchy and of the
government) consists of the shield, the royal crown, the crossed
sceptres, the collar of the Order of Leopold and the motto.
The newly independent Kingdom of
Belgium decided to base its coat of
arms and flag on the symbols used by the short-lived United
Netherlandish States. These came into being after the Southern
Netherlands threw off Austrian rule. It existed as an independent
polity from January to December 1790. The
Duchy of Brabant
Duchy of Brabant had taken
the lead in the so-called Brabant Revolution, the insurrection against
Emperor Joseph II, and afterwards dominated the United Netherlandish
States. Therefore, the Lion of Brabant (sable, a lion rampant or,
armed and langued gules) came to stand for the entire federation.
This was not without precedent. In the course of the
Dutch Revolt the
provinces rebelling against the rule of King Philip II adopted a
common seal in 1578 showing the
Leo Belgicus wearing a crown and
holding a sword and a sheaf of arrows. The crown stood for
sovereignty, the sword for the war against Spain and the arrows for
the concord and unity among the rebellious provinces. At first the
lion of the (Dutch) Republic of the United Provinces had the Brabant
colours or on sable. It was only when most of Brabant was reconquered
by Spain in the 1580s and Holland came to dominate the Republic, that
the colours of the Dutch lion (or and gules) became the definitive
tinctures of the arms of the United Provinces. The Dutch Revolt
likewise provided the motto "Unity Makes Strength". The inscription of
the seal of 1578 reads Concordia res parvae crescunt (through unity
small things grow), a quote taken from Sallust's Jugurthine War. Soon
Dutch sources used the translation Eendracht maekt magt. The United
Belgium of 1790 used the Latin version In Unione Salus.
Their motto was in turn taken over and translated into French by the
Belgium in 1831. It was only in 1958 that it was decided
that the official Dutch translation should read Eendracht maakt macht.
Andrée Scufflaire. Les origines du sceau de l'Etat belge, in: Roger
Harmignies, ed. Sources de l'héraldique en Europe occidentale,
(Brussels, 1985) 201-225.
Hubert de Vries. Wapens van de Nederlanden: De historische
ontwikkeling van de heraldische symbolen van Nederlanden, België, hun
provincies en Luxemburg (Amsterdam, 1995).
Philippe du Bois de Ryckholt. Dictionnaire des cris et devises de la
noblesse belge (Recueil généalogique et héraldique, 24.) (Brussels,
1976) p. 17-18.
Media related to Coats of arms of
Belgium at Wikimedia Commons
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