You've got to be choking
Marrying royalty has its perks. When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tied the knot a week ago, the Hollywood bride was conferred with the title of Duchess of Sussex, and now she gets something that no duchess can live without: her very own coat of arms. The decision to bestow the Duchess a coat of arms of her own, according to The Telegraph UK, follows a model set by the Duchess of Gloucester when she married into the Royal Family in 1972 after being born in Denmark.
Kensington Palace revealed the new design in a Tweet, and announced that the Duchess of Sussex had a hand in creating the piece which is “both personal and representative”. Thomas Woodcock, Garter King of Arms and Senior Herald in England, who approved the coat of arms, said: “The Duchess of Sussex took a great interest in the design. Good heraldic design is nearly always simple and the Arms of The Duchess of Sussex stand well beside the historic beauty of the quartered British Royal Arms.”
Like any coat of arms, this one is littered with symbolism, and here there are references to Markle’s home state of California. On the shield, the blue background represents the Pacific Ocean off the California coast, while the two golden “rays” are symbolic of the state’s sunshine. Beneath it, on the grass, are golden poppies – the state flower – along with wintersweet, which grows at Kensington Palace. (Golden poppies were also featured on the Instrument of Consent – the elaborate document signed by the Queen which officially recognises the marriage.)
On either side of the shield are “Supporters”. The lion relates to Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and dates back to the House of Stuart’s ascent to the throne in 1603. For her Supporter, the Duchess chose a white songbird, which, together with the quills on the shield, represents “the power of communication”. There’s a bit of vexation on the web regarding the placement of the crown on the bird’s neck, appearing to strangle it – “How are they supposed to communicate when they’re clearly choking?” (Fast Co Design) – but apparently this is tradition.
My own criticism concerns the gap between the songbird’s body and the shield, which isn’t reflected on the opposite side and puts the design off balance. Then there are the lion’s bright red claws, as if painted with nail polish? One can, however, forgive the necessarily disproportionate scale of the two animals, as well as the lion’s human-like body. Evidently, when space is at a premium, lions can look even more tragic.