Mallards has created a sterling silver lion pendant for the Houses of Parliament shop. He’s based on the lion that supports the Royal Coat of Arms, and a fearsome looking beast he is! However, we think that despite his formidable appearance, he makes a splendid and unusual pendant.
The design is actually based on a wallpaper pattern that’s used in the House of Commons. Motifs from the Royal Coat of Arms and other patriotic emblems are found carved and printed all over Westminster, and as ever, we enjoyed the challenge of turning a decorative detail into a piece of jewellery.
The Lion of England is familiar to us all, from coins to England shirts. Lions are a common emblem in heraldry, as they stand for traits such that the nobility liked to be associated with, such as bravery and valour. As King of the Beasts, naturally the lion became a royal emblem, and the famous three lions “passant guardant” appear on the Royal Coat of Arms.
This fierce chap isn’t based on one of these, but is one of the two “supporters” of the Royal Arms. This pair of animals stands on either side of the shield to support it. Since James VI became James 1 of England in 1603, the supporters have been the Lion of England and the Unicorn of Scotland. Up until then, the supporters changed all the time. Henry VII added the Welsh Dragon, and Elizabeth I had a greyhound. The lion has been remarkably consistent – a symbol of royalty and stateliness that all monarchs wanted to keep.
The supporting lion is described in heraldic terms as “dexter, a lion rampant gardant Or crowned as the crest” – in other words, the gold-coloured lion is on the left of the Arms, standing on its hind legs, facing us, and wearing a crown. In the Scottish version, the lion is on the right. To complete his awesome look, the guardian of the shield has his tongue out and his tail proudly held high.
Our challenge was to recreate this magnificent lion, with his main details, without making him cartoonish. This is quite tricky when you’re working with such a small scale, and your subject has his tongue stuck out! This was achieved simply by sketching and re-sketching until we were happy with his expression, and by trying to simplify the shapes as much as possible.
His “passant” stance (on his hind legs) and raised paw makes him perfect to hang as a pendant – he’s just the ideal shape. The bail is attached between the paw and the crown – it looks like he could be holding it! We know that technically, the Lion of England should be gold, but we think he looks perfectly happy and resplendent in “argent”.
If you work in a visitor attraction, and have an emblem or detail that you’d like replicating as jewellery, please contact us at Mallards. Have a look around you – there could even be inspiration lurking in the wallpaper!