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Queen’s Beastly Lion


Lion of England,  Kew Gardens,  London,  June 2016

Ten heraldic statues, made of plaster and standing six feet in height, were created for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953.  They became known as the Queen’s Beasts.

They were placed on display outside the western annexe of Westminster Abbey for the ceremony, proudly showing off their heraldic shields, which were the only parts that were decorated in colour.  Nine of them stood in line at the front of the building, but the Lion of England guarded the entrance used by the Queen to enter the Abbey.

The Beasts were the work of sculptor James Woodford, and the beasts were chosen to strongly illustrate Elizabeth’s royal line of descent and her legitimacy as heir to the throne.  The animals chosen were the lion of England, the griffin of Edward III, the falcon of the Plantagenets, the black bull of Clarence, the yale of Beaufort, the white lion of Mortimer, the white greyhound of Richmond, the red dragon of Wales, the unicorn of Scotland and the white horse of Hanover.

in 1959, the beasts were gifted to Canada and now sit in the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec. For the celebrations of the Canadian federation in 1967, the statues were painted in their full heraldic colours.


Work of Shankar S. via, 2012

In 1956, though, a replica set of beasts was made in Portland stone, once again by James Woodford, and were donated to Kew Gardens by Sir Henry Ross.  These stately sculptures now stand guard outside the Palm House.


The Lion of England is the crowned golden lion of England, which has been one of the supporters of the Royal Arms since the reign of Edward IV (1461–1483). It carries a shield showing the Arms of the United Kingdom as they have been since Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837, showing the lions of England, the lion and tressure of Scotland, and the harp of Ireland.



Copyright Debbie Smyth, 21 November 2017

Posted as part of One Word Photo Challenge

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