Culture and heritage


A cross argent voided gules

Blazon: A cross Argent voided Gules charged in the centre chief point with a lion passant guardant and on each member with a mullet of eight points Or (a red cross with a gold lion in the centre, running forwards and looking at the viewer, and an eight-pointed star on the end of each cross). The picture above shows a heraldic lion passant guardant.

The red cross on a white field was adopted as the NSW badge in 1869, and represented the naval traditions of Captain Cook and the early colonial governors who all served in the Royal Navy (the British naval ensign being a red cross of St George in a white field, later with a Union Jack in the canton). Gullick states that the inclusion of the cross on the shield was also a pun on the name of the Premier's electorate in 1906: St George, from which Captain Cook's Landing Place could be seen.

The badge was revised in 1876 with the addition of the golden lion and the golden stars. The lion passant guardant (running forward, while looking at the viewer) is taken from the Arms of England (which has three such lions on a red field). The single lion was intended to be understood as the 'Lion in the South' - the vigorous offspring of the old world, as well as convey allusions to British naval power in the South Pacific.

In developing the design for the NSW Coat of Arms, Gullick laid the decorated cross from the Badge of NSW over the white cross in a blue field. Technically he 'voided' the silver cross, or filled its centre with the red cross, leaving its silver edges to separate the red and blue tinctures. It is difficult to avoid comparisons with the methods used 300 years earlier to create a flag that fused the English cross of St George and the Scottish cross of St Andrew. King James I & VI, by a proclamation of 1606, ordered that such a new flag be made from the two crosses ...joyned together according to the forme made by our heralds (Fox-Davies: 612). This became known as the Union Flag or more commonly as the Union Jack, and in its current form is the flag of the United Kingdom. Similar approaches were taken in some Scandinavian countries, and the Arms of Iceland are similar to those of NSW in this aspect of their design, as are several Scandinavian flags.

Some questions to research:

  1. How common or unusual is the layering of design elements in heraldic design?
  2. Compare the Arms of NSW with the Arms of Iceland - what is the origin of the Icelandic design?
Image source: Innes of Learney (1931), figure 33, page 44
Page last updated: 01 September 2012