Culture and heritage


A lion rampant guardant

Blazon: Supporters: On the dexter side a Lion rampant guardant (on the heraldic right-hand side a lion standing with his head turned to look at the viewer and displaying his tongue).

The position of the supporters of a shield is always described from the point of view of a person holding the shield - thus the dexter, or right, side is, from an observer's view, on the left - the Lion is on the heraldic right, but the viewer's left. The Lion has traditionally been a symbol of nobility, virtue and sovereignty, the 'king of beasts' (Neubecker: 110-112).

Gullick described the Lion as not a merely Norman-English reference. He stressed that the people of NSW had sprung from all the parent stocks of Britain - the Welsh, Irish and Scots as well as the English. The people of NSW were not English, but British-Australian, a fusion that was only possible in a new country like Australia. He quoted from William Wentworth's poetry:

May this, thy last-born daughter, then arise,
To glad thy heart, and greet thy parent eyes;
And Australasia float, with flag unfurled,
A new Britannia in another world!
Thus the lion rampant guardant (standing up, looking confidently at the viewer) as used in the NSW Coat of Arms was not of the Old World, but a mythical heraldic beast that only existed in the imagination of a 'new Australasia'. The allusion can be taken further: sovereignty resides in the people of NSW, a people who have come from many countries and have developed a character that is noble and virtuous. Thus Gullick depicted a lion that represents all of the people of NSW supporting the Coat of Arms and the ideals it represents.

Some questions to research:

  1. What are some other cultures in which the lion is a symbol of authority and sovereignty?
  2. Can Gullick's creation of a 'British Lion' now be interpreted as an allusion to the multicultural character of contemporary NSW society?
Image source: Innes of Learney (1931), figure 25, page 44.
Page last updated: 01 September 2012