Classic11 Football Blog

 By Josh West - @JWest_92

What’s behind the badge – The Three Lions

It seems there is a detachment between the English and Europe and maybe a reluctance to identify as European at the present time. In a year which has seen the controversial Brexit vote and England’s woeful exit from Euro 2016 at the hands of the darlings of the tournament, Iceland, it can be difficult to remember just how intertwined our histories are. Amongst this backdrop, it is quite poignant to look briefly at the story behind the famous three lions that appear on the chest of the England elite.

Since their inception in 1863, the FA has taken inspiration from the Royal crest of England for their official emblem. First appearing in their famous first international against Scotland in 1872, the three lions has been an ever present feature of the England shirt, albeit with a few minor changes over the years. There is, however an intriguing history of England’s iconic badge, with roots spreading back almost a millennia.

The house of Plantagenet was a royal household which originated and ruled various northern territories in France. Following the invasion of England and subsequent ascension to the throne of Henry II in 1154, the house of Plantagenet ruled over England until the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth field in 1485. Plantagenet banners, standards and coat of arms prominently featured the trio of golden Lions snarling with blue claws and tongues. Their rule of over 300 years is said to have had a huge impact in shaping the national identity of the English through common battles against the Welsh, Scots and Irish. It is perhaps why the royal coat of arms of England uses the House of Plantagenet’s insignia as its inspiration.

Almost every English football supporter will be familiar with what the Three Lions represent, the pride, honour and courage which are invoked by wearing the badge. You only have to listen to David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s 1996 hit with the Lightning Seeds ‘Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’ to get a sense of this. It is interesting, that this symbol that unites the country in triumph, pride and let’s face it, mostly despair at following England, should hold its roots with our continental neighbours.

It is also noted that the badge includes ten Tudor roses, which further evokes this sense of tradition, history and power of another significant household to command the English throne. This sense of heritage and celebrating our rich and diverse history continues through symbolism like this and is something that is easily forgotten after a year like this one.

If only the England national team shared a little bit of continental flair and work ethic of our French brothers, as Thierry Henry used to say, a little ‘va va voom’. It provides an interesting dichotomy to think about, that we should embrace a major symbol of national pride and identity which is inspired by our former French monarchs. Alternatively, maybe it’s just a feeling of apathy towards the current English national setup is forcing this writer to find meaning in what could be the most tenuous of links.


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