Every Herefordian should know, and be proud of, the fascinating tale of how Hereford received its Coat of Arms.
In 1189, King Richard I gave the City its first royal charter, and with it came Hereford’s first Coat of Arms. This crest was the personal arms of the King, and Hereford shares with the City of London the unique distinction that they are the only two places in the realm allowed to wear a Sovereign’s Coat of Arms within their own.
The remainder of the design dates much later, to 1645, at which time the realm was in a state of Civil War. The City of Hereford stood for the King, and was stationed with Royalist troops. The garrison for the City, however, was very small, no more than 150-200 men at most. Then, a large Scottish force of 14,000 men marched to attack Hereford – mercenary troops fighting for Cromwell. They surrounded the City with the intention of capturing it, confidant that they could defeat the vastly outnumbered Royalists.
However… the citizens of Hereford joined with the soldiers in the garrison, enacting the duties of fighting men so well that they kept the invading Scottish troops at bay for approximately five weeks. The enemy was unable to make a single penetration of the City’s defenses during this time, their only achievement being the destruction of one span of the old bridge over the Wye and dislodging a few stones from the City walls.
In the end, the Scots gave up trying to capture the City and retreated, leaving the Royal Standard flying in triumph over the City. King Charles I, upon hearing of this, was delighted and full of praise for the citizens of Hereford. So much so, that he visited the City in order to thank them personally for their success, and made the Grant of Arms which the City now possesses.
The shield on the coat was given ten crosses in white and blue, representing the surrounding forces of the Scottish troops. The motto for the City, which is also on the Coat, was granted; INVICTAE FIDELITATIS PRAEMIUM – which means; “Reward for faithfulness unconquered”. A lion crest can now be seen on the top of the Coat, signifying loyalty and defence of the Crown. The helmet below the lion is also very rare, and is only found on the Coat of one other authority in England – the City of London.
You can now see the actual charter from 1189, and many other charters and relics, in the Hereford Civic Museum at Hereford Town Hall! See here for more details: https://herefordcitycouncil.gov.uk/your-city/hereford-civic-museum/
For the full story of the Coat of Arms, visit: http://herefordcitycouncil.gov.uk/city-history/coat-of-arms/