29 August 2010

The Lion and the Unicorn: The Rose and the Thistle

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town
The Lion and Unicorn nursery rhyme dates back to 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became England's James I. James' image was captured by Nicholas Hilliard (1547 - 1619) who is remembered for the portrait miniatures he did of the courts of the king and his predecessor Queen Elizabeth I of England. A union of the two crowns required a new royal coat of arms. The lion and rose stands for England and the unicorn and thistle for Scotland. The heraldic animals were joined together as supporters on the Royal Coat of Arms of Great Britain depicting a crowned lion on the right and an uncrowned unicorn on the left. American illustrator Frederick Richardson (1862-1937) shows the lion and unicorn fighting over the crown. Leonard Leslie Brooks (1862-1940) the British artist and writer also illustrated the nursery rhyme. Although in the verse the unicorn gets the worse of the fight, in Scotland he is equal to the lion. The Royal Coat of Arms displayed in Scotland places a crowned unicorn to the right and the crowned lion is on the left, together on a bed of thistles.


  1. There's an even older battle - that between the red and the white roses, and one still fought by cricket teams.

  2. Thank you Blue~ The true "War of the Roses" between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. How civilized that it is played out in cricket games. Best, Kendra

  3. Did not know that the unicorn was a symbol of fair Scotland, knew of course about the thistle.
    Thanks for the clarity.

  4. You are most welcome Leonard! Will Daisy be getting a unicorn horn? Best, Kendra

  5. Well you see pugs are actually Chinois, so perhaps I will dress her as a fu lion.

  6. I love fu lions! I actually had a pair of gay nineteenth century porcelain fu lions to sell; each had their paw on a globe! Best, Kendra

  7. Love this...have to say I find the nursery rhyme delightful. Plumcake!
    Also loved learning about Hilliard and the coat of arms. The portrait is wonderful to look at...costume, the hat adornment.

  8. do you still have the fu-s?
    i'm also always looking for a bobble headed mandarin, ala Brighton.
    all the best,

  9. The fu lions went to a loving home. I'll keep my eyes open for the mandarin, I've seen them but not for sell lately. Best, Kendra


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