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Coat of arms of Svalbard

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Coat of arms of Svalbard

As used by the King
Armiger King
Adopted 1905 (design)
1280 or earlier (origin)
Escutcheon Gules, a lion rampant Or, crowned and bearing an axe Or with blade Argent,the shield on a mantle Purple lined Ermine, crowned Or
Motto Alt for Norge
Orders Order of St. Olav
As used by the Norwegian Parliament,
the Government
and by Law Courts and other state authorities
Armiger King
Adopted 1992 (present design)
1280 or earlier (origin)
Escutcheon Gules, a lion rampant Or, crowned and bearing an axe Or with blade Argent etc.

The Coat of arms of Norway (Norwegian bokmål: Norges riksvåpen; Nynorsk: Noregs riksvåpen) is blazoned Gules, a lion rampant Or, crowned Or, holding an axe Or with blade Argent.

The coat of arms of Norway—a golden lion on a red shield—was adopted in or before the early part of the 13th century. In the late part of the same century, a silver axe was added. In continuous use since then, the coat of arms is one of the oldest state coats of arms in the world. Following changing historical epochs, fashions and styles, the coat of arms has appeared in several rather different designs.

The coat of arms of Norway is used by His Majesty the King, by the Parliament (Stortinget), by the Government (King's Council), by the Law Courts, by the County Governors, and by some other national and governmental authorities. Since 1937, two variants of the coat of arms exist: the more complicated one used by the King and the simpler one used by the Government, the Law Courts etcetera.

The lion, which in Norway is commonly known as The Norwegian Lion (Den norske løve etc.), has been a popular and embraced symbol for centuries. This popularity is, not least, visible in older folk art.


In this article, the complex variant of the coat of arms of Norway is called the Royal Coat of Arms, whilst the simple variant is called the State Coat of Arms.

Royal Coat of Arms

General information

The Royal Coat of Arms is used by the King and Queen, by the Royal House, and by the Royal Court. The lion with the axe only appears in the Royal Standard. The Royal Coat of Arms had a design by Eilif Peterssen made in 1905, in which the design of the lion is somewhat more naturalistic than in the State Coat of Arms. Today the design is a little changed, especially the crown with the demi-lion omitted [1] .


The official blazon is:

Ei upprett gull-løve på raud grunn med gullkrone på hovudet og gullskjeft sylvøks i framlabbane.

In English:

Gules, a lion rampant or, crowned or and bearing an axe with blade argent.

Crown and mantle purple lined ermine

In the coat of arms of the realm a heraldic, royal crown is placed directly on top of the shield. In the Royal Coat of Arms, the shield is on a mantle purple lined ermine with a royal crown on top. Three sides of the shield are surrounded by the collar of the Royal Order of St. Olaf.

Personal royal seals

In their personal royal seals, Haakon VII (r. 1905–1957) and King Olav V (r. 1957–1991) had a coat of arms with helmet and as crest a demi-lion crowned and with the axe. This crest appeared during the reign of King Haakon V.

Coats of arms of the King and of the Royal Family

The following coats of arms are displayed with the collar of the Order of St. Olaf. However, not all Princes and Princesses are Grand Cross holders or, for that sake, members of this order, wherefore their respective coats of arms do not include this achievement.

Coat of arms Bearer Description
The King
The Queen
The Crown Prince
Princess Ingrid Alexandra
The Crown Princess
Prince Sverre Magnus of Norway
Other Princes and Princesses

Royal Coat of Arms – history

Golden lion

Among the state coats of arms that are still in use today, the Coat of Arms of Norway is among the oldest in Europe and even world-wide. It is known since the early 13th century, when it served as the coat of arms of the kings of the Sverre dynasty. It is told that Sverre, who was King between 1184 and 1202, had a lion in his coat of arms. This coat of arms appears in 1225, when it was used by Earl Skule Bårdsson, who had relations to the royal family. A coat of arms with a lion was also used by Haakon the Young Haakonson, who was King between 1240 and 1257. This was in 1250. Haakon the Young's father, King Haakon the Old Haakonson, had a lion in his seal. This lion, however, does not appear in a coat of arms, but in the shape of a small lion which lies between the King's feet. This might be the same lion that Earl Skule and Haakon the Young used in their seals. On the other hand, lions were a frequently used symbol of kings and royal power.

Snorre Sturlason claims that a golden lion on a red background was used already in 1103 by King Magnus III, the son of King Olav III. In 1894, historian Gustav Storm concluded that this is ahistorical. Storm explained that the claimed lion in King Magnus's coat of arms is unknown both in the older Saga literature and in other contemporary sources. It is possible that Snorre, who wrote under the instruction of the King, attributed King Sverre's coat of arms to earlier Kings of Norway.

Coat of arms Bearer Description
Earl Skule Used in 1225.
King Haakon the Old Seal of 1247/1248, in which a small lion lies between the King's feet.
King Haakon the Old Reverse of the latter.
King Haakon the Young Seal of 1250.
King Eric II Seal of 1298. Whilst the lion in the shield does not appear to bear an axe, the one on the caparison does.

Introduced silver axe

Approximately in 1280, either King Magnus VI (dead in 1280) or the guardianship of his son Eric Magnuson let the lion be equipped with a crown of gold and in the foremost paws an axe of silver. The axe was a symbol of Saint Olaf, i.e. King Olaf II, and by inserting it into the coat of arms it was symbolised that the King was the rightful heir and descendant of the 'Eternal King of Norway' (Latin: Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae).

Coat of arms Bearer Description
King Eric II Seal of 1285.
King Eric II Seal of 1283 and 1285. This is a variant in which the shield has flowers.
Duke Haakon Magnusson Seal of between 1292 and 1298.
King Haakon V Seal of between 1300 and 1302.
Duchess Ingeborg Seal of 1318.
King Haakon VI Seal on documents between 1358 and 1369.
King Haakon VI Seal on documents between 1358 and 1376.
King Magnus VII
King Olaf IV Seal of 1382 og 1384.
King Haakon V
Queen Margaret Her seal as Norway's sovereign. She holds both an Olaf axe and the Royal Coat of Arms—a powerful symbolism.

Combinations until 1450

With the death of King Haakon V in 1319, the reign of the Sverre dynasty came to an end. The Throne and thus the Royal Coat of Arms was inherited by Magnus VII, who was a maternal grandson of Haakon V and who himself belonged patrilineally to the family known as the Bjälbo dynasty.

Subsequently, Norway remained in personal union with neighbouring countries. When acting as the ruler of one particular country, the sovereign would normally use the arms of that kingdom. When acting as sovereign of the united kingdoms, he would marshal the escutcheon by quartering. This was a tendency in Europe in general.

The first union kings placed the Royal Coat of Arms in the first quarter of the quartered coat of arms. At the beginning of the Kalmar Union, Norway as a hereditary kingdom was considered more important than Sweden and Denmark, which were still electoral kingdoms. Consequently, King Eric III of Pomerania placed his Norwegian Coat of Arms in an inescutcheon, superimposed on the coats of arms of his other realms. However, the Norwegian Coat of Arms would later be degraded, so that the Coat of arms of Denmark would occupy the first field, whilst Norway's was placed in the second.

Coat of arms Bearer Description
King Magnus VII Coat of arms as presented in the Gelre Armorial. The royal coat of arms is combined with that of the Bjälbo dynasty, to which Magnus belonged patrilineally. It displays the original crest of the Norwegian coat of arms.
King Eric III
King Christopher Other versions:

Modern interpretation of the coat of arms of King Christopher.

Combinations from 1450 to 1814

In 1450, Count Christian of Oldenburg and of Delmenhorst became King of Norway. He was already King of Denmark since 1448, and in 1457, he became King of Sweden as well. Norway's coat of arms was placed in the lower dexter field and, when Sweden left the Kalmar Union in 1523, in the upper sinister field. The latter lasted until 1814.

Coat of arms Bearer Description
King Christian I
Kings during the Kalmar Union 1460–1523.
King Frederick I
King Christian III
King Frederick II
King Christian IV
King Frederick III
King Christian V
King Frederick IV
King Christian VI
King Frederick V
King Christian VII
King Frederick VI
After his abdication in 1814, Frederick VI kept the coat of arms of Norway in his escutheon until 1819.

Combinations from 1814 to 1905

In 1814, the Norwegian Throne was ceded to King Charles XIII of Sweden, who thus became King Charles II of Norway. Without legitimate heirs of the body, King Charles adopted the Prince of Pontecorvo. The personal union with Sweden lasted until 1905.

Coat of arms Bearer Description
Crown Prince Carl 1814–1818.
King Charles III John 1818–1844.
Crown Prince Oscar 1818–1826.
Crown Prince Oscar 1826–1844.
King Oscar I 1844–1859.

N.B. This is the Swedish Crown Prince's Crown.
Crown Prince Carl 1844–1858.
King Charles IV 1859–1872.

N.B. This is a Swedish Prince's Crown.
Crown Prince Oscar 1859–1872.
King Oscar II 1872–1905.

N.B. This is a Swedish Prince's Crown.
Crown Prince Gustaf 1872–1905.

Royal Coat of Arms – versions

Official version of 1844

Through centuries and following changing fashions in heraldry and arts, the Coat of Arms has appeared in several ways in the matter of design, shape, and so on. In the late Middle Ages, the axe handle gradually grew longer and came to resemble a halberd. The handle was usually curved in order to fit the shape of the escutcheon (or the changing union quarterings) preferred at the time, and also to match the shape of coins.

The halberd was officially discarded and the shorter axe reintroduced by Royal Order in Council 10 July 1844, when an authorised design was instituted for the first time.

Official version of 1905

On 14 December 1905 the official design for royal and government arms was again changed, this time reverting to the medieval pattern, with a triangular escutcheon and a more upright heraldic lion. The painter Eilif Peterssen was responsible for the design.

Other official and semi-official versions

The Coat of Arms has also been used by subordinate state authorities and in semi-official contexts, such as on bank-notes.




Illegitimate versions

On coins issued under German occupation during World War II the royal cypher was replaced by the 1937 coat of arms, without the royal crown. The Quisling regime continued to use the lion coat of arms, although the emblem of the nazi party Nasjonal Samling on the pattern of the German Nazi Reichsadler was used concurrently as an alternative state insignium. In 1943, the design of the lion was modified, and the royal crown was replaced with an open medieval type of crown. The legitimate Norwegian government in exile continued to use the coat of arms with the royal crown during exile.

Private versions

For illustrational purposes, versions of the Coat of Arms have been created and/or used by private individuals and companies.

Popular use

Unlike in Sweden and Denmark, where the respective coats of arms were mostly restricted for official use, the Norwegian Lion was for centuries well known to and even embraced by the people. It appears, among other places, in numerous works of folk art.

The Norwegian Lion was also popular during the romantic nationalism and as a symbol of Norwegian independence during the Swedish-Norwegian union and—without comparison—during Nazi Germany's occupation between 1940 and 1945.

Royal Coat of Arms – derivations


Several coats of arms derivate from Norway's coat of arms. These include those of:

  • The Earldom of Iceland, which was a part of Norway.
  • The republic Jemtland, which was a tributary land of and later a part of Norway.
  • The City of Kristiansund.
  • The St. Olaf College in the United States of America.
  • The medieval family Gyldenløve (lit. 'Golden Lion'), Norwegian nobles and royal descendants.
  • The modern Counts of Gyldenløve, Dano-Norwegian nobles and royal descendants.
  • The family Gregersen de Saág, Hungarian nobles of Norwegian farmer ancestry.

Similar coats of arms

It has been suggested but remains unconfirmed that Norway's coat of arms were an inverted version of or at least inspired by Scotland's. In the High Medieval Ages, there was extensive political and social contact between the two kingdoms, and considerable parts of the British Isles were either directly or indirectly a part of Norway.

The contact and the cultural exchange between the two kingdoms' aristocracies are a historical fact. At least one coat of arms in Norway was deliberately derived from Scotland's coat of arms, possibly as a gift of honour from the Scottish King, namely the coat of arms of Baron Audun Hugleiksson.

King Henry II of England (r. 1154–1189), a contemporary of King Sverre of Norway (r. 1184–1202), had in his coat of arms a golden lion on a red background.

State Coat of Arms

General information

Royal decree of 20 May 1927 states:[3]

Riksvåbenet må kun benyttes av Statens myndigheter i utøvelsen av deres offentlige virksomhet.

In English:

The Coat of Arms of the Real may be used only by the State's authorities in the exercise of their official activity.

The Coat of Arms may be used by the Royal Court, by the Government and its Ministries, by the Parliament, by the Law Courts, and by some others. Matters of the Coat of Arms are treated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The official blazon is:

Ei upprett gull-løve på raud grunn med gullkrone på hovudet og gullskjeft sylvøks i framlabbane.

In English:

Gules, a lion rampant Or, crowned and bearing an axe with blade argent.


The State Coat of Arms has no crest.


The State Coat of Arms is always to be displayed surmounted with the royal crown.



  • P. Petersen: Historisk-heraldisk Fremstilling af Kongeriget Norges Vaaben, og Sammes Afbildning i Bannere, Flag, Mynter og Sigiller, Christiania 1836
  • Gustav Storm: Kristiania 1894
  • Chr. Brinchmann: Norske konge-sigiller og andre fyrste-sigiller fra middelalderen, Kristiania 1924
  • Poul Bredo Grandjean: Det danske Rigsvaaben, Copenhagen 1926
  • Hallvard Trætteberg: «Norges statssymboler inntil 1814», Historisk Tidsskrift, Vol. 29 No. 8 and 9, Oslo 1933
  • Hallvard Trætteberg: Norges våbenmerker. Norske by- og adelsvåben, published by Kaffe Hag, Oslo 1933
  • Hallvard Trætteberg: «Norges krone og våpen», i Festskrift til Francis Bull på 50 årsdagen, Oslo 1937
  • Hallvard Trætteberg: «The Coat of Arms of Norway», The American-Scandinavian Review, June 1964
  • Hallvard Trætteberg: «Det norske kongevåpen i Gelre-våpenboka», Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Vol 3, No 23 p. 126 ff., Copenhagen 1970-74
  • Hallvard Trætteberg: «Norges våpen i engelske kilder i middelalderen», Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Vol 3, No 21 p. 29 ff., Copenhagen 1970-74
  • Odd Fjordholm: «Om opphavet til det norske løvevåpen. En historiografisk framstilling». Heraldisk Tidsskrift, p. 31-41, Copenhagen 1984
  • Hans Cappelen: Heraldikk på norske frimerker Oslo 1988.
  • Harald Nissen: «Det norske kongevåpnet», Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Vol10 No 91, Copenhagen March 2005
  • Hans Cappelen: «Norge i 1905: Gammelt riksvåpen og nytt kongevåpen», Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Vol 10 No 94, Copenhagen October 2006
  • Tom Sverre Vadholm: «Hellig-Olavs øks som norsk symbol», Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Vol 11, No 102, Copenhagen October 2010, p. 59-82

External websites

  • Riksvåpenet
  • Official website of the Royal House of Norway (Kongehuset): [1]
  • National Archives of Norway:
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