Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

by Lewis Carroll

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Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jan 24, 2010 11:38 am

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The Lion and the Unicorn are symbols of the United Kingdom. They are properly speaking heraldic supporters, appearing in the full Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. (In heraldry, supporters are figures usually placed on either side of the shield and depicted holding it up.)

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The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination therefore dates back to the 1603 accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland. The Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland, used prior to 1603 by the Kings of Scotland, incorporated a lion rampant shield supported by two unicorns.

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On the Union of the Crowns, the Arms were quartered with those of England and Ireland, and one unicorn was replaced by a lion (the supporters of England).

The traditional legend of enmity between the two heraldic animals is recorded in a nursery rhyme. It is usually given with the lyrics:

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 legend of the two animals may have been intensified by the Acts of Union 1707 and it was one year later that William King (1663-1712) recorded a verse very similar to the first stanza of the modern rhyme. This seems to have grown to include several other verses. Apart from those above only one survives:

And when he had beat him out,
He beat him in again;
He beat him three times over,
His power to maintain.

This rhyme was played upon by Lewis Carroll, who incorporated them as characters in Through the Looking-Glass. Here, the crown they are fighting for belongs to the White King, which, given that they are on the White side as well, makes their rivalry all the more absurd. Carroll subverts the traditional view of a lion being alert and calculating by making this particular one slow and rather stupid, although clearly the better fighter. The role of the Unicorn is likewise reversed by the fact that he sees Alice as a "monster", though he promises to start believing in her if she will believe in him.

Some believe that Sir John Tenniel's illustrations for the section caricature Benjamin Disraeli as the Unicorn, and William Ewart Gladstone as the Lion, alluding to the pair's frequent parliamentary battles, although there is no evidence that this was Carroll's intention. Martin Gardner writes in The Annotated Alice, Notes 10 and 13.

Note 10: If Carroll intended his Lion and Unicorn to represent Gladstone and Disraeli (see Note 13 below), then this dialogue takes on an obvious meaning. Carroll, who was conservative in his political views and did not care for Gladstone, composed two remarkable anagrams on the full name, William Ewart Gladstone. They are: “Wilt tear down all images?” and “Wild agitator! Means well.”

Note 13: Did Tenniel intend the beasts to caricature Gladstone and Disraeli, who often sparred with each other? Michael Hancher, in his book on Tenniel’s art, maintains that neither Carroll nor Tenniel had such resemblances in mind. He reproduces one of Tenniel’s Punch cartoons, showing a Scottish unicorn and a British lion, both drawn almost exactly like those in Alice, confronting one another.
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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby gemini » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:29 pm

The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland


How very interesting. I have seen this coat of arms many times and never knew that.
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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby stroch » Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:50 pm

Isn't the harp for Wales?
I'll buy you the hat....a really big one.
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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:02 am

stroch wrote:Isn't the harp for Wales?



stroch, here is a quick answer I found.

Shield of the UK Royal Arms

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The first and fourth quadrants represent England and contain three gold lions passant (in plain English, three gold lions with their right forepaws raised and their heads facing the viewer) on a red field; the second quadrant represents Scotland contains a redlion rampant on a gold field; the third quadrant represents Ireland and contains the gold harp of Ireland on a blue field.

Why is Wales not represented on the shield and Coat of Arms?

Wales was recognised as a Principality by the creation of the Prince of Wales long before the incorporation of the quarterings for Scotland and Ireland in the Royal Arms. The arms of the Prince of Wales show the arms of the ancient Principality in the centre as well as these quarterings.
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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:20 am

And at one time it also incorporated the Fluer de Lys of France :lol:
Funny never think of Unicorns as representing Scotland.

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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:02 am

This is what I found, GG:

The Royal Unicorn

Since the reign of King Robert III in the late 1300s, the Unicorn has been a part of the official seal of Scotland. Robert III turned to the purity and strength of the Unicorn for inspiration in rebuilding his nation; and the Unicorn was soon incorporated into the royal seal.

When James VI of Scotland became King James I of both England and Scotland on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, he drew up a new royal coat-of- arms that included both the traditional English lion as well as the Scottish Unicorn.

According to folklore, however, the lion and the unicorn hate each other - a tradition going back to the ancient Babylonians in 3,500 B.C. The fight between the two results from the Unicorn representing Spring and the lion representing Summer. Each year the two fight for supremacy; and each year the lion eventually wins.

In the case of Scotland and England, the fight continued, and a popular English nursery rhyme of the period sums up the animosity. It also recalls old wars between England and Scotland that England invariably won:

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown;
The lion beat the unicorn
All round about the town.

The lion and the Unicorn remain a part of the British coat-of-arms to this day, supporting the royal shield.
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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:35 pm

Yeah I know but always think of Thistles or the Scottish Lion when I think of Scotland, not Unicorns :lol:
I did wonder why we have it in the Coat of Arms just never thought to look it up, which is odd because when I was young I actually had books on heraldry. Just must have misssed that one :lol:

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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby fansmom » Tue Jan 26, 2010 4:05 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:Yeah I know but always think of Thistles or the Scottish Lion when I think of Scotland, not Unicorns :lol:
And do you think of Robert Burns, GG? One of my book clubs was supposed to meet yesterday but didn't because the pub where we meet was celebrating Burns' birthday, complete with haggis. We'll meet next week instead.

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Re: Alice Tidbit #27 ~ The Lion and the Unicorn

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:12 pm

fansmom wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:Yeah I know but always think of Thistles or the Scottish Lion when I think of Scotland, not Unicorns :lol:
And do you think of Robert Burns, GG? One of my book clubs was supposed to meet yesterday but didn't because the pub where we meet was celebrating Burns' birthday, complete with haggis. We'll meet next week instead.

Yes, I had forgotten until I noticed it somewhere that it was Burn's night. No Haggis for us yet again :lol: They used to mention it more on tv programmes than they seem to these days, so its easy to forget unless you are a Scot. :lol:


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