the graphic design blog that speaks the truth

You may be more than familiar with the above logo, especially if you live in England and are a keen football supporter. If not, you might have heard the song written about it, which is a rare accolade, for a logo at least.

I was recently asked why the crest of the England Football team bares Three Lions, and not knowing the answer, I was curious to find out. There seems to be a cloud of mystery surrounding the history of the logo with various theories banded around.

The ‘Lion’ has been a symbol of ‘England’ since the 11th century during the rule of the Normans, and was featured on early versions of the English Coat of Arms. During this period only one lion was illustrated on a red background (which symbolised a red battlefield – even the Normans were art critics at heart).

A hundred years later a certain King Richard I, known as Richard the Lionheart, ruled the throne and during his reign added a further two golden lions to the crest. The reason for this is unclear as far as I was able to discover.

Fast forward 8 centuries to 1872, at the time of the first ever competitive international football match, an emblem to represent national pride was needed and so the English Football Association made the decision to use the three lions as a symbol of ‘Englishness’.

As the Three Lions are officially a royal emblem, the FA has to seek permission of the Royal Family when they need to use it, meaning that the logo is not the sole propriety of the organisation that it represents.

You will notice that the England crest also features 10 red roses. The red rose is a symbol of the Lancaster-York peace treaty in the 16th Century, but the reason for their number is also unclear. Maybe it represents 10 out field players? Robert Green certainly wouldn’t be getting a rose from most England fans at the moment.

The lion and rose are adorned throughout the emblems and logos of other English sporting organisations such as:

English Premier League

World Cup Willie – the mascot of the world cup held in England in 1966

Rugby Union

English Cricket Board

Team Great Britain

Feel free to use this information to impress your mates down the pub when England take on the mighty Slovenia.



  1. 09/07/10
    10:09 am
    "44 years of hurt......." Nice work, I'm loving the new lions - by Elmwood I believe.
  2. 10/10/10
    4:36 pm
    Randy Adamson
    From Lambs to Lions. I love the 3 Lions symbol, it's what WE ENGLISH are born to do....FIGHT!
  3. 08/05/12
    8:43 am
    Because they won battles by sending Indian Lions, The Rajput... The lack of courage forced them to do so... Jay Bhawani
  4. 24/05/12
    3:32 pm
    I reckon the eleventh rose is the wearer... a reminder of his commitment to the team. The wearer plus the other 10 'roses' creates three lions! on a football pitch!!!
  5. 02/06/12
    4:18 pm
    I heard somewere that what we now believe to be three lions were originally three tigers!
  6. 14/02/14
    10:19 pm
    Greetings. here is an article from the Guardian to fill in the information you were unsure of.
  7. 05/03/14
    6:02 pm
    I am in the process of redesigning the coat of arms (emblem) for Appleby-in-Westmorland, who currently have the royal ‘lions’ on their armorial shield. However, according to the historians, they are really leopards, and represent the town’s former status as a Crown possession.
  8. 12/06/17
    6:38 pm
    I am searching for the origin of the 3 Lions and a Crown emblem worn by England Cricket Teams for many generations until recently superseded by the 3 Leopards and a Coronet emblem invented by the England Cricket Board marketing department. One source insists that the original emblem was gifted to the England Cricket Team by His majesty Edward v!!, Please help
  9. 29/09/17
    4:58 pm
    about why added other two lions, that was because the first lion came from Henry I - known as the lion of England - who had a lion on his standard, when he took power in 1100. Shortly afterwards he married Adeliza, whose father also had a lion on his shield, and to commemorate the event he added a second lion to his standard. In 1154, two lions became three when Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, who also had a lion her family crest. Later that century, Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199) used the three golden lions on a scarlet background as a symbol of the English throne and, after that, it appeared on the Royal Arms of every succeeding monarch.
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