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Westphalia Coat-of-Arms (Germany)

Saxon Horse, Sächsisches Ross, Sachsenross

Last modified: 2013-11-25 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: westphalia | westfalen | horse (white) | coat of arms (horse: white) | coat of arms (horse: forcene) | saxon horse |
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[Unofficial Civil Flag until 1837 (Hannover, Germany)]
by Jaume Ollé



See also:


Westphalian Coat-of-Arms (white horse on red)

Note that opposed to the horse of Westphalia which is rearing (or forcene, see Pascal Vagnat's blazon; German steigend), the horse of Lower Saxony is jumping (German springend), like the one of Brunswick [and Hanover]. They are however of the same descent, just like the horse of the English County of Kent (arms adopted 1933, also used on flag?), and the one used on the unofficial flag of Twente, a region in the east of the Dutch province of Overijssel. The latter two are leaping, and just like all the others white on a red field. Source: Het Saksische ros in de heraldiek (The Saxon Horse in Heraldry), G.W. Nanninga in Driemaandelijkse bladen voor taal en volksleven in het oosten van Nederland, 1969 no. 2 (one of the sources mentioned that might be interesting: Geirg Schnath, Das Sachsenros, Hannover, 1961).

Mark Sensen, 21 May 1999

Mauro Pizzini asked, "why was a white horse chosen as the royal arms of Hanover, which is the reason of this choice for the British West Yorkshire Regiment?". Hanover became the ninth electorate of the Holy Roman Empire in 1692. In 1714 Queen Anne (Stuart) of Great Britain died without heir, and was succeeded by George, the elector of Hanover. George's grandmother on the maternal side was Elizabeth Stuart, the second child of James I Stuart. Britain had already deposed James II in 1688 because he threaten to tear Britain apart in another religious civil war. James II's son and grandson made attempts to claim the throne in 1715 and 1745, but the Hanoverian dynasty remained solidly in place even if George I was thoroughly German in orientation and not very popular in England.

The Arms of Hanover were the tierced arms of Brunswick, Luneberg and Westphalia. The arms of Westphalia (Duchy of Westphalia and Archbishops of Cologne or Köln) had for centuries been the white horse on a red field. With the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain, the Royal Arms were changed to accommodate the arms of Hanover in the fourth quarter. The position was altered a couple of times, and then disappeared completely in 1837 when Victoria became queen and the Hanoverian succession passed to another line.

Hanover was not united with Great Britain as a political entity, but the Hanoverian kings of Britain were commanders in chief of both armies. British Army Clothing Regulations of 1747 specify that the White Horse was to appear on all cavalry standards and on the small flap of the grenadier caps of all infantry regiments. Paintings of 1735 show that these 1747 regulations merely acknowledge an already accepted practice. The white horse may have been introduced throughout the British Army soon after 1714 as a sign of Hanoverian legitimacy and as a recognition sign in battle against Jacobite forces. The white horse was used in similar ways throughout the Hanoverian Army (grenadier caps, cavalry standards, shabraques, etc.). The white horse survives on most cavalry standards and guidons to this day. (...)

T. F. Mills, 31 May 1999

Van der Laars 1913 p. 8 says:

The symbol of Widukind (8th century) and of Henry the Lion (1146-1180) was a jumping white horse. The archbishop of Cologne used for his possessions, which included part of the former land of the Saxons, the Old-Saxon horse in his seal. These lands came in the beginning of 1600 in the possession of the House Saxony-Lüneburg, that used for Westphalia this white horse on a red field on his coat of arms; till this day one finds on images of coats-of-arms of Prussia, Hanover, Brunswick and Lüneburg the white Saxon horse on a red field. On German armorials one finds for the Emperors from the House of Saxony (919-1002): a red shield with a white horse. The flags of the Kingdom of Hanover did have the White Horse on a red field too.

Jarig Bakker, 1 June 1999

The badges of some other British regiments had a white horse, that was not derived from Hanover, but may have come from the same original source referred to by Jarig Bakker. They are all regiments associated with the County of Kent, one of the Saxon Kingdoms supposed to have been founded by Hengist and Horsa. He was actually one person, but known as Hengist by the Frisians and Horsa by the Anglians, both words meaning horse. The badge of Kent is a prancing white horse.

David Prothero, 2 June 1999

I cannot find my source, but it said that the white horse was the totem of the Saxons when that tribe crossed the sea to settle in Britain, and to mark their new territory they exposed the white chalk under some hillsides to create huge images of a white horse. Some of their kinsmen apparently stayed behind in what is now the German Land of Lower Saxony, and continued to identify themselves by the same emblem. In Germany the white horse became an element of state heraldry. In England it seems to have gone from being a local emblem (in several places) to being a regimental badge.

John S. Ayer, 2 June 1999

The Electorate of Hanover was created in 1692, and I believe the first Elector, Ernest Augustus, was before that the Duke of Brunswick-Luneberg. His arms before 1692 must have been the impaled arms of Brunswick and Luneberg. I am not sure about the evolution of the boundaries of Hanover, but the creation of the electorate somehow added the arms of Westphalia. The white horse of Westphalia had already been used for centuries. The white horse does not have the point of honour in the Hanover arms, but when the Elector became king of Great Britain he certainly seems to have given it prominence in other iconography. This may have been because, as others have noticed, the white horse was already a German symbol well accepted in England.

The white horse of Hanover seems to be associated with the motto Nec Aspera Terrent, and the white horse of Kent associated with Invicta. You might want to investigate whether there is any significance about the origins in these associations.

T. F. Mills, 3 June 1999

The white horse is said to be the emblem of the eighth century Saxon duke Widukind after he and his barons were forcibly baptized by Charlemagne. Before he would have flown a black horse on a yellow cloth.

Theo van der Zalm, 4 September 2000


White Horse on British Regiments' Colours

Hanover was not united with Great Britain as a political entity, but the Hanoverian kings of Britain were commanders in chief of both armies. British Army Clothing Regulations of 1747 specify that the White Horse was to appear on all cavalry standards and on the small flap of the grenadier caps of all infantry regiments. Paintings of 1735 show that these 1747 regulations merely acknowledge an already accepted practice. The white horse may have been introduced throughout the British Army soon after 1714 as a sign of Hanoverian legitimacy and as a recognition sign in battle against Jacobite forces. The white horse was used in similar ways throughout the Hanoverian Army (grenadier caps, cavalry standards, shabraques, etc.). The white horse survives on most cavalry standards and guidons to this day. (...)

T. F. Mills, 31 May 1999



 
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