In the last week, we’ve learnt a lot about what happens when you become a member of the British royal family.
There’s rules you have to follow, titles you have to go by, and things you’re just definitely not allowed to do anymore.
But perhaps less known, is that when you marry into the family, as Princess Diana and Kate Middleton did, your family gets their very own coat of arms.
On May 25, when Kensington Palace presented Meghan Markle’s coat of arms, a major royal tradition was broken. While it is usually the father of the bride who receives the coat of arms, Markle’s was given directly to her. It also solely represents her and her life, rather than her family.
Now, however, onlookers have noticed something a little odd about one of the symbols on the Duchess of Sussex’s coat of arms.
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) 25 May 2018Advertisement
It’s customary for the figures on the shield to be symbolic of members of the royal family, and in Markle’s case, Prince Harry is represented by the lion on the left, while Markle is represented by the songbird on the right.
But… um. Why is Meghan’s songbird wearing its crown around its neck, as though it’s choking?
But why is the Crown around the neck?
— Linda (@cleflygirl15) May 25, 2018
Or she’s already choking on it?
Seems a tradition among women who marry into the Royal Family.
Do like the red nail polish on the lion. Nice touch. Very Hollywood.
— Msbmoran (@Msbmoran) May 25, 2018
That bird looks distressed! Why is the crown around it’s neck? ????
— Andrew C (@matrix_dread) May 25, 2018
Why is the crown around the dove’s neck? Even for an American like me, the symbolism isn’t a positive one.
— ????Laurie???? (@5_by_26) 25 May 2018
While lovely, it does rather appear that the songbird is being strangled by the crown. We will hope that is not what was intended and only my own non-understanding of all the nuances which make up the design of a coat of arms
— debra (@just_debra) 25 May 2018
One glance at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s shared coat of arms, however, as well as Princess Diana’s, confirms that there’s a special meaning behind the crown being depicted on the neck.
When a person is royal by birth, a crown is depicted on their head, whereas when a person is royal by marriage, the crown is portrayed on the neck.
Therefore, the crown around the songbird's neck is a nod to Markle's title as Duchess.
The songbird is “ducally gorged”. It is the placement of the coronet when a person holds the rank of duke or duchess. Hence why Diana and Catherine also have it. Harry doesn’t as he holds a higher rank by birth (Prince).
— Claire (@ComposMental) 25 May 2018
According to Kensington Palace, Meghan "took a great interest in the design," and the coat of arms has several layers of meaning.
The open-mouth pose of the songbird and the three quills represent "communication and the power of words".
As Meghan was born and raised in Los Angeles, the coat of arms features multiple symbols for California. The shield’s blue background represents the Pacific Ocean off the California coastline while the two golden rays represent the ‘sunshine state’.
Beneath the shield are golden poppies, the official state flower of California and wintersweet, which grows in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
Both the golden poppies and wintersweet were also embroidered into her wedding veil, alongside distinctive flowers from every single country – 53 in total – in the Commonwealth.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will likely receive a "conjugal coat of arms", to represent their combined house in a few years time, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did back in 2013.