Elephant & Castle?

Why do we have an elephant and castle on our coat of arms? And what is the meaning of our motto, Camera Principis? These appear to be rather common questions - but as usual with Coventry's history, the answer is far from straight forward!

In simplistic terms, the elephant represents strength; the ability to carry a castle on its back. Whether the castle was meant to be Coventry's castle or not isn't clear. This isn't the only explanation though; Historian, Mary Dormer Harris, tells us that the elephant is also associated with ancient legends whereby it killed a dragon while defending its young. Early Coventry seals also used to contain a tree in the background, and another legend tells of elephants sleeping while standing against a tree. All this is only supposition, however. [Footnote 7]

 

 

In 1959 the elephant and castle gained a pair of 'supporters'. Since at least early medieval times Coventry's Armorial Bearings, as they are correctly called, have also had a cat-a-mountain as the crest; a creature representing vigilance. Influenced by the events of the second world war, in 1959 the coat of arms was enhanced by two supporters; the Black Eagle of Leofric on the left, and the Phoenix on the right - representing the ancient town and Coventry's rise from the ashes respectively.