Little is known of the earliest history of Coventry, but prior to its existence there were settlements in nearby Corley and Baginton, which came to be occupied by the Romans, and later by Saxon invaders. These locations were probably chosen because they lay on early trackways, and were situated on light, easily worked soil free from thick forest and undergrowth; unlike the heavy clay soil, covered in marsh and forest near the north-eastern reaches of the Forest of Arden on which Coventry would rise.
It is likely that the first settlement here grew around a Saxon nunnery which had been founded c. AD 700 by St. Osburga. With the forest being mostly unsuitable for the cultivation of crops, the Saxon settlers would have cleared the land and concentrated on raising cattle and sheep, eventually leading to Coventry's successful wool industry and great wealth. The name "Coventry" would have had its origins at this time and has had several forms of spelling, as well as many theories regarding its meaning, but "Cofa's tree" is thought to be a most likely source of the name. Nothing is known of Cofa, but a tree planted by, or named after him may have marked the centre or the boundary of the settlement. An alternative favoured by some is that "Coventre" is derived from the words "Coven" (old variation of "Convent") and "tre" (celtic: "settlement" or "town") giving rise to "Convent Town
Have you ever wondered why we have an elephant and castle on our coat of arms?or what is the meaning of the Coventry motto, Camera Principis? These seam to be rather common questions but with Coventry's history, the answer is far from straight forward!
In easy 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 documented. This isn't the only explanation mind, Mary Dormer Harris, says that the elephant is also associated with old legends whereby it killed a dragon while defending its young. Early Coventry seals also used to contain a tree in the background, and another Story tells of elephants sleeping while standing against a tree. All this is only supposition, however.
Since early medieval times Coventry's Armorial Bearings, as they are correctly called, have also had a cat-a-mountain as the crest; a animal 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.
Coventry's motto simply translates as "The Prince's Chamber". This is not a reference to the room of the same name in the guildhall, but the fact that the City of Coventry was regarded as the 'chamber' of Edward, the Black Prince. When in Coventry, Edward was based at Cheylesmore Manor, which was passed to him by his grandmother, Queen Isabella, widow of King Edward II, and mother to Edward III.
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