Spain: The National Motto and Spanish Coat of Arms Meaning

Spain's coat of arms appears on the Spanish national flag.
... Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images News/Getty Images

1 The Coat of Arms of Spain

Spain's official coat of arms is its national symbol. It appears on the national flag, the Spanish flag, and on items that represent Spain, such as the national football team's jerseys. It was approved by law in 1981, after the transition to democracy.

2 On the Coat

On each side of the Spanish coat of arms is the Pillars of Hercules, which historically represent the Strait of Gibraltar. Each column has a Holy Roman Empire crown and is covered by a ribbon about midway across stating the Latin motto "Plus Ultra," meaning "further beyond." In between the columns is a shield consisting of six parts, which became symbols in the 15th century. The top left represents the Kingdom of Castile and features a gold castle against a red, or burgundy, background. The top right represents the Kingdom of Leon with a red lion in a white background. The bottom left represents the Crown of Aragon and is composed of red stripes and yellow stripes. The bottom right represents the Kingdom of Navarre and has golden chains. In the middle of these four images is a circle with three fleurs de lis which represent the Anjou section of the House of Bourbon. The Kingdom of Granada is represented at the bottom of the shield. A crown, representing the Crown of Spain, tops off the entire coat of arms.

3 The History of the National Coat of Arms

To the Spanish people, this coat of arms has many symbols and it, like the Spain flag, has many hidden meanings to the Spanish republic and Iberian area in general. The current form is from 1981, when it was approved by Royal Decree by the Imperial Crown, or Royal Crown. The flag of Spain features the coat of arms. The main reference in the coat of arms is to the Catholic Monarchs and Charles V. Ferdinand II of Aragon.

It’s common for places in this area to have a coat of arms, even though it seems weird in the New World. Countries like Portugal, France, Austria, and many others in this part of the world have coats of arms that represent their long history. During Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, the coat of arms became an important symbol of Spanish heritage and the Kingdom of Spain.

The design of the coat of arms has also changed many times throughout history. Events like the arrival of Amadeo of Savoy in Madrid or incorporating the arms of the Bourbon-Anjou family altered the design. It also shifted as different leaders were in power, from King Charles I to King Charles III, the heraldry of the coat of arms of España has undergone many changes.

MV Bowks de la Rosa is a historian, blogger and freelance writer/researcher. She holds a Bachelor of Science in political science and is working on a Master of Arts in European history. She has published several encyclopedia and reference articles and is currently editing original research papers for submission to scholarly journals.