The Three Crowns
The “three crowns” have been used as Hull’s coat of arms
since the early 1400s. A depiction of the shield in stained glass
in St Mary’s Church Lowgate dates from the reign of Richard III
(1483-85) and is among the earliest versions to survive.
(right Part of the east window of St Mary’s Lowgate
The College of Arms, the institution which regulates heraldry in
England, confirmed the right of Borough (now City) of Hull to use
the crowns in the 1600s. Since then, virtually every public
building in the City has been decorated with the coat of arms.
The Coat of Arms of Hull as confirmed by the College of Arms in
1951, from their records of the Visitation of Yorkshire in
Although popularly referred to as Crowns, some
people insist that they are in fact Coronets. It is clear that they
started out as crowns, but the language of heraldry has evolved,
and their official heraldic designation is “ducal coronets.” But it
scarcely matters that everyone knows them as the Three Crowns!
There have been many theories about what the three crowns
represent. One suggestion has been that the “ducal coronets”
represent particular dukedoms, but the arms were in use before any
nobleman with the title of Duke was connected with Hull.
It has also been thought that they represent the
Three Kings of the Nativity story. They travelled from the East to
bring gifts to Jesus, just as merchants travelled to Hull from a
different part of the East bringing timber and goods from the
Baltic. The shrine of the Three Kings is at Cologne, with which
city there were trading connections in the medieval period.
The most likely explanation is that the three crowns represent
the Holy Trinity. In the middle ages, the Holy Trinity – God the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit - was a popular religious cult in Hull,
and Holy Trinity Church and Trinity House commemorate this.
(right Medieval sculpture representing the Holy
Alternatively the three crowns are to mark that Hull is the
King’s Town, as in Kingston upon Hull. It may be that the true
explanation is a combination of the two, and that perhaps more
importantly it’s simply that they look good!
Whatever the origin, it’s something for the City to be proud of,
and in fact ours is the only municipal coat of arms in the country
protected from misuse by private Act of Parliament.
(left The “Three Crowns” formally granted to the City as an
armorial badge 2004)