Three Crowns

Last updated
Three Crowns Three Crowns of Sweden (Tre Kronor).svg
Three Crowns
The lesser arms of Sweden Coat of arms of Sweden.svg
The lesser arms of Sweden
The three crowns on Stockholm's City Hall Stockholms stadshus Tre Kronor 2012.jpg
The three crowns on Stockholm's City Hall

Three Crowns (Swedish: tre kronor) is the national emblem of Sweden, present in the coat of arms of Sweden, and composed of three yellow or gilded coronets ordered two above and one below, placed on a blue background.


The emblem is often used as a symbol of official State authority by the Monarchy, the Riksdag, the Government of Sweden and by Swedish embassies around the world, but also appears in other less formal contexts, such as the Sweden men's national ice hockey team, who wear the symbol on their sweaters and hence are called "Three Crowns", and atop the Stockholm City Hall (built 19111923). The Three Crowns are also used as the roundel on military aircraft of the Swedish Air Force and as a sign on Swedish military equipment in general, and also on the uniforms and vehicles of the Swedish Police Authority.

Because of their Scandinavian origin, the Three Crowns are also lesser-known features in the royal coat of arms of Denmark where they might be referred to as the "union mark".


One of several, earlier, traditional explanations have suggested Albrekt of Mecklenburg (1338–1412), who ruled Sweden 1364–89, brought the symbol from Germany as a sign of his reign of Sweden, Finland and Mecklenburg. Apart from the fact that Finland was not regarded as a country in its own right at the time, this theory has, however, been refuted by later research, namely, the announcement in 1982 of the discovery of a frieze in Avignon in southern France, estimated to date back to 1336. The frieze was painted for an international congress led by the Pope and contains the symbols of all participant countries, including Sweden. This discovery suggests the symbol was introduced no later than by Albrekt's predecessor Magnus Eriksson (1316–74).

Use of the three crowns as a heraldic symbol of Sweden has been attested, in the Nordisk Familjebok , to the late 13th century, the three crowns first ringing the shield of Magnus Ladulås (1240-1290) and later appearing on the coins of Magnus Eriksson (1316-1374). [1]

Early Swedish heraldry

The modern Greater Coat of Arms of Sweden Great coat of arms of Sweden.svg
The modern Greater Coat of Arms of Sweden

The first coat of arms of Sweden from the 13th century featured a golden lion on a background of wavy blue and white diagonal lines (in blazons, "bendy wavy Argent and azure, a lion Or"). [2] It is still part of the present greater coat of arms of Sweden which is quartered between the lion coat of arms and the three crowns. As the lion and the crowns were occasionally re-interpreted as the coat of arms of the provinces of Götaland and Svealand respectively, the lion was earlier, erroneously, called the Göta lion. [2]

Use by Scandinavian unions

Union of Magnus Eriksson

Magnus used the symbols frequently, probably to mark his three kingdoms; Sweden, Norway and Scania. At the middle of the 14th century, neighbouring Denmark's severe financial problems caused most of the country to be pawned to German princes, primarily Gerhard III and John III. [3] Since Denmark's king was forced into exile in 1332, the Danish Archbishop in Lund requested that Magnus become king of the Scanian provinces of Denmark. Magnus redeemed the pawn from John III and was sworn in as king of Scania the same year. [4] Since he had also ambitions of redeeming the rest of Denmark, [5] the crowns marked his dignity as king of three realms.

Although Denmark was reconsolidated under King Valdemar Atterdag in 1340 and regained its territory, and Norway left the union with Sweden in 1380, the following Swedish kings continued to use the union coat of arms with the three crowns. An alternative, less well-supported theory suggests that the three crowns are the three kingdoms in the traditional title of the Swedish king, king of Swedes, Goths and Wends. [6] (the two last of which he held in competition with the Danish king). The Swedes-Goths-Wends represent a timely fifteenth-century re-interpretation of the already well-established emblem.

Kalmar Union

Seal of Erik of Pomerania Erikafpommernsdanskeunionssegl.jpg
Seal of Erik of Pomerania

When the Kalmar Union, the personal union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, was instituted by Queen Margrete I in 1397, the three crowns symbol reverted to its use as a symbol of the union of the three realms. Thus, her successor, Eric of Pomerania used a coat of arms quartered between the coats of arms of Denmark (three blue lions on a golden shield), Norway (a golden lion with an axe on a red shield) and Sweden (a golden lion on blue and white wavy stripes) plus the union mark with the three golden crowns on a blue shield, [7] which is also the case for the following union Kings in the 15th century. [8]

Use in post-Kalmar Union Sweden

Swedish Air Force roundel Roundel of Sweden.svg
Swedish Air Force roundel

Since the three crowns had been used in Sweden between the unions, both King Karl Knutsson Bonde who periodically drew Sweden out of the Kalmar Union, and King Gustav Vasa who terminated it in 1521, used the crowns - quartered with the lion - as a symbol of Sweden, [9] and this has been the case to the present day. Since the 15th century the crowns have been regarded as the "main" arms of Sweden [10] and thus can be used independently as the lesser coat of arms of the country.

The symbol is known to have been placed atop the mighty central tower of the castle Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) in Stockholm, destroyed by fire in 1697, no later than the early 16th century.

The Three Crowns Conflict

The royal arms of Denmark. Version used since 1972. Royal coat of arms of Denmark.svg
The royal arms of Denmark. Version used since 1972.
Flag of Vyborg (Russia), featuring three crowns Flag of Vyborg.svg
Flag of Vyborg (Russia), featuring three crowns

In the 1550s, King Gustav Vasa of Sweden found that the Danish King Christian III had added the three crowns to his own coat of arms. [11] [12] Because the three crowns had been a Swedish symbol since the 14th century and were used by Danish monarchs only during the Kalmar Union, Gustav interpreted Christian III's use of the symbol as a sign of intent to conquer Sweden and resurrect the union. [11] Christian countered that since the monarchs of the union had used the three crowns, the symbol now belonged to both kingdoms and thus he had as much a right as the Swedish king to use it. [11]

In Sweden, on the other hand, the Three Crowns were regarded as an exclusively Swedish symbol; this led to a long-lasting diplomatic conflict between the two countries, the so-called Three Crowns Conflict with Sweden accusing Denmark of imperialism by using a Swedish symbol, and Denmark accusing Sweden of monopolizing the use of a Scandinavian union symbol.

This conflict played a role at the outbreak of the Northern Seven Years' War in 1563. At the beginning of the 17th century the conflict was settled with both countries being allowed to use the Three Crowns in their coats of arms, [13] although in Denmark it has a less prominent place in the shield, and is officially referred to as a heraldic reminder of the former Kalmar Union. [14] Denmark has had this practice since 1546, a practice disputed by Sweden until 1613. [14]

Other use in Denmark

The name "Tre Kroner", Three Crowns, is also used in Denmark. During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Danish Navy often named its ships after the insignia of the Danish monarch's coat of arms, and the navy consequently often had a ship named after the Three Crowns. This practice in turn lent the name to the naval fort of Trekroner [15] guarding the harbour of Copenhagen, the Danish capital. It was also the name of a number of farms, causing a new city quarter in Roskilde to take the name "Trekroner" from one such farm.

Other three crown designs

Historical coat of arms of Galicia (Eastern Europe) PB Galicja CoA.png
Historical coat of arms of Galicia (Eastern Europe)

Some heraldic displays outside of Sweden also incorporate triple crown designs. Some of the notable of these uses are discussed below.

In Central and Eastern European armory

The historical region of Galicia, now divided between Poland and Ukraine, had under Austro-Hungarian rule as its coat-of-arms a blue shield with three gold crowns as part of the design. The crowns are said to represent Lodomeria, a historical province that was united with Galicia, while Galicia itself was represented by the black crow. [16]

In French and German armory

Coat of arms of Saint Barthelemy Blason St Barthelemy TOM entire.svg
Coat of arms of Saint Barthélemy

The emblem of Henry III of France was "Manet ultima coelo" with three crowns. [17]

The French Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy was a Swedish colony between 1784 and 1878, and the island's coat of arms includes the three crowns as part of the design.

The German towns of Otterfing and Tegernsee in Bavaria use the three gold crowns on blue design on their coats-of-arms.

In Irish armory

Flag of Munster, Ireland Flag of Munster.svg
Flag of Munster, Ireland

Practically identical to the three crowns of Sweden, is that of the coat of arms and flag of the Province of Munster, a region in the southwest of Ireland. Like the Swedish model, it comprises two crowns above and one below. These represent the three great duchies of the province, Desmond, Ormond and Thomond. The design was used as the flag of the Lordship of Ireland between 1171-1541 following the Norman invasion of Ireland until being replaced by the flag of the Kingdom of Ireland.

In English armory

Three crowns emblem at Saxmundham parish church, Suffolk, England Three crowns emblem.jpg
Three crowns emblem at Saxmundham parish church, Suffolk, England
Flag of East Anglia Flag of East Anglia.svg
Flag of East Anglia
Memorial to East Anglians who died during the First World War in Liverpool Street Station. The memorial, erected by the London Society of East Anglians, displays the flag Memorial to East Anglians who died during The Great War - - 628576.jpg
Memorial to East Anglians who died during the First World War in Liverpool Street Station. The memorial, erected by the London Society of East Anglians, displays the flag

A shield of three golden crowns, placed two above one, on a blue background, has been used a symbol of East Anglia for centuries. The coat of arms was ascribed by mediaeval heralds to the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia and the Wuffingas dynasty which ruled it. The flag of the East Anglian king and saint, Edmund the Martyr consists of three gold crowns on a field of blue (Azure, three crowns Or), [18] The East Anglian flag as it is known today was proposed by George Henry Langham and adopted in 1902 by the London Society of East Anglians (established in 1896). It superimposes the three crowns in a blue shield on a St George's cross.

The three crowns appear, carved in stone, on the baptismal font (c.1400) in the parish church of Saxmundham, [19] and on the 15th century porch of Woolpit church, both in Suffolk.

The emblem of three crowns is evident in East Anglian local heraldry; they appear in the arms of the diocese of Ely and the borough of Bury St Edmunds where the crowns are shown pierced with arrows to represent the martyrdom of St Edmund. They were also included in the arms of the former Isle of Ely County Council, the Borough of Colchester and the University of East Anglia.

A three crowns design is the coat of arms of the city of Kingston upon Hull, a large port in Yorkshire, but this design sees the three crowns stacked vertically and relates back to the Royal charter of 1299. The emblem is used by the city council and the city's two rugby league teams.

In the literature, the coat of arms of the legendary King Arthur is also often given as azure with three crowns or. [20] Indeed, Britain included three realms, Logres (England), Cambria (Wales) and Alba (Scotland).

The University of Oxford uses as its emblem the three gold crowns on blue accompanied by an open book. The origin of the three crowns is not exactly known but may refer to the arms of Thomas Cranley, Warden of New College between 1389 and 1396. [21]

Two Anglican dioceses in England use the three crowns emblem; Ely (gules three ducal coronets two over one or) and Bristol (sable three crowns arranged in pale or, similar to the city of Hull). [22]

The first corporate coat of arms was granted in 1439 to the Drapers' Company in London with three triple crowns. Three crowns also form the logo of Coutts, the London-based private bankers, but in this case the design comprises one crown at the top, with two below.

In Scottish armory

Coat of arms of the chief of the Clan Arthur Coat of arms of MacArthur.svg
Coat of arms of the chief of the Clan Arthur

The coat of arms of the chief of Clan Grant displays the three gold crowns on a red background (gules, three ancient crowns or). Earlier it is recorded to have been three gold crowns on a blue background (azure, three crowns or). [23] The Grant arms formed the basis of the arms of the burgh of Grantown-on-Spey, which was founded on the clan's land in 1765.

The coat of arms of the chief of Clan Arthur (or Clan MacArthur) uses the three gold crowns on blue (azure, three antique crowns or). [24]

In Spanish armory

Coat of arms of Burriana Escut de Borriana.svg
Coat of arms of Burriana

The three gold crowns on blue design appears on the coat of arms of the Spanish city of Burriana in the Valencian Community, but, like Coutts & Co, is arranged one over two instead of two over one. The crowns here refer to the fact that in 1901, the Queen Regent of Spain, Maria Christina of Austria, gave the town the title of city, and was crowned three times. [25]

In modern trade marks

A detail of a 1965 Chrysler New Yorker, showing the three crown symbol on its rear. 1965 Chrysler New Yorker 2-Door Hardtop (rear, detail).jpg
A detail of a 1965 Chrysler New Yorker, showing the three crown symbol on its rear.

A symbol with three crowns has been used by Chrysler on some of its New Yorker models in the 1960s. A symbol for the marque's top model, the crowns were placed in a row on the vehicle rear and over each other in the front. During the 1980s and 1990s, Brøderbund Software used a stylised variant of the symbol.

See also

Related Research Articles

Heraldry Profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol

Heraldry is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on a shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.

Flag of Sweden National flag

The flag of Sweden consists of a yellow or gold Nordic cross on a field of blue. The Nordic cross design traditionally represents Christianity. The design and colours of the Swedish flag are believed to have been inspired by the present coat of arms of Sweden of 1442, which is blue divided quarterly by a cross pattée of gold, and modelled on the Danish flag. Blue and yellow have been used as Swedish colours at least since Magnus III's royal coat of arms of 1275.

Götaland Place

Götaland is one of three lands of Sweden and comprises ten provinces. Geographically it is located in the south of Sweden, bounded to the north by Svealand, with the deep woods of Tiveden, Tylöskog and Kolmården marking the border.

Royal arms of England English coat of arms

The royal arms of England are the arms first adopted in a fixed form at the start of the age of heraldry as personal arms by the Plantagenet kings who ruled England from 1154. In the popular mind they have come to symbolise the nation of England, although according to heraldic usage nations do not bear arms, only persons and corporations do. The blazon of the arms of Plantagenet is: Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure, signifying three identical gold lions with blue tongues and claws, walking past but facing the observer, arranged in a column on a red background. Although the tincture azure of tongue and claws is not cited in many blazons, they are historically a distinguishing feature of the arms of England. This coat, designed in the High Middle Ages, has been variously combined with those of the Kings of France, Scotland, a symbol of Ireland, the House of Nassau and the Kingdom of Hanover, according to dynastic and other political changes occurring in England, but has not altered since it took a fixed form in the reign of Richard I of England (1189–1199), the second Plantagenet king.

Coat of arms of Bulgaria

The coat of arms of Bulgaria consists of a crowned golden lion rampant over a dark red shield; above the shield is the Bulgarian historical crown. The shield is supported by two crowned golden lions rampant; below the shield there is compartment in the shape of oak twigs and white bands with the national motto "Unity makes strength" inscribed on them.

Coat of arms of Ukraine

The state coat of arms of Ukraine, officially referred to as the Sign of the Princely State of Vladimir the Great or commonly the Tryzub, is the national coat of arms of Ukraine, featuring the same colors found on the Ukrainian flag; a blue shield with a gold trident. It appears on the Presidential Standard of Ukraine. Blue-coloured tridents are considered to be irregular representation by the Ukrainian Heraldry Society.

Emblems of the Kalmar Union

The Kalmar Union was the personal union of the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden during the 15th century. The first king of the Kalmar Union was Eric of Pomerania. His seal combined the coats of arms of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Pomerania, and in addition the Three Crowns symbol in sinister chief; the latter heraldic design predates the Kalmar Union, and is now mostly associated with the coat of arms of Sweden, but which during the 15th century came to represent the three kingdoms of the union.

Coat of arms of Estonia

The coat of arms of Estonia is a golden shield which includes a picture of three left-facing blue lions with red tongues in the middle, with golden oak branches placed on both sides of the shield. The insignia derive(s) from the coat of arms of Denmark, which ruled northern Estonia in the thirteenth century.

Coat of arms of Romania Coat of arms

The coat of arms of Romania was adopted in the Romanian Parliament on 10 September 1992 as a representative coat of arms for Romania. It is based on the Lesser Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Romania, redesigned by Victor Dima. As a central element, it shows a golden aquila holding a cross in its beak, and a mace and a sword in its claws. It also consists of the three colors which represent the colors of the national flag. The coat of arms was augmented on 11 July 2016 to add a representation of the Steel Crown of Romania.

Swedish heraldry

Swedish heraldry encompasses heraldic achievements in modern and historic Sweden. Swedish heraldic style is consistent with the German-Nordic heraldic tradition, noted for its multiple helmets and crests which are treated as inseparable from the shield, its repetition of colours and charges between the shield and the crest, and its scant use of heraldic furs. Because the medieval history of the Nordic countries was so closely related, their heraldic individuality developed rather late. Swedish and Finnish heraldry have a shared history prior to the Diet of Porvoo in 1809; these, together with Danish heraldry, were heavily influenced by German heraldry. Unlike the highly stylized and macaronic language of English blazon, Swedish heraldry is described in plain language, using only Swedish terminology.

Coat of arms of Norway

The coat of arms of Norway is the arms of dominion of king Harald V of Norway, and as such represents both the monarch and the kingdom. It depicts a standing golden lion on a red background, bearing a golden crown and axe with silver blade.

Coat of arms of Montenegro

The coat of arms of Montenegro was officially adopted by the law passed in the Parliament on 12 July 2004. It is now the central motif of the flag of Montenegro, as well as the coat of arms of the Army of Montenegro. It was constitutionally sanctioned by the Constitution proclaimed on 2 October 2007.

Coat of arms of Denmark

The coat of arms of the Denmark has a lesser and a greater version.

Coat of arms of Greece

The coat of arms of Greece comprises a white Greek cross on a blue escutcheon, surrounded by two laurel branches. It has been in use in its current form since 1975. Prior to the adoption of the current coat of arms, Greece used a number of different designs, some of which were not heraldic; the first heraldic design was introduced in 1832 and its main element, the blue shield with the white cross, has been the base for all other national coats of arms since then. The origin of the design is unclear, but it is most likely a heraldic representation of the Greek national flag adopted in 1822, which featured a white cross on a blue field.

Lion (heraldry)

The lion is a common charge in heraldry. It traditionally symbolises courage, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness and valour, because historically the lion has been regarded as the "king of beasts". The lion also carries Judeo-Christian symbolism. The Lion of Judah stands in the coat of arms of Jerusalem. Similar-looking lions can be found elsewhere, such as in the coat of arms of the Swedish royal House of Bjelbo, from there in turn derived into the coat of arms of Finland, formerly belonging to Sweden.

Socialist heraldry

Socialist heraldry, also called communist heraldry, consists of emblems in a style typically adopted by socialist states and filled with communist symbolism. Although commonly called coats of arms, most such devices are not actually coats of arms in the heraldic sense. Many communist governments purposely diverged from the traditional forms of European heraldry in order to distance themselves from the monarchies that they usually replaced, with actual coats of arms being seen as symbols of the monarchs.

Sven Tito Achen was an Argentinian-Danish writer and author on heraldry, co-founder of the Scandinavian Society of Heraldry and the first editor of the Scandinavian Heraldisk Tidsskrift published in Denmark.

English Wars (Scandinavia)

The English Wars were a series of conflicts between the United Kingdom and Sweden with Denmark-Norway as part of the Napoleonic Wars. It is named after England, the common name in Scandinavia of the United Kingdom, which declared war on Denmark-Norway due to disagreements over the neutrality of Danish trade and to prevent the Danish fleet falling into the hands of the First French Empire. It began with the first battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and its latter stage from 1807 onwards was followed by the Gunboat War, the Dano-Swedish War of 1808–09 and the Swedish invasion of Holstein in 1814.

Russian heraldry

The Russian heraldry involves the study and use of coats of arms and other heraldic insignia in the country of Russia since its formation in the 16th century. Compare the socialist heraldry of the Soviet period of Russian history (1917–1991).

A national coat of arms is a symbol which denotes an independent state in the form of a heraldic achievement. While a national flag is usually used by the population at large and is flown outside and on ships, a national coat of arms is normally considered a symbol of the government or the head of state personally and tends to be used in print, on heraldic china, and as a wall decoration in official buildings. The royal arms of a monarchy, which may be identical to the national arms, are sometimes described as arms of dominion or arms of sovereignty.


  1. Westrin, Theodor, ed. (1916). Nordisk familjebok: konversationslexikon och realencyklopedi. Bd 23 (in Swedish) (New, rev. and richly ill. ed.). Stockholm: Nordisk familjeboks förl. p. 398. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
  2. 1 2 Cristian Fogd Pedersen (1970). "Sverige". Alverdens flag i farver (in Danish). Copenhagen: Politikens Forlag. p. 138. ISBN   87-567-1143-3.
  3. Sten Carlsson, Jerker Rosén (1962). "Från rikssamling till nordisk union". Svensk Historia (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonniers. p. 200.
  4. Sten Carlsson, Jerker Rosén (1962). "Från rikssamling till nordisk union". Svensk Historia (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonniers. pp. 200–201.
  5. Sten Carlsson, Jerker Rosén (1962). "Från rikssamling till nordisk union". Svensk Historia (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonniers. p. 201.
  6. Rune Lindgren (1992). "Varifrån härstammar Tre Kronor-symbolen?". Gamla stan förr och nu (in Swedish). Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren. p. 17. ISBN   91-29-61671-9.
  7. Sven Tito Achen (1972). "Sverige". Alverdens heraldik i farver (in Danish). Copenhagen: Politikens forlag. p. 216. ISBN   87-567-1685-0.
  8. Sven Tito Achen (1972). "Sverige". Alverdens heraldik i farver (in Danish). Copenhagen: Politikens forlag. p. 217. ISBN   87-567-1685-0.
  9. Sven Tito Achen (1972). "Sverige". Alverdens heraldik i farver (in Danish). Copenhagen: Politikens forlag. pp. 216–217. ISBN   87-567-1685-0.
  10. Cristian Fogd Pedersen (1970). "Sverige". Alverdens flag i farver (in Danish). Copenhagen: Politikens Forlag. p. 138. ISBN   87-567-1143-3.
  11. 1 2 3 Lavery, Jason (2002). Germany's Northern Challenge: The Holy Roman Empire and the Scandinavian Struggle for the Baltic, 1563-1576. Boston, MA: Brill. p. 10.
  12. Sven Tito Achen (1972). "Sverige". Alverdens heraldik i farver (in Danish). Copenhagen: Politikens forlag. p. 217. ISBN   87-567-1685-0.
  13. Sven Tito Achen (1972). "Sverige". Alverdens heraldik i farver (in Danish). Copenhagen: Politikens forlag. p. 217. ISBN   87-567-1685-0.
  14. 1 2 "Det kongelige våben [The Royal Arms]". Website of the Danish Monarchy. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  15. Trekroner Fort
  16. "Galicia - Heraldica". Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  17. Nuccio Ordine, Trois couronnes pour un roi, La devise d'Henri III et ses mystères, Les Belles Lettres, 2011, ISBN   978-2-251-34700-4
  18. Perrin, W.G. (1922). British Flags. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  19. "About Saxmundham – The Parish Church". Retrieved 2016-04-19.
  20. Illustration des Neuf Preux, parchment 209 f., in Th. de Saluces, Le Chevalier errant, Manuscrits français 12559, folio 125, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, ca. 1403-1404.
  21. "Oxford University Archives". Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  22. "Ecclesiastical Heraldry of the United Kingdom". Heraldry of the World. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  23. McAndrew, BA (2006). Scotland's Historic Heraldry. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN   9781843832614., pp. 462-463.
  24. "Burriana (Castellón) Pueblas de España" (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 September 2013.