Armorial Bearings (or arms) were first granted to the Corporation by Letters Patent of the Kings of Arms dated 30 January 1940. They were based on the device approved by the Council of the Town of Melbourne on 2 January 1843, for the common seal of the corporation.
The seal, engraved by Thomas Ham, was presented to, and formally adopted by, the Council on 9 February 1843. The seal device was used from that time until 1940 as the arms of the corporation.
About the Arms
On a silver shield, a red cross (the cross of St George) with a narrow red bar (known as a cotise) is adjacent to, and parallel with, each side of each arm of the cross. On the central part of the cross is a Royal Crown. Also on the shield, in the four quarters, are: a fleece hanging from a red ring; a black bull standing on a hillock; a spouting whale swimming in the sea; and a three-masted ship in full-sail.
On the silver and red wreath, which is the band of twisted silver and red ribbons on top of the helmet, there is a gold crown (a symbol of municipal government) out of which rises the upper half of a kangaroo, facing the left side of the shield and looking backwards over its shoulder.
On each side of the shield is a gold lion, upright on its hind legs and with a black crown. Around the lion’s neck is a red collar on which there are two, five-pointed silver stars. A red chain, attached at the top to the collar, passes over the lion’s back and body.
Vires Acquirit Eundo translates as ‘We gather strength as we go’. The motto was taken from Virgil, Aeneid IV, 175.
The motto was suggested to the Mayor of Melbourne by the first Judge of the district (Judge Willis), a well-known Latin scholar who thought it would be appropriate for the new Town Council. Alderman Condell and his fellow aldermen and councillors deemed it appropriate, for the three words ‘Vires acquirit eundo’ were adopted by the Council as the motto for the Town.
Curiously, the passage quoted refers to the Roman goddess, Rumour. The lines preceding the text used for the motto refer to Rumour as she raced through Africa and state that of all the pests Rumour is the swiftest. The actual motto translates as follows: “In her freedom of movement lies her power, and she gathers strength with her going.”
The kangaroo, in Australia, is self-explanatory. The Royal Crown and the Cross of St George were probably meant to denote allegiance and loyalty to the Sovereign and to Great Britain. The fleece, the bull, the whale and the ship represented wool, tallow and oil, the chief exports of 1843, and their means of transport from Port Phillip.
Approval of Arms
The Council, at its meeting on 9 February 1843, resolved that the Mayor be instructed to forward to the Secretary of State for the Colonies an impression of the Common Seal for Her Majesty’s approval. However, for reasons not known, nothing came of this resolution and it was not until 1940 that Melbourne obtained a grant of arms from the College of Arms.
The altering of the Corporation’s arms from those of 1940 was first suggested by Mr. Horace K. Hall of North Balwyn, archivist of the ANZ Bank Ltd, who had a keen interest in heraldry and genealogy. His proposals were developed by officers of the Corporation with the Richmond Herald of Arms, J P Brooke-Little, Esq., MVO, MA, FSA, whose help and advice contributed greatly to the final form of the new arms as depicted above.
New coat of arms
In the lengthy negotiations that surrounded the development of a new coat of arms, it was felt to be important that there was no significant difference from the original 1843 arms. The current Coat of Arms therefore remain substantially as they were in 1843.
The present arms differ from those of 1940 in the following respects:
- The bull and whale on the shield have been moved so that the two water-based symbols, the whale and the ship, appear on the same level.
- In the crest, a gold mural crown has been placed around the base of the half-kangaroo.
- Supporters, the two gold lions, have been added. The supporters are adaptations of the supporters to the arms of Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister of Great Britain, after whom the city was named in 1837.
The Armorial Bearings of the Corporation of the City of Melbourne were granted and assigned to the Lord Mayor, Councillors and Citizens of the City by Letters Patent under the hands and seals of Garter, Clarenceux and Norroy, and Ulster Kings of Arms, and dated 18 March 1970.
The Letters Patent were presented by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor Edward W Best, JP, at a Civic Reception held at Melbourne Town Hall on 6 April 1970.