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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK


Sophie's new coat

Sophie and Edward: She is thrilled with her new coat

From politicians to pop singers, a coat of arms seems to be an essential nineties accessory - perfect for a modern royal wedding.

Sophie Rhys-Jones has had her 200-year-old family coat of arms redesigned in time for her marriage to Prince Edward on 19 June.

It was designed by Peter Gwynne-Jones, the head of the College of Arms, and is based on the family's previous coat - which according to one report was not officially recognised.

[ image: The new design is vey traditional]
The new design is vey traditional
The new version shows the family's noble descent from Wales and retains the Rhys-Jones motto in Welsh, translating into "Hateful the man who loves not the country that nurtured him".

"It's wonderful, I'm absolutely thrilled," said Miss Rhys-Jones, 34. "It's not modern and different, because it is representative of my family's heritage, so it's in keeping with that."

The main feature is a lion, shown on a diamond which is quartered into gules (red) and azure (blue) - the colours of the Royal Fusiliers in which members of her family have served. The lion is a reference to Sophie's ancestor, the Welsh warrior Elystan Glodrudd, Prince of Ferrig.

The coat of arms was designed for Sophie's father Christopher and his elder brother Theo because, even at the end of the 20th Century, the bearing of arms is not associated with women.

Expensive coats

But coats of arms are not just for the Royal Family. Baroness Thatcher has one, as does Bill Clinton, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates.

Footballer David Beckham and Posh Spice Victoria Adams even had one designed for their forthcoming wedding. But experts have dismissed their cartoon-like crest of a swan facing right over a crown similar to the top of the Premiership trophy.

[ image: David Beckham and Victoria Adams have a coat of arms]
David Beckham and Victoria Adams have a coat of arms
Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage, said it was a common misconception that coats of arms were only available to royalty and nobility.

"Anybody can have a coat of arms as long as they can afford to pay the £2,000 it costs to have one designed," he said. "The misconception stems from the fact that it was only members of the nobility who used to be able to afford to have them."

But Mr Brooks-Baker said that for a coat of arms to be authentic it must follow the rules of heraldry.

He said: "Every line, every colour, symbol and even the positioning of the emblems have a meaning in a coat of arms which are dictated by the lineage of that particular family.

"Every coat of arms is personal and if they are the same as an existing crest they will be adjusted slightly. It's a very precise art form."

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11 May 99†|†UK
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