THE HERALDRY OF THE CINQUE PORTS
The Cinque Ports have exercised the right to use a coat of arms for many hundreds of years; long before the College of Heralds was established to regulate the use of armorial bearings. Early common seals of the towns of Dover and Hastings suggest that the device of three lions passant guardant conjoined to as many ships hulls came into use between 1194 and 1305, possibly during the reign of King Edward I (1272 to 1307) .
The exact origins of the heraldic device are unclear, but it is widely assumed that it was derived from the arms of the English kings from the end of the 12th century, consisting of three golden lions. The suggestion is that these were joined with three ships hulls to denote the ship service rendered by the Cinque Ports to the English Crown.
More contentious is the colouring of the arms and, in particular, whether the ships hulls should be coloured gold or silver. Both have been used over the years and the earliest evidence in the form of seals, being uncoloured, provides no guidance. However, some of the leading experts favour the view that the ships were of gold. This view is supported by the fact that a banner commissioned by the Confederation in 1632 for use at the Yarmouth Herring Fair (which now hangs in the Maison Dieu at Dover) depicts ships of gold and that instructions were given, at the time, that the new banner should be agreeable in every respect unto the old. In more recent years, Sir Winston Churchill, during his term of office as Lord Warden, flew a banner with gold ships at his private home, Chartwell, and the badges of the Cinque Ports barons, at the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953, also depicted the ships hulls in gold.
ŠThe Confederation of the Cinque Ports (2001)