Coat of arms of the Washington family
CrestFrom a crest coronet a raven rising wings elevated and addorsed proper.
BlazonArgent two bars Gules, in chief three mullets of the second.[1]
MottoExitus acta probat (The outcome is the test of the act)
Flag of the District of Columbia.
Selby Abbey, England
Sulgrave Manor, England
George Washington bookplate
Durham Cathedral cloisters, England
Maidstone, England
Godfrey Washington's monument in Little St Mary's, Cambridge
Washington University Seal

The first coat of arms of a member of the Washington family is first documented in the 14th century, borne by one of the male Washington family members of Washington Old Hall in County Durham, England.

The design (three red stars over two horizontal red bars on a white field) has been used since 1938 as the basis for the coat of arms and flag of the District of Columbia. It is also found on the Purple Heart.

These elements have also been said to have inspired the "stars and stripes" design of the Flag of the United States.[2] However, despite some visual similarity, there is "little evidence"[3] or "no evidence whatsoever"[4] to support the claimed connection. The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington, published by the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, calls it an "enduring myth" backed by "no discernible evidence."[5] Instead, the story seems to have originated in the 1876 play Washington: A Drama in Five Acts, by the English poet Martin Farquhar Tupper, and was further popularized through repetition in the children's magazine St. Nicholas.[3][4]


The Washington family traces its roots to Sir William de Hertburn who was granted the lordship of Wessyngton in northeast England and adopted the name of the estate. The early arms showed a lion rampant in 1203. In 1346, a new design with two horizontal bars below three mullets, though with the tinctures reversed from the later arms, is recorded for Sir William de Hertburn/de Wessyngton's great-grandson. At the end of the 14th century, the current design is recorded. The family scattered in various parts of the country over the next century. One branch of the family would move to the Colony of Virginia settled in Northamptonshire, England. In 1592, Robert Cook, Clarenceux King of Arms confirms upon Lawrence Washington of Sulgrave Manor the current coat of arms. [6]

In a letter dated 7 December 1791, George Washington received the confirmation from Sir Isaac Heard, Garter Principal King of Arms of the College of Arms in London. He responds that "the arms are the same that are held here by certain ancestral family member." The President used the coat of arms in many places around his home at Mount Vernon including on several personal items as well as on the livery uniforms of his servants, as this was a common practice prior to the American Revolution among wealthy plantation owners.

It was the first coat of arms recorded in the Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's Roll of Arms.

Variations and similar arms

Some authorities in the twelfth century displayed the arms with the colours reversed (gules two bars argent, in chief three mullets of the second). An almost identical coat of arms was used by the Le Moyne family, who were described as landowners at Grafham in Huntingdonshire in the reign of Henry II. Their arms was: "Argent, two bars Sable, in chief three mullets of the second", with only the colour of the mullets and bars being different.[7] The Washington University in St. Louis seal, developed in 1896, uses elements from George Washington's coat of arms.[8]

Other uses

Washington coat of arms served as inspiration for the Flag of Washington, D.C. The coat of arms is also on the Purple Heart decoration awarded by the United States Armed Forces.

Architectural occurrences

See also


  1. ^ Bolton's American Armory. Boston: F. W. Faxon Co, 1927
  2. ^ "Washington Window". Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b Vile, John R. (31 October 2018). The American Flag: An Encyclopedia of the Stars and Stripes in U.S. History, Culture, and Law. ABC-CLIO. p. 342. ISBN 978-1-4408-5789-8.
  4. ^ a b Leepson, Marc (1 April 2007). "Chapter Ten: The Hundredth Anniversary". Flag: An American Biography. Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4299-0647-0.
  5. ^ Capps, Alan. "Coat of Arms". The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  6. ^ Mount Vernon - Coat of arms
  7. ^ "Grafham with East Perry - A History of the County of Huntingdon". Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  8. ^ "History and Traditions". Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  9. ^ New-York Life Insurance Co (1884). The Garsdon Branch of the Washington Family. Theo. L. De Vinne & Co. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  10. ^ "All Saints, Garsdon". Woodbridge Group of Churches. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Steeple, Dorset, England". The Dorset Page. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  12. ^ "St Oswald's Church Warton - The George Washington Connection". (official website). Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  13. ^ "St James's Church, Thrapston". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  14. ^ "The Church of St John The Baptist, Wickhamford" (PDF). Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  15. ^ "History and Research - Hylton Castle". English Heritage. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  16. ^ Harris, Brian (2006)Harris's Guide to Churches and Cathedrals ISBN 978-0-09-191251-2
  17. ^ "All Saint's With St Peter, Maldon - The Washington Window". (official website). Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  18. ^ "St Mary's Great Brington". (official website). Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  19. ^ "John Washington - Our Family Search". Our Family Search. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  20. ^ "St Martin's Church Bowness-on-Windermere - Our Building". (official website). Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  21. ^ "St Laurence's Church, Adwick, History - The North Chapel". (official website). Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  22. ^ "St Laurence's Church, Adwick, History - The Washingtons". (official website). Retrieved 5 January 2014.