The coat of arms of Ireland is blazoned as Azure a harp Or, stringed Argent (a gold harp with silver strings on a blue background). These arms have long been Ireland’s heraldic emblem. References to them as being the arms of the king of Ireland can be found as early as the 13th century. These arms were adopted by Henry VIII of England when he ended the period of Lordship of Ireland and declared Ireland to be a kingdom again in 1541. When the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in 1603, they were integrated into the unified royal coat of arms of kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The harp was adopted as the emblem of the Irish Free State when it separated from the United Kingdom in 1922. They were registered as the arms of Ireland with the Chief Herald of Ireland on 9 November 1945.
Coat of arms of Ireland
1945 (registered: Arms of Ireland) c.1541 (recorded: Kingdom of Ireland), c.1280 (recorded: King of Ireland)
Azure a harp Or, stringed argent
(Irish: Ar ghorm cláirseach órga na sreanga airgidí)
The harp is used on all Acts of Oireachtas; the seal of the President; the cover of Irish passports; various government departments; the obverse of Irish euro coins. It is also used in the United Kingdom, where it appears in the lower-left quadrant of the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom and is incorporated as a badge into devices used by official bodies in Northern Ireland.
The depiction of the harp has changed over time. In the 17th century, during the period of the Kingdom of Ireland, the pillar of the harp began to be depicted as a bare-breasted woman. When the arms were restored as the arms of the independent Irish state in 1922, a late-medieval Gaelic harp (a cláirseach), the Trinity College Harp, was used as a model.
Several variants of the arms of Ireland exist, including a heraldic badge and an infrequently used crest and torse. The Lordship of Ireland, the medieval realm of Ireland that existed between 1171 and 1541 under the English crown, had a separate arms, which are blazoned Azure, three crowns in pale Or, bordure Argent (three golden crowns ordered vertically on a blue background with a white border). A variant of the arms of the ancient royal province of Meath were also apparently used at one time as the arms of Ireland.