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Answered 2009-05-24 20:16:19

The red flag with three golden lions comes from the English coat of arms (seen in the first and fourth quarters of the United Kingdom's coat of arms). They are three lions passant guardant, in heraldic terms. After the Norman conquest of England in 1006, the arms of the House of Normandy were used for England, they consisted of two golden lions on a red field. King Henry II of the House of Plantagenet used, in 1158, the first known arms of an English monarch: one golden lion rampant on a red field (very much a reversal of the current Scottish standard and coat of arms. King Richard I (often referred to as Richard the Lionheart), Henry's son, decided to use his personal arms for England: two golden lions rampant on a red field, however by the end of his life he was using three lions passant on a red field--the current English arms. The origin of the third lion is unclear, some say it was to represent the Anglo-Norman empire, other say it was to represent the single leopard of Aquitaine, and other still maintain that there was no fixed number and three was eventually just settled on. These arms would be used relatively constantly to represent England, often including other arms to represent other territories, such as the French arms to represent the claim of the English monarch to the French crown. The lions and the term lions can still be seen today in an assortment of places other than the United Kingdom coat of arms. It is also used in the arms and royal standard (flag of the monarch) in many Commonwealth nations. It is seen in the logos for the English national football team (where "Three Lions" is also the nickname), the national cricket team, and the Great Britain Rugby league team. It's also the nickname of said Great Britain team and also the English rugby league team. It is not, however, used as a logo or nickname for the English rugby union team where a red rose is used.

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