The University started life in 1845 as the Queen’s College, Belfast and opened its doors to students in 1849.
At its opening, it had 23 professors and 195 students. It was established to provide higher education for Catholics and Presbyterians and act as a counterpart to Trinity College, Dublin, then an almost exclusively Anglican institution.
In 1850, the College, together with its sister Queen’s Colleges in Cork and Galway, formed the Queen’s University in Ireland that lasted until 1879.
In 1880, its name changed again and it became with college in Cork and Galway the Royal University of Ireland.
Finally, in 1908 it became Queen’s University Belfast and retains that name to this day.
Throughout, each of these four changes different coats of arms were produced.
Coats of arms were popular with the Victorians who liked romantic notions of a mythical mediaeval past in which heraldry strongly featured. Throughout the 19th century, many institutions, towns and individuals had their own coats of arms created and this included Belfast City Council that got its own shield fashioned in 1888 when it became a city.
The current QUB coat of arms has five key elements it is formed of elements of the preceding three coats of arms. The key parts are:
- At the centre of the shield is the crown to denote its royal routes and patronage.
- The book denotes learning represents study and represents the activity of the university.
- The harp represents Ireland.
- The sea horse denotes Belfast and its maritime heritage as a trading port and ship building centre.
- The red hand the ancient symbol of the province of Ulster.