On the royal coat of arms of Britain there are two creatures, one on either side of the shield. One animal is, of course, the lion and the other is a strange, horse-like creature with a long elegant horn on its forehead. This is the unicorn. It is a creature of legend, and probably never existed; the tales of it brought back by ancient travelers were probably the result of sighting of rhinoceroses and a good deal of imagination. Nowadays, nobody believes in the unicorn except as a legendary animal, and an heraldic beast, but years ago people did believe in its existence.
Queen Elizabeth the First was worth supposed to have possessed a unicorn’s horn, which was worth an enormous sum of money, and the horn was supposed to have healing powers and could protect people against poison. There were special rules laid down about how to catch a unicorn . A young girl was the effective bait, and the unicorn would lay its head in her lap while the hunters crept up to do their work.
The unicorn became part of the British coat of arms when Scotland and England were first united under King James the First. Before that, England’s heraldic beasts were a lion and a dragon, and Scotland’s were two unicorns. Legend has it that the two beasts, the lion and the unicorn, were deadly enemies, and that the only way to stop them killing one another was to place them one on either side of the shield in the coat of arms, thus ensuring that they could never get at one another.