Portsmouth coat of arms.
In heraldry, the unicorn is a mythical beast, said to be famous for its virtue, courage and strength.
Its horn was believed to be a powerful antidote against poison. According to legend, the unicorn could only be captured if a maiden was placed near a location the animal frequented. It would sense her purity and lay its head in her lap.
During the middle ages, this was taken as an allegory of Christ’s reincarnation, with the unicorn representing Christ and the maiden, his mother.
Unicorns symbolised purity, elegance and charm. Until the 17th-century unicorns were believed to be real animals, there were even some unicorns’ horns in existence, though now they are recognised to be the horns of narwhales.
The heraldic unicorn has the body of a horse, that tail of a heraldic lion and the legs and feet of a deer. This beautiful symbol is a popular one in heraldry; sometimes the head alone is also found.