The lion on the shield holds a sword and a sheaf of seven arrows. The lion comes from the arms of the House of Nassau. The sword and sheaf of arrows in the lion’s paws come from the coat of arms of the States General of the Republic of the United Provinces. The seven arrows stand for the seven provinces. The arrows also symbolise cooperation: individually they are vulnerable, but together they are strong. The crown and the mantle refer to the royal status of the House of Orange-Nassau.
The motto ‘Je Maintiendrai’ (I will maintain) has been the motto of the House of Orange-Nassau since the time of William of Orange. He adopted the coat of arms of his cousin René de Chalon, changing the motto ‘Je maintiendrai Chalon’ into ‘Je maintiendray Nassau’. Later the word ‘Nassau’ was omitted. In 1815 King Willem I incorporated this motto into the royal arms.
In a letter of January 1565, Prince William of Orange explained the significance of the motto:
‘Je maintiendrai la vertu et noblesse.
Je maintiendrai de mon nom la haultesse.
Je maintiendrai l’honneur, la foy, la loy
de Dieu, du Roy, de mes amys et moy.’
(I will maintain virtue and nobility.
I will maintain the prestige of my name.
I will maintain the honour, the faith and the law
Of God and the King, of my friends and of myself.)