Quest for a coat of arms

On 3 December 1855 Professor John Wooley and Stuart Donaldson were appointed to seek a coat of arms.

The acting Provost, Francis L S Merewether, consulted with these two gentlemen and submitted a design that included "the stars of the Southern Cross, with quarterings selected from the Coats of the British Universities, giving them all a fair representation", as he recalled some four decades later.

Letter from Francis Merewhether

As well as Oxford and Cambridge, Edinburgh University was probably represented and possibly Trinity College, Dublin, although no sketch of this design apparently survives.

The Senate endorsed the design, suggesting further that an alternative was to have "emblems representing the several portions of the United Kingdom" or a combination of national and academic symbols.

Sir Charles Nicholson was charged with the task of negotiating with the Kings of Arms in London to obtain a formal grant of arms.

The Kings of Arms found the design too complicated and, possibly showing an English bias, only used symbols that alluded to Oxford and Cambridge in the arms that were granted by Letters Patent on 14 May 1857.

In blazon, the technical language used by heralds, the arms of the University of Sydney are described as Argent on a Cross Azure an open book proper, clasps, Gold, between four Stars of eight points Or, on a chief Gules a Lion passant guardant also Or.