The University of Cambridge was granted its arms in 1573 by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms and a graduate of St. John's College, for use by the Chancellor, Masters, Fellows and Scholars as a corporate body. The arms Cooke granted are officially described in heraldic terminology or blazon as follows:
Gules on a Cross Ermine between four Lions passant guardant Or a Bible fesswise Gules clasped and garnished Or the clasps in base.
This may be rendered into plain English as follows:
On a red background, a cross of ermine fur between four gold lions walking but with one fore-leg raised, and facing the observer. These lions must always face the left-hand edge of the page or item on which the arms are displayed (which means they are facing right, heraldically speaking). On the centre of the cross is a closed book with its spine horizontal and with clasps and decoration, the clasps pointing downward.
The University coat of arms is often mistakenly called the University crest. A crest is a particular part of a full armorial achievement that also includes helm, mantling, shield and sometimes supporters. The University, like some other older corporate bodies, has no crest. The University shield is a better term to use, since the shield contains the complete coat of arms and is the most usual way of displaying them, but they can also be presented on other shapes, such as an oval.
The lettering in the University logo has been slightly adjusted to make it clearer for digital use.
In England a motto is not an official part of the official grant and so the University coat of arms is complete without it. The University has by custom an adopted motto, which can be used if required and should be placed either under or around the arms. The motto is usually given as:
Latin: Hinc lucem et pocula sacra
English: Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts,
Non-literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge.
The University has no right to change its coat of arms without Royal Authority; it must remain true to the blazon given above.