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The Inca Empire

Virreinato del Peru

Republica Peruana

Estado Sud-Peruano

Armed Forces

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When the Spanish landed in 1531, Peru's territory was the nucleus of the highly developed Inca civilization. Centered at Cuzco, the Inca Empire extended over a vast region, stretching from northern Ecuador to central Chile.

Francisco Pizarro and his brothers were attracted by the news of a rich and fabulous kingdom. In 1532, they arrived in the country, which they called Peru. (The forms Biru, Pirú, and Berú are also seen in early records.) According to Raúl Porras Barrenechea, Peru is not a Quechuan nor Caribbean word, but Indo-Hispanic or hybrid.

In the years between 1524 and 1526 smallpox, introduced from Panama and preceding the Spanish conquerors swept through the Inca Empire. The death of the Incan ruler Huayna Capac as well as most of his family including his heir, caused the fall of the Incan political structure and contributed to the civil war between the brothers Atahualpa and Huáscar. Taking advantage of this, Pizarro carried out a coup d'état. On November 16, 1532, while the natives were in a celebration in Cajamarca, the Spanish in a surprise move captured the Inca Atahualpa during the Battle of Cajamarca, causing a great consternation among the natives and conditioning the future course of the fight. When Huáscar was killed, the Spanish tried and convicted Atahualpa of the murder, executing him by strangulation.

For a period, Pizarro maintained the ostensible authority of the Inca, recognizing Túpac Huallpa as the Sapa Inca after Atahualpa's death. But the conqueror's abuses made this façade too obvious. Spanish domination consolidated itself as successive indigenous rebellions were bloodily repressed. By March 23, 1534, Pizarro and the Spanish had refounded the Inca city of Cuzco as a new Spanish colonial settlement.

Establishing a stable colonial government was delayed for some time by native revolts and bands of the Conquistadores (led by Pizarro and Diego de Almagro) fighting among themselves. A long civil war developed, from which the Pizarros emerged victorious at the Battle of Las Salinas. In 1541, Pizarro was assassinated by a faction led by Diego de Almagro II (El Mozo), and the stability of the original colonial regime was shaken up in the ensuing civil war.


Despite this, the Spaniards did not neglect the colonizing process. Its most significant milestone was the foundation of Lima in January 1535, from which the political and administrative institutions were organized.


The Vice Kingdom of Peru, founded 1542, comprised almost all of the western South American continent. In 1723 the Vice Kingdom of Nueva Granada was split off and in 1776 the Vice Kingdom of Rio de la Plata. In the beginning of the 19th century it consisted of the Intendencias of Lima (1783), Puno (1783), Arequipa (1784), Cuzco (1784), Huamanga (1784), Huancavelica (1784), Tarma (1784) and Trujillo (1784), and these former Intendencias make present Peru.




In all posessions of the Castilian Crown the heraldic emblems of Spain and Castile were valid. In the Indies the arms of the Spanish Indies and the Supreme Council of the Indies were also valid.


Even before Peru was made a Spanish Vice Kingdom in 1542 its conquerors were granted coats of arms by the King of Castile. After them all Viceroys have displayed their own family arms.

On the lower local administrative levels of the Audiencias (Courts of Justice) and the Corregimientos (Cantonal Courts) the royal arms were displayed.

At the lowest level of the Cabildos (Municipal Councils) coats of arms of their own were granted.

Also, the city of Lima founded in January 1535 was granted a coat of arms.




Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Modern rendering of the arms of Lima


By Royal warrant dated Valladolid 7 December 1537, Emperor Charles V. and his mother Queen Johanna (the Mad) granted a coat of arms to the Ciudad de los Reyes as Lima was called then, at the request of Hernando de Zevallos, city councillor of Lima. The text of the grant also confirms the foundation of the city.

The original of the privilege ‘written on vellum and sealed with the wax seal of H.M. and signed with his royal signature’ was preserved in the archives of the city until the middle of the 17th century. In it was a description of the arms.

The grant of King Charles is known from a transcription in the 3rd Book of the Grants and Measures, 1st Part, fol. 17 in the Archives of the city of Lima. [1]

The description of the arms reads: 


"Un escudo en campo azul, con tres coronas de oro de reyes, puestas en triángulo, y, encima de ellas, una estrella de oro, al cual cada una de las tres puntas de la dicha estrella toque a las tres coronas, y por orla unas letras de oro que digan: "Hoc signum vere regum est", en campo colorado, y por timbre y divisa dos águilas negras de corona de oro de reyes, que se miran la una a la otra, y abrazen una Y y una K, que son las primeras letras de nuestros nombres propios, y encima de estas dichas letras una estrella de oro, según aquí van figuradas y pintadas".


That is:

A shield of a blue field, with three golden royal crowns placed in a triangle and in chief a golden star of which three of the rays touch the three crowns, and the golden letters in orle saying “HOC SIGNUM VERE REGUM EST” on a red field, and for crest and emblem two black eagles royally crowned, respecting, and supporting an Y and a K which are the first letters of our names, and above these letters a golden star, in the way it has been painted here.


[Arms: Azure, three crowns 2 : 1 and  a star in chief of which three rays touching the crowns Or, within a bordure Gules incribed  HOC SIGNUM VERE REGUM EST (This is the True Royal Emblem). Supporters: Two Eagles Sable enclosing the royal cyphers ‘Y’ and ‘K’  crested of a star Or.]


The charge of the arms shows the star of Bethlehem pointing to the birthplace of Jesus, and the crowns of the Three Kings of the East referring to the date of the foundation of the city (epiphany). By the king of the motto Jesus Christ is meant.


No trace of these arms could be found from the first century after its adoption. In the 17th century, when a transcription of the royal warrant and privileges of the city was made, the arms of Lima appear in a somewhat different form. A picture of the achievement on a map of the city of 1687 shows:

Arms of Lima, 1687

On a map of the city of Lima by Fr. Petrus Nolascus, 1687


Arms: [Azure, three crowns 2 : 1 and a star in chief, one ray piointing downwards [Or], between two piles [Argent]

Supporter: A two-headed Eagle Sable, crowned noble.


Around the achievement is the motto from Vergil, Aeneid, I: 437-438: 'O FORTUNATI, QUORUM IAM MOENIA SURGUNT!' [Aeneas ait, et fastigia suspicit urbis].

Literally meaning: "O fortunate ones, whose walls now rise up!" [Aeneas says, and he looks up at the rooftops of the city].


Probably in the 18th century the two initials were reintroduced on the shield and a lemon added in base. The Piles of Hercules were placed on both sides of the shield and the two-headed eagle was royally crowned (that is to say with a 18 century closed royal crown). The motto came on a ribbon below.

The lemon in base of the shield should refer to the name of the city.


Arms of Lima in the Municipality of Lima 18th century (?)


This achievement in fact, because of the great differences with the original grant, better fits the Vice Kingdom of Peru of which Lima was the capital (and the difference may not have been so great [2]). Nevertheless there is a picture of this achievement surrounded by the legend LA MUY NOBLE INSIGNE Y MUY NOBLE CIUDAD DE LOS REYES DEL PERU. Of this duality the painter Pacho Fierro was apparently conscious when, after the end of Spanish rule and the abolition of the Vice Kingdom, he painted a coat of arms for the city which at least reintroduced the motto on the bordure and replaced the royal crown by a ducal crown. It is not known if his design was ever adopted. [3]


Design for the arms of Lima by Francisco Fierro  (*1807-†1879).


The 18th century arms however were maintained until well into the 20th  century.


Golden medal of the city of Lima, 1913.


Recently the arms as described in the Royal Warrant were restored but it is not known when this happened. 


Æ See illustration in the head of this section.


Republica Peruana


Peru's movement toward independence was launched by an uprising of Spanish-American landowners and their forces, led by José de San Martín of Argentina and Simón Bolívar of Venezuela. San Martín, who had displaced the royalists of Chile after the Battle of Chacabuco, and who had disembarked in Paracas in 1819, led the military campaign. The expedition which included warships was organized and financed by Chile and sailed from Valparaíso in August 1820.  San Martin proclaimed the independence of Peru in Lima on 28 July 1821, with the words "... From this moment on, Peru is free and independent, by the general will of the people and the justice of its cause that God defends. Long live the homeland! Long live freedom! Long live our independence!".

Still, the situation remained changing and emancipation was only completed by December 1824, when General Antonio José de Sucre defeated Spanish troops at the Battle of Ayacucho. Spain made futile attempts to regain its former colonies, such as at the Battle of Callao, and only in 1879 finally recognized Peruvian independence.


A new coat of arms for a future independent Peru was announced by a decree of the Headquarters of the Liberation Army in Pisco of 21 October 1820. The decree reads:


"Por cuanto es incompatible con la Independencia del Peru la conservacion de los simbolos que recuerden el dilatado tiempo de su opresion, se adoptara la primera bandera del Peru, y en ella una corona de laurel ovalada y dentro de ella el sol, saliendo por detras de sierras escarpadas que se elevan sobre un mar tranquilo. El Escudo puede ser pintado o bordado, pero conservando cada objeto sus colores: a saber, la corona de laurel ha de ser verde, y atada en la parte inferior con una cinta de color oro; azul la parte superior que representa el firmamento; amarillo el sol con sus rayos; las montanas de un color pardo oscuro, y el mar entre azul y verde. Lo dispuesto tendra valor hasta que se establezca en el Peru un Gobierno General por la voluntad libre de sus habitantes" [4]


“Because it is incompatible with the independence of Peru to maintain the symbols which were used in the time of its oppression, the first flag of Peru will be adopted on which there shall be an oval crown of laurel enclosing a sun, rising from a mountain ridge and a calm sea below. The shield may be painted or embroidered in color on any object, that is to say that the crown of laurel shall be green and will be tied with a golden ribbon, the sky in the upper part shall be blue and the sun and its rays yellow; the mountains shall be of a darkish brown and the sea between blue and green. This decree will be valid when a General Government has been established in Peru by the free will of its inhabitants.”


Reconstruction of the first flag of Peru,

As preserved in the Museo Naval del Peru.

A modern reconstruction of the arms


Seal of Independent Peru

On stamped paper, 1824-‘25


Soon after the proclamation of Independence on 21 July 1821 a full achievement appeared with the arms of 1820 as its central piece. The flags of the South American nations and a banana tree can be seen behind the shield. A condor on the left and a llama on the right act as supporters.

All this was on top of a baroque base, with a scroll under it with the motto "Renació el sol del Perú" ("Peru's sun is reborn") in capital letters. Some armaments, flowers, branches and ammunition were on the base.

After the battle of Ayacucho a new coat of arms was adopted.


On 25 February 1825, Simón Bolívar and the Constituent Congress proclaimed a law defining the new national symbols, establishing the new Coat of Arms. This was designed by Congressmen José Gregorio Paredes and Francisco Javier Cortés. The official description was the following:


“Las armas de la Nación Peruana constarán de un escudo dividido en tres campos (forma polaca), uno azul celeste, a la derecha, que llevará una vicuña mirando al interior; otro blanco, a la izquierda, donde se colocará el árbol de la quina; y otro rojo inferior y más pequeño en que se verá una cornucopia derramando monedas, significándose con estos símbolos, las preciosidades del Perú en los tres reinos naturales. El escudo tendrá por timbre una corona cívica vista de plano; e irá acompañada en cada lado de una bandera y un estandarte de los colores nacionales, señalado más adelante.”


Translated in english the whole law reads:

Article 1. The arms of the Peruvian Nation shall consist of a shield divided into three fields (Polish shape), to wit: One of sky blue, to the right, on which shall be a vicuña looking towards the left; another white, to the left with a cinchona tree; in base a field of red with a cornucopia from which flow coins of gold. These emblems symbolize the riches of Peru in the three natural kingdoms. The shield shall bear as crest a Civic Crown (laurel wreath), and on either side a flag and a standard of the same national colors, described later.”

Art. 2. This coat of arms shall constitute the grand seal of State, bearing in its circumference this inscription: “República Peruana.”

Art. 3. The national standards and flag of Peru shall be composed of three vertical stripes, the end ones red and the middle one white, on the center of which shall be the coat of arms with its crest and surrounded by a laurel branch to the left and a palm to the right, both tied together at their lower ends. [5]


With this description as a basic assumption three variants were developed: the Smaller Achievement or coat of arms per se (Escudo de Armas), the National Achievement (Escudo Nacional) and the Larger Achievement or Great Seal of State (Gran Sello del Estado).


All three share the same arms which is tierced per point or parted per fess, the chief per pale: the dexter chief charged with the vicuña, the national animal, on a light-blue field, representing the fauna of Peru; the sinister chief charged with a Quina tree (Cinchona chinchoneæ - Rubiaceæ), the source of quinine, a powerful anti-malarial drug and the key flavorant in “tonic water,” used in making gin-and-tonics, on a white background, representing the national flora; and the base charged with a cornucopia with coins spilling from it, on a red field, represents the mineral resources of the country.


The emblazonment would be:

Arms: Per fess, the chief per pale: 1. Azure, a vicuña proper; 2. Argent, a quina-tree proper; 3. Gules, a cornucopia, spilling coins, Or.


The Smaller Achievement


The smaller Achievement consists of the arms crested by a crown of laurel and surrounded by a garland of a palm leaf and a branch of olive.

On this 8 reales coin, the base is considerably lower than the two other quarters.

On later coins however the base was higher until it ended up to be as high as the other two, apparently to make more room for the cornucopia.


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay.



The Smaller Achievement was on the ensign and presidential flag. It is also on coins and banknotes.

Smaller achhievement as on a banknote, 1964


The National Achievement


The National Achievement (Escudo Nacional) consists of the shield plus a Peruvian flag and a standard on each side, and a Civic Crown as crest.



Like the arms of the smaller achievement the base of the arms grew higher in the course of time ending up being as high as the other two.


Present National Achievement


The national achievement was used by administrative bodies together with the name of the instance. Its use on its own is also mandated for all public buildings, with the name of the entity under it.

On the war flag (Bandera de Guerra) it is in the white stripe.

On the presidential flag of 1939 it is in the middle of a white cloth.




The Larger Achievement


A third model consists of the arms with crest surrounded by the palm leaf and the branch of laurel and supported by the flags and standards and as such is a combination of the arms on the flag (Escudo de armas)  and the national arms (Escudo Nacional).


Larger Achievement, 1825.

In this version the shield is tierced in pairle arched reversed


Soon however more room was created for the cornucopia by dividing the shield per fess and the chief per pale. The cornucopia  was also turned to the dexter:

Larger achievement of Perú, ca. 1830
By José Leandro Cortés. Museo del Banco Central de Reserva del Perú. Lima.


After the proclamation of the State of South Peru on 17 March 1836 a new constitution for the remaining part of Peru was adopted on 6 August proclaiming the State of North Peru consisting of the departments of Amazonas, Junin, Libertad and Lima. This Estado Nor-Peruano became a part of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation and was abolished when the Confederation was dissoluted on 25 August 1839 and the former Republica Peruano was restored.


In the time of the Estado Nor-Peruano rays of the sun were added to the crest of its larger achievement.  Below a compartment was added showing some weaponry and a republican fasces per fess in base.


Larger Achievement of the State of North Peru, 1836


Such an augmented larger achievement was probably also used by the Republica Nor-Peruano, a sun added to the crest.

Larger Achievement  crested with a rising sun (undated)

Coll. Museo Nacional del Pueblo Libre, Lima


At the end of the 19th century the larger achievement of the Estado Nor-Peruano was sometimes documented by European heraldic sources. [6]




The larger achievement of the Republica Peruana however, seems to have been restored very soon after the reunion of the North and the South.



In the second term of office of president Augusto B. Leguia, (1919-‘25), a decree of the House of Government of 11 December 1922 ordered that the flag and arms should be used conform the law of 25 February 1825 and accordingly the larger achievement disappeared. [7] Instead the great seal consisting of the arms with the flags and the legend REPÚBLICA DEL PERU as described in Art. 2 of that law was reintroduced.




The presidential flag is the National Ensign as adopted in 1825. It is of three vertical stripes red-white-red, the white charged with the smaller achievement


Presidential flag at the end of the 19th century


The presidential sash, symbolizing presidential authority is a ribbon red and white or white and red, sometimes also red-white-red, and sometimes charged with the smaller achievement mounted vertically when the sash is worn. The ends are tied with a golden tassel, a cockade or another smaller achievement.

Present Presidential sash


Republica Sud Peruano

17.03.1836 - 25.08.1839


On 17 March 1836, on the initiative of Andres de Santa Cruz, president of Bolivia, a Congress of the Peruvian southern departments (Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cuzco and Puno) gathered at Sicuani and declared the establishment of South Peru. Santa Cruz was made its Supreme Protector with extensive powers that enabled him to create the Peru-Bolivian Confederation on 28 October 1836. Santa Cruz then summoned to the city of Tacna representatives of both legislatures together with those of the Bolivian Congress assembled at Tapacarí to establish a Constitution for the new State. On 25 April 1837 Santa Cruz created the Department of the Coast (Departamento del Litoral)  from the former provinces of Arica and Tarpaca thus making the number of departments of South Peru five.

Under his direction, the members of the Confederation signed a pact on 1 May 1837 which named him Supreme Protector for a ten-year period.

Peruvian politicians opposed to the idea of the Confederation fled to Chile for support. To help them Chile declared war on 28 December 1836 and Argentina, also no very charmed of such a large state at its northern border, followed suit on 9 May 1837. A Chilean military expedition against Santa Cruz defeated the Supreme Protector at the Battle of Yungay on 20 January 1839 and forced the dissolution of the Confederation. When Agustín Gamarra took office as the new president of Peru on 25 August 1839, the dissolution of the Confederation was officially declared and as a result the Northern and Southern Peruvian Republics were united into a single state to be called Peru again and separate from Bolivia.


The emblem of the State of South Peru consisted of a sun radiant and four stars representing the four departments. It refers to the King of the former Inca state which had a sun for emblem.

A larger version shows this sun supported by two standards and two flags, each showing the sun radiant and the four stars above.



Flag of South Peru, 19.03.1836


This flag was also used by the Republic, the number of stars probably augmented to five. It was abandoned on 20 January 1839 when the Confederation was dissolved.


For the Republic of May 1837 the number of stars above the sun radiant was augmented to five.



Another emblem to represent South Peru was a picture of the castle of Cuzco, two condors sitting on its embattlements and crowned with an Inca-crown. In chief are five stars representing the five departments of South Peru after the creation of the Department of the Coast and the emblem is surrounded by a crown of laurel. It is on a medal struck by the City of Cuzco with the bust of Andres de Santa Cruz surrounded by flags and weaponry on the obverse.


Medal struck by the city of Cuzco to honour Andres de Santa Cruz, 1838.



This castle which was also on the arms of the city of Cuzco was made an integral part of the seal of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. This is on coins struck for the Confederation 1837-’38. It is composed of the tower pf Cusco for South Peru, the volcano for Bolivia and the sea and the cornucopia for North Peru. enclosed by a crown of laurel. It is surrounded by the motto FIRME POR LA UNION / CONFEDERACION (Firm for the Union / Confederation)


Peru-Bolivian Confedertion.

Seal on coins 1837-‘38


An other arrangement shows the seascape of the first arms of Peru with the Andes mountains and the rising sun radiant in the background and mount Potosi on the foreground.



Armed Forces


Presidential Flag of Supreme Command, 1939


Presidential Flag of Supreme Command, 2012 [9]





United Commands


Operational Commands













Air Force











The Guardia Republicana del Perú (Republican Guard) was created by Supreme Decree of 14 April 1852 and was made a part of the National Police in 1988.



The Guardia Civil del Perú was created by Supreme Decree of 23 March 1874.It was made a part of the National Police in 1988.


The Policia de Investigaciones del Peru (Policial Intelligence Service) was created in 1882 and reformed on several later occasions. In 1988 it was made a part of the National Police.



The National Police of Peru was created by law of 12 November 1988 by uniting the former Republican Guard, the Civil Guard and the Policial Intelligence Service.





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© Hubert de Vries 2013-04-27



[1] I.e. Lbro 3ro. de Cédulas y Provisiones, 1a. parte, folio 17, correspondiente al archivo del Municipio de Lima.

[2] The Audiencia de Lima was created in 1543 and the Intendencia de Lima in 1783. A Corregimiento de Lima was created in 1569 by Governor Lope García de Castro. Probably the different achievements correspond with these administrative bodies.

[3] The design may also have been a project for the arms of the Republic of Peru and it would be interesting to know what the proceedings for the adoption of a new coat of arms for the Republic actually were.

[4] Gaceta de Gobierno de Lima Independiente numero 14, del sabado 25 de agosto de 1821

[5] Flags and Coats of Arms of the American Republics. Peru. In: Bulletin of the Pan-America Union, 1912, pp. 1007-1009.

[6] From: Heyer von Rosenfeld, Friedrich: Die Staatswappen der bekanntesten Länder der Erde. Frankfurt a/Main, 1895. And on a postcard printed by Paul Kohl, Chemnitz, ca. 1900.                                                                                                                    

[7] Costa y Cavero, E.: Las Banderas y Escudos del Peru, Lima 1931- Pag.21

[8] Clericus, Ludwig: Außereuropäische Wappen. In: Der Deutsche Herold, 1879, p. 124 & Taf. XII.

[9] Seen as a breast patch of President Ollanta Humala Tasso, 06.12.2012.

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