Detail from Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with Ermine"
"Cui candor morte redemptus" or "Purity bought with his own death".
The skins of ermine are a symbol of royalty; the ceremonial robes of kings and emperors are traditionally trimmed with ermine although those of members of the United Kingdom House of Lords in practice are made from rabbit fur instead. Prelates of the Catholic Church still wear ecclesiastical garments featuring ermine that is a sign of their status equal to that of the nobility.
King Christian VII of Denmark in ermine State Robes
The ermine is also considered a symbol of purity in Europe. In the Renaissance era, legend had it that an ermine would die before allowing its pure white coat to be besmirched. When it was being chased by hunters, it would supposedly turn around and give itself up to the hunters rather than risk soiling itself.Pope Julius II wearing a red cape trimmed in ermine