Married gay couples can now apply for a joint Coat of Arms, after rules governing their use were overhauled.

Updating its rules following the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales, the College of Arms has opted to allow same-sex couples to combine their coats or create their own – a privilege previously reserved for straight couples.

The College said the ruling aims to “replicate as closely as possible the heraldic practice for married couples of different sex”.

Coats of Arms are traditionally passed down by birthright through the aristocracy, but they can also be granted on request.

There is no formal criteria to be eligible for a coat of arms, but honours, military service, charitable services and qualification are taken into account.

Sir Elton John became one of the first out gay men to be granted his own Coat of Arms in 1987, but he was not previously allowed to share it with his partner David Furnish.

Under the new rules, Furnish will also be granted use of the crest if the couple decide to marry.

When he was elected as the House of Commons Speaker in 2011, John Bercow was granted his own Coat of Arms, which he decorated with multiple gay rights symbols.

As well as a rainbow motif, it includes pink triangles, a ladder – which represents equality for all – and the motto “ALL ARE EQUAL”.