This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

United Kingdom: Crowns on Flags

Last modified: 2002-09-21 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | crown |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

See also:

State Crown

[State crown] by Jarig Bakker, from the illustration of the Royal Mail pennant in Flags at Sea

Imperial or Tudor Crown

[Imperial or Tudor crown] by T.F. Mills

St. Edward's Crown

[St Edward's crown] by T.F. Mills

There have been three basic 'crown shapes' on British flags, though there are variations within each basic shape.

  • The state crown as made for Queen Victoria (c.1837). This is a square crown. The top is almost flat, with just a suspicion of a dip in the centre. This crown was phased out from 1880 onwards but continued on existing flags designs until about 1902, when an effort appears to have been made to replace it with ...
  • The imperial crown, often referred to as the Tudor crown has a rounded top. It was introduced by Edward VII in about 1902 and was in use until the accession of Elizabeth II in 1953 when it was replaced by St. Edwards crown. A Colonial Office Circular Dispatch from 14th June 1901 refers to "Drawings showing Imperial Cyphers as selected by His Majesty." and "H.M. desires that the Tudor crown may be substituted for any other pattern now in use, as new articles become necessary." Later that year a Circular Despatch of 16th November directed that, in accordance with instructions from the Admiralty, those flag badges based on the seal should not be changed until the seal had first been changed. Both Circulars in PRO Document CO 854/37.
  • St Edward's crown. This is similar to the first crown above, but with a much more pronounced dip in the centre of the top. It was introduced by Elizabeth II in 1953. See below for discussion on the reasons for the change in the crown.
Unfortunately, the Queen Victoria state crown was often drawn in a weak, ill-defined style and later illustrators, presumably imagining that it was a badly drawn St Edward's crown, redrew it accordingly.

David Prothero, 23 February 1999, 27, 30 September 2000

I am posting drawings of the imperial or Tudor crown (1902-1953) and the St Edward's crown (1953-present). As was noted above, the Victorian crowns were not very well regulated and there are numerous variations. But the imperial and St. Edward's crowns are very well regulated. There was a transition period of up to five years (1953-58) for the adoption of the St. Edward's crown in many institutions, and there were, of course, exceptions where it was never updated.

T.F. Mills, 24 February 1999

Introduction of St. Edwards Crown

I have heard two competing explanations for the change in the crown:
  • Kings use Tudor, reigning Queens use St. Edward's.
  • Tudor was introduced because its shape looked more "imperial," i.e., like other European imperial crowns, and therefore better conveyed the concept of "Emperor of India." It was dropped because in 1947 the title of Emperor of India had become obsolete.
Joe McMillan, 28 September 2000

The first is just an urban legend. All British Kings and Queens are crowned with the St Edward's crown, and all were the Imperial State crown to open parliament, so there is no King's Crown as opposed to Queen Regnant's crown. Of course there are a whole set of Queen Consorts' crowns. The Queen Mother still uses the Imperial Crown on her arms and flags.

I believe the second one is the true reason. When the Queen came to the throne it was felt appropriate to change the crown (so it changed in 1952/53 not 1947) to reflect the fact that she was not Empress of India, and that the British Empire was being dismantled.
Graham Bartram, 28 September 2000

The concept of King's and Queen's Crowns (KC, QC) is a misconception which is very prevalent among military badge collectors. Even the most authoritative books on badges make this mistake. It is just a coincidence that four male monarchs have been represented by the "KC" followed by a female with the "QC". Who actually wears what real crown is somewhat unrelated to the representation of the Crown as state symbol.

Prior to the accession of Edward VII (1902), the iconographic Crown was unregulated. Some people refer to the "Victorian Crown", which more closely resembled the Elizabethan St. Edward's Crown than the Tudor/Imperial Crown, but in actual fact Crowns in the Victorian era were very much at the mercy of artistic whim, and there was no standard. Edward VII, who invented state pomp and pageantry as we know it today (after 60 years of disinterest from Victoria), regulated the shape of the Crown. It is my (undocumented) theory that he preferred the domed shape to give it more dignity and majesty in reference to the other European imperial crowns. I believe it was originally called the Tudor crown because it was modelled on one worn by Henry VII, and it came to be called the Imperial Crown because its image was standardised throughout the Empire.

George VI relinquished the title "Emperor of India" in June 1948. Elizabeth II apparently followed through on this gesture by abolishing the Imperial Crown in iconography since it had become associated with an obsolete title. It should be noted that the sovereign was emperor/empress in India only, and that there never was a real "British Empire" -- only a haphazard system of nations. In changing the Crown, Elizabeth II did not presage the dissolution of the Empire. That, too, was a coincidence.
T.F. Mills, 29 September 2000

The changed shape of crowns on flags after the accession of Edward VII in 1901 was the result of standardising the design. I imagine that the domed crown was chosen because it was the one the King preferred. There seems no reason for the change after 1952, except that it was the choice of the Queen. If the change was intended to have some symbolic significance, the meaning should have been obvious, or the significance of the new shape should have been promulgated. Shortly after I joined the Navy in 1952, badges were being changed for those having the new crown, but no explanation or reason for the change was announced. A new Royal Cypher is designed at the beginning of each new reign, and is approved by the sovereign before becoming official. Perhaps the appearance of the crown emblem that will be used during the reign is part of that process?
David Prothero, 30 September 2000

Other crowns used on flags

Scottish Crown

[Scottish crown] by Clay Moss

The Scottish Crown looks like an imperial crown, but there are no pearls on the arches, instead there are two curlicues on each arms. In addition there is a pearl on a gold mounting on the velvet cap in each quarter (so you can see two of them). This is the official state crown for Scotland and would replace the St Edward's crown on any peculiarly Scottish flag, or flag created under the authority of the Scottish Executive, such as the Scottish Fisheries, or a Scottish constabulary.

The official Scottish Office emblem uses a Scottish crown (neither imperial nor St. Edwards), as do Scottish police forces/services, the Royal Mail, etc. Nowadays all royal crowns on Scottish organizations should be the Scottish crown. There have been times in the past when the English versions were used but that changed some thirty years ago at least.
Graham Bartram, 28 February 1999, 28 September 2000

You can make that forty years ago (at least). In 1960 when the Ministry of Transport, who were still using the Imperial (Tudor) Crown on all their flags, made enquiries at the Scottish Office they were told that the Scottish Crown should be used (where appropriate) on any flags flown from establishments in Scotland or ships registered at a Scottish port.
Public Record Office MT 45/580.
David Prothero, 12 August 2000

See the actual one or a much bigger image from the royal web site.
Santiago Dotor, 28 September 2000

According to a Scottish Office letter written in 1960, "the Scottish Crown should replace St Edward's crown on flags flown at any establishment in Scotland or by any ships registered in a Scottish port." MT 45/580.

It didn't specifically say, "any flag", but the Ministry of Transport took it to mean that if they had had a ship registered in a Scottish port, the wheel and anchor should have been surmounted by a Scottish Crown.
David Prothero, 30 September 2000

Crown Prince's crown

This looks like an imperial crown, but has only one arch, shown going from left to right, so there is not "central" arch. It appears on two of Prince Charles' standards (England and Wales). His actual crown is a very modern design - quite striking, but the version used on flags is a more traditional heraldic design.
Graham Bartram, 28 September 2000

The actual crown can be seen on the royal web site. The heraldic version is much more similar to the one made for Prince Edward (later Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor) in 1911 (again from the royal web site).
Santiago Dotor, 28 September 2000

CHANNELS :: Compare Country infoCountry guide & StudyFlagsMapsSightseeingTravel WarningsHotel Directory DESTINATIONS :: AsiaAfricaCaribbean Middle EastNorth AmericaSouth AmericaCentral AmericaOceania PacificEuropePolar Regions UTILITIES :: WeatherWorld TimeISD CodesTravel Links Link Exchange
DestinationsMonuments WONDERS :: AncientModernNatural | Privacy Policy