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British Royal Standards since 1042

Last modified: 2002-12-28 by rob raeside
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Royal Standards of England

Saint Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)

Edward the Confessor is described as having arms consisting of a cross surrounded by five martlets. I don't know the exact colours, nor whether the arms were used as a standard. [As England, in the days it had Saint Edward as its patron, used a white cross on a blue field, this does suggest these were the colours of his arms.]  (Evans 1970)

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002

Edward the Confessor's standard was shield-shaped, light blue with a gold cross and birds. The cross is equal-armed and thin, with fleur-de-lis edged arms (not sure of technical terms for any of this - maybe a fleury cross?). The doves are between the arms and one below (looking left, five in all).
Source: Norman Davies "The Isles."

Nathan Lamm, 30 June 2002

That's an interesting statement, that Edward the Confessor's arms were in the colours of blue and white/silver.  It might or might not be, but for the record, when later English kings displayed their arms (notably Richard II, who occasionally impaled Edward's arms with the quartered French fleurs de lys and the English lions, as shown on this page, they had a gold cross and martlets on a blue field. In fact it's not at all known whether Edward or any of the Saxon kings actually did bear arms. The arms attributed to Edward come from a coin minted during his reign, which shows four martlets between the arms of a cross. The fifth martlet was added because when the charges were placed on a shield, the base looked a bit empty - this was when shields were still quite long and pointy, as they were in Norman times. The word martlet is used in English translation of similar birds (footless) that appear in French, Dutch and German arms, and the equivalents in those languages are frequently used for the English bird. The French term merlette actually indicates a footless duckling, not a martin or swallow, as in the case of the English bird. Merlettes (in the duckling form) appear frequently in Dutch heraldry. And in German heraldry yet another bird is used, also without legs, based on the lark, and is called a gestümmelte Amsel. For further details, see François Velde's page

Mike Oettle, 29 June 2002

Harold II (1066)

The first English monarch whose standard was depicted may well be King Harold II, whose Dragon 'flag' is pictured on the Tapestry of Bayeux, as is the gonfalon of William I.  (Evans 1970)

William I, the Conqueror (1066-1087)

An interpretation of the image of the gonfalon and discussion is shown on our Battle of Hastings page. (2:7).

William II, Rufus (1087-1100), Henry I (1100-1135), Stephen (1135-1154), Henry II (1154-1189)

Whether any of these used a Royal Standard is unknown.

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002

From William I up to (but not including) Richard I, Two lions, passant gardant.  Davies in "The Isles" explains that Duke Rollo of Normandy (ancestor of William) had a lion on his banner, and two lions had been on Normandy's banner (still are) by the early 1000's. Still used by Plantagenets as Henry II claimed throne through his Norman mother. Second lion therefore cannot stand for England, but I have seen that they stood for Normandy and Main; however, heraldry apparently wasn't that  standardized by then to allow for this. 

Richard I adds a lion, as that was the symbol of Aquitane (still is) and he was Duke (pre-king). Again, not sure if heraldry allowed for this then. In any event, three lions.

Source: Norman Davies "The Isles."

Nathan Lamm, 30 June 2002

Richard I, Lion-Heart (1189-1199)

Richard Lionheart likely used a shield with gold lions (although the number of lions could be in dispute). On crusade, a crusader in his armny might have used a crescent as Islam at the time had no such easily recognisable symbol, using instead battle flags in plain red, plain white or plain black.

Mike Oettle, 2 October 2002

John (1199-1216), 
Henry III (1216-1272), 
Edward I (1272-1307), 
Edward II (1307-1327), 
Edward III (1327-1340 ...)

[Royal banner of England] by Vincent Morley

Starting with Richard I, all of the monarchs of England and after them the monarchs of The United Kingdom, have used a banner of their arms as their royal standard. In the case of Richard I his arms (and those of his predecessor Henry II) were Gules three lions passant guardant or. The lions reportedly represent England, Normandy, and Aquitaine. (1:1)

#1,2,7 Evans (1970), Neubecker (1932),

The royal banner of Edward I is the earliest Royal banner of England for which a contemporary blazon is known (Symposium Conservation of Flags).

Edward III (... 1340-1377)

In 1340 Edward III of England changed his arms to reflect his claim to the French throne, quartering the French Royal arms with the English, and to demonstrate he valued France above England, he placed the French arms in the first quarter [and was nevertheless not disposed as King of England]: quartered azure seme' de fleur-de-lys and gules three lions passant guardant or langued gules (ratio 5:6) - Evans (1970) 

Richard II (1377-1399)

Richard II impaled these arms with those of Edward the confessor - Evans (1970) 

Henry IV (1399-1413)

[English royal standard of 1399] by Sam Lockton

The English Royal Standard of 1399 was used at least to the reign of Richard III.
Sam Lockton, 9 September 2002

Henry V (1413-1422)
Henry VI (1422 ... 1471)
Edward IV (1461 ... 1483)
Edward V (1483)
Richard III (1483-1485)

[personal banner of Richard III] by Sam Lockton

Personal banner of Richard III.
Sam Lockton, 9 September 2002

Henry VII (1485-1509)
Henry VIII (1509-1547)

See our page on Tudor Naval flags for flags in the time of Henry VIII.

Edward VI (1547-1553)
Mary I (1553-1554...)
Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

As in 1365 Charles V had reduced the number of fleur-de-lys in the French Arms to 3, Henry IV changed his arms likewise, to indicate the claim was still current. Though the English kings became Kings of Ireland in 1541, this was not represented in their Arms, even though Henry VIII did devise arms for Ireland: Azure a harp or stringed argent. (ratio 5:7)

Evans (1970),

Neubecker (1932) pictured an English royal banner around 1450 with around the free sides a red and green border. (ratio 1:1?). He also has a picture of the standard of the Duke of Lancaster, later King Henry IV, similar to that of Henry VII:

[standard of Henry VII] by Dave Martucci

Its design is similar to this image, if with somewhat longer "slips", and it has a cross of St. George at the hoist. The fly is white over blue, with close to the St. George cross a large red rose on the dividing line, and flyward of that a white swan with outstretched wing (and a crown around its neck), the white holds a row of smaller red roses (except that after the first in the row, some space is taken up by the upper part of the swan, the blue holds a row of alternating I-don't-know-what-s and tree-stumps. The free side(s) have a blue and white border. The text explains the red rose and the blue-white as being for Lancaster, and the St. George cross and the Swan for Henry's wife, of the house of the counts/earls Bohun. (ratio 1:3?)

The similarity is no coincidence since "early standards were usually divided along their length into two tinctures and were charged with various devices and mottoes." (Symposium Conservation of Flags)

Mary I (1554-1558)

When Mary I married Philip II of Spain she impaled her arms with those of her husband, quartered gules a castle or (Castille), and argent a lion rampant gules (Leon) - Evans (1970) 

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002

Royal Standards of Scotland

Curiously, of the equal parts of the United Kingdom, it's much easier to find information on the Southern part, than on the Northern part. The following summarizes information from elsewhere on FOTW:

Malcolm IV (-1165)

Assuming the son of Malcolm IV, William the Lion, was the first to use the Lion rampant as the Royal arms, then Malcolm must still have been using the previous standard, the Dragon standard.

 William the Lion (1165-1214(?))

William the Lion is generally credited with adopting the Lion rampant arms. The lion is apparently referred to as the "Lion of Bravery" or "Lion of Justice", without further explanation of these titles. [Around the same time, in England, the latter was used as nickname for one of the Kings, I believe.] Explanations for the arms themselves exist; apparently all focusing on the lion, where the unusual aspect of the arms is the amount of detail introduced by the double tressure flory-counter-flory.

Alexander II (1214(?)-?), Alexander III (?-?)

Alexander II is the first Scottish king known to use the Lion rampant arms, as a seal, in 1222. We do mention that the lion rampant often occurs in the arms of the Scottish nobility, but not whether this includes the specific tressure, nor whether this can be through relations with the crown.

 James VI ( - 1603 ...)

The Arms of Scotland: or, a lion rampant gules armed and langued azure surrounded by a double tressure flory-counter-flory gules. Whether this was used as a Royal standard at the time is not clear.

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002 

I would not bother too much about minor details of design and colour. The standards are really banners of arms, and arms need only to conform to a written description. In 1937 the, then new, Queen's Standard was criticised because a few details were thought by some to be wrong. Garter King of Arms wrote that, "there are no standard colours and the exact shade should be left to the artistic sense. A coat of arms should be an artistic construction. The female bust decoration on the Irish harp is a late Georgian or Victorian introduction. I would prefer to revert to the earlier historic harp but if the female harp is preferred it does not matter. It is not an advantage to standardise. If that is done, improvements in design are impossible. If you go, say, to the Royal Academy, you will see trees painted by artists, in a hundred different ways. But they are all trees. Your proposition would be that a tree, if it appeared in your flag book as painted by Leader must always afterwards appear as Leader painted his trees; that is to say you will stereotype the design of one artist at a particular period of design. That is neither Heraldry nor Art."

David Prothero, 27 April 2002

Royal Standards of the Union of the Crowns

James I (... 1603-1625)
Charles I (1625-1649)
Charles II (... 1660-1685)
James II (1685-1689)
Mary II (1689-1702)
Anne (1702-1707 ...)

When James VI of Scotland became James I of England as well, he adopted a banner representing all his Kingdoms. Quartered the previous Royal Banner of England, the Arms of Scotland, and the arms of Ireland. (ratio 5:7)

[Obviously, quartering France, Scotland, England and Ireland would have been too simple a solution.]

Evans (1970) ,

It's not clear whether Mary II, who reigned together with her husband, used her arms as a separate Royal Banner [Evans (1970) ]

[As we've had complaints about the number of fleurs-de-lys in the image of the Royal standard of Scotland, I'll note the number of fleurs-de-lys in the images available to me. [Evans (1970) , von Volborth (1985)]

James I (... 1603-1625)

See our page on the Scottish royal banner, shown in ratio 1:2. We have it that James I did indeed use a Scottish version of the Royal standard; a banner of the Scottish version of the Royal Arms, where the Arms of Scotland and England are switched.

Charles Edward Stuart (1745-1746...)

As the Jacobite Charles Edward Stuart was not of the house Hannover, and was only crowned as King of Scotland, his Royal arms apparently were the Stewart arms, and they should only have been the Scottish version of those. Mention has been made of flags of Charles Edward captured at Culloden: A white flag with the Stewart's arms and the motto "God save the King", a white Standard, a red flag with a white square. These may however have been regimental colours, as one would expect the actual Royal standard to have left the battlefield with its King. 

Oliver Cromwell, Richard Cromwell

See United Kingdom Flags in the Interregnum

Charles II (1660- ...)

In 1660, at the restoration, Charles II used a Union Flag with in the centre on a white field his cypher in gold, CR with a crown above them, as no Royal Standard was available at that time. (4:5) Evans (1970)

Do all UK Kings have such cyphers or was this just for the occasion? At least Elizabeth II has one, and currently uses it on a flag. What about the Prince of Wales?

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 April 2002

There have been Royal Cyphers for some time but rarely applied to flags. The flag for military officers afloat was the Union Jack defaced with the Royal Cypher on a blue disc surrounded by the usual garland, and the Royal Cypher also appears on the Colours of some military units.

David Prothero, 27 April 2002

William III, of Orange (1689-1702)

The standard of William III added to the Royal Standard a heart-shield of Nassau: On blue semé de billets a lion rampant or. (2:3) [Siegel (1912), von Volborth (1985)]. Siegel (1912) has, continuing from the description above:

'This standard also occurs in a form which bears the Arms as a shield on a white background, encircled of a ribbon of the Order of the Garter, on which stands the motto "honny soit qui mal y pense". The shield holders are lion and unicorn.'

According to Siegel (1912), S. de Vries - De doorluchtige Weereld ..." has a different version of these flags:

A white flag with the arms, quartered the three golden lions of England on a red field, the red lion of Scotland on a golden field, the three golden fleur-de-lys of France on a blue field and the golden harp of Ireland on blue, with a heart-shield for the lion of Nassau. The English arms are crowned with a royal crown and encircled with a ribbon with the motto of the Garter. The shield holders are the crowned lion and the unicorn.' (2:3)

It's likely these two refer to the same standard, though.

William III & Mary II (1689-1702)

The arms of William III and Mary II as King and Queen of England and Scotland, which they ruled jointly, impaled their separate arms, but no standard may have existed of this. (7:9) [Evans (1970), von Volborth (1985)].  What apparently did exist is William of Orange's expeditionary flag (2:3), which impales their personal arms. Judging from the larger image in Visser (1995) the caption should read:


Personally, I have my doubts about the use of an abbreviation on a flag, as did Siegel (1912), possibly following S. de Vries, writing the word "religion" in full, but the tressure is depicted as a single tressure flory, so maybe this doesn't count. Curious point: Who made the "mistake" - the flagmaker or the flagpainter?)

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002

Royal Standards of the United Kingdom

Anne (... 1707-1714)

As the realm became a united kingdom, the English and Scottish arms impaled were placed in the first quarter, quartered with France and Ireland. For the Scottish arms a demi-double-tressure flory-counter-flory is used. (3:4) 

George I (1714-1727)

1714 Royal Standard; 1st. England/Scotland. 2nd France. 3rd Ireland. 4th Hanover. 1810 Royal Standard: 1st and 4th England. 2nd Scotland. 3rd Ireland. Hanover inescutcheon. [Mead (1971)]

David Prothero, 25 September 2002

George II (1727..1760)

Navy Office, 27 October 1761, Alterations upon the Royal Standard of England (as described for George I), denote the Flag for the Royal persons under-mentioned:

  • Frederick, Prince of Wales. [Died 1751. Son of King George II] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with three points.
  • William, Duke of Cumberland. [Died 1765. 3rd son of King George II] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with three points, one with cross of St George.
  • Ann, Princess of Orange, Princess Royal. [Died 1759. Eldest daughter of King George II] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with three points, all with cross of St George.
  • Princess Amelia. [Died 1786. 2nd daughter of King George II] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with five(! ?) points, all with cross of St George.
  • Princess Caroline. [Died 1757. 3rd daughter of King George II] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with three points, all with a red Tudor Rose
  • Mary, Princess of Hess. [Died 1772. 4th daughter of King George II] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with three points, all "with a red canton"(?). Perhaps a red square ?
  • Louisa, Queen of Denmark. [Died 1751. 5th daughter of King George II] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with three points, all "with torteaux" (circles), but drawn as "red annulets" (rings).

Added note: On 20 July 1816 all the above endorsed, "These alterations are not now to be depended on"
[Source: Mead (1971)]

David Prothero, 25 September 2002

George III (1760-1801 ...)

See our page at Electoral and Royal Standards 1714-1866 (Hanover, Germany). As Elector of Hanover George I placed the arms of Hanover in the fourth quarter: Tierced pale gules two lions passant guardant or (Brunswick), a crowned lion rampant azure on a field or semé de hearts gules (Luneburg), and gules a horse argent (Westphalia), with a heart shield gules the traditional crown of Charlemagne or. (3:4) [Neubecker (1932), Evans (1970)

From Mead (1971):

  • Prince Edward, Duke of York in 1765. [Brother of King George III] 1714 Royal Standard dimensions 5 : 3; white label with five points, one with cross of St George, "the others cantoned gules". [Red squares ?]
  • Princess Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. [Married 1764. Sister of King George III] "Impales Brunswick coat (consisting of fourteen quarterings) with the usual English coat, bearing the label of the Prince of Wales, as she was his daughter." [One was made for the use of the Waterloo Bridge Company when the bridge was opened in 1817, so this would have been an 1801 standard.]
  • "King of England and Princess of Mecklenburg" "Standard impaling the royal banner of England with the arms of Princess Charlotte, daughter of Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz." Mead wrote, "The Standard would be required at the wedding and Coronation" (of George III) [George became King 25 October 1760, was married 8 September 1761.]
  • Prince William Henry. [Born 1765. Later Duke of Clarence and King William IV] 1714(?) Royal Standard; white label with three points, one with the cross of St George, and two with blue Anchor.
  • Prince and Princess of Hesse. Standard impaling arms of Hesse with those of Princess Mary (6th item)
  • Duke of Gloucester; standard in 1765. [Younger brother of King George III.] 1714 Royal Standard; white label with five points, one blue Fleur-de-lis, four cross of St George.
  • Duke of Gloucester and Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester; standard in 1817. [He was son of the above Duke of Gloucester, she, 4th daughter of King George III ] Two impaled 1801 Royal Standards, First; white label with five points, one blue Fleur-de-lis, four cross of St George; Second; white label with three points, one with red Heart, two with red Tudor Rose.
  • Standard of King of Denmark united with that of Princess Carolina Matilda of England. "Impaled arms of Denmark with the English arms, charged with a label having three plain points." Made 20 September 1766. 12 feet x 18 feet for yacht, 6 feet x 9 feet for boat. Roughly 3.66m x 5.5m and 1.83m x 2.75m for the metrically minded.
David Prothero, 25 September 2002

About the description "red canton", I have seen illustrations of these arms (one or the other). The "cantons" are red squares/rectangles on the upper hoist (dexter chief) of the points of the label; I think they took up at least one quarter of the "point", because anything less would be hard to see.
Source: Neubecker (1977)

Dean McGee, 25 September 2002

George III (... 1801-1816 ...)

See our page at Electoral and Royal Standards 1714-1866. In 1800 Ireland came into the union, and in 1801 George III gave up the claim to the French throne. [I believe there was a treaty involved, but I can not now recall which.]. This resulted in a new flag: Quartered England, Scotland, and Ireland, with a heart-shield of Hanover that was ensigned with an elector cap. (4:5) [Evans (1970), Siegel (1912), von Volborth (1985)]

The need for new arms must already have been felt in 1800, and one would expect a request to devise these would have been given already before the claim on France was dropped. The end result may have incorporated both changes at ones, but one cannot help but wonder what 1800-1801 arms might have looked like. [Evans (1970), Siegel (1912)] 

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 April 2002

According to an article entitled "The disappearance of the fleurs-de-lys" from Heraldica, "There is a story that the quarter of France was dropped to satisfy the demands of Napoleon at the peace of Amiens (J. H. Pinches, Royal Heraldry of England), or "in compliance with one of the articles of the Treaty of Paris" (Oxford Guide to Heraldry, p. 189). These claims are rather fanciful, since the Treaty of Paris dates from 1783, and the Treaty of Amiens was signed in March 1802; neither treaty making any mention of the matter. The claim to the throne of France was recognized by many as silly, especially since, as of 1792, there was no throne of France to claim (although Britain had yet to recognize this in international law; it did so with the treaty of Amiens). In fact the dropping of the quartering for France occurred Jan. 1, 1801, in connection with the Act of Union with Ireland. "The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland took effect on January 1, 1801. The 1st article of the Act states: That it be the first Article of the Union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, that the said Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland shall, upon the 1st day of January which shall be in the year of our Lord 1801, and for ever after, be united into one Kingdom, by the name of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; and that the royal style and titles appertaining to the Imperial Crown of said United Kingdom and its dependencies; and also the ensigns, armorial flags and banners thereof shall be such as H. M. by his Royal Proclamation under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom, shall be pleased to appoint. "

For the relevant proclamation see this webpage.

Ned Smith, 28 April 2002

George III (... 1816-1820)
George IV (1820-1830)
William IV (1830-1837)

See our page at Electoral and Royal Standards 1714-1866 (3:4). With Hanover becoming a Kingdom, the elector cap was replaced by a crown of Hanover. (3:4) [Evans (1970)]

Symposium Conservation of Flags shows an image of a somewhat damaged British Royal Standard 1818-1837, which clearly confirms that our first images has the wrong type of crown, while the second is quite close. Furthermore, it shows a different shield-type for the heart-shield. Also, while in general our lions are wider than those in other images, the lions on this actual flag are only 1/3rd of the field they are in. (Judging from their 3D style I'd say they are appliqué, and probably used for a wide variety of field-sized. [Neubecker (1932)]

Victoria (1837-1901)
Edward VII (1901-1910)
George V (1910-1936)
Edward VIII (1936)
George VI (1936-1952)
Elizabeth II (1952-)

Victoria could not ascend to the throne of Hanover, as a woman cannot inherit the throne under Salic law, therefore the arms of Hanover were removed from the Royal Standard. This results in the current Royal standard of quartered England, Scotland and Ireland. [usually seen 1:2, rarely 2:3]

Most sources show 6 fleur-de-lys on the tressure flory-counter-flory, although I've just seen one such standard flying in footage on a CD-ROM from a British Tourist Bureau, and it had 8 fleur-de-lys. For details of the standards used by members of these families, see our page on the Royal Family, and other members of the Royal Family.

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002

George VI before he became King was Duke of York. His standard was the Royal Standard with three labels. The centre was a blue anchor; the outer labels, I think, were blank.

David Prothero, 27 April 2002

Royal standard of Scotland versus the Royal Standard for Scotland

See our page on the Royal Standard of Scotland, (ratio 2:3).  Unusually depicted in Politikens Flagbog (2000) (2:3) with 12 fleur-de-lys. It has it that the tressure flory-counter-flory should remind of the 'auld alliance' with France. It's unclear when this standard existed as such, however it's apparently been taken into use again since the reopening of the Scottish parliament.

See our page on the Royal Standard for Scotland (1:2).  Only mentioned and shown by World Flag Database. James I did apparently did use a banner of his Scottish Arms as a Royal Standard, but it's unclear whether all monarchs in between did as well.

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002