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Flags of the Royal Family, United Kingdom

Last modified: 2003-07-05 by rob raeside
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The Royal Standard

[British royal standard] by Vincent Morley

See also:

Explanation of the royal standard

The version of the British Royal Arms in which the Lion Rampant banner of Scotland is in the first and fourth quarters of the shield (with the English banner in the second, and the Irish harp, as is normal, in the third) is widely seen in Scotland and it is in fact the Royal Standard within Scotland (as opposed to the Royal Standard of Scotland,). The United Kingdom actually has two different achievements of Royal Arms:

  1. England 1st and 4th, Scotland 2nd and Ireland 3rd, with Lion (English) and Unicorn (Scottish) supporters, and the English Royal Crest (crowned Lion Passant Guardant on a Royal Crown). Motto: "Dieu et Mon Droit" = "God and My Right" (English). This is the form used in England and Wales and to symbolise the UK overseas.
  2. Scotland 1st and 4th, England 2nd and Ireland 3rd, with Unicorn supporters bearing lances flying the Andrew flag and the Scots Royal Standard (respectively dexter and sinister). The Crest is the Scots one: a lion sitting (on a crown) facing the viewer and holding a crown and sceptre. The motto is the Scots one: "Nemo Me Impune Lacessit" = "No One Insults Me With Impunity". This is the version used in Scotland only.

Northern Ireland uses the English Royal Arms, but with the Irish Royal Crest, which is a hart exiting a tower.

Of course these flags should only be used by the Queen. Incidentally, the other members of the Royal Family, whose arms and banners are the Royal Arms with labels of cadency, use the English version in Scotland - only the Queen uses the Scots version. There is one exception: the Prince of Wales has a distinctive personal flag for use in Scotland, being a banner of the arms for his Dukedom of Rothesay and Lordship of the Isles.

Why do we have two versions of the Royal Arms? Simply that when England and Scotland united in 1707, the Scots retained their distinctive legal system, complete with their own heraldic authority, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, quite separate from the College of Arms in London, whose writ does not run north of the border. Consequently each jurisdiction has its own version of the Arms, with its particular local heraldic flavour.

Roy Stilling, 6 May 1996

Variations of the Royal Standard as personal banners of members of the royal family (see below) are a relatively recent phenomena. Until Edward VII changed the way in which the Royal Standard was used, most other members of the royal family used the Royal Standard undifferenced.
David Prothero, 7 May 2002

Personal Flag of Queen Elizabeth II

[Queen's personal flag]

[Queen's personal flag]  by Marcus Schmöger, based on an image by Graham Bartram

Queen Elizabeth II has a personal flag: blue with a golden fringe, displaying in gold the letter 'E', ensigned with the royal crown - having the crown above it - and encircled by a chaplet of roses. It was first used when the Queen visited India in 1961. The same device on a field of the appropriate national arms forms her personal flag on visits to certain Commonwealth countries." [Evans (1970)]

Peter Hans van den Muijzenburg, 23 April 2002

Books usually show a square standard; however, a flag with dimensions approximately 1:2 was on display at the ICV in York, July 2001.  It is not used in Britain.

In 1961 the Queen adopted a personal flag which is quite separate from the Royal Standard and is a square royal blue flag bearing a crowned initial E within a ring of stemmed roses, all in gold. I think it's supposed to symbolise her role as head of the Commonwealth rather than as Queen of the United Kingdom or of any particular realm. Anyway, I *think* the rules are thus:

* In the UK and non-Commonwealth countries the Royal Standard is used
* In Commonwealth countries which she is Queen of, a personal flag for that "realm" is used which consists of a banner of the arms of that country with a blue disk bearing the gold crowned E and which is bordered by the gold ring of roses.  See a list of links to these flags.
* In Commonwealth countries which she is not Queen (not all are republics: this would include Tonga and Malaysia for instance), the plain personal flag as described above is used.

I'm pretty sure Barraclough's Flags of the World gives chapter and verse on this, but it's a long time since I last saw a copy of that book. 

Roy Stilling, 1 April 1997

As I understand it, the point of the Queens big 'E' flag is that it is personal to her, as Elizabeth Windsor, not as Queen of Great Britain etc. Although Edward VII tried to make the British Royal Standard more personal by restricting its use, it is a British Royal Flag, and the same flag will become the Standard of her successor. The Head of the Commonwealth does not necessarily have to be the British monarch, and if the Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, visits a Commonwealth republic, she goes as Elizabeth Windsor, not as Queen Elizabeth II.

David Prothero, 28 March 2003

The Queen's personal flag in Commonwealth countries

In countries where the Queen is the head of state, she commonly has (or had) her own flag.  These are shown at:

Standard of Princess Elizabeth (before ascension)

When the present Queen was Princess Elizabeth her standard was the Royal Standard with one labels with three points, St George's cross twice, and a Tudor rose in the central one. At that time the Duke of Edinburgh's standard was his own arms (at the hoist) impaled with those of Princess Elizabeth.
David Prothero, 27 April 2002

Labels as shown by the 1950 edition of Book of Flags by Campbell and Evans:

[Distinguishing labels]

David Prothero, 31 August 2002

Nathan Lamm asked, "These points are trapezoidal, while the current ones seem to be rectangular. Did they change?"

In "Boutell's Heraldry", Brook-Little wrote that the pendant pieces of labels may be straight or slightly splayed, and shows four different styles. The type selected seems to be at the whim of the illustrator. I don't know if there is an 'official' shape for use on royal labels.
David Prothero, 1 September 2002

Standard of Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip is consort to Queen Elizabeth.  His standard is quartered Denmark, Greece, Mountbatten, and Edinburgh: the two royal families the prince descends from, his surname, and his title. Denmark: three blue lions passant on a yellow field strewn with nine sea-leaves, depicted as red hearts. Greece: a white centered cross on a blue field. Mountbatten: 5 vertical stripes of white and black. Edinburgh: on a white field, a black three-towered castle, with white details except for red roof, banners, and gate, on a rocky grey base with a stairway leading up to the gate (usually 1:2, rarely 2:3).

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 April 2002

Standard of Princess Margaret

The second daughter of King George VI, sister of the Queen, used the Royal Standard for England differenced with a white label with three pendants, with Tudor-roses and a thistle proper.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 April 2002

Standards of children of the British sovereign

The standard of a child of the British Sovereign bears a white 'label' with three points; a grandchild's label has five points. Some labels are distinguished by special emblems. Other members fly the royal standard, ermine-bordered.

The charges currently in use are St. George cross, Tudor rose, red lion, red heart, blue anchor, blue fleur-de-lys, thistle proper, and since the 18th birthday of Prince William of Wales, on his arms a red scallop. A royal standard with the bordure ermine should be interpreted as the Royal standard with a bordure white, with 10 ermine spots and is used by other members of the royal family who don't have their own flag. Whether the ratio should be 1:2 before or after adding the border is unclear.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 April 2002

His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales

The standard of the Prince of Wales used in England is known from at least 1901.  It is the Royal Standard with the white label with three pendants, with a heart-shield of Wales ensigned with a prince's coronet. Neubecker (1992) (originally published in 1939) leaves a blank spot where one would expect the flag, as the title was vacant in 1939.  Evans (1970) shows 8 fleur-de-lys on the tressure flory-counter-flory; Politikens Flagbog (2000) and World Flag Database show 12 fleur-de-lys, for the most part obscured.

During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), the standard of the Prince of Wales was the current royal standard with the white label with three pendants, with a heart-shaped shield like that of Saxony bearing a green rue crown on 10 stripes yellow and black. Is this for Saxe-Coburg-Gotha? Why was this? [Siegel (1912)]

Welsh Standard of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales

[Prince of Wales Welsh standard] by Marcus Schmöger

As a personal standard for Wales, Prince Charles uses a square banner-of-arms showing the traditional arms of Wales (quarterly of Or and Gules, four lions passant counterchanged); on a green inescutcheon there is a princely coronet. This standard was introduced in 1968.
Marcus Schmöger, 12 November 2001

This flag is normally ratio 1:1, except Politikens Flagbog (2000) shows it as 2:3. The image in Evans (1970) has the lions armed and langued crimson, or something like that. We have azure, like World Flag Database, but I don't know whether it's actually specified. Evans (1970) described green as "the Welsh colour". [I don't know what the Irish would think of that.]
Peter Hans van den Muizenberg
, 24 April 2002

The reference to green as a Welsh colour is probably in reference to the livery colours of the Tudors which were green and white.
David Prothero, 27 April 2002

The Prince of Wales uses as a badge three feathers, with the motto "Ich Dien" (I serve) below.  There are several arguments about the origins of the three feathers and the motto. Some claim that Edward the Black Prince, son of Edward III, adopted them after defeating John of Luxemburg, King of Bohemia at Crecy. Other that the feathers come from his mother's (Philippa of Hainault's) family. There is even a story that the are a corruption of three lions with feathery tails!
Graham Bartram, 25 March 2002

The standard of the first Prince of Wales, later Edward II, was apparently the "The flag of Llewelyn": On a quartered field yellow and red four lions passant guardant countercharged; the arms of the Royal house of Gwynedd.
Peter Hans van den Muizenberg, 24 April 2002

Standard of the Duke of Rothesay and Lord of the Isles for Scotland

Quartered yellow a fess checkered of blue and white (3x10) (Stuart?) and white a black dismantled galley with rowing oars (3) and flying red pennants (3) (Rothesay?), with a heart-shield of the Royal Standard of Scotland differenced with a blue label. (1:1)  [World Flag Database - 6 fleur-de-lys]
Peter Hans van den Muizenberg
, 24 April 2002

Crampton 1978 wrote that the check is for the Great Steward of Scotland, the galleys for the Lord of the Isles and the inescutcheon for the Duke of Rothesay. The cadency label is white.
David Prothero, 27 April 2002

The full list of Prince Charles' Scottish titles is H.R.H. The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland.
Andrew Yong, 18 July 2002

Standard of the Duke of Cornwall for Cornwall

Black fifteen bezants, placed 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. (Ratio 3:5) - World Flag Database

Standard of Princess Anne

[Princess Royal standard]  

base image Vincent Morley, label added by Marcus Schmöger

Princess Anne, uses a standard with a label of three points. On the outer two appears the cross of St. George; on the center one a red heart. The arms were approved in 1950.
Marcus Schmöger, 12 November 2001

According to Boutell's Heraldry, the labels for both Prince Andrew and Princess Anne were assigned by Royal Warrant 7 July 1962.
David Prothero, 10 September 2002

Standard of His Royal Highness the Duke of York

[Duke of York standard]

base image Vincent Morley, label added by Marcus Schmöger

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, second son of the Queen, has a blue anchor on the centre point of the label, denoting his service as an officer in the Royal Navy. Arms approved in 1960.
Marcus Schmöger, 12 November 2001

According to Boutell's Heraldry, the labels for both Prince Andrew and Princess Anne were assigned by Royal Warrant 7 July 1962.
David Prothero, 10 September 2002

Standard of His Royal Highness the Duke of Wessex

Prince Edward, Duke of Wessex, third son of the Queen, has a white label with three pendants, the central pendant with a Tudor rose.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 April 2002

Princess Diana, later Diana, Princess of Wales

Members of the royal family without their own specific standards use the royal standard with a bordure of ermine. This was for instance used by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, as she was known after the break-up of her marriage.
Marcus Schmöger, 12 November 2001

However, the Baronage website describes a possible flag of Diana during the time she was married to Prince Charles:

"During the time of her marriage, Diana had the right to fly "a royal standard" ~ if we use that term loosely. Actually, it is a banner, illustrated here, featuring the arms of her husband impaling the arms of her father ("impaling" meaning that the husband's arms are in the hoist, i.e. next to the staff, and the wife's arms are in the fly). Her husband's arms are those of The Prince of Wales and feature what is essentially the Royal Standard differenced (or debruised) by a label of three points (whether that label is of white or silver is still a matter of argument) and in the centre by an escutcheon of the arms of the Principality of Wales ensigned by the coronet of the Sovereign's eldest son."
Mark Sensen, 27 April 2002

I believe the Baronage website is (at least on this occasion) wrong - that would be a banner of Diana's (real) arms.
Santiago Dotor, 29 April 2002, quoting an earlier discussion, viz:

She would have used the Other Member's standard, the one with an ermine border. If she had become Queen she would have had a flag with the Royal Arms at the hoist and her father's arms at the fly (the Arms of the Earl Spencer), in the same way as HM The Queen Mother does (in her case the arms in the fly are those of her father, the Earl of Strathmore, head of the Bowes-Lyon family). Before Princess Elizabeth became Queen she used a flag which impaled her Arms (Royal Arms with a white label with red crosses on the outer points and a red rose on the centre point) with her husband's (the Duke of Edinburgh).
Graham Bartram, 14 April 1999

In a copy of the New England Journal of Vexillology some time ago, it was reported that when she was Princess of Wales she did indeed have her own flag! I don't remember too many details of it but it included her arms on the right (which I remember was black and had some shells on it among other things) and her then-husband's on the left.
David Kendall, 14 April 1999

That would be a banner of her arms, but Royal Protocol differs from normal protocol in the matter of Banners of Arms. If a banner of arms includes the Royal Arms then special permission is needed for it to be used from Her Majesty. This is normally neither asked for nor granted. So the Duchesses of Kent and Gloucester both have arms similar to the ones you describe (apart from having their father's arms on the left) but both use the "Other Members" standard. The situation would probably be different if any of them where Princesses in their own right (rather than taking their husband's rank). As I said this was the case with Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh (now the Queen). 

I have never seen a Royal Standard impaled with the Spencer arms, and if such a flag had existed I would expect it to have been used at Diana's funeral. Instead the "Other Members" Standard was used. This was later described in the Flag Bulletin as "Princess Diana's Flag" (IIRC). If someone has a photo of such a standard I would love to see it because it would set a precedence for a whole load of others. An article in the latest edition of Flagmaster (093) shows the current set of Royal Standards, including those of the "minor" Royals...and it's in colour! It also includes the Queen's personal flags for Barbados, Canada, Jamaica and New Zealand. It doesn't include those for Malta, Sierre Leone or Trinidad & Tobago which are now no longer used. I hope to include these in a later edition.
Graham Bartram, 14 April 1999

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

[Other members of Royal Family] by Graham Bartram

From: World Flag Database

The personal flag of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was made up of the flag of her late husband, King George VI to the hoist, and the banner of arms of her family, Bowes-Lyon to the fly.  
Graham Bartram

Since Edward I it has been the custom for Queens to impale their paternal arms with the British royal arms, but I think that they were not normally made up into a banner until the right to fly the Royal Standard was withdrawn from consorts in about 1907.
David Prothero, 27 April 2002

Her family name is Bowes-Lyon, and the lions in the 1st & 4th quarters are for the Lyon family, obviously based on the Scottish arms, and the 2nd and 3rd quarters are ermine, with 3 bows (palewise?) for Bowes. I believe the heraldic tradition is that the father's arms are placed in the first quarter, but Scottish / British tradition for hyphenated names puts the mother's name first. Of course this was not the Queen Mum's father and mother, but some ancestors along the line.
Dean McGee, 6 April 2002

The Bowes and Lyons family joined in 1767 when Mary Eleanor Bowes, the daughter of George Bowes MP and heiress to the Bowes family fortune, married John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore. A condition of the marriage (and therefore access to the Bowes fortune) was that the family name be changed to Bowes-Lyon. Of course there are still some Bowes around mainly in North Yorkshire and County Durham, and Lyons in the Strathmore and Mearns area. The Lyons have been at Glamis since 1372, so most of the County of Angus is now related to them! The Lyons are descended from Robert II (hence the Royal double-tressure on their arms) as Sir John Lyon, "The White Lyon" and Lord Kinghorne, married Robert's daughter Joanna. The arms of Lyon are argent a lion rampant azure within a double tressure, flory-counter-flory of the second. The arms of Bowes are ermine three bows proper palewise.
Graham Bartram, 6 April 2002

After her death, the Queen Mother's flag was flown at half staff over her residence, Clarence House, until her body was moved from the chapel Royal to the great hall at Westminster. Then her standard was lowered for the last time as the cortege passed by her residence.
Manuel L. Quezon III, 15 April 2002

Standard of the other members of the Royal Family

[Other members of Royal Family]

base image Vincent Morley, bordure ermine added by Marcus Schmöger

Members of the royal family without their own specific standards use the royal standard with a bordure of ermine. This was for instance used by the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
Marcus Schmöger, 12 November 2001

Sources for Royal Flags

Evans (1975)
Barraclough (1969)
Crampton (1984)