Last modified: 2002-01-26 by jarig bakker
Keywords: swaziland | lion |
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Swaziland’s political history is unique in that its original political structures remained intact throughout colonial period and continue to play a pivotal role in the modern state. The Swazi nation formed in the late 15th century but it was not until the late 18th century that it migrated to the area it occupies today. It was in the 19th century that a coherent nation state emerged under King Sobhuza I. Swaziland became a British High Commission Territory in 1902 and King Sobhuza II ascended to the throne in 1921. Swaziland became independent as a constitutional monarchy under King Sobhuza II on 06 September 1968.
A new national flag and royal standard were formally adopted by the Kingdom at independence. The national flag is based on the flag granted by King Sobhuza in 1941 to the Emasotsha Regiment of the Swazi Pioneer Corps which had fought on behalf of the Allies during World War II. The royal standard was derived from the national flag and was designed by King Sobhuza himself. The royal standard used by King Sobhuza was the same as the national flag, but with the addition of a gold lion centred on the upper blue stripe. The lion, the symbol of the king, is oriented towards the fly and can heraldically be described as passant contourné. The lion has three paws on the ground and one raised (statant) and is yellow with a black eye, claws and outlines, and a red tongue. The lion (Ingwenyama) is the symbol of Swazi kingship and also appears in both the national and royal coats of arms. The King himself can also be called Ingwenyama. The tassels on the spears and shield of both the national flag and royal standard are called tinjobo and are made from the lisakabuli (widow bird) and ligwalagwala (lourie) birds. These tinjobo are only used by the King. [i] The royal standard flew publicly for the first time on 5 September 1968 at the Somhlolo National Stadium at Lobamba during independence celebrations. [ii]
King Sobhuza's death on 21 August 1982 precipitated a prolonged power
struggle within the royal family. Initially the Queen
Mother, Queen Regent Dzeliwe, assumed the regency and appointed 15 members to the Liqoqo, a traditional advisory body which Sobhuza had sought to establish as the Supreme Council of State. However, due to confusion over the status of the Liqoqo, a power struggle ensued between the Prime Minister, who sought to assert the authority of the Cabinet over the Liqoqo, and members of the Liqoqo. The Queen Regent was pressurised by the Liqoqo to dismiss the Prime Minister and replace him with a Liqoqo supporter. Subsequently a power struggle revolved around Queen Dzeliwe until she was placed under house arrest by the Liqoqo in October 1983. The Liqoqo subsequently installed Queen Ntombi Laftwala, mother of the 14 year old heir apparent, Prince Makhosetive, as queen regent in late October, and she accepted the Liqoqo as the supreme body in Swaziland. Prince Makhosetive was subsequently crowned King Mswati III on 25 April 1986.
A new royal standard for King Mswati III replaced that used by King Sobhuza II. The design follows the same basic pattern of the previous royal standard and the national flag. The lion symbol of King Sobhuza has been replaced with another lion, which is now the most prominent feature on the flag. This lion is now orientated to the hoist but faces the observer (statant guardant) on the central maroon stripe. Small Emasotsha Regiment shields, of the same type found on the national flag, are found in the upper hoist and lower fly corners of the flag and traditional Swazi spears are placed in the upper fly and lower hoist corners. The traditional ceremonial head-dress of the monarch (Inyoni) is placed in the centre of the upper blue stripe and the royal cipher (M III R) is found in the centre of the lower blue stripe. The new royal standard thus contains many more symbols relating to the monarchy and is easier to distinguish from the national flag than the previous standard used by King Sobhuza.
[i] Swaziland Dept. of Information, circa 1970.
[ii] Murdoch, G., 1969: The Swazi Royal Standard, Flag Bulletin, Vol. VIII, No. 2, p.173-175.
Bruce Berry, 7 Sep 2001
[Part of a paper presented at the XIX ICV in York. The paper was titled "Royal Standards in Southern Africa".]
The Royal Flag of Swaziland is the same as the national flag with the
addition of a small gold lion centred on the upper blue stripe, facing
away from the hoist. The lion is sideways on with three paws on the ground
and one raised (statant). The supporters of the state arms are a lion and
an elephant. The former represents the king, the latter 'the great she-elephant',
the queen mother. This is considered a very flattering description in Swazi:
maybe it loses something in translation! The lion on the flag seems to
follows European heraldic conventions, so maybe one could say that this
has been influenced by European traditions. But since the lion isn't indigenous
to Europe, I think we should say that Africa has influenced Europe on this
Stuart Notholt, 8 April 1996
As far as I know the only difference between the two flags is the lion.
In 1941 Sobhuza II was recognised as paramout chief of all the Swazi. The
flag (same one as presented to the Emasothsha regiment), had a yellow lion
in the centre of the (chief), blue band across the top of the flag. The
lion has three legs on the ground and one waving and is facing away from
In 1967 when they hoisted the flag (without the lion), it was because they were recognised as a self-governing internal state,
to eventually get their independence about a year later (06-09-1968).
Franc van Diest, 2 March 2001