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Swaziland Royal flags

Last modified: 2002-01-26 by jarig bakker
Keywords: swaziland | lion |
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[New Swaziland Royal standard] by Marcus Schmöger, 7 Sep 2001 See also:

New royal standard

During the recent XIX ICV in York Bruce Berry gave a talk on the "Royal Standards of Southern Africa". One of those he described is the "new" Royal flag of Swaziland (under King Mswati III). We do not yet have a gif on FOTW-ws; as I made a photo of the real flag example Bruce Berry showed us, I made a gif accordingly.
Description of the flag:
The flag (proportions 2:3) consists of five horizontal stripes (3:2:10:2:3) of blue-yellow-red-yellow-blue. This is the pattern of the Swaziland national flag; however, the yellow stripes are somewhat wider than usually depicted (on FOTW-ws, in [smi75g] or [zna99]). The red is not that brownish or purplish as usually shown. In the central red stripe there is a yellow lion guardant (head to the hoist). In the upper blue stripe there are three devices (from hoist to fly): the shield (with spears etc.) as used in the national flag, but black-and-white; a device that looks like a traditional hairdo (it is similar to the crest of the Swaziland CoA, described as royal head decoration in [smi75g]); a black device resembling a simple drawing of an archer (similar to part of the device in the flag of the PUDEMO party.
In the lower blue stripe there are also three devices (from hoist to fly): the "archer"; a kind of a Gothic type of letters, I'm suggesting the reading: M III R (Mswati III Rex); and the shield.
Marcus Schmöger, 7 Sep 2001

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".]

Royal standard

[Royal standard] [Variant] 2:3~
by Franc van Diest, 2 March 2001

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 occasion.
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 the hoist.
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

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