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British Royal Standards since 1042

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by rob raeside
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See also:

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:

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):

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)

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

Edward VII (1901-1910)

In 1901 King Edward VII attempted to introduce a personal Royal Standard, misuse of which would have been illegal, under the Trade Mark Act of 1883. However the Board of Trade, who were responsible for trade marks, wrote that changes to the Royal Standard were not within their competence. The Law Officers thought that any alteration to the Royal Standard would probably require an Act of Parliament since the Arms and Standard were created by the Act of Union with Ireland. This seems to have been thought impracticable, and the proposal was abandoned. Instead, the Royal Standard, which until then had been a royal flag in general use, was made the personal flag of the monarch. The Arms and therefore Standards of the Commonwealth Monarchies were created by either Royal Proclamation or, I think, Royal Warrant, and thus a modified version for the Sovereign's personal use could be created without the need for any legislative procedure.

David Prothero, 15 January 2003

The way in which the Royal Standard should be used, as declared in the Royal Proclamation of 1 January 1801, is not explicit. "And our will and pleasure further is, that the stile and titles aforesaid, and also the arms or ensigns armorial aforesaid, shall be used henceforth, as far as conveniently may be, on all occasions wherein our royal stile and titles and arms or ensigns armorial ought to be used."

So, "may be used as it ought to be used" which until c1907 were as follows.

1. In general it was flown by any member of the Royal Family who did not have a personal version of the Royal Standard.

2. At sea, regulations of 1824 were re-established by Order in Council 12 October 1832. "Royal Standard is to be worn on board any of HM Ships and vessels in which His Majesty or any member of the Royal Family shall embark."

3. 1881 Colonial Regulations Relating to the Use of Flags by Governors of Colonies; Chapter 20, section 432:
(i) Royal Standard shall be flown at Government House on Queen's Birthday and on days of Coronation and Accession.
(ii) Union Flag with no badge shall be flown at Government House from sunrise to sunset on other days.

4. There must have been similar regulations relating to the United Kingdom as a War Office Circular of 5 September 1906 directed that, "Royal Standard is not to be displayed on fortresses and official buildings on King's Birthday etc, but only when the sovereign is present, or a member of the Royal Family is representing the sovereign."

5. There seem to have been orders that the Royal Standard was to be flown on government buildings when the sovereign was passing In State. In the course of 1907-08 instructions were issued by various government departments cancelling them, and stating that the Royal Standard was to be flown on government buildings only when HM was inside.

6. There appear to have been some other more general use of the Royal Standard as Home Office Circular 109071/31 of 8 February 1907 stated that, "Royal Standard cannot properly be used without HM permission. Persons should be asked to discontinue use and Secretary of State informed of any refusal." Scottish Office Circular 512 dated 16 March 1907 and sent to Chief Constables, stated that the Royal Standard was not to be flown without permission. A follow-up Circular 520 of 18 June indicated that 512 did not apply to the Scottish Lion.

There may have been other occasions when the Royal Standard was flown, but these are all that I have found.

The Royal Standard did continue to be flown at Sovereign's Birthday Parades, outside London, during that part of the parade when the Sovereign, if attending, would have been present. This was still the practice in the 1950s, but I don't know if it happens now. The Royal Standard was also authorised for Ceremonial Parades in connection with the Coronations in 1937 and 1953.

David Prothero, 17 January 2003

See also:

George V (1910-1936)
Edward VIII (1936)
George VI (1936-1952)

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

The royal standards of all the monachs listed in the section would have been the same (except for artistic differences in the portrayal of the charges) as the royal standard used by Elizabeth II.

Joe McMillan, 10 February 2003

Elizabeth II (1952-)

See this page.

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

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