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Dictionary of Vexillology: C (Caravel - Ceremony of Consecration)

Last modified: 2022-10-01 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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The term, often misapplied, for a late 15th or early 16th century sailing vessel which carried lateen (triangular) sails on all masts - but see the notes below and ‘carrack’.

 Caravel example Caravel exampleCaravel example
Flag of Povoação, Portugal (fotw); Portuguese Caravel c1500 (Wikipedia); Flag of Velas, Portugal (fotw)

a) The above term is often misused, and a larger ship of this period equipped with fore and aft castles and square sails to its forward masts was almost certainly a “carrack”.
b) Of the ships which accompanied Christopher Columbus on his voyage of discovery in 1492, the Pinta and the Nina were caravels and the Santa Maria a carrack.

Caravel example
Portuguese Carrack c1490 (Wikipedia)

An alternative heraldic term to escarbuncle - see ‘escarbuncle’.

Carbuncle example Carbuncle example
Arms and Proposed Flag of Kleve County, Germany (fotw)

A heraldic term for the colour of flesh - see ‘proper’.


1) Specifically a flag or pennant, sometimes in metal or other non-flexible material, designed specifically to be flown from a car – an automobile or vehicular flag.
2) Generically the term may include any flag that is flown from a motor vehicle (see also ‘fanion 2)’).

car flag car flag car flag
Car Flags: State Secretaries Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and Prime Minister Hesse, Germany (fotw); Car Pennant for Police Presidents Lower Saxony, Germany (fotw)

With regard to 1), the practice of flying a car flag or pennant was previously (usually but not exclusively) limited to that carrying a head of state, government official or military officer. Whilst these were formerly sometimes flown from the radiator cap, a car flag is now more usually seen on the right front fender, wing/mudguard (or often on both front fenders) but there is a suggestion that the two positions might also previously have indicated differences in the rank of the occupant.
b) With regard to 2), the practice has arisen whereby such flags are available as sports flags or may also be displayed by a funeral cortege, and that the former are usually flown from a clip-on, window mounted staff, or from the radio antenna (see also ‘funeral flags’, ‘sports flag 1)’ and ‘sports flag 2)’ ).

A late 15th, late 16th Century sailing vessel from which the galleon was developed - but see ‘caravel’ and its following note (also ‘galleon’).

Carrack example Carrack example Carrack example
Flag of Aldeburgh, UK (fotw); Flag of Atalaia, Portugal (fotw); Flag of Beidenfleth, Germany (fotw)

Alternative medieval terms, now obsolete, for the cart upon which the standard was placed – a carrocium, carrocius or war wagon (see also ‘altema’, ‘gajardus’ and ‘standard 6)’).

In obsolete UK, US and some other usage, a flag or one of a pair of flags, that mark a vessel involved in the exchange of prisoners (see also ‘flag of truce’).

Please note, an agreement between the United States and Great Britain in 1813 laid down that the cartel vessels of each country should wear their respective national ensigns at the stern, that both should wear a plain white flag at the fore whilst each should carry their opponent’s ensign at the main, and evidence suggests that this was a confirmation of contemporary (that is early-19th Century) practice (see also ‘fore’ and ‘main’).

[cartel flags] [cartel flags] [cartel flags]
Typical Flags flown by a British cartel vessel during the War of 1812 (fotw & CS)

1) In heraldry, an oval escutcheon often used (but not exclusively so) by Italian clergymen (see also ‘escutcheon’).
2) On flags as above, and a term that now covers an often (but by no means invariably) oval plaque or frame, generally containing heraldic insignia, and occasionally a date or motto (see also ‘motto’ and ‘ring’).

[cartouche] [cartouche] [cartouche]
National Flag of Andorra (fotw); Detail, Spain (CS); A Flag for Generals at Sea 1649 - 1653, England (CS)

1) A narrow sleeve-like sack, usually of some decorative, waterproof, material used in order to protect a regimental, unit, service or national colour (or occasionally a parade flag) when outdoors and furled (see also ‘colour 2)’ ‘flag case 2)’, and ‘furl(ed) and ‘parade flag 2)’).
2) (v) The act of placing the furled colour or parade flag into its case (see also ‘lodging’ and ‘uncase(d)’).
(3) (adj) The term used when that colour or parade flag has been placed into its case, and/or when it is so carried.

See ‘pall flag’.

casket flag

An alternative heraldic term for helm - see ‘helm’.

casque casque
Arms and Flag of Rataje, Czechia (fotw)

See flag tossing’.

An alternative heraldic term for quatrefoil - see ‘quatrefoil 2)’.

quatrefoil quatrefoil
Arms and Flag of Skjåk, Norway (fotw)

In heraldry see ‘cross pattée’.

Cavalier cross Cavalier cross
Arms and Flag of Hyżne, Poland (fotw)

In largely US usage that flag which is displayed to mark a historical or other occasion – a celebration flag or flag of celebration – but see ‘commemorative flag’ (also ‘memorial flag’).

celebratory flag celebratory flag celebratory flag
Juneteenth flag, US (fotw); Centennial Flag of 1918, Illinois, US (fotw); 40th Anniversary Flag, Kings Dominion Amusement Park, Virginia, US (fotw)

The term for a cross used by the ancient Celtic church (and now by a number of neo-nazi movements) that does not usually reach the edges of a shield, canton, panel or flag, but which is displayed with a ring or annulet crossing all four arms - a cross-Celtic - but see ‘sun cross’ (also ‘annulet’ ‘cross 2)’ and ‘ring 1)’).

Pan-Celtic flag Welch church Flag of the Golden Dawn Movement, Greece
Stiùbhart's Pan-Celtic flag, UK (fotw); Flag of the Church in Wales (fotw); Flag of the Golden Dawn Movement, Greece (fotw)

See ‘sendal’.

A heraldic term for the colour ashen grey - see ‘proper’.


The central line upon which signal flags are displayed when a vessel is dressed overall - see ‘dressing lines’, ‘dress ship, to 1)’ and ‘dress ship, to 4)’.

The term used when a charge (or charges) is (or are) set in the geometric or visual centre of a flag or the panel it (or they) occupies – see ‘visual centre’ (also ‘inset’, ‘off-set towards’ and ‘off-centred’).

Indiana  Baška, Croatia  Barbados 1870
Flag of Indiana, US (fotw); Flag of Baška, Croatia (fotw); Flag of Barbados 1870 – 1966 (fotw)

See ‘cross 1)’ (also ‘centred’ above).

Zwolle, NL  Quebec, CA  Indianapolis, US
Flag of Zwolle, The Netherlands (fotw); Flag of Quebec, Canada (fotw); Flag of Indianapolis, US (fotw)

An ensign flown by naval ships and over naval or military establishments on Sundays or days of national or service celebration (see also ‘Sunday ensign’ and ‘garrison flag’).

Please note that this term does not refer to flags used on parade or those made for indoor display, but to flags and ensigns that are identical with their everyday equivalents except for size and/or care of manufacture (see also ‘parade flag’ and ‘indoor flag’).

1) In largely (but not exclusively) East, Central and South European usage, a term employed to describe those national or sub-national flags that are for parade use or display on occasions of local or military significance, and which are often a gonfalon or a more elaborate form of the normal flag – a festive banner or flag (see also ‘banner 4)’, ‘gonfalon’, ‘official flag 2)’, ‘state service flag’, ‘paradeflag 1)’ and ‘sub-national flag’).
2) See ‘ceremonial standard’ below.

ceremonial flag ceremonial flag ceremonial flag
Ceremonial Flag of Malopolska, Poland (fotw); Ceremonial flag of the Naval Force, Albania (fotw); Ceremonial Flag of Rydzyna, Poland (fotw)

a) With regard to 1), not to be confused with a “flag of ceremony” (the Spanish bandera de ceremonia) which is designed for exclusively indoor use – see ‘
indoor flag’.
b) Also with regard to 1), in East and Central European usage the ceremonial flag of a community is often created as a unique flag – see ‘
unique flag’.

A term for the standard, or flag, flown on royal ceremonial occasions in (as far as can be discovered) Kelantan, Malaysia in place of the individual standards of any royal family member present (see also ‘royal standard 1)’, ‘royal standard 2)’ and ‘standard 1)’).

[ceremonial standard]
Ceremonial Standard of Kelantan, Malaysia (fotw)

A term for the ensign, possibly obsolete, flown (in place of a standard state ensign) on ceremonial state occasions by government entities at sea (see also ‘government ensign’ under ‘ensign’).

Please note that, as far as can be discovered, Johore, Malaysia is the only country which may currently still use such a flag.

[ceremonial ensign]
Ceremonial State Ensign, Johore, Malaysia (fotw)

See ‘colours 5)

[ceremony of colours] [ceremony of colours]
Naval Ensign, UK (fotw); Naval Ensign South Africa 1952 – 1981 (fotw)

See ‘consecration’.

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