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Dictionary of Vexillology: M (Man o'War - Matricular Flags)

Last modified: 2022-08-27 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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A sailing, later steam-assisted, warship of the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries (see also ‘man-o-war pendant’ and ‘repeating frigates’).

Man o'War
HMS Vanguard of 74 guns 1787, UK (Wikipedia)

In English, then British, usage, now obsolete, an alternative term for the commissioning or masthead pennant – see ‘masthead pennant 1)’ (also ‘common pendant’ and ‘man o' war’).

Red Commissioning Pendant, England then UK c1625 – 1864 (CS)

Please note that in English then British usage only vessels of the Royal Navy are permitted to wear a pennant.

1) A heraldic term for a cloak or robe behind the shield, and which can enclose a full set of armorial bearings – but see the note a) below (also ‘armorial bearings’).
2) See ‘mantling 1)’ and ‘mantling 2)’ (also ‘Appendix IV:’).

a) When used on the arms of a ruling prince or sovereign a mantle becomes a pavilion (see ‘
b) Mantles may still be seen in the parliamentary and state robes worn by British peers (which are graded according to rank).

British Peers in Parliamentary Robes (

A term used in some European heraldic systems in place of per chevron or per pile reversed – see ‘per chevron’ and ‘per pile’ (also ‘chapé’).

Flag of Körchow, Germany (fotw)

1) A heraldic term for the decoration resembling drapery in a coat of arms, and attached to the helmet by a torse – a mantle or cappeline (see also ‘Appendix IV’, ‘armorial bearings’, ‘coat of arms’ and, ‘helm’ – for information on torse see ‘wreath 2)’).
2) A heraldic term which some writers contend should also be used to describe the principal colour and metal of the bearer’s arms.

(International Heraldry))

Please note with regard to 1), that mantling (at least in this context) originated as a protective covering for the helmet.

See ‘wolf-trap’ and its following note.

marching flag
Flag of Kirchhundem, Germany (fotw)

See ‘parade flag 1)’.

marching flag
Girl’s Brigade Company Marching/Parade Flag, UK (Graham Bartram)

In Christian, particularly South European, tradition, a term (often misapplied) for a crown (sometimes blue) bearing a star or stars on top, and said to symbolize the coronation of the Virgin Mary – but see the note below and ‘crown of the holy spirit’ (also ‘marian flag’.

marian crown marian crown marian crown
Flag of Alandroal (Nossa Senhora da Conceiço), Portugal (fotw); Arms of , Portugal (fotw); Flag of Ourentã, Portugal (fotw)

Please note that a Crown of the Holy Spirit (illustrated below) is often (sometimes officially) misidentified as a Marian Crown.

marian crown
Arms of Manigoto, Portugal (fotw)

One of a number of flags – most often a bicolour of blue and white - that symbolizes veneration of the Virgin Mary in the Christian tradition – see ‘marian crown’ (also ‘Christian flag 1)’ and ‘religious flag’).

marian flag marian flag marian flag
Catholic Marion Flag (CS); Flag of the Catholic Church in Poland (fotw); Flag of the Catholic Church in Malta (fotw)

The flags of those organizations dedicated to saving life at sea (see also ‘storm warning flag’).

Lifeboat Society Belgium Lifeboat Institution, Canada Water Rescue Society, Finland
Lifeboat Society, Belgium (Željko Heimer); Lifeboat Institution, Canada (fotw); Water Rescue Society, Finland (fotw)

1. See ‘union mark’, ‘merchant mark’, ‘house mark’ and ‘mon’.
2. A term occasionally used (to describe the figure on a flag) in place of the more precise (and to be preferred) descriptions contained herein – see ‘coat of arms 1)’, ‘emblem 1)’, ‘merchant mark’, ‘seal’, ‘shield’ and ‘symbol 1)’ (also ‘cadency, mark of’).

union mark mark mark
Norway-Sweden Union Mark and Naval Jack 1844 – 1905 (fotw); Arms of Bobenheim am Berg Germany (Wikipedia); Flag Presidential Flag of Bangladesh (fotw)

In US military usage and some others, a pennant used to mark the turning points or limits of a parade ground (see also ‘pennant 2)’).

See ‘cadency, mark of’.

[cadency marks]
The cadency marks of the 1st to the 6th son in English heraldry (Parker)

1) A phrase that may be used to describe those symbols which appear on the command/rank flags of senior naval/military officers, and to distinguish between their various grades - see ‘balls of difference’ (also ‘flag of command’ and ‘rank flag’).
2) See ‘device 2)’.

[marks of difference] [marks of difference] [marks of difference]
Flags of an Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Rear Admiral, Poland (fotw)

The set of signal flags and pennants devised by Captain Frederick Marryat RN for use by the merchant service (see also ‘distinction pennant 1)’, ‘International Code of Signal Flags’, ‘pilot jack’, ‘signal flag’ and ‘telegraph flag 2)’).

[Marryat example] [Marryat example] [Marryat example]
Flags 7, 3 and 5 in Marryat’s Code of Signals for the Merchant Service (fotw)

Please note that this code first was appeared in 1817 and went through several changes before being supplanted by the Commercial Code of Signals (later the International Code of Signals) in 1857.

The heraldic term used to describe the process of arranging two or more different coats of arms on the same shield or banner of arms – see ‘impale 1)’ and ‘quartering 1)’ (also ‘banner of arms’ and ‘dimidiated’).

marshalling example marshalling example marshalling example
Flag and Arms of Kamienna Góra, Poland (fotw); Flag of Vysočina, Czechia (fotw)

The heraldic term for a small bird, always seen standing and usually (although not invariably) shown with thighs but no visible legs – a merlette.

martlet example martlet example martlet example
Flag of Bray, Ireland (fotw); Arms and Flag of Ens, The Netherland (fotw)

The heraldic term for a voided lozenge – see ‘voided lozenge’).

Flag of Landivisiau, France (fotw)

A heraldic term used to describe the lines formed by masonry blocks in a building.

Romont, Switzerland masoned masoned
Flag of Romont, Switzerland (fotw); A Flag of Königswinter, Germany (fotw); Flag of Aristau, Switzerland (fotw)

1) Any vertical projection from a vessel upon which sails and/or flags can be hoisted (see also ‘fore’, ‘mizzen’ and ‘stumpmast’).
2) See ‘flag pole’ (also ‘pole mast’, ‘sailor’s mast’ and ‘stayed mast’).

The highest point below the truck of any mast afloat or ashore (see also ‘mast’ and ‘truck’).

(adv) When a flag is flown at the truck of a mast or at a point below the truck, it is said to fly 'at the masthead'

1) Generically, any flag hoisted at the masthead of a vessel (see also ‘mast’ and ‘masthead’).
2) Specifically, the national flags hoisted at the masthead of all masts when a ship is dressed overall, usually the national flag of the nation being honoured (see also ‘dress ship’).

1) A flag, usually long and narrow and often generally (but by no means exclusively) tapering from hoist to fly, it can be triangular, cut off to a square, swallow-tailed or a variation thereof, and is flown from the main masthead of a naval or other public vessel in commission but which does not carry a flag officer (or officer commanding other vessels) on board – commissioning or commission pennant, narrow pennant, pennant of command, war or warship pennant or of a warship commander and others (see also ‘broad command pennant’, ‘broad pennant’, ‘burgee command pennant’, ‘command pennant’, ‘converging stripes’, ‘flag officer’, ‘flag of command’, ‘flagship’, ‘in commission’, ‘naval ensign’ under ‘ensign’, ‘merchant pendant’, ‘naval jack’ under ‘jack’, ‘pendant’, ‘royal masthead pennant’, ‘private ship’ and ‘suit of flags’).
2) The generic name for any long narrow flag that is flown from the masthead of a vessel – a whip pennant (see also ‘streamer 2)’, ‘homeward bound pennant’ or ‘paying off pennant’).

[Masthead Pennant - Spain]
Masthead Pennant of Spain (fotw)

[Masthead Pennant - Belgium]
Masthead Pennant of Belgium (fotw)

[Masthead Pennant - France]
Masthead Pennant of France (fotw)

a) A distinction has been drawn between the standard masthead pennant flown by commissioned warships as defined in 1) above, and the various command pennants that are flown in addition and subordinate to it (see also ‘
command pennant’).
b) There are three exceptions to this – the broad command pennant,
broad pennant and the burgee command pennant - all of which replace the masthead pennant when flown.

See ‘streamer 2)’.

[Masthead streamer]
The Henri Grace a Dieu, English Royal Navy c1525 (Wiki)

See ‘registration flags’ (also ‘insurance flag’).

[matricular flag - Spain]  [matricular flag - Spain]
Matricular Ensign/Registration Flag of La Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain c1870 (fotw); Matricular Ensign/Registration Flag of San Juan de los Remedios de Cuba, Spain c1850 (fotw)

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