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Dictionary of Vexillology: R (Royal Arms - RYA Crown)

Last modified: 2022-10-15 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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The personal arms of a country’s monarch, in contemporary usage these are either taken in a lightly amended form for governmental use, or form the greater arms of a nation state - see ‘state arms 1)’ under ‘arms’ (also ‘imperial arms’, ‘pavillion’ and ‘royal standard(s) 1)’).

Royal Arms, Romania   Royal Arms, Spain  Royal Arms, Sweden
Royal Arms, Romania c. 1881 (fotw); Royal Arms, Spain (fotw); Royal/Greater Coat of Arms, Sweden (fotw)

In Swedish usage, a banner of the royal arms (thus differing from the normal Swedish royal standard) and flown in the presence of His Majesty the King when attending military functions, or when acting in his honorary capacity as commander in chief of Sweden’s armed forces (see also ‘banner 1)’ and ‘royal standard(s) 1)’).

Royal Command Flag, Sweden Royal Standard, Sweden
Royal Command Flag, Sweden (fotw): Royal Standard, Sweden (fotw)

1) See ‘royal standard 1)’ and following note.
2) See ‘banner of the realm’.

Royal Banner of the Netherlands Banner of the Realm - Netherlands
Royal Flag/Standard and Banner of the Realm, The Netherlands (fotw)

See ‘broad pennant 4)’.

Royal Cypher
Queen’s Broad Pennant, Thailand (fotw)

See ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2)’.

Royal Colour example Royal Colour example
King’s Colour of the Royal Walloon Guards c.1734-1760, Spain (fotw); Queens Colour of the Regiment of Chasseurs Isabel II 1841-1844, Spain (fotw)

See ‘crown 1)’.

Royal Crown 
Flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia 1951 – 1965 (fotw)

1) The combination of letters (or a single letter) and numerals, usually ensigned with a crown, that is the personal mark of a reigning, previous or former monarch (see also ‘ensigned’ and ‘personal flag 1)’).
2) See ‘monogram’.

Royal Cypher 
Royal Cypher (for use in England) of HM King Charles III, UK (fotw)

In some systems of monarchy, the legal means by which a crowned head of state authorizes display of a flag or the amendment of an established design, and the equivalent of a US Executive Order, a Presidential Decree or a Royal Order in Council - see ‘executive order’, ‘presidential decree’, and ‘royal order in council 2)’ (also ‘flag law’).

Spain  Spain  Spain
State/National Flag and Arms of Spain, plus the Yacht Ensign of Spain 1875 - 1931 as authorized by Royal Decrees (fotw)

See ‘emblem, state, national or royal’ under ‘emblem’.

 Royal standard, Thailand Royal emblem, Thailand Royal standard, Thailand
Royal Standards and Royal/National Emblem, Thailand (fotw)

1) See ‘royal standard(s) 1)’ and ‘royal standard(s) 2)’.
2) In the plural, a general heading under which all the flags, standards and banners relating to the sovereign, or to the royal family, of any particular country or countries are listed (see also ‘imperial flag(s) 2)’).

Royal Flag  Royal Flag  Royal Flag
Royal Command Flag, Sweden (fotw); Standard of HRH Prince Philip 1921-2021, UK (fotw); Standard of the Raja Perempuan (or Wife of the Ruler) of Perlis, Malaysia (fotw)

A pennant of the same dimensions as the standard naval masthead pennant, and flown in place of that pennant when the monarch is aboard ship – but see ‘broad pennant 4)’ (also ‘masthead pennant 1)’).

Royal Flag
Royal Masthead Pennant, Norway (fotw)

Please note that as far as is known only Norway and Sweden currently fly a pennant exactly as described above.

1) In current UK usage, the legal instrument by which HM The Queen (upon the advice of her council and under powers granted by statute law) authorizes a usually (but not invariably) defaced red ensign – an order in council (see also ‘civil ensign’ under ‘ensign’, ‘deface’, ‘flag law’, ‘red ensign 1)’ with its following note ‘royal proclamation’ and ‘warrant’.
2) In some other monarchical usage, the legal means by which a head of state confirms or authorizes display of a flag, such as that which established the Driekler as the national flag of the Netherlands in 1937 (see also ‘executive order’, ‘presidential decree’ and ‘royal decree’).

Civil Ensign of The Falklands Civil Ensign of Gibraltar Civil Ensign of Guernsey
Civil Ensign of The Falklands Islands (fotw); Civil Ensign of Gibraltar (fotw); Civil Ensign of Guernsey (fotw)

In British Royal Naval usage and some others, the royal equivalent of a flag disc and used on boats in place of the appropriate royal standard when full ceremonial is not required (see also ‘flag disc’ and ‘royal standard’ below).

flag disc
Plates of The Late Duke of Edinburgh; The Prince of Wales and of Other Members of the Royal Family, UK (Graham Bartram)

Please note that in British Royal Navy usage a boat with His Majesty The King on board never carries a royal plate, but always flies the royal standard which requires full ceremonial.

In UK and some other monarchical usage, the means by which a royal decision is made public – see ‘royal decree’, ‘royal order in council 1)’ and ‘warrant’.

Union Flag Union Flag
The Union Flag as Proclaimed in 1606, England/UK (fotw); Customs Ensign as Proclaimed 1n 1694, England/UK (fotw)

1) That flag, frequently a banner of arms, which signifies the presence and/or authority of the monarch – but see note below (also ‘banner of arms’, ‘banner of the realm’, ‘distinguishing jack’, ‘imperial arms’, ‘imperial standard(s) 1)’, ‘imperial standard(s) 2)’, ‘personal flag 1)’, ‘presidential standard(s) 1)’, ‘royal command flag’ and ‘royal arms’.
2) In the plural, a term sometimes applied to the flags flown by other members of a royal family – the queen’s, crown prince’s standard etc. (see also ‘label 2)’).
3) In UK military usage, the official name of the state colour of the Grenadier Guards – but see ‘state colour 2)’.

[royal flags]  [royal flags]  [royal flags]  
Royal Standards, UK , Thailand, and Spain 1761 - 1931 (fotw)

Please note that this term has been defined in 1) above according to current UK usage (dating from the early 17th Century), but should, strictly speaking, only be applied to Royal Standards of the heraldic pattern as detailed herein under ‘standard 3)’ and ‘standard 4)’, and the term “Royal Banner” employed where more appropriate (see also ‘banner 1)’).

royal standard Richard III of England
The Heraldic Standard of King Richard III of England 1483 - 1485 (fotw)

See ‘double-tressure fleury counter fleury’.

[Royal Banner of Scotland]
Royal Banner of Scotland (fotw)

See ‘warrant’.

Flag of Jersey Established by Royal Warrant (fotw)

See ‘yachting crown’.

[RYA burgee]
Official Duty Ensign of the Royal Yachting Association, UK (Graham Bartram)

See ‘fin flash’.

[Peruvian fin flash]
Rudder Stripes/Fin Flash of the Peruvian Air Force (fotw)

Most authoritative sources agree that good flag design should obey the heraldic Rule of Tincture, and it is therefore stated in brief here: A colour should never be placed on a colour or a metal (that is silver and gold in heraldry and generally white and yellow in flags) on a metal. Metal may, however, be placed on colour and colour on metal – see ‘tinctures’ (also ‘mixed tinctures’).

[Mississippi] [Dorset, England] [German President 1919-1921]
Flag of Mississippi, U.S. (fotw); Flag of Dorset, England (fotw); President's Flag 1919-1921, Germany (fotw)

Please note, it is suggested that those deeply interested in this subject should consult a glossary or dictionary of heraldry for a more complete description.

The rules governing flag etiquette (or the protocol governing flag usage) vary slightly from country to country, but are stated briefly in Appendix II (see also ‘flag code’, ‘flag etiquette’, ‘flag law’ and ‘precedence’).

The rules that govern respect for the national flag may be summed up in a Golden Rule, which simply stated says that the national flag should be treated with respect at all times. The particulars of what exactly this respect entails vary in detail, legal status and extent, from country to country, however, the general principles remain the same and a full list is given in Appendix II.

A figure (or figures) taken from an ancient form of the written word which is (or has been) largely (but not exclusively) used by various Nazi or neo-Nazi groups on their uniforms and/or flag (see also ‘neo-nazi flags’ and ‘swastika’)

[runes flag] [runes flag] [runes flag]
Flag of the Viking Youth, Germany (fotw); Flag of the National Alliance c1970, USA (fotw); Flag of Afrikaner Student Federation, South Africa (fotw)

Please note that the so called “sig runes” on the SS badge were an invention (by an employee the badge makers) in 1932.

[runes flag]
Car Flag of Waffen-SS Commanders 1942-1945, Germany (fotw)

See ‘becket’.


A traditional method, of hoisting a flag much favoured in European countries, whereby a rope is sewn into the heading fitted with a wooden toggle at the top and a loop, becket or eye splice at the bottom that fastens them to their opposites on the halyard – toggle and becket or roped heading (see also ‘becket’, ‘eyesplice’, ‘hoistline’, ‘clip and grommet’, and ‘toggle’).


The French term for a “trick of war” – see ‘false colours’.

See ‘yachting crown’.

[RYA burgee]
Official Duty Ensign of the Royal Yachting Association, UK (Graham Bartram)

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