The Flags of the World/Chapter 1

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The Flags of the World
Chapter 1

[ 1 ]

THE FLAGS OF THE WORLD.

CHAPTER I.

The necessity of some special Sign to distinguish Individuals, Tribes, and Nations—the Standards of Antiquity—Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman—the Vexillum—The Labarum of Constantine—Invocation of Religion—the Flags of the Enemy—Early Flags of Religious Character—Flags of Saints at Funeral Obsequies—Company and Guild Flags of the Mediæval Period—Political Colours—Various kinds of Flags—the Banner—Rolls of Arms—Roll of Karlaverok—The Flag called the Royal Standard is really the Royal Banner—Mainsail Banners—Trumpet Banners—Ladies embroidering Banners for the Cause—Knights' Banneret—Form of Investiture—the Standard—the Percy Badges and Motto—Arctic Sledge-flags—the Rank governing the size of the Standard—Standards at State Funerals—the Pennon—Knights-Pennonciers—the Pennoncelle—Mr. Rolt as Chief Mourner—Lord Mayor's Show—the Pennant—the Streamer—Tudor Badges—Livery Colours—the Guidon—Bunting—Flag Devising a Branch of Heraldry—Colours chiefly used in Flags—Flags bearing Inscriptions—Significance of the Red Flag—of the Yellow—of the White—of the Black—Dipping the Flag—the Sovereignty of the Sea—Right of Salute insisted on—Political Changes rendering Flags obsolete.

So soon as man passes from the lowest stage of barbarism the necessity for some special sign, distinguishing man from man, tribe from tribe, nation from nation, makes itself felt; and this prime necessity once met, around the symbol chosen spirit-stirring memories quickly gather that endear it, and make it the emblem of the power and dignity of those by whom it is borne. The painted semblance of grizzly bear, or beaver, or rattlesnake on the canvas walls of the tepi of the prairie Brave, the special chequering of colours that compose the tartan[1] of the Highland clansman, are examples of this; and as we pass from individual or local tribe to mighty nations, the same influence is still at work, and the distinctive Union Flag of Britain, the tricolor of France, the gold and scarlet bars of the flag of Spain, all alike appeal with irresistible force to the patriotism of those born beneath their folds, and speak to them of the glories and greatness of the historic past, the duties of the present, and the hopes of the future—inspiring those who gaze upon their proud blazonry with the determination to be no unworthy sons of their fathers, but to live, and if need be to die, for the dear home-land of which these are the symbol. [ 2 ]

The standards used by the nations of antiquity differed in nature from the flags that in mediæval and modern days have taken their place. These earlier symbols were ordinary devices wrought in metal, and carried at the head of poles or spears. Thus the hosts of Egypt marched to war beneath the shadow of the various sacred animals that typified their deities, or the fan-like arrangement of feathers that symbolised the majesty of Pharoah, while the Assyrian standards, to be readily seen represented on the slabs from the palaces of Khorsabad and Kyonjik, in the British Museum and elsewhere, were circular disks of metal containing various distinctive devices. Both these and the Egyptian standards often have in addition a small flag-like streamer attached to the staff immediately below the device. The Greeks in like manner employed the Owl of Athene, and such-like religious and patriotic symbols of the protection of the deities, though Homer, it will be remembered, makes Agamemnon use a piece of purple cloth as a rallying point for his followers. The sculptures of Persepolis show us that the Persians adopted the figure of the Sun, the eagle, and the like. In Rome a hand erect, or the figures of the horse, wolf, and other animals were used, but at a later period the eagle alone was employed. Pliny tells us that "Caius Marius in his second consulship ordained that the Roman legions should only have the Eagle for their standard. For before that time the Eagle marched foremost with four others, wolves, minatours, horses, and bears—each one in its proper order. Not many years past the Eagle alone began to be advanced in battle, and the rest were left behind in the camp. But Marius rejected them altogether, and since this it is observed that scarcely is there a camp of a Legion wintered at any time without having a pair of Eagles." The eagle, we need scarcely stay to point out, obtained this pre-eminence as being the bird of Jove. The Vexillum, or cavalry flag, was, according to Livy, a square piece of cloth fixed to a cross bar at the end of a spear; this was often richly fringed, and was either plain or bore certain devices upon it, and was strictly and properly a flag. The ensigns which distinguished the allied forces from the legions of the Romans were also of this character. Examples of these vexilla may be seen on the sculptured columns of Trajan and Antoninus, the arch of Titus, and upon various coins and medals of ancient Rome.

The Imperial Standard or Labarum carried before Constantine and his successors resembled the cavalry Vexillum.[2] It was of purple silk, richly embroidered with gold, and though ordinarily [ 3 ] suspended from a horizontal cross-bar, was occasionally displayed in accordance with our modern usage by attachment by one of its sides to the staff.

The Roman standards were guarded with religious veneration in the temples of the metropolis and of the chief cities of the Empire, and modern practice has followed herein the ancient precedent. As in classic days the protection of Jove was invoked, so in later days the blessing of Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts, has been sought. At the presentation of colours to a regiment a solemn service of prayer and praise is held, and when these colours return in honour, shot-rent from victorious conflict, they are reverently placed in stately abbey, venerable cathedral, or parish church, never more to issue from the peace and rest of the home of God until by lapse of years they crumble into indistinguishable dust.

The Israelites carried the sacred standard of the Maccabees, with the initial letters of the Hebrew text, "Who is like unto Thee, O God, amongst the gods?" The Emperor Constantine caused the sacred monogram of Christ to be placed on the Labarum, and when the armies of Christendom went forth to rescue the Holy Land from the infidel they received their cross-embroidered standards from the foot of the altar. Pope Alexander II. sent a consecrated white banner to Duke William previous to his expedition against Harold, and we read in the "Beehive of the Romish Church," published in 1580, how "the Spaniardes christen, conjure, and hallow their Ensignes, naming one Barbara, another Katherine," after the names of saints whose aid they invoked in the stress of battle. We may see this invocation again very well in Figs. 147, 148: flags borne by the colonists of Massachusetts when they arrayed themselves against the mercenaries of King George, and appealed to the God of Battles in behalf of the freedom and justice denied by those who bore rule over them.

This recognition of the King of kings has led also to the captured banners of the enemy being solemnly suspended in gratitude and thanksgiving in the house of God. Thus Speed tells us that on the dispersal and defeat of the Armada, Queen Elizabeth commanded solemn thanksgiving to be celebrated at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul's, in her chief city of London, which accordingly was done upon Sunday, the 8th of September, when eleven of the Spanish ensigns were hung, to the great joy of the beholders, as "psalmes of praise" for England's deliverance from sore peril. Very appropriately, too, in the Chapel of the Royal College at Chelsea, the home of the old soldiers who helped to win them, hang the flags taken at Barrosa, Martinique, Bhurtpore, Seringapatam, Salamanca, Waterloo, and many another hard-fought struggle; [ 4 ] and thus, in like manner, is the tomb of Napoleon I., in Paris, surrounded by trophies of captured flags. On March 30th, 1814, the evening before the entry of the Allies into Paris, about 1,500 flags—the victorious trophies of Napoleon—were burnt in the Court of the Eglise des Invalides, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.

Early flags were almost purely of a religious character.[3] The first notice of banners in England is in Bede's description of the interview between the heathen King Ethelbert and Augustine, the missionary from Rome, where the followers of the latter are described as bearing banners on which were displayed silver crosses; and we need scarcely pause to point out that in Roman Catholic countries, where the ritual is emotional and sensuous, banners of this type are still largely employed to add to the pomp of religious processions. Heraldic and political devices upon flags are of later date, and even when these came freely into use their presence did not supplant the ecclesiastical symbols. The national banner of England for centuries—the ruddy cross of her patron Saint George (Fig. 91)—was a religious one, and, whatever other banners were carried, this was ever foremost in the field. The Royal banner of Great Britain and Ireland that we see in Fig. 44, in its rich blazonry of the lions of England and Scotland and the Irish harp, is a good example of the heraldic flag, while our Union flag (Fig. 90), equally symbolizes the three nations of the United Kingdom, but this time by the allied crosses of the three patron saints, St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick, and it is therefore a lineal descendant and exemplar of the religious influence that was once all-powerful.

The ecclesiastical flags were often purely pictorial in character, being actual representations of the Persons of the Trinity, of the Virgin Mother, or of divers saints. At other times the monasteries and other religious houses bore banners of heraldic character; as the leading ecclesiastics were both lords temporal and lords spiritual, taking their places in the ranks of fighting men and leading on the field the body of dependants and retainers that they were required to maintain in aid of the national defence. In such case [ 5 ] the distinguishing banner of the contingent conformed in character to the heraldic cognisances of the other nobles in the host. Fig. 77, for instance, was the banner of St. Alban's Abbey. In a poem on the capture of Rouen by the English, in the year 1418, written by an eye-witness of the scenes described, we read how the English commander—

"To the Castelle firste he rode
And sythen the citie all abrode,
Lengthe and brede he it mette
And riche baneres up he sette
Upon the Porte Seint Hillare
A Baner of the Trynyte;
And at Porte Kaux he sette evene
A Baner of the Quene of Heven;
And at Porte Martvile he upplyt
Of Seint George a Baner breight."

and not until this recognition of Divine and saintly aid was made did

"He sette upon the Castelle to stonde
The armys of Fraunce and Englond."

Henry V., at Agincourt, in like manner displayed at his headquarters on the field not only his own arms, but, in place of special honour and prominence, the banners of the Trinity, of St. George, and of St. Edward. These banners of religious significance were often borne from the monasteries to the field of battle, while monks and priests in attendance on them invoked the aid of Heaven during the strife. In an old statement of accounts, still existing, we read that Edward I. made a payment of 8½d. a day to a priest of Beverley for carrying throughout one of his campaigns a banner bearing the figure of St. John. St. Wilfred's banner from Ripon, together with this banner of St. John from Beverley, were brought on to the field at Northallerton; the flag of St. Denis was carried in the armies of St. Louis and of Philip le Bel, and the banner of St. Cuthbert of Durham was borrowed by the Earl of Surrey in his expedition against Scotland in the reign of Henry VIII. This banner had the valuable reputation of securing victory to those who fought under it. It was suspended from a horizontal bar below a spear head, and was a yard or so in breadth and a little more than this in depth; the bottom edge had five deep indentations. The banner was of red velvet sumptuously enriched with gold embroidery, and in the centre was a piece of white velvet, half a yard square, having a cross of red velvet upon it. This central portion covered and protected a relic of the saint. The victory of Neville's Cross, October 17th, 1346, was held to be largely [ 6 ] due to the presence of this sacred banner, and the triumph at Flodden was also ascribed to it.

During the prevalence of Roman Catholicism in England, we find that banners of religious type entered largely into the funeral obsequies of persons of distinction: thus at the burial of Arthur, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Henry VII., we find a banner of the Trinity, another with the cross and instruments of the Passion depicted upon it; another of the Virgin Mary, and yet another with a representation of St. George. Such banners, as in the present instance, were ordinarily four in number, and carried immediately round the body at the four corners of the bier. Thus we read in the diary of an old chronicler, Machyn, who lived in the reigns of Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, that at the burial of the Countess of Arundel, October 27th, 1557, "cam iiij herroldes in ther cotes of armes, and bare iiij baners of emages at the iiij corners." Again, on "Aprell xxix, 1554, was bered my Lady Dudley in Saint Margarett in Westminster, with iiij baners of emages." Another item deals with the funeral of the Duchess of Northumberland, and here again "the iiij baners of ymages" again recur. Anyone having the old records, church inventories, and the like before them, would find it easy enough, as easy as needless, to multiply illustrations of this funeral use of pictured banners. These "emages" or "ymages" of old Machyn are of course not images in the sense of sculptured or carved things, but are painted and embroidered representations of various saints. Machyn, as a greatly interested looker-on at all the spectacles of his day, is most entertaining, but his spelling, according to the severer notions of the present day, is a little weak, as, for instance, in the following words that we have culled at random from his pages:—prossessyon, gaffelyns, fezyssyoun, dysquyet, neckclygens, gorgyusle, berehyng, wypyd, pelere, artelere, and dyssys of spyssys. The context ordinarily makes the meaning clear, but as our readers have not that advantage, we give the same words according to modern orthography—procession, javelins, physician, disquiet, negligence, gorgeously, burying, whipped, pillory, artillery, dishes of spices.

The various companies and guilds of the mediæval period had their special flags that came out, as do those of their successors of the present day, on the various occasions of civic pageantry; and in many cases, as may be seen in the illuminated MSS. in the British Museum and elsewhere, they were carried to battle as the insignia of the companies of men provided at the expense of those corporations. Thus in one example that has come under our notice we see a banner bearing a chevron between hammer, trowels, and builder's square; in another between an axe and two pairs of compasses, while a third on its azure field bears a pair of golden [ 7 ] shears. In the representation of a battle between Philip d'Artevelde and the Flemings against the French, many of the flags therein introduced bear the most extraordinary devices, boots and shoes, drinking-vessels, anvils, and the like, that owe their presence there to the fact that various trade guilds sent their contingents of men to the fight. In a French work on mediæval guilds we find the candle-makers of Bayeux marching beneath a black banner with three white candles on it, the locksmiths of La Rochelle having a scarlet flag with four golden keys on it. The lawyers of Loudoun had a flag with a large eye on it (a single eye to business being, we presume, understood), while those of Laval had a blue banner with three golden mouths thereon. In like manner the metal-workers of Laval carried a black flag with a silver hammer and files depicted on it, those of Niort had a red flag with a silver cup and a fork and spoon in gold on either side. The metal-workers of Ypres also carried a red flag, and on this was represented a golden flagon and two buckles of gold. Should some national stress this year or next lead our City Companies, the Fishmongers, the Carpenters, the Vintners, and others to contribute contingents to the defence of the country, and to send them forth beneath the banners of the guilds, history would but repeat itself.

In matters political the two great opposing parties have their distinctive colours, and these have ordinarily been buff and blue, though the association of buff with the Liberal party and "true blue" with the Conservatives has been by no means so entirely a matter of course as persons who have not looked into the matter might be disposed to imagine. The local colours are often those that were once the livery colours of the principal family in the district, and were assumed by its adherents for the family's sake quite independently of its political creed. The notion of livery is now an unpleasant one, but in mediæval days the colours of the great houses were worn by the whole country-side, and the wearing carried with it no suggestion either of toadyism or servitude. As this influence was hereditary and at one time all-powerful, the colour of the Castle, or Abbey, or Great House, became stereotyped in that district as the symbol of the party of which these princely establishments were the local centre and visible evidence, and the colour still often survives locally, though the political and social system that originated it has passed away in these days of democratic independence.

It would clearly be a great political gain if one colour were all over Great Britain the definite emblem of one side, as many illiterate voters are greatly influenced by the colours worn by the candidates for their suffrages, and have sufficient sense of consistency of principle to vote always for the flag that first claimed [ 8 ] their allegiance, though it may very possibly be that if they move to another county it is the emblem of a totally distinct party, and typifies opinions to which the voter has always been opposed. At a late election a Yorkshire Conservative, who had acquired a vote for Bournemouth, was told that he must "vote pink," but this he very steadily refused to do. He declared that he would "never vote owt else but th' old true blue," so the Liberal party secured his vote; and this sort of thing at a General Election is going on all over the country. The town of Royston, for instance, stands partly in Hertfordshire and partly in Cambridgeshire, and in the former county the Conservatives and in the latter the Liberals are the blue party; hence the significance of the colour in one street of the little town is entirely different to that it bears in another. At Horsham in Sussex we have observed that the Conservative colour is pale pink, while in Richmond in Surrey it is a deep orange. The orange was adopted by the Whigs out of compliment to William III., who was Prince of Orange.

In the old chronicles and ballads reference is made to many forms of flags now obsolete. The term flag is a generic one, and covers all the specific kinds. It is suggested that the word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb fleogan, to fly or float in the wind, or from the old German flackern, to flutter. Ensign is an alternative word formed on the idea of the display of insignia, badges, or devices, and was formerly much used where we should now employ the word colours. The company officers in a regiment who were until late years termed ensigns were at a still earlier period more correctly termed ensign-bearers. Milton, it will be recalled, describes a "Bannered host under spread ensigns marching." Sir Walter Scott greatly enlarges our vocabulary when he writes in "Marmion" of where

"A thousand streamers flaunted fair,
Various in shape, device, and hue,
Green, sanguine, purple, red, and blue,
Broad, narrow, swallow-tailed, and square,
Scroll, pennon, pensil, bandrol, there
O'er the pavilions flew,"

while Milton again writes of

"Ten thousand thousand ensigns high advanced
Standards and gonfalons 'twixt van and rear
Stream in the air, and for distinction serve
Of hierarchies, orders, and degrees."

We have seen that the pomp of funeral display led to the use of pictorial flags of religious type, and with these were associated others that dealt with the mundane rank and position of the [ 9 ] deceased. Thus we find Edmonson, in his book on Heraldry, writing as follows:—"The armorial ensigns, as fixed by the officers of arms, and through long and continued usage established as proper to be carried in funeral processions, are pennons, guidons, cornets, standards, banners, and banner-rolls, having thereon depicted the arms, quarterings, badges, crests, supporters, and devices of the defunct: together with all such other trophies of honour as in his lifetime he was entitled to display, carry, or wear in the field; banners charged with the armorial ensigns of such dignities, titles, offices, civil and military, as were possessed or enjoyed by the defunct at the time of his decease, and banner-rolls of his own matches and lineal descent both on the paternal and maternal side. In case the defunct was an Archbishop, banner-rolls of the arms and insignia of the sees to which he had been elected and translated, and if he was a merchant or eminent trader pennons of the particular city, corporation, guild, fraternity, craft, or company whereof he had been a member." However true the beautiful stanza of Gray—

"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
 And all that beauty, all that wealth ere gave,
Await at last the inevitable hour,
 The paths of glory lead but to the grave"—

the survivors of the deceased most naturally and most justly bore to their rest those to whom honour was due with the full respect to which their career on earth entitled them.

The names bestowed upon the different kinds of flags have varied from time to time, the various authorities of mediæval and modern days not being quite of one mind sometimes, so that while the more salient forms are easily identifiable, some little element of doubt creeps in when we would endeavour to bestow with absolute precision a name to a certain less common form before us, or a definite form to a name that we encounter in some old writer. Whatever looseness of nomenclature, however, may be encountered on the fringe of our subject, the bestowal of the leading terms is sufficiently definite, and it is to these we now turn our attention, reflecting for our comfort that it is of far greater value to us to know all about a form that is of frequent recurrence, and to which abundant reference is made, than to be able to quite satisfactorily decide what special name some abnormal form should carry, or what special form is meant by a name that perhaps only occurs once or twice in the whole range of literature, and even that perhaps by some poet or romance writer who has thought more of the general effect of his description than of the technical accuracy of the terms in which he has clothed it. [ 10 ]

The Banner first engages our attention. This was ordinarily, in the earlier days of chivalry, a square flag, though in later examples it may be found somewhat greater in length than in depth, and in some early examples it is considerably greater in depth than in its degree of projection outwards from the lance. In the technical language of the subject, the part of a flag nearest the pole is called the hoist, and the outer part the fly. Fig. 37 is a good illustration of this elongated form. It has been suggested that the shortness of the fly in such cases was in order that the greater fluttering in the wind that such a form as Fig. 30 would produce might be prevented, as this constant tugging at the lance-head would be disagreeable to the holder, while it might, in the rush of the charge, prevent that accuracy of aim that one would desire to give one's adversary the full benefit of at such a crisis in his career. Pretty as this may be as a theory, there is probably not much in it, or the form in those warlike days of chivalry would have been more generally adopted. According to an ancient authority the banner of an emperor should be six feet square; of a king, five; of a prince or duke, four; and of an earl, marquis, viscount, or baron three feet square. When we consider that the great function of the banner was to bear upon its surface the coat-of-arms of its owner, and that this coat was emblazoned upon it and filled up its entire surface in just the same way that we find these charges represented upon his shield, it is evident that no form that departed far either in length or breadth from the square would be suitable for their display. Though heraldically it is allowable to compress or extend any form from its normal proportions when the exigencies of space demand it,[4] it is clearly better to escape this when possible.[5] The arms depicted in Fig. 37 are certainly not the better for the elongation to which they have been subjected, while per contra the bearings on any of the banners in Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11, have had no despite done them, the square form being clearly well-adapted for their due display.

The Rolls of Arms prepared on various occasions by the mediæval and later heralds form an admirable storehouse of examples. Some of these have been reproduced in facsimile, and are, therefore, more or less readily accessible. We have before us as we write the roll of the arms of the Sovereign and of the [ 11 ] spiritual and temporal peers who sat in Parliament in the year 1515, and another excellent example that has been reproduced is the roll of Karlaverok. This Karlaverok was a fortress on the north side of Solway Frith, which it was necessary for Edward I. to reduce on his invasion of Scotland in the year 1300, and this investiture and all the details of the siege are minutely described by a contemporary writer, who gives the arms and names of all the nobles there engaged. As soon as the castle fell into Edward's hands he caused his banner and that of St. Edmund (Fig. 17), and St. Edward (Fig. 19), to be displayed upon its battlements. The roll is written in Norman French, of which the following passage may be given as an example:—

"La ont meinte riche garnement
Brode sur cendeaus et samis
Meint beau penon en lance mis
Meint baniere desploie."

That is to say, there were—in modern English wording—many rich devices embroidered on silk and satin, many a beautiful pennon fixed on lance, many a banner displayed. The writer says:—"First, I will tell you of the names and arms, especially of the banners, if you will listen how." Of these numerous banners we give some few examples: Fig. 1 belongs to him "who with a light heart, doing good to all, bore a yellow banner and pennon with a black saltire engrailed, and is called John Botetourte." Fig. 2 is the banner of Sire Ralph de Monthermer; Fig. 3 the devices of Touches, "a knight of good-fame"; while Fig. 4, "the blue with crescents of brilliant gold," was the flag of William de Ridre. "Sire John de Holderton, who at all times appears well and promptly in arms," bore No. 6, the fretted silver on the scarlet field; while Fig. 5 is the cognisance of "Hugh Bardolph, a man of good appearance, rich, valiant, and courteous." Fig. 7 is the well-known lion of the Percys, and is here the banner of Henri de Percy; we meet with it again in Fig. 14. Fig. 8 is "the banner of good Hugh de Courtenay," while Fig. 9 is that of the valiant Aymer de Valence. Fig. 10 bears the barbels of John de Bar, while the last example we need give (Fig. 11) is the banner of Sire William de Grandison. Of whom gallant, courteous Englishmen as they were, we can now but say that "they are dust, their swords are rust," and deny them not the pious hope "their souls are with the saints, we trust."

The well-known flag (Fig. 44), that everyone recognises as the Royal Standard, is nevertheless misnamed, as it should undoubtedly be called the Royal Banner, since it bears the arms of the Sovereign in precisely the same way that any of our preceding [ 12 ] examples bear the arms of the knights with whom they were associated. A standard, as we shall see presently, is an entirely different kind of flag; nevertheless, the term Royal Standard is so firmly established that it is hopeless now to think of altering it, and as it would be but pedantry to ignore it, and substitute in its place, whenever we have occasion to refer to it, its proper title—the Royal Banner—we must, having once made our protest, be content to let the matter stand. Figs. 22, 43, 44, 194, 226, and 245 are all royal or imperial banners, but popular usage insists that we shall call them royal or imperial "standards," so, henceforth, rightly or wrongly, through our pages standards they must be.

The banners of the Knights of the Garter, richly emblazoned with their armorial bearings, are suspended over their stalls in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, while those of the Knights of the Bath are similarly displayed in the Chapel of Henry VII. in Westminster Abbey.

The whole of the great mainsail of a mediæval ship was often emblazoned with arms, and formed one large banner. This usage may be very well seen in the illuminations, seals, etc., of that period. As early as the year 1247 we find Otho, Count of Gueldres, represented as bearing on his seal a square banner charged with his arms, a lion rampant; and in a window in the Cathedral of Our Lady, at Chartres, is a figure of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester from 1236 to 1265. He is depicted as bearing in his right hand a banner of red and white, as shown in Fig. 18.

References in the old writers to the banner are very numerous. Thus in the "Story of Thebes" we read of "the fell beastes," that were "wrought and bete upon their bannres displaied brode" when men went forth to war. Lydgate, in the "Battle of Agincourt," writes:—

"By myn baner sleyn will y be
Or y will turne my backe or me yelde."

The same writer declares that at the siege of Harfleur by Henry V., in September, 1415, the king—

"Mustred his meyne faire before the town,
And many other lordes, I dar will say,
With baners bryghte and many penoun."

The trumpeters of the Life Guards and Horse Guards have the Royal Banner attached to their instruments, a survival that recalls the lines of Chaucer:—

"On every trump hanging a brode bannere
Of fine tartarium, full richly bete."

[ 13 ]

An interesting reference is found in a letter of Queen Katharine of Arragon to Thomas Wolsey, dated Richmond, August 13th, 1513, while King Henry VIII. was in France. Speaking of war with the Scots, her Majesty says: "My hert is veray good to it, and I am horrible besy with making standards, banners, and bagies."[6]

While the men are buckling on their armour for the coming strife, wives, sisters, sweethearts, daughters, with proud hearts, give their aid, and with busy fingers—despite the tear that will sometimes blur the vision of the gay embroidery—swiftly and deftly labour with loving care on the devices that will nerve the warriors to living steel in the shock of battle. The Queen of England, so zealously busy in her task of love, is but a type and exemplar of thousands of her sex before and since. The raven standard of the Danish invaders of Northumbria was worked by the daughters of Regnar Lodbrok, and in the great rebellion in the West of England many a gentlewoman suffered sorely in the foul and Bloody Assize for her zealous share in providing the insurgents with the standards around which they rallied. The Covenanters of Scotland, the soldiers of Garibaldi freeing Italy from the Bourbons, the levies of Kossuth in Hungary, the Poles in the deadly grip of Russia, the armies of the Confederate States in America, the Volunteers who would fain free Greece from the yoke of the Turk,[7] all fought to the death beneath the banners that fair sympathisers with them, and with their cause, placed in their hands. When two great nations, such as France and Germany, fall to blows, the whole armament, weapons, flags, and whatever else may be necessary, is supplied from the government stores according to regulation pattern, but in the case of insurgents against authority struggling—rightly or wrongly—to be free, the weapons may be scythe blades or whatever else comes first to hand, while the standards borne to the field will bear the most extraordinary devices upon them, devices that appeal powerfully at the time to those fighting beneath their folds, but which give a shudder to the purist in heraldic blazonry, as for instance, to quote but one example, the rattle-snake flag with its motto "Beware how you tread on me," adopted by the North American colonists in their struggle against the troops of George III.

When a knight had performed on the field of battle some especially valiant or meritorious act, it was open to the Sovereign to [ 14 ] mark his sense of it by making him a knight-banneret. Thus, in the reign of Edward III., John de Copeland was made a banneret for his service in taking prisoner David Bruce, the King of Scotland, at the battle of Durham; Colonel John Smith, having rescued the royal banner from the Parliamentarians at Edgehill, was in like manner made a knight-banneret by Charles I. The title does not seem to have been in existence before the reign of Edward I., and after this bestowal by Charles I. we hear no more of it till 1743, when the title was conferred upon several English officers by the king, George II., upon the field of Dettingen. It was an essential condition that the rank should be bestowed by the Sovereign on the actual field of battle and beneath the royal banner. General Sir William Erskine was given this rank by George III. on his return from the Continent in 1764, after the battle of Emsdorff; but as the investiture took place beneath the standard of the 15th Light Dragoons and in Hyde Park, it was deemed hopelessly irregular, and, the royal will and action notwithstanding, his rank was not generally recognised.

The ceremony of investiture was in the earlier days a very simple one. The flag of the ordinary knight was of the form known as the pennon—a small, swallow-tailed flag like that borne by our lancer regiments, of which Fig. 30 is an illustration. On being summoned to the royal presence, the king took from him his lance, and either cut or tore away the points of his flag, until he had reduced it roughly to banner form, and then returned it to him with such words of commendation as the occasion called for. What the ceremony employed at so late a period as Dettingen was we have not been able to trace. As the officers there honoured were lanceless and pennonless, it is evident that the formula which served in the Middle Ages was quite inapplicable, but it is equally evident that in the thronging duties and responsibilities of the field of battle the ceremony must always have been a very short and simple one.

The term Standard is appropriately applied to any flag of noble size that answers in the main to the following conditions—that it should always have the Cross of St. George placed next to the staff, that the rest of the flag should be divided horizontally into two or more stripes of colours, these being the prevailing colours in the arms of the bearers or their livery colours, the edge of the standard richly fringed or bordered, the motto and badges of the owner introduced, the length considerably in excess of the breadth, the ends split and rounded off. We find such standards in use chiefly during the fifteenth century, though some characteristic examples of both earlier and later dates may be encountered. Figs. 14 and 15 are very good typical illustrations. The [ 15 ] first of these (Fig. 14) is the Percy standard. The blue lion, the crescent, and the fetterlock there seen are all badges of the family, while the silver key betokens matrimonial alliance with the Poynings,[8] the bugle-horn with the Bryans,[9] and the falchion with the family of Fitzpayne. The ancient badge of the Percys was the white lion statant. Our readers will doubtless be familiar with the lines—

"Who, in field or foray slack,
Saw the blanch lion e'er give back?"

but Henry Percy, the fifth earl, 1489 to 1577, turned it into a blue one. The silver crescent is the only badge of the family that has remained in active and continuous use, and we find frequent references to it in the old ballads—so full of interesting heraldic allusions—as, for instance, in "The Rising of the North"—

"Erle Percy there his ancyent spred,
The halfe-moon shining all soe faire,"

and in Claxton's "Lament"—

"Now the Percy's crescent is set in blood."

The motto is ordinarily a very important part of the standard, though it is occasionally missing. Its less or greater length or its possible repetition may cut up the surface of the flag into a varying number of spaces. The first space after the cross is always occupied by the most important badge, and in a few cases the spaces beyond are empty.

The motto of the Percys is of great historic interest. It is referred to by Shakespeare, "Now Esperance! Percy! and set on," and we find in Drayton the line, "As still the people cried, A Percy, Esperance!" In the "Mirror for Magistrates" (1574) we read, "Add therefore this to Esperance, my word, who causeth bloodshed shall not 'scape the sword." It was originally the war-cry of the Percys, but it has undergone several modifications, and these of a rather curious and interesting nature, since we see in the sequence a steady advance from blatant egotism to an admission of a higher power even than that of Percy. The war-cry of the first Earl was originally, "Percy! Percy!" but he later substituted for it, "Esperance, Percy." The second and third Earls took merely "Esperance," the fourth took "Esperance, ma comfort," and, [ 16 ] later on, "Esperance en Dieu ma comfort," and the fifth and succeeding Earls took the "Esperance en Dieu."[10]

Fig. 15 is the standard of Sir Thomas de Swynnerton. The swine is an example of the punning allusion to the bearer's name that is so often seen in the charges of mediæval heraldry.

Figs. 14 and 15 are typical standards, having the cross of St. George, the striping of colours, the oblique lines of motto, the elongated tapering form, and all the other features that we have already quoted as belonging to the ideal standard, though one or two of these may at times be absent. Thus, though exceptions are rare, a standard is not necessarily particoloured for example, and, as we have seen, the motto in other examples may be missing. The Harleian MS. No. 2,358 lays down the rule that "every Standard or guydhome is to hang in the Chiefe the Crosse of St. George, to be slitte at the ende, and to conteyne the crest or supporter, with the poesy, worde, and devise of the owner." That the Cross of St. George, the national badge, must always be present and in the most honourable position is full of significance, as it means that whatever else of rank or family the bearer might be, he was first and foremost an Englishman.

Figs. 13 and 16 are interesting modern examples of the Standard. They are from a series of sledge-flags used during the Arctic Expedition of 1875-6, the devices upon them being those of the officers in charge of each detachment.

When in earlier days a man raised a regiment for national defence, he not only commanded it, but its flag often bore his arms or device. Thus the standard of the dragoons raised by Henry, Lord Cardross, in 1689 was of red silk, on which was represented the Colonel's crest, a hand holding a dagger, and the motto "Fortitudine," while in the upper corner next the staff was the thistle of Scotland, surmounted by the crown.

Our readers should now have no difficulty in sketching out for themselves as an exercise the following: The standard of Henry V., white and blue, a white antelope standing between four red roses; the motto "Dieu et mon droit," and in the interspaces more red [ 17 ] roses. The standard of Richard II., white and green, a white hart couchant between four golden suns, the motto "Dieu et mon droit," in the next space two golden suns, and in the next, four. As further exercises, we may give the standard of Sir John Awdeley, of gold and scarlet, having a Moor's head and three white butterflies, the motto "Je le tiens," then two butterflies, then four; and the standard of Frogmorton, of four stripes of red and white, having an elephant's head in black, surrounded by golden crescents. While no one, either monarch or noble, could have more than one banner, since this was composed of his heraldic arms, a thing fixed and unchangeable, the same individual might have two or three standards, since these were mainly made up of badges that he could multiply at discretion, and a motto or poesy that he might change every day if he chose. Hence, for instance, the standards of Henry VII. were mostly green and white, since these were the Tudor livery colours; but in one was "a red firye dragon," and in another "was peinted a donne kowe," while yet another had a silver greyhound between red roses. Stowe and other authorities tell us that the two first of these were borne at Bosworth Field, and that after his victory there over Richard III. these were borne by him in solemn state to St. Paul's Cathedral, and there deposited on his triumphal entry into the metropolis.

The difference between the standard and the banner is very clearly seen in the description of the flags borne at the funeral obsequies of Queen Elizabeth—"the great embroidered banner of England" (Fig. 22), the banners of Wales, Ireland, Chester, and Cornwall, and the standards of the dragon, greyhound, and falcon. In like manner Stowe tells us that when King Henry VII. took the field in 1513, he had with him the standard with the red dragon and the banner of the arms of England, and Machyn tells that at the funeral of Edward VI., "furst of all whent a grett company of chylderyn in ther surples and clarkes syngyng and then ij harolds, and then a standard with a dragon, and then a grett nombur of ye servants in blake, and then anoder standard with a whyt greyhound." Later on in the procession came "ye grett baner of armes in brodery and with dyvers odere baners."

Standards varied in size according to the rank of the person entitled to them. A MS. of the time of Henry VII. gives the following dimensions:—For that of the king, a length of eight yards; for a duke, seven; for an earl, six; a marquis, six and a half; a viscount, five and a half; a baron, five; a knight banneret, four and a half; and for a knight, four yards. In view of these figures one can easily realise the derivation of the word standard—a thing that is meant to stand; to be rather fastened in the ground as a rallying point than carried, like a banner, about the field of action. [ 18 ]

At the funeral of Nelson we find his banner of arms and standard borne in the procession, while around his coffin are the bannerolls, square banner-like flags bearing the various arms of his family lineage. We see these latter again in an old print of the funeral procession of General Monk, in 1670, and in a still older print of the burial of Sir Philip Sydney, four of his near kindred carrying by the coffin these indications of his descent. At the funeral of Queen Elizabeth we find six bannerolls of alliances on the paternal side and six on the maternal. The standard of Nelson bears his motto, "Palmam qui meruit ferat," but instead of the Cross of St. George it has the union of the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick, since in 1806, the year of his funeral, the England of mediæval days had expanded into the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In the imposing funeral procession of the great Duke of Wellington we find again amongst the flags not only the national flag, regimental colours, and other insignia, but the ten bannerolls of the Duke's pedigree and descent, and his personal banner and standard.

Richard, Earl of Salisbury, in the year 1458, ordered that at his interment "there be banners, standards, and other accoutrements, according as was usual for a person of his degree" and what was then held fitting, remains, in the case of State funerals, equally so at the present day.

The Pennon is a small, narrow flag, forked or swallow-tailed at its extremity. This was carried on the lance. Our readers will recall the knight in "Marmion," who

"On high his forky pennon bore,
Like swallow's tail in shape and hue."

We read in the Roll of Karlaverok, as early as the year 1300, of

"Many a beautiful pennon fixed to a lance,
And many a banner displayed;"

and of the knight in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," we hear that

"By hys bannere borne is hys pennon
Of golde full riche."

The pennon bore the arms of the knight, and they were in the earlier days of chivalry so emblazoned upon it as to appear in their proper position not when the lance was held erect but when held horizontally for the charge. The earliest brass now extant, that of Sir John Daubernoun, at Stoke d'Abernon Church, in Surrey, represents the knight as bearing a lance with pennon. Its date is 1277, and the device is a golden chevron on a field of azure. In [ 19 ] this example the pennon, instead of being forked, comes to a single point.

The pennon was the ensign of those knights who were not bannerets, and the bearers of it were therefore sometimes called pennonciers; the term is derived from the Latin word for a feather, penna, from the narrow, elongated form. The pennons of our lancer regiments (Fig. 30) give one a good idea of the form, size, and general effect of the ancient knightly pennon, though they do not bear distinctive charges upon them, and thus fail in one notable essential to recall to our minds the brilliant blazonry and variety of device that must have been so marked and effective a feature when the knights of old took the field. In a drawing of the year 1813, of the Royal Horse Artillery, we find the men armed with lances, and these with pennons of blue and white, as we see in Fig. 31.[11]

Of the thirty-seven pennons borne on lances by various knights represented in the Bayeux tapestry, twenty-eight have triple points, while others have two, four, or five. The devices upon these pennons are very various and distinctive, though the date is before the period of the definite establishment of heraldry. Examples of these may be seen in Figs. 39, 40, 41, 42.

The pennoncelle, or pencel, is a diminutive of the pennon, small as that itself is. Such flags were often supplied in large quantities at any special time of rejoicing or of mourning. At the burial in the year 1554 of "the nobull Duke of Norffok," we note amongst other items "a dosen of banerolles of ys progene," a standard, a "baner of damaske, and xij dosen penselles." At the burial of Sir William Goring we find "ther was viij dosen of penselles," while at the Lord Mayor's procession in 1555 we read that there were "ij goodly pennes [State barges] deckt with flages and stremers and a m penselles." This "m," or thousand, we can perhaps scarcely take literally, though in another instance we find "the cordes were hanged with innumerable pencelles."[12]

The statement of the cost of the funeral of Oliver Cromwell is interesting, as we see therein the divers kinds of flags that graced the ceremony. The total cost of the affair was over £28,000, and the unhappy undertaker, a Mr. Rolt, was paid very little, if any, of his bill. The items include "six gret banners wrought on rich taffaty in oil, and gilt with fine gold," at £6 each. Five large standards, similarly wrought, at a cost of £10 each; six dozen [ 20 ] pennons, a yard long, at a sovereign each; forty trumpet banners, at forty shillings apiece; thirty dozen of pennoncelles, a foot long, at twenty shillings a dozen; and twenty dozen ditto at twelve shillings the dozen. Poor Rolt!

In "the accompte and reckonyng" for the Lord Mayor's Show of 1617 we find "payde to Jacob Challoner, painter, for a greate square banner, the Prince's Armes, the somme of seven pounds." We also find, "More to him for the new payntyng and guyldyng of ten trumpet banners, for payntyng and guyldyng of two long pennons of the Lord Maior's armes on callicoe," and many other items that we need not set down, the total cost of the flag department being £67 15s. 10d., while for the Lord Mayor's Show of the year 1685 we find that the charge for this item was the handsome sum of £140.

The Pennant, or pendant, is a long narrow flag with pointed end, and derives its name from the Latin word signifying to hang. Examples of it may be seen in Figs. 20, 21, 23, 24, 36, 38, 100, 101, 102, and 103, and some of the flags employed in ship-signalling are also of pennant form. It was in Tudor times called the streamer. Though such a flag may at times be found pressed into the service of city pageantry, it is more especially adapted for use at sea, since the lofty mast, the open space far removed from telegraph-wires, chimney-pots, and such-like hindrances to its free course, and the crisp sea-breeze to boldly extend it to its full length, are all essential to its due display. When we once begin to extend in length, it is evident that almost anything is possible: the pendant of a modern man-of-war is some twenty yards long, while its breadth is barely six inches, and it is evident that such a flag as that would scarcely get a fair chance in the general "survival of the fittest" in Cheapside. It is charged at the head with the Cross of St. George. Figs. 26, 27, 74 are Tudor examples of such pendants, while Fig. 140 is a portion at least of the pendant flown by colonial vessels on war service, while under the same necessarily abbreviated conditions may be seen in Fig. 151 the pendant of the United States Navy, in 157 that of Chili, and in 173 that of Brazil.

In mediæval days many devices were introduced, the streamer being made of sufficient width to allow of their display. Thus Dugdale gives an account of the fitting up of the ship in which Beauchamp, fifth Earl of Warwick, during the reign of Henry VI., went over to France. The original bill between this nobleman and William Seburgh, "citizen and payntour of London," is still extant, and we see from it that amongst other things provided was "the grete stremour for the shippe xl yardes in length and viij yardes in brede." These noble dimensions gave ample room for [ 21 ] display of the badge of the Warwicks,[13] so we find it at the head adorned with "a grete bere holding a ragged staffe," and the rest of its length "powdrid full of raggid staves,"

 "A stately ship,
With all her bravery on, and tackle trim,
Sails filled, and streamers waving."

Machyn tells us in his diary for August 3rd, 1553, how "The Queen came riding to London, and so on to the Tower, makyng her entry at Aldgate, and a grett nombur of stremars hanging about the sayd gate, and all the strett unto Leydenhalle and unto the Tower were layd with graffel, and all the crafts of London stood with their banars and stremars hangyd over their heds." In the picture by Volpe in the collection at Hampton Court of the Embarkation of Henry VIII. from Dover in the year 1520, to meet Francis I. at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, we find, very naturally, a great variety and display of flags of all kinds. Figs. 20, 21, 23 are streamers therein depicted, the portcullis, Tudor rose, and fleur-de-lys being devices of the English king, while the particular ground upon which they are displayed is in each case made up of green and white, the Tudor livery colours. We may see these again in Fig. 71, where the national flag of the Cross of St. George has its white field barred with the Tudor green. In the year 1554 even the naval uniform of England was white and green, both for officers and mariners, and the City trained bands had white coats welted with green. Queen Elizabeth, though of the Tudor race, took scarlet and black as her livery colours; the House of Plantaganet white and red; of York, murrey and blue; of Lancaster, white and blue; of Stuart, red and yellow. The great nobles each also had their special liveries; thus in a grand review of troops on Blackheath, on May 16th, 1552, we find that "the Yerle of Pembroke and ys men of armes" had "cotes blake bordered with whyt," while the retainers of the Lord Chamberlain were in red and white, those of the Earl of Huntingdon in blue, and so forth.

In the description of one of the City pageants in honour of Henry VII. we find among the "baggs" (i.e., badges), "a rede rose and a wyght in his mydell, golde floures de luces, and portcullis also in golde," the "wallys" of the Pavilion whereon these were displayed being "chekkyrs of whyte and grene."

The only other flag form to which we need make any very definite reference is the Guidon. The word is derived from the [ 22 ] French guide-homme, but in the lax spelling of mediæval days it undergoes many perversions, such as guydhome, guydon, gytton, geton, and such-like more or less barbarous renderings. Guidon is the regulation name now applied to the small standards borne by the squadrons of some of our cavalry regiments. The Queen's guidon is borne by the first squadron; this is always of crimson silk; the others are the colour of the regimental facings. The modern cavalry guidon is square in form, and richly embroidered, fringed, and tasselled. A mediæval writer on the subject lays down the law that "a guydhome must be two and a half yardes or three yardes longe, and therein shall be no armes putt, but only the man's crest, cognizance, and device, and from that, from his standard or streamer a man may flee; but not from his banner or pennon bearinge his armes." The guidon is largely employed at State or ceremonious funeral processions; we see it borne, for instance, in the illustrations of the funeral of Monk in 1670, of Nelson in 1806, of Wellington in 1852. In all these cases it is rounded in form, as in Fig. 28. Like the standard, the guidon bears motto and device, but it is smaller, and has not the elongated form, nor does it bear the Cross of St. George.

In divers countries and periods very diverse forms may be encountered, and to these various names have been assigned, but it is needless to pursue their investigation at any length, as in some cases the forms are quite obsolete; in other cases, while its form is known to us its name is lost, while in yet other instances we have various old names of flags mentioned by the chroniclers and poets to which we are unable now to assign any very definite notion of their form. In some cases, again, the form we encounter may be of some eccentric individuality that no man ever saw before, or ever wants to see again, or, as in Fig. 33, so slightly divergent from ordinary type as to scarcely need a distinctive name. One of the flags represented in the Bayeux tapestry is semi-circular. Fig. 32 defies classification, unless we regard it as a pennon that, by snipping, has travelled three-quarters of the way towards being a banner. Fig. 35, sketched from a MS. of the early part of the fourteenth century, in the British Museum, is of somewhat curious and abnormal form. It is of religious type, and bears the Agnus Dei. The original is in a letter of Philippe de Mezières, pleading for peace and friendship between Charles VI. of France and Richard II. of England.

Flags are nowadays ordinarily made of bunting, a woollen fabric which, from the nature of its texture and its great toughness and durability, is particularly fitted to stand wear and tear. It comes from the Yorkshire mills in pieces of forty yards in length, while the width varies from four to thirty-six inches. Flags are [ 23 ] only printed when of small size, and when a sufficient number will be required to justify the expense of cutting the blocks. Silk is also used, but only for special purposes.

Flag-devising is really a branch of heraldry, and should be in accordance with its laws, both in the forms and the colours introduced. Yellow in blazonry is the equivalent of gold, and white of silver, and it is one of the requirements of heraldry that colour should not be placed upon colour, nor metal on metal. Hence the red and blue in the French tricolour (Fig. 191) are separated by white; the black and red of Belgium (Fig. 236) by yellow. Such unfortunate combinations as the yellow, blue, red, of Venezuela (Fig. 170); the yellow, red, green of Bolivia (Fig. 171); the red and blue of Hayti (Fig. 178); the white and yellow of Guatemala (Fig. 162), are violations of the rule in countries far removed from the influence of heraldic law. This latter instance is a peculiarly interesting one; it is the flag of Guatemala in 1851, while in 1858 this was changed to that represented in Fig. 163. In the first case the red and the blue are in contact, and the white and the yellow; while in the second the same colours are introduced, but with due regard to heraldic law, and certainly with far more pleasing effect.

One sees the same obedience to this rule in the special flags used for signalling, where great clearness of definition at considerable distances is an essential. Such combinations as blue and black, red and blue, yellow and white, carry their own condemnation with them, as anyone may test by actual experiment; stripes of red and blue, for instance, at a little distance blending into purple, while white and yellow are too much alike in strength, and when the yellow has become a little faded and the white a little dingy they appear almost identical. We have this latter combination in Fig. 198, the flag of the now vanished Papal States. It is a very uncommon juxtaposition, and only occurs in this case from a special religious symbolism into which we need not here enter. The alternate red and green stripes in Fig. 63 are another violation of the rule, and have a very confusing effect.[14]

The colours of by far the greatest frequency of occurrence are red, white, and blue; yellow also is not uncommon; orange is only found once, in Fig. 249, where it has a special significance, since this is the flag of the Orange Free State. Green occurs sparingly. Italy (Fig. 197) is perhaps the best known example. We also find it in the Brazilian flag (Fig. 169), the Mexican (Fig. 172), in the Hungarian tricolor (Fig. 214), and in Figs. 199, 201, 209, the flags [ 24 ] of smaller German States, but it is more especially associated with Mohammedan States, as in Figs. 58, 63, 64, 235. Black is found but seldom, but as heraldic requirements necessitate that it should be combined either with white or yellow, it is, when seen, exceptionally brilliant and effective. We see it, for example, in the Royal Standard of Spain, (Fig. 194), in Figs. 207 and 208, flags of the German Empire, in Fig. 226, the Imperial Standard of Russia, and in Fig. 236, the brilliant tricolor of the Belgians.[15]

In orthodox flags anything of the nature of an inscription is very seldom seen. We find a reference to order and progress on the Brazilian flag (Fig. 169), while the Turkish Imperial Standard (Fig. 238) bears on its scarlet folds the monogram of the Sultan; but these exceptions are rare.[16] We have seen that, on the contrary, on the flags of insurgents and malcontents the inscription often counts for much. On the alteration of the style in the year 1752 this necessary change was made the subject of much ignorant reproach of the government of the day, and was used as a weapon of party warfare. An amusing instance of this feeling occurs in the first plate of Hogarth's election series, where a malcontent, or perhaps only a man anxious to earn a shilling, carries a big flag inscribed, "Give us back our eleven days." The flags of the Covenanters often bore mottoes or texts. Fig. 34 is a curious example: the flag hoisted by the crew of H.M.S. Niger when they opposed the mutineers in 1797 at Sheerness. It is preserved in the Royal United Service Museum. It is, as we have seen, ordinarily the insubordinate and rebellious who break out into inscriptions of more or less piety or pungency, but we may conclude that the loyal sailors fighting under the royal flag adopted this device in addition as one means the more of fighting the rebels with their own weapons.

During the Civil War between the Royalists and Parliamentarians, we find a great use made of flags inscribed with mottoes. Thus, on one we see five hands stretching at a crown defended by an armed hand issuing from a cloud, and the motto, "Reddite Cæsari." In another we see an angel with a flaming sword treading a dragon underfoot, and the motto, "Quis ut Deus," while yet another is inscribed, "Courage pour la Cause." On a fourth we find an ermine, and the motto, "Malo mori quam fœdari"—"It is better to die than [ 25 ] to be sullied," in allusion to the old belief that the ermine would die rather than soil its fur. Hence it is the emblem of purity and stainless honour.

The blood-red flag is the symbol of mutiny and of revolution. As a sign of disaffection it was twice, at the end of last century, displayed in the Royal Navy. A mutiny broke out at Portsmouth in April, 1797, for an advance of pay; an Act of Parliament was passed to sanction the increase of expenditure, and all who were concerned in it received the royal pardon, but in June of the same year, at Sheerness, the spirit of disaffection broke out afresh, and on its suppression the ringleaders were executed. It is characteristic that, aggrieved as these seamen were against the authorities, when the King's birthday came round, on June 4th, though the mutiny was then at its height, the red flags were lowered, the vessels gaily dressed in the regulation bunting, and a royal salute was fired. Having thus demonstrated their real loyalty to their sovereign, the red flags were re-hoisted, and the dispute with the Admiralty resumed in all its bitterness.

The white flag is the symbol of amity and of good will; of truce amidst strife, and of surrender when the cause is lost. The yellow flag betokens infectious illness, and is displayed when there is cholera, yellow fever, or such like dangerous malady on board ship, and it is also hoisted on quarantine stations. The black flag signifies mourning and death; one of its best known uses in these later days is to serve as an indication after an execution that the requirements of the law have been duly carried out.

Honour and respect are expressed by "dipping" the flag. At any parade of troops before the sovereign the regimental flags are lowered as they pass the saluting point, and at sea the colours are dipped by hauling them smartly down from the mast-head and then promptly replacing them. They must not be suffered to remain at all stationary when lowered, as a flag flying half-mast high is a sign of mourning for death, for defeat, or for some other national loss, and it is scarcely a mark of honour or respect to imply that the arrival of the distinguished person is a cause of grief or matter for regret.

In time of peace it is an insult to hoist the flag of one friendly nation above another, so that each flag must be flown from its own staff.

Even as early as the reign of Alfred England claimed the sovereignty of the seas. Edward III. is more identified with our early naval glories than any other English king; he was styled "King of the Seas," a name of which he appears to have been very proud, and in his coinage of gold nobles he represented himself with shield and sword, and standing in a ship "full royally [ 26 ] apparelled." He fought on the seas under many disadvantages of numbers and ships: in one instance until his ship sank under him, and at all times as a gallant Englishman.

If any commander of an English vessel met the ship of a foreigner, and the latter refused to salute the English flag, it was enacted that such ship, if taken, was the lawful prize of the captain. A very notable example of this punctilious insistance on the respect to the flag arose in May, 1554, when a Spanish fleet of one hundred and sixty sail, escorting the King on his way to England to his marriage with Queen Mary, fell in with the English fleet under the command of Lord Howard, Lord High Admiral. Philip would have passed the English fleet without paying the customary honours, but the signal was at once made by Howard for his twenty-eight ships to prepare for action, and a round shot crashed into the side of the vessel of the Spanish Admiral. The hint was promptly taken, and the whole Spanish fleet struck their colours as homage to the English flag.

In the year 1635 the combined fleets of France and Holland determined to dispute this claim of Great Britain, but on announcing their intention of doing so an English fleet was at once dispatched, whereupon they returned to their ports and decided that discretion was preferable even to valour. In 1654, on the conclusion of peace between England and Holland, the Dutch consented to acknowledge the English supremacy of the seas, the article in the treaty declaring that "the ships of the Dutch—as well ships of war as others—meeting any of the ships of war of the English, in the British seas, shall strike their flags and lower their topsails in such manner as hath ever been at any time heretofore practised." After another period of conflict it was again formally yielded by the Dutch in 1673.

Political changes are responsible for many variations in flags, and the wear and tear of Time soon renders many of the devices obsolete. On turning, for instance, to Nories' "Maritime Flags of all Nations," a little book published in 1848, many of the flags are at once seen to be now out of date. The particular year was one of exceptional political agitation, and the author evidently felt that his work was almost old-fashioned even on its issue. "The accompanying illustrations," he says, "having been completed prior to the recent revolutionary movements on the Continent of Europe, it has been deemed expedient to issue the plate in its present state, rather than adopt the various tri-coloured flags, which cannot be regarded as permanently established in the present unsettled state of political affairs." The Russian American Company's flag, Fig. 59, that of the States of the Church, of the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Turkish Imperial Standard, Fig. 64, and many others [ 27 ] that he gives, are all now superseded. For Venice he gives two flags, that for war and that for the merchant service. In each case the flag is scarlet, having a broad band of blue, which we may take to typify the sea, near its lower edge. From this rises in gold the winged lion of St. Mark, having in the war ensign a sword in his right paw, and in the peaceful colours of commerce a cross. Of thirty-five "flags of all nations," given as a supplement to the Illustrated London News in 1858, we note that eleven are now obsolete: the East India Company, for instance, being now extinct, the Ionian Islands ceded to Greece, Tuscany and Naples absorbed into Italy, and so forth.

In Figs. 52 and 53 we have examples of early Spanish flags, and in 54 and 55 of Portuguese, each and all being taken from a very quaint map of the year 1502. This map may be said to be practically the countries lying round the Atlantic Ocean, giving a good slice of Africa, a portion of the Mediterranean basin, the British Isles, most of South America, a little of North America, the West Indies,[17] etc., the object of the map being to show the division that Pope Alexander VI. kindly made between those faithful daughters of the Church—Spain and Portugal—of all the unclaimed portions of the world. Figs. 52 and 53 are types of flags flying on various Spanish possessions, while Figs. 54 and 55 are placed at different points on the map where Portugal held sway. On one place in Africa we see that No. 54 is surmounted by a white flag bearing the Cross of St. George, so we may conclude that—Pope Alexander notwithstanding—England captured it from the Portuguese. At one African town we see the black men dancing round the Portuguese flag, while a little way off three of their brethren are hanging on a gallows, showing that civilization had set in with considerable severity there. The next illustration on this plate (Fig. 56) is taken from a sheet of flags published in 1735; it represents the "Guiny Company's Ensign," a trading company, like the East India, Fig. 57, now no longer in existence. Fig. 62 is the flag of Savoy, an ancient sovereignty that, within the memory of many of our readers, has expanded into the kingdom of Italy. The break up of the Napoleonic régime in France, the crushing out of the Confederate States in North America, the dismissal from the throne of the Emperor of Brazil, have all, within comparatively recent years, led to the superannuation and disestablishment of a goodly number of flags and their final disappearance.

We propose now to deal with the flags of the various nationalities, commencing, naturally, with those of our own country. [ 28 ] We were told by a government official that the Universal Code of signals issued by England had led to a good deal of heartburning, as it is prefaced by a plate of the various national flags, the Union Flag of Great Britain and Ireland being placed first. But until some means can be devised by which each nationality can head the list, some sort of precedence seems inevitable. At first sight it seems as though susceptibilities might be saved by adopting an alphabetical arrangement, but this is soon found to be a mistake, as it places such powerful States as Russia and the United States nearly at the bottom of the list. A writer, Von Rosenfeld, who published a book on flags in Vienna in 1853, very naturally adopted this arrangement, but the calls of patriotism would not even then allow him to be quite consistent, since he places his material as follows:—Austria, Annam, Argentine, Belgium, Bolivia, and so forth, where it is evident Annam should lead the world and Austria be content to come in third. Apart from the difficulty of asking Spain, for instance, to admit that Bulgaria was so much in front of her, or to expect Japan to allow China so great a precedence as the alphabetical arrangement favours, a second obstacle is found in the fact that the names of these various States as we Englishmen know them are not in many cases those by which they know themselves or are known by others. Thus a Frenchman would be quite content with the alphabetical arrangement that in English places his beloved country before Germany, but the Teuton would at once claim precedence, declaring that Deutschland must come before "la belle France," and the Espagnol would not see why he should be banished to the back row just because we choose to call him a Spaniard.

In the meantime, pending the Millenium, the flag that more than three hundred millions of people, the wide world over, look up to as the symbol of justice and liberty, will serve very well as a starting point, and then the great Daughter across the Western Ocean, that sprung from the Old Home, shall claim a worthy place next in our regard. The Continent of Europe must clearly come next, and such American nationalities as lie outside the United States, together with Asia and Africa, will bring up the rear.


  1. "Every Isle differs from each other in their Fancy of making Plads, as to the Stripes in Breadth and Colours. This Humour is as different through the main Land of the Highlands in so far that they who have seen those Places are able at the first View of a man's Plad to guess the Place of his Residence."—Martin's "Description of the Western Islands," 1703. See also "Old and Rare Scottish Tartans," by Donald Stewart, all illustrated by actual pieces woven in silk to a reduced scale. The latest tartan, that of Balmoral, was devised by Prince Albert in the year 1848.
  2. In mediæval days the pastoral staff or crook of the bishop often had a small scarf attached to it. This was known as the vexillum, and was supposed to be derived from the Labarum, or standard of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great.
  3. In Favyn's book, "Le Théâtre d'honneur et de Chevalerie," published in Paris some two hundred and fifty years ago, we read of "Le grand estendard de satin bleu celeste double en riche broderie de fleurs de lys d'or de Chypre à une grande croix plein de satin blanc, qui est la croix de France. "Le grand estendard Saint Michel ange gardien de la France, de satin bleu celeste de riche broderie d'or de Chypre, semé d'estoiles d'or. "Le grand estendard de l'ordre du benoist Saint-Esprit, faict de double satin verd à une columbe d'argent, rayonné d'or de riche broderie, le rest semé de flammes d'or." Joan of Arc had a white standard powdered over with gold fleurs-de-lys, and in the centre a figure of Christ sitting on a rainbow, and holding a globe. On either side an angel in the posture of adoration, and, underneath, the words "Jhesu, Maria." On another she had the Annunciation, and the words "Ave Maria." These were painted at Tours "par James Power, Ecossais, Peintre du Roi."
  4. Thus the Cross of St. George would be normally represented as in Fig. 91, but we find it much elongated in Figs. 12 and 14, much widened out in Figs 27 and 56, and yet more so on the shield of the arms of the Dominion of Canada in Fig. 129.
  5. We do not pause to explain the meaning of any heraldic terms that we are obliged to employ. Such terms may be readily found in any technical book on blazonry, and we have ourselves, in "The History, Principles and Practice of Heraldry," gone very thoroughly into the meaning and use of the various forms that enter into the blazonry of shield or banner, and do not, therefore, repeat these matters here.
  6. i.e., badges.
  7. "Lord Gordon has arrived at Nauplia. He has brought the Greeks a number of ensigns, embroidered by Scotch ladies, and sent by them."—Salisbury and Winchester Journal, December 27th, 1824.
  8. This crowned key may be seen as early as 1359 on the seal of Sir Michael de Poynings.
  9. The bugle horn appears as the crest of Sir William de Bryan on his brass, 1375.
  10. In an old pedigree of the family is inscribed the lines:—
    "Esperance en Dieu,
    Trust in hym, he is most true.
    En Dieu Esperance,
    In hym put thyne affiaunce.
    Esperance in the worlde? Nay,
    The worlde variethe every day.
    Esperance in riches? Nay, not so;
    Riches slidethe, and some will go.
    Esperance in exaltacion of honour?
    Nay, it widderethe away, lyke a flowre.
    Esperance en Dieu, in hym is all,
    Which is above Fortune's fall."
  11. The modern flag, known as the burgee, largely used in flag signalling, is like a shortened pennon. It is sometimes also called a cornet.
  12. "Now the often changing fortune beganne also to channge the law of the battels. For at the first, though it were terrible, yet Terror was deckt and broachie with rich furniture, guilt swords, shining armours, pleasant pensils, that the eye with delight had scarce time to be afraide; but now all defiled with dust, blood, broken armour, mangled bodies, tooke away the maske, and set forth Horror in his own horrible manner."—Sir Philip Sydney.
  13. "A streamer shall stand in the toppe of a shippe, or in the forecastle, and therein be putt no armes, but a man's conceit or device, and may be of the lengthe of twenty, forty, or sixty yards."—Harleian MS., No. 2,358, dealing with "the Syze of Banners, Standardes, Pennons, Guydhomes, Pencels, and Streamers."
  14. While thus severe in our judgment on misguided foreigners it is only just to point out that England itself is responsible for a combination as horrible as any in the green, red, white, of the special flag that she bestowed on Heligoland, while it was yet a British possession. It may be seen in Fig. 61.
  15. The famous banner of the Knights Templars, called the Beau-seant, had its upper half black and lower white. The black symbolised the terror it should be to the foe, and the white amity and goodwill to friends.
  16. The "house-flags" of the various shipping companies make a great use of letters: thus the flag of the Orient Steam Navigation Company is white and divided into four portions by a blue cross. In these four portions are placed in red the letters O.S.N.C. In Fig. 120 we have the flag of the New Zealand Shipping Company, where the N.Z.S. Co. are equally conspicuous. Any reference to a good list of house-flags, such as that published by Griffin, would reveal scores of illustrations of this feature.
  17. The map is freely embellished with illustrations. In South America, for instance four immense crimson parrots about fill up Brazil, while in Africa the parrots are green. Many of these figured details are very quaint.