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English Royal Standards, House of Tudor

Last modified: 2020-11-28 by rob raeside
Keywords: royal standard | house of tudor | tudor | henry viii | buckland abbey |
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Henry VII (1485-1509)

Neubecker (1932) pictured an English royal banner around 1450 with around the free sides a red and green border. (ratio 1:1?). He also has a picture of the standard of the Duke of Lancaster, later King Henry IV, similar to that of Henry VII.
Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg
, 23 April 2002

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Henry VIII (1509-1547)

[Tudor standard]     [Tudor standard] by Martin Grieve
obverse     reverse (as illustrated)

Based on the larger Royal Standard at Buckland Abbey, Plymouth.
David Prothero, 24 May 2004

Between 1405 and 1603 the Royal Arms of England were Quarterly, France Modern and England; three fleur-de-lis in the 1st and 4th quarters, and three lions passant guardant in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The arrangement of the quarters should be the same on the obverse of the Royal Standard and a mirror image on the reverse. However contemporary illustrations of Tudor Royal Standards invariably(?) show the quarters on the reverse side of the standard in the same relative positions as on the obverse side. This occurs, twice on a 1545 plan of Calais (the frontispiece of Perrin's book 'British Flags'), 43 times in the 1546 Anthony Roll, and three times on the Northumberland manuscript of the 1596 expedition to Cadiz. There is rarely enough detail to see which way the lions are facing except on one of the standards from the plan of Calais, in which they are facing away from the hoist.

The only surviving Royal Standards of the time are at Buckland Abbey near Plymouth. As displayed only the obverse is visible, but the House Steward has confirmed that the reverse sides are a mirror image of the obverse.

The mages above are based on a photograph of one of these two standards. It is 7' square (2070 x 2070mm); the other is 7' high x 2'10" wide (2070 x 864mm). Both have a green and white fringe. The quarters are separate pieces of patterned silk damask sewn together. The fleur-de-lis and lions are painted in gold leaf with black outline and details. The lions have blue claws and nostrils, and red tongues.
David Prothero, 3 June 2004

Buckland Abbey short Royal Standard

[Tudor standard] by Martin Grieve [Tudor standard detail] detail of lion by Martin Grieve

The unusual proportions of the lion are due to the shortness of the standard.

David Prothero, 22 June 2002

 by Martin Grieve

The earliest reference to this flag is in an inventory of Drake family property dated 1778/9. Two royal standards and six other colours are listed as, 'Old Sir Francis Drake's Sash and Cap. His silk Colours in Number eight'. It is not considered to be a replica, and can thus, at the very latest, be dated 1603, when the Union of the English and Scottish Crowns resulted in a new design of royal standard.

Unlike the seven feet square (2070 x 2070mm) royal standard, which is made with silk damask, this seven feet by two feet ten inches (2070 x 864mm) royal standard is made with plain silk. A strip of canvas along the hoist edge has eleven eyelets for lacing the flag to a staff. This suggests that it had naval connections and may have been used in April 1581, when Queen Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake on board the Golden Hind at Deptford. Alternatively it may have been used by Drake on a small ships such as a pinnaces, in the course of his voyages of 1585-86, or 1595.

Details from "The Battle's Sound" by Cynthia Gaskell Brown.

David Prothero, 19 June 2004

See also our pages:

Henry VIII Ladies Chapel's Flag Collection - these are the banners of the Knights of the Order of the Bath. The current knights and Dames Grand Cross are listed at, but their respective Wikipedia pages do not always show their arms. The Abbey pages lists a few works on the Order that might help with identification, but I've no access to any of them at the moment

A quick web search shows that Orders of Knights started in the Crusades or earlier. Apparent these knightly orders have existed since the Knights of Templar days as a way monarchs could award military leaders. The two oldest English orders were the "Knights of the Garter" and the "Knights of the Bath" according to "".

I found 11 British Orders:

  • Order of the Garter, founded by Edward III of England ca. 1348:
  •  Order of the Bath, founded by King George I of Great Britain on 18 May 1725:
  • Order of the Thistle, founded by King James VII of Scotland in 1687
  • Order of St Patrick , founded by George III of the United Kingdom in 1783 (Not awarded since 1936).
  • Order of St Michael and St George, is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III.
  • Order of the Star of India, founded by Queen Victoria in 1861 and has not been awarded since the independence of India in 1947
  • Order of the Indian Empire, founded by Queen Victoria in 1878 and has not been awarded since the independence of India in 1947
  • Royal Victorian Order, founded by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom on 21 April 1896.
  • Order of the British Empire, founded by King George V of the United Kingdom on 4 June 1917.
  • Order of Canada, founded by Queen Elizabeth II of Canada in 1967.
  • Order of Australia, founded by Queen Elizabeth II of Australia in 1975.
As a modern American I especially found these two interesting:
Under Monarchical orders whose monarch no longer reigns but continues to bestow the order:
  • Royal Order of the Crown of Hawai'i
  • Order of the Ermine, founded by John V, Duke of Brittany in 1381: First order to accept Women!
Pete Loeser, 2 October 2020

Assumption of Irish throne

Though the English kings became Kings of Ireland in 1541, this was not represented in their Arms, even though Henry VIII did devise arms for Ireland: Azure a harp or stringed argent. (ratio 5:7) - Evans (1970),
Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002

Edward VI (1547-1553)

Queen Jane (1553)

Mary I (1553-1558)

When Mary I married Philip II of Spain she impaled her arms with those of her husband, quartered gules a castle or (Castille), and argent a lion rampant gules (Leon) - Evans (1970) 

Peter Hans van der Muijzenberg, 23 April 2002

Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

Continued as Royal flags after the Union of the Crowns (House of Stuart)