Although almost universally called a standard, such flags when used in the United Kingdom are banners of arms, as they comprise the shield of the Royal Arms. Outside of the United Kingdom, the Royal Standard is usually a national flag with a blue disc containing a wreath of gold roses encircling the crowned letter 'E', (for 'Elizabeth'), superimposed upon it.
The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is flown when the queen is in residence in one of the royal residences, on the queen's car on official journeys and on aircraft (when on the ground). It may also be flown on any building, official or private, during a visit by the queen, if the owner or proprietor so requests. The Royal Standard was also flown aboard the royal yacht when it was in service and the Queen was on board. The only church that may fly a Royal Standard, even without the presence of the Sovereign, is Westminster Abbey, which is known as a "royal peculiar". Other churches generally are not allowed to hoist a Royal Standard.
The Royal Standard is flown at royal residences only when the sovereign is present. If the Union Flag is flying above Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle instead of the Royal Standard, the queen is not in residence. If the ancient Royal Standard of Scotland is flying above Holyrood Palace or Balmoral Castle, instead of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom used in Scotland, this also indicates that the queen is not in residence.
Unlike the Union Flag, the Royal Standard is never flown at half mast, even after the death of the Sovereign, as there is always a sovereign on the throne. When controversy arose regarding the lack of a flag at half-mast at Buckingham Palace following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, a compromise was reached whereby the Union Flag was flown at half-mast. (The queen was then in Scotland; previously, no flag was flown over Buckingham Palace when the queen was not present. Since then, the Union Flag has been flown in the queen's absence.) However the Union Flag can be lowered to fly at half-mast over Buckingham Place, in times of national mourning (for example after the death of the Queen Mother, 9/11 and the 7 July 2005 London bombings).
In England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and outside the United Kingdom, the flag is divided into four quadrants. The first and fourth quadrants represent the ancient Kingdom of England and contain three gold lions, (or leopards), passant gardant on a red field; the second quadrant represents the ancient Kingdom of Scotland and contains a red lion rampant on a gold field; the third quadrant represents the ancient Kingdom of Ireland and contains a version of the gold harp from the coat of arms of Ireland on a blue field.
The modern Royal Standard of the United Kingdom, apart from minor changes, (notably to the form of harp used to represent Ireland), dates to the reign of Queen Victoria. Earlier Royal Standards of the United Kingdom incorporated the Arms of Hanover and Kingdom of France, representing title of Elector (later King) of Hanover and the theoretical claim throne of France.
Famous Royal Standards of former British Monarchs include the Scotland Impaled Royal Standard of Queen Anne, the Hanover Quartered Royal Standards of King George I to George III, and the Hanover crowned Royal Standards of George III to William IV. The latter contained the Royal coat of arms of Hanover superimposed over what became the modern Royal Standard of the United Kingdom, (although this particular standard's visual representations of England, Ireland and Scotland in their respective quadrants is marginally different to the modern versions).
In Scotland a separate version of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is used, whereby the red Lion Rampant of the Kingdom of Scotland appears in the first and fourth quadrants, displacing the three gold lions passant gardant of England, which occur only in the second quadrant. The third quadrant remains unaltered from the version used throughout the remainder of the United Kingdom and overseas.
Other members of the Royal Family also use this Scottish version when in Scotland, with the only exceptions to this protocol being the consort of a queen regnant and the heir apparent, the Duke of Rothesay, each of whom has their own individual standard.
The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom used in Scotland differs from the ancient Royal Standard of Scotland in that the latter portrays the Lion Rampant in its entirety. As the banner of the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland, the Royal Standard of Scotland remains a personal banner of the monarch and, despite being commonly used as an unofficial second flag of Scotland, its use is restricted under an act passed in 1672 by the Parliament of Scotland.
The Royal Standard of Scotland is used officially at Scottish royal residencies, when the monarch is not in residence, and by representatives of the Crown, including the First Minister, Lord Lieutenants in their lieutenancies, the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Lord Lyon King of Arms. A variation of the Royal Standard of Scotland is used by the heir apparent to the King of Scots, the Duke of Rothesay, whose personal Royal Standard is the Royal Standard of Scotland defaced with an Azure coloured label of three points. (The banner of the Duke of Rothesay also features the same, displayed upon an inner shield).
|Standard||For Use In||Description|
|England and Northern Ireland||The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is used, defaced with a white label of three points. In the centre, the crowned arms of the Principality of Wales — four quadrants, the first and fourth with a red lion on a gold field, and the second and third with a gold lion on a red field — is superimposed. This is the standard that is used outside the United Kingdom by the prince.|
|Scotland||The Royal Standard of Scotland is used, defaced with a blue label of three points. This is the standard of the heir apparent to the King of Scots.|
|Scotland||The flag is a banner based on two Scottish titles of the heir apparent: Duke of Rothesay and Lord of the Isles. The flag is divided into four quadrants. The first and fourth quadrants include a blue and white checkerboard band in the centre of a gold field. The second and third quadrants include a ship on a white background. In the centre, a gold inner shield bearing the lion rampant of the Kingdom of Scotland defaced with a three point label.|
|Wales||The flag is a banner of the coat of arms of the Principality of Wales and is divided into four quadrants, the first and fourth with a red lion on a gold field, and the second and third with a gold lion on a red field. Superimposed is a green shield bearing a crown.|
|Cornwall||The flag is "sable fifteen bezants Or", that is, a black field bearing fifteen gold coins, which Prince Charles uses in his capacity as Duke of Cornwall.|
The following members of the Royal Family have personal standards
|Standard||Member of the Royal Family||Description|
|The Duke of York||The middle point bears a blue anchor, while the first and last points are blank.|
|The Earl of Wessex||The middle point bears a red rose, while the first and last points are blank.|
|The Princess Royal||The first and last point each bear a red cross. The middle point bears a red heart.|
|Prince William of Wales||Unlike other grandchildren of the sovereign, Prince William uses a label with three points. The middle point bears a red shell, while the first and last points are blank.|
|Prince Henry of Wales||The first, middle, and last points each bear a red shell, while the second and fourth points are blank.|
|Princess Beatrice of York||The first, middle, and last points each bear a bee, while the second and fourth points are blank.|
|The Duke of Gloucester||White label with five points, three with St George's Cross, two with red lions passant guardant.|
|The Duke of Kent||White label with five points, three with blue Anchor, two with St George's Cross.|
|Prince Michael of Kent||White label with five points, three with St George's Cross, two with blue anchors.|
|Princess Alexandra||White label with five points, two with hearts, two with anchors, one with St George's Cross.|
Consorts of a queen regnant are not granted use of the British Royal Standard. They use standards based on their own family arms.
Consort of Queen Elizabeth II
(1948 - Present)
|Standard based on the Duke's Greek and Danish roots. The flag is divided into four quarters: The first quarter, representing Denmark, consists of three blue lions passant and nine red hearts on a yellow field. The second quarter, representing Greece, consists of a white cross on a blue field. The third quarter, representing the duke's surname, Mountbatten, contains of five black and white vertical stripes. The fourth quarter, alludes to his title as Duke of Edinburgh, and includes a black and red castle which is also part of the city of Edinburgh's arms.|
Consort of George VI
(1936 - 2002)
|The royal standard impaled with the arms of her father, Claude Bowes-Lyon, Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.|
Consort of George V
(1910 – 1953)
|The Royal Standard impaled with the arms of her father, Francis, Duke of Teck and the Hanoverian coat of arms as used by her grandfather, the Duke of Cambridge.|
Consort of Edward VII
(1901 – 1928)
|The Royal Standard, impaled with the royal coat of arms of Denmark.|
Other members of the Royal Family may use the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom, but within an ermine border, (a white border with black spots representing the ermine fur). This standard is mainly used for the wives of British princes, or members of the Royal Family who have not yet been granted their own arms. Diana, Princess of Wales and more recently, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester had this standard draped over their coffins at their funerals.