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Royal Banner of Scotland (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2012-01-20 by rob raeside
Keywords: scotland | united kingdom | lion | lion rampant |
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[Royal banner of Scotland] by Graham Bartram

from World Flag Database

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The Royal Arms of Scotland are "or, a lion rampant gules, armed and langued azure, within a double tressure flory-counter-flory of the second". Many flag makers omit the blue on the tongue and claws simply because they are printing the flags (Rampant Lion flags in Scotland tend to be the cheap handwaving type, except for the few official ones) and don't want to bother with another pass for the blue.
Graham Bartram, 20 July 1999

Legal status

The old Scottish flag is still valid. Strictly speaking, it should only be used by Her Majesty the Queen in her capacity as Queen of Scots. In actuality, it tends to be used as a second national flag.
Stuart Notholt

It is true that this flag should only be used by the King of Scots (or the Queen of Scots). That means no one should use it, as there has not been a Kingdom of Scotland since 1707 (just as there has been no Kingdom of England since 1707, when the two kingdoms became one United Kingdom of Great Britain). The heir apparent, the Duke of Rothesay (a.k.a. the Prince of Wales), is entitled to bear this Scottish coat (differenced by a label azure) as an escutcheon on his Scottish arms and banner, as registered in Lyon Register. Yes, it tends to be used as a second national flag, even though technically illegal. I seem to recall, possibly from Sir Thomas Innes of Learney's Scots Heraldry, that King George V leant heavily on the then Lord Lyon King of Arms to prevent him prosecuting the manufacturers and retailers of such flags. If true, such a move by the king was not only unhistorical and unconstitutional, but definitely illegal and contrary to the Bill of Rights of 1689 which forbids the Crown to interfere in the actions of the judiciary.
Simon Kershaw

This is debatable. The Queen is still Queen of Scots even if there isn't a 'Kingdom of Scotland' - Scottish constitutional law used to make a distinction between the two. You're right about the technical illegality of private citizens using the flag - although I wouldn't want to debate the point too closely with, say, 30,000 Lion Rampart bearing Scots soccer fans.
Stuart Notholt

I don't agree with Stuart Notholt about the Queen's title. In law she is Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (by an Act passed in the reign of William III, as modified by the Act of Union with Ireland, 1800 and the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which re-defined Ireland to mean Northern Ireland). There is no such person as the Queen of Scots, or Queen of England (as Americans are often surprised to learn). On the other hand I don't agree with Simon Kershaw entirely either. The Act of Union of 1707 did not strictly speaking extinguish Scotland as a separate kingdom, but gave control over Scotland to the Westminster Parliament. It extinguished the separate Scottish legislature, which is why many Scots nationalists are campaigning to get it back. The Act referred to above had already determined that Scotland and England should have the same monarch. In practice there is a royal flag (the Red Lion) and royal arms for Scotland, used for Scottish government purposes. The Red Lion flag flies over Dover House in London and New St Andrew's House in Edinburgh. Nor can we say that King George interfered with the judiciary, because it is common practice for the monarch to establish flags and arms by Royal Warrant (e.g. the modern flag of Canada). The incident referred to was a Royal Warrant signed by George V on 3 September 1934 allowing the use of the Red Lion as 'a mark of loyalty,' (because of the forthcoming Jubilee celebrations). The Lord Lyon officially now takes the view that this permission 'related to decorative ebullition,' i.e. being waved or draped at football matches. He is however very down on flying the Red Lion as a flag, and once threatened the town councilors of Cumbernauld with an Act passed in 1679 which prescribed the death penalty for misuse of the royal arms.
William Crampton

Simon wrote:

...King George V leant heavily on the then Lord Lyon King of Arms to prevent him prosecuting the manufacturers and retailers of such flags. If true, such a move by the king was not only unhistorical and unconstitutional, but definitely illegal and contrary to the Bill of Rights of 1689 which forbids the Crown to interfere in the actions of the judiciary.
Lyon is an officer of the King of Scots' household. If he can not tell his own retinue what do to, who can he tell anything?
Will Linden

No, he is not. Lyon is a high judicial officer, with his own court of law. It is in his judicial capacity that Lyon prosecutes offenders against the heraldic law in Scotland.
Simon Kershaw

Taken from rec.heraldry:

I think this is recorded in Innes of Learney's Scots Heraldry, p.215, footnote 2: "By Royal Warrant, 3 September 1934, permission is granted for H.M.'s loyal subjects to display the flag as a mark of loyalty to the Sovereign. This is, in legal technique, decorative ebullition and does not cover other uses. (Cf. Nisbet, Heraldry, ii, iii, 69). The warrant actually contravened the Declaration of Rights, 1695." In the text on the same page, he says: "When the Royal Lion is flown as a flag, or in place of the Scottish National Flag, St Andrew's Cross, a statutory offence is committed against the ordinary Parliamentary Law of Scotland (1672, cap. 47; Acts, viii, 95) as well as a piece of heraldic bad taste. [...] Usurpation of the Royal Arms or Banner still legally renders the offender liable to the capital penalty, and momentous consequences can still arise out of irregular display of the Royal Flag."

Pascal Vagnat, 1996-9-5

The Flag Bulletin, no. 155, November-December 1993, states:

"... on 3 September 1934 King George V issued a royal warrant to Lord Lyon Sir Francis James Grant forbidding Lyon Court to interfere with any use of the Lion Flag 'as a mark of loyalty to the Sovereign.' Lyon Court has interpreted this as meaning that hand-held flags are permissible but not those on poles, although this was not spelled out in the royal warrant."
Strictly speaking, the Royal Warrant doesn't legalize use of the Lion Flag, merely urges that no action be taken against those who use it. The view that anyone flying the flag does so out of loyalty to the sovereign is of course simply a convenient way of legitimizing its use - as I mentioned before I doubt many of those who use the flag do so out of fidelity to the Queen. However, unless the reports of the 1934 warrant are inaccurate (which seems unlikely) it does appear that the de facto use of the Lion Flag by private citizens is tolerated.
Stuart Notholt, 6 September 1996

A rather surprising change has been announced recently. It concerns the Scottish palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh. From now on this will fly the ancient Scottish royal standard (red lion rampant on gold in a double tressure) unless the Queen is in residence, in which case it will fly the current Royal Standard, which for some reason doesn't change north of the border, although the arms on which it is based do.
Graham Bartram,
9 March 1998

The Baronage Press has a recent edition of the magazine with a page dedicated to the late Queen Mother. From here one can navigate back to a two-part series on the Lyon family - which would appear to be a branch of the Bruce family, and which in turn seems to originate (and derive its name) from Bruggen (Bruges) in Flanders. At the end of the second article on the Lyons and Bruces, there is brief mention of the arms of the Earls of Fife, or, a lion rampant gules, and of a differenced version of those arms by the Abernethy family. To my mind the most interesting point here is Sir Iain Moncrieffe of Moncrieffe's speculation that the royal tressure was added by the Scottish kings as a mark of difference from the Earls of Fife, since the Fifes were the senior branch of the family. You will note, when you look at the Queen Mother's "standard" (more properly, banner), that in the upper middle part of the flag, two rampant lions within royal tressures stand side by side. It's been known for generations that the royal tressure is a mark of royalty - in the case of the Lyon family, it recalls the marriage between Sir John Lyon of Glamis and the Lady Jean, daughter of King Robert II. But it's interesting to reflect that the royal tressure in both these quarters also indicates a difference from a senior branch.
Mike Oettle
, 23 April 2002

The "Court of the Lord Lyon Information Leaflet No. 3" sets out the rules for flag display in Scotland. Lord Lyon is the legal heraldic authority for Scotland. Apart from providing a (sometimes difficult to understand) discussion of the different kinds of heraldic flags used in Scotland (banners, standards, pipe banners, guidons pennons, and pinsels), how big they should be for what users and uses, and so on, the leaflet says regarding the red lion rampant flag:

"12. This is NOT a national flag and its use by citizens and corporate bodies is entirely wrong. Gold, with a red rampant lion and royal tressure. It is the Scottish Royal banner, and its correct use is restricted to only a few Great Officers who officially represent the Sovereign, including the Secretary of State for Scotland as Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, Lord Lieutenants in their Lieutenancies, the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. the Lord Lyon King of Arms, and other lieutenants specially appointed. Its use by other, non-authorised persons is an offence under the Acts 1672 cap. 47 and 30 & 31 Vict. cap. 17."

and, if that's not clear enough,

"22. The personal banner of the King of Scots may NOT be flown by anyone other than those specifically authorised as variously representing the Sovereign, as set out in para. 12 above. Its use by other non-authorised persons is an offence under the Acts 1672 cap. 47 and 30 & 31 Vict. cap. 17. The freedom of use accorded to the Saltire Flag is NOT extended to the Scottish Royal Banner."

Interesting that Lyon doesn't bother to mention that inconvenient royal order from 1934 forbidding Lyon from interfering with public display of the red lion flag as an expression of loyalty to the Sovereign, as discussed above.
Joe McMillan, 4 February 2003

Origin of the Royal Banner of Scotland

William, who succeeded his father, Malcolm IV in 1165, was known as William the Lion, but there is no positive evidence that the lion rampant had become "the Arms of Dominion of Scotland" before 1222, when it appeared in the seal of his son, Alexander II.
David Prothero, 3 November 2000

The earliest reference I can find to the lion coat of arms is the great seal of King Alexander II, dating from 1222. The surviving seals from this matrix are not in good condition, and it is possible that they not include the double tressure. The first seal that definitely contains the double tressure is from the reign of his son Alexander III (d.1286). The (English) Matthew Paris Roll of c.1244 depicts the arms of the Scottish king with a single tressure flory counter-flory - which may be fact or simply an artist's mistake.
Source: MacAndrew, Bruce, 'Scotland's historic heraldry' (Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2006)
Ian Sumner, 21 February 2007

Fox-Davies in A Complete Guide to Heraldry confirms both statements and later quotes Chalmers' "Caledonia" saying, "the lion may possibly have been derived from the arms of the old Earls of Northumberland and Huntingdon, from whom some of the Scottish kings were descended". Fox-Davies also mentions a legendary explanation by Nisbet according to which, "the lion has been carried on the armorial ensign of Scotland since the first founding of the monarchy by King Fergus I -- a very mythical personage (...) about 300 B.C.".
Santiago Dotor, 7 November 2000

William the Lion (1143-1214) is generally credited with adopting this symbol, although records of this are uncertain. It was referred to as the "Lion of Justice" and the "Lion of Bravery".
1222: first known use under Alexander II, on a seal. It also appears on a seal of Alexander III. The design was surprisingly complex for its time - possibly the double tressure fleury counter fleury is related to the French fleur de lys, although that is not known until 1223 in France. Before this time, the Scottish royal standard bore a dragon (known in 1138). Nisbet quotes the use of the lion rampant by Fergus I in 300 BC, although there is no extant evidence for this.
James VI quartered the arms of the United Kingdom after the Union of the Crowns (1605), using the lion rampant, the three English lions, fleur de lys and harp (see here). The lion rampant is much used in the arms of nobles in Scotland (e.g., Lord Lyon).
1998: Queen Elizabeth began to use a Scottish Royal standard in Scotland.
Graham Bartram
, 26 July 2001

The double tressure flory counterflory was added as a difference from the arms of the Earl of Fife. The earldom is still held by the same family (the incumbent has for the past century or so been Duke of Fife as well), and they still bear or, a lion rampant gules. And The Baronage Press mentions that the double tressure (in shorthand, a royal tressure in its Scottish usage) was long established in use in Flanders, and so was ready to hand as a difference.
Mike Oettle, 28 February 2005

The Forman Roll, presented to Mary Queen of Scots in 1552, shows the use a lion rampant with Malcolm Canmore III in 1068.
Mary Sawant, 20 February 2007

All it really shows, I think, is that the compiler of the Forman Roll (in c.1565) thought that the arms of the King of Scotland were borne by Malcolm III Canmore, not that he actually did bear those arms (in the same way that other rolls of arms attribute arms to Julius Caesar and even Jesus Christ). Forman was the owner, if not the compiler, of several rolls of arms from the middle of the sixteenth century, possibly in his role as Lord Lyon King of Arms. This one is referred to as Forman's British Library Roll. It leaps from Malcom III (d.1093) to Robert I (d.1329) on the next page, concentrating on the Bruce and Stewart dynasties, and mentioning King John Baliol only to describe him as 'traytor', so it may not be an impartial piece of historical investigation.
Source: Mitchell, Robert W. (ed.), 'Forman's (British Library) Armorial' (Peebles, Heraldry Society of Scotland, 1985)
Ian Sumner, 21 February 2007

Royal Banner of James VI

[Royal banner of Scotland: James VI]

A scan from Campbell and Evans "Book of Flags" of the English standard of James I, reassembled as the Scottish standard.
David Prothero, 16 May 2001