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Basutoland flags

(Lesotho pre-independence)

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by bruce berry
Keywords: lesotho | basutoland |
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image by Clay Moss, 18 Dec 2006

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Background

Prior to independence on 04 October 1966, Lesotho was the British Crown Colony of Basutoland.

During the 19th century the remnants of various Sotho-speaking groups which had been torn apart by the Mfecane, a series of inter-African wars which affected much of southern Africa between about 1820 and 1830, came together under Moshoeshoe I.  Using the mountains of Lesotho as a defensive fortress, Moshoeshoe was able consolidate a Sotho state.

The greatest threat in subsequent decades came from the Boers who trekked into Sotho territory after leaving the Cape Colony and created a rival state, the Orange Free State (OFS).  Though the Sothos were initially able to contain the Boers, disputes over land led to wars in 1858 and 1865, which ended in the OFS possessing large tracts of land previously held by the Sotho.  In order to stave off further Boer raids, Moshoeshoe successfully appealed for British protection in 1868.  Basutoland was administered initially by the Cape Colony but after a Sotho rebellion in 1880-81, Britain assumed direct responsibly for the territory which became a protectorate in 1884 under direct rule by a Governor, though effective internal power was wielded by traditional chiefs.

Basutoland was administered through the Office of the High Commissioner in South Africa which was created by Letters Patent in 1878. The High Commissioner was charged with the conduct of British relations with the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State, as well as with "those native states and tribes outside the colonies of the Cape and Natal, including Swaziland" (which was administered by the Government of the South African Republic under the Convention of 1894).

The High Commissioner was also Governor of Basutoland and supervised the affairs of the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana) and Swaziland.

The High Commissioner in and for South Africa was divided into the posts of Governor-General (of South Africa) and the High Commissioner of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland in 1931 and both posts had distinctive flags of their own.
Bruce Berry, 19 Feb 1998


Basutoland Protectorate

The Basutoland Protectorate did not have a distinctive colonial flag of its own and flew only the Union Jack as a national flag until independence in October 1966.
Bruce Berry, 19 Feb 1998


High Commissioner in and for South Africa (1878-1931)

image by Martin Grieve, 11 May 2003

The High Commissioner flew a British Union Flag charged in the centre, on a white roundel, with the letters S.A.H.C. in black above which was a Tudor Crown, all within a green garland of laurel. This flag, which was taken into use in 1907, is similar in design to that of the Western Pacific High Commissioner.

This flag was used until 1931 after which the posts of Governor-General (of South Africa) and High Commissioner were separated.
Bruce Berry,
19 Feb 1998


High Commissioner of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland (1931-1968)

image by Martin Grieve, 15 Nov 2005

In 1931, the posts of High Commissioner of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland and Governor-General of South Africa were created, the former being responsible for the administration of the British Protectorates in southern Africa. 

The High Commissioner, based in South Africa, was represented by a Resident Commissioner in each of the High Commission Territories (Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland). Of these, only the Resident Commissioner for Basutoland, had a distinctive personal flag as Basutoland was a Crown Colony. The other two territories were British Protectorates and thus their inhabitants were merely "protected persons".

The High Commissioner flew a British Union Flag charged in the centre, on a white roundel, with the letters H.C. in black, ensigned of the Imperial State Crown proper, within a garland of green laurel. This flag was used until Swaziland gained independence in 1968, the last of the High Commission territories to do so.
Bruce Berry,
19 Feb 1998


Resident Commissioner of Basutoland (1951-1966)

image by Jaume Ollé, 08 Jun 1997

The High Commissioner, based in South Africa, was represented by a Resident Commissioner in each of the High Commission Territories (Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland). Of these, only the Resident Commissioner for Basutoland had a distinctive flag. as Basutoland was a Crown Colony. The other two territories were British Protectorates and thus their inhabitants were merely "protected persons".

The flag of the Resident Commissioner in Basutoland was the British Union Flag charged in the centre, on a white roundel, with the shield of the arms granted to the Colony of Basutoland by Royal Warrant on 20 March 1951, namely: "Vert, a crocodile proper and in chief a fleece between two garbs Or" within a green garland of laurel. This flag was used in Basutoland until it gained independence as the Kingdom of Lesotho on 04 October 1966.
Bruce Berry, 19 Feb 1998

[Basutoland badge 1951-1966] image from this website, located by Jarig Bakker, 18 Jun 2002

This flag came in use after 20 March 1951 when the arms were granted. Image according to Flag of All Nations (1955) [hms89a].
Perhaps the shield in a white circle was used unofficially in the blue ensign because the image is shown in some plates according to "Banderas".
Jaume Ollé, 08 June 1997