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New Zealand Royal and Vice Regal Flags

Last modified: 2013-09-02 by ian macdonald
Keywords: new zealand | governor | governor-general | lieutenant-governor | garland | fern | stars: 4 | star: 5 points (red) | queen elizabeth ii | e | fleece | wheat | hammers: crossed | ships |
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Personal Flag of HM The Queen of New Zealand

[ Personal Flag of HM The Queen of New Zealand ] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 May 2001

The Queen's Personal Flag for New Zealand symbolises the fact that Queen Elizabeth II is The Queen of New Zealand. Adopted in 1962, it is flown only by Her Majesty when in New Zealand. The Flag is the shield design of the New Zealand Coat of Arms in the form of an oblong or square. Superimposed in the centre is a dark blue roundel bearing a Roman "E" surmounted by a Royal Crown within a garland of roses all in gold. The central device is from The Queen's Personal Flag which is frequently used by Her Majesty in relation to Her position as head of the Commonwealth.
quote from New Zealand’s Ministry for Culture and Heritage flag page, contributed by Rob Raeside, 7 March 2002
Link and quote updated by Colin Dobson, 11 November 2006

BBC1 television news reported tonight the ceremony held today at which the new New Zealand Memorial, entitled Southern Stand, was unveiled by The Queen at Hyde Park Corner, London. At this ceremony, but not shown in the article referenced below, were flown on three separate freestanding flagpoles the Union Flag, the flag of New Zealand and the flag of The Queen of New Zealand.

This is an example of The Queen of New Zealand's flag being used outside that country and directly contradicts the information taken from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage web site.


  1. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), BBC 1 television news, first broadcast Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 1725 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
  2. Government of New Zealand, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, New Zealand Memorial in London - Place and Preview, stated to be last updated 26 June 2006 and consulted 11 November 2006
  3. British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC News web site, Queen honours New Zealand's dead, consulted 11 November 2006
  4. Massey University, New Zealand, web site [No longer active], stated to be last updated 03 November 2006 and consulted 11 November 2006
Colin Dobson, 11 November 2006


[ Flag of the Governor-General of New Zealand ]1:2 image by Clay Moss, 26 January 2009

Quoting TV3, 2 June 2008:

"The Government has used Queen's Birthday to announce that the Governor-General has a new flag.

The old one was considered too colonial with no New Zealand elements.


The official heraldic description of the Governor-General's new flag is "a flag of blue field thereon The Arms of New Zealand ensigned by the Royal Crown all proper".

"The lions and the crown are frankly old fashioned," says the current Governor-General, Anand Satyanand.

The old flag was approved by King George the Fifth in 1931, so the Government assigned the New Zealand Herald of Arms to design a new one, and he is happy with it.


The new flag, approved by the Queen, bears the crown and the shield of the New Zealand Coat of Arms. It features symbols representing farming, sea trade, the mining industry and the Southern Cross. The flag will fly on his car and Government House.

Until the flag is changed again to accommodate any new shift in how we see ourselves, the new flag will symbolise the Governor-General and will be unfurled for the first time at Government House in Auckland this Thursday."

Images of the two - former and current - flags can be seen on the website of TVNZ.
Ivan Sache, 2 June 2008

The Governor-General's website informs us that the New Zealand Herald of Arms (Phillip O'Shea, "New Zealand Herald Extraordinary") was asked by Government House to review the flag and emblems of the GG, and designed the new flag. The flag was approved by Queen Elizabeth II and announced by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, on 2 June 2008 (the Queen's Birthday holiday) before being flown for the first time on 5 June 2008 at Government House in Auckland. The flag is included in the College of Arms records with reference Standards 5/116 (see College of Arms newsletter).
Jonathan Dixon, 2-3 November 2008

Image of Governor-General's flag based on College of Arms artwork
[ Image of Governor-General's flag based on College of Arms artwork ] image by Clay Moss, 26 January 2009

This image is drawn from the College of Arms art work. The main differences between this and the artwork from Government House are the shape of the shield, the superimposition of the hammer/orb relative to one another and star placement. In the Government House artwork and on the actual flags, the shield is rounded at the bottom while the shield is pointed at the bottom in the original artwork. On the flags in use, the hammer/orb are crossed a bit more equally while they are offset a bit in this image. Lastly, the stars on the Government House version are somewhat smaller and a bit more spaced out.
Clay Moss, 30 October 2008

Heralds do not usually intend their drawings to be definitive, especially to the level of detail that Clay uses in comparing the images, as arms are defined by their blazon, not a particular drawing. In the absence of any other document defining the flag, any valid representation of the arms would be equally acceptable.
Jonathan Dixon, 30 October 2008

Lieutenant-Governor (before 1841)

During this time, New Zealand was a dependency of New South Wales.
James Dignan, 7 July 1997

Governor (1869-1874)

[ Governor (1869-1874) ] 1:2 image by Martin Grieve, 2 January 2005

New flags were announced in the New Zealand Gazette, Saturday 23rd October 1869, including a Jack with "four five pointed white stars on the red ground of the St George's Cross".

The jack is a misinterpretation of the Order in Council of 7th August 1869; "... Governors ...administering the Governments of British Colonies and Dependencies be authorised to fly the Union Jack, with the Arms or Badge of the Colony emblazoned in the centre thereof." It seems to have been assumed that since the four stars of the Southern Cross on the Blue Ensign were spread across the whole fly and not confined to a small circle, the stars on the Union Jack should be similarly spread.
David Prothero, 2 January 2005

See also: The announcement in the New Zealand Gazette.

Governor (1874-1908)

[ Governor (1874-1908) ]1:2 by António Martins and Jaume Ollé, 25 March 2000

The mistake in the Jack [of 1869] was not corrected until 29th October 1874 when it was announced, "... that the seal or badge to be worn in the Union Jack used by the Governor of New Zealand when embarked in any boat or other vessel shall be the Southern Cross as represented by four five-pointed red stars emblazoned on the white shield aforesaid, and the monogram NZ in red letters in the centre of the Southern Cross."
David Prothero, 2 January 2005

See also: The announcement in the New Zealand Gazette.

The badge which included the letters "NZ" was approved for use specifically on the Governor's jack/flag in 1874. I haven't seen anything to suggest that this badge was ever officially considered for the blue ensign, let alone a red ensign, which isn't even mentioned until the response to the international code of signals.

The difference between the stars-only badge approved in 1899 and the stars with letters of 1874 is not particularly surprising in two respects. First of all, the 1869 proclamation talks of the Southern Cross as "seal and badge ... to be worn ... as the distinctive badge of the colony", but clearly does not mean a standard badge as we might think, since it is spelt out that it is represented differently in the (blue) ensign and the jack. The 1874 correction seems mostly a response to the fact that the badge should appear on the jack in a disk surrounded by a garland. It doesn't bring the badge for the jack in line with the badge for the ensign. It is quite possible that those involved did not see any need to use the same badge as used on the jack, or at a stretch, even saw the two as the  same "southern cross" badge, as in 1869.

Secondly, it doesn't seem to have been unusual for the Governors and Colonial Office officials to have discussed badges and flags without showing full knowledge of previously approved designs. It is also possible that the badge approved for the jack wasn't even considered when the 1899 ensigns were suggested. What this meant on the ground isn't always predictable.
Jonathan Dixon, 15 June 2010

Governor (1908-1936)

[ Governor (1908-1935) ] 1:2 image by António Martins, fern garland provided by Phil Nelson, 16 March 2000

I recently read an interesting article on New Zealand flags (which seemed to come from a post-1962 encyclopedia - perhaps the "New Zealand Encyclopedia"), which included a small bit on vice-regal flags. This source seems to imply that in 1874, as a result of the actions of (Governor?) Sir James Fergusson, (and in accordance with the directions emanating from the Admiralty in 1869), it was decided [my comments in square brackets]:

the badge to be worn in the Union Jack used by the Governor of New Zealand when embarked in any vessel {shall be the Southern Cross as represented by four five-pointed red stars emblasoned on a white shield, with the monogram "NZ" in red letters in the centre of the Southern Cross}. Succeeding Governors found it convenient to use this flag on shore [as in the rest of the Empire] and it became accepted as the official vice-regal flag. In 1907, following New Zealand's promotion from "colony" to "dominion", New Zealand ministers asked that the garland of laurels should be replaced by one of fern leaves, [which, of course, is one of NZ's national symbols]. With this alteration, the flag continued to be used by successive Governors until about 1935. In January 1931, a new vice-regal flag was designed... [the Royal Crest in Gold, with the name of the Dominion in gold beneath, all on a blue field]. As neither Lord Bledisloe, [whom I assume was Governor in the early 1930s], nor his ministers were sympathetic to the change, the flag was not favoured until after Lord Galway's arrival [whom I assume became Governor General of NZ c.1935].
Glen Hodgins, 23 February 1999

The first official flag with fern leaves appeared in about 1908. In a letter dated 5th January 1908 the Governor-General of NZ requested that the garland around the badge on his flag be changed from the usual green laurel leaves, which had been used until then, to a garland of fern leaves, and referred to the garland of maple leaves surrounding the badge on the flag of the Gov.-Gen. of Canada as a precedent. This was no problem since the original regulations only stipulated that the device on the flags of Governors should be surrounded by a green garland without specifying the type of leaves. (Source: PRO file, ADM 116/1072)
David Prothero, 9 September 1998

Governor-General 1936-1953

[ Governor-General of New Zealand (1936-2008) ]1:2 image by Martin Grieve, 13 April 2013

Blue flags with the royal crest [a lion standing on a crown] and scroll(s) were introduced for Governor-Generals in the 1930s. It is usually said that they were intended to show that, following the Balfour Declaration of 1926, Governor-Generals no longer represented the British Government, but had become representatives of the British monarch. However it is possible that this was not the original reason for introducing the flags.

The haphazard way in which the flags were introduced does support the idea that, although they did come to symbolise the new constitutional relationship between Britain and the Dominions, this was not their original purpose. Had it been, all four flags would surely have been introduced at the same time ? Perhaps on the 1st January 1932, after the British Parliament had given the Balfour Declaration legal standing by enacting the Statute of Westminster on 12th December 1931. Instead, the flag was already in use in South Africa (January 1931) and Canada (April 1931), but was not used in New Zealand until April 1935. The Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, had refused to fly the flag, and it remained in store until he was succeeded by Lord Galway. In Australia the Prime Minister, James Scullin, did not favour the change, and the flag was not adopted there until July 1936.
[Source: National Archives (PRO) DO 35/253/5, DO 35/628/3, DO 117/100]
David Prothero, 12 April 2005

A different image of the Governor-General's flag in New Zealand is shown at [Now found here.]
Valentin Poposki, 5 August 2006

According to a government website, small renderings of the flag (like on a car flag) are done only in gold. [This Ministry for Culture and Heritage has changed - the 2006 version is available on the Internet Archive.]
Marc Pasquin, 5 August 2006

This version of the flag (with a very poor and inaccurate rendering of the Royal Crest) is depicted in Album des Pavillons [pay00], however and therefore there is little doubt that this is the correct version currently in use.
Martin Grieve, 6 August 2006

I am still not convinced about the use of a gold-only flag. The site actually says "it is not possible to accurately represent the colours of the Governor-General's flag on an image of this size. In these cases, the detailing of the flag is shown only in gold." I read that as referring to images of the flag, rather than car flags or anything like that, although I suppose it could have that meaning. At the very least, the use of gold only is only in some cases.
Jonathan Dixon, 7 August 2006

Dominion of New Zealand

[ Governor-General of New Zealand ]1:2 image by Željko Heimer, 20 March 2001

Many years ago I read (sorry, but I don't remember where I read this) that inscription on the ribbon was: "DOMINION OF NEW ZEALAND"
Victor Lomantsov, 18 March 2001

I do not have any material on my bookshelf here that makes any mention of the scroll having "DOMINION" on it, but it could be the case that this was on the original flag perhaps. I do not think that a new version was created in 1936, but the only reason that this date was mentioned was that as David said, these flags were introduced in 1931 and so were too late to be included in the Admiralty book of 1930. 1936 was an amendment to this book, but quite clearly suggests that the scroll did not have DOMINION on it. Canada was a Dominion but this also neglected the full title on it's Governor's General flags.
Martin Grieve, 17 April 2013

So the old flag was 1908-1931 (April 1935), as the 1931 GG continued using the older design. And then the new one would likewise be 1931 (April 1935) - 1953. And what we're looking for is whether in the period 1931-1936, during which the flag was mostly not used, there may have been another flag change. Considering that usually some time is needed to publish a book, that leaves us with a really short time period where the older flag might have been visible in such a case: from April 1935 until a flag change that must have taken place before the deadline of the Admiralty book published in 1936. (The earlier version may not have made it out of storage at all.)

On the other hand, the GGs not liking the flag could have been a reason for taking another look at the design and deciding to drop the "Dominion" bit if it had been there. Are such flags described somewhere as they are adopted, or only in the next Admiralty book?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 22 August 2013

Governor-General since 1953

[ Governor-General of New Zealand (since 1953) ] 1:2 image by Željko Heimer, crest image by Graham Bartram, 17 March 2001