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Title: British Flags - Their Early History, and their Development at Sea; with - an Account of the Origin of the Flag as a National Device
Author: Perrin, W. G.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  H. J. EDWARDS, C.B., C.B.E., M.A.




  BOMBAY   }
  MADRAS   }




  [Illustration: _A Ship of Henry VIII, circa 1545_]










It might have been expected that the attempt to trace to their origin
in the past the institutions and customs in common use upon the sea
would from an early date occupy the attention of a seafaring people,
but for some obscure reason the British nation has always been
indifferent to the history of its activities upon that element on which
its greatness was founded, and to which it has become more and more
dependent for its daily bread and its very existence. To those who
are alive to this fact it will hardly come as a surprise, therefore,
to learn that the first sustained attempt at a detailed investigation
into the history of the flag at sea was made under the patronage
of the German Admiralty by a German Admiral. Vice-Admiral Siegel's
_Die Flagge_, published in 1912, was the first book to deal with the
development of the flag at sea in a scientific spirit, and although
the earlier chapters contain some mistakes due to his employment of
translations of early works instead of original texts, and the accounts
of the British flags in the later chapters suffer because he had no
access to original records, it is a worthy piece of work.

The present book is an attempt to remove the reproach to the British
nation which this implies. Its plan is somewhat different from that
of the work referred to above. Instead of dealing with the flags of
all maritime nations of the world--a task that (if it was to be more
than a mere copying or compilation) would entail much work in foreign
archives--it seemed more profitable to concentrate upon the history
of British Naval Flags, for researches made so far back as 1908 had
taught me how much that is inaccurate about their history had received
acceptance. But first it seemed necessary to devote some time and
space to the inquiry into the origin of the flag and how it became the
honoured symbol of nationality that it now is, and for this a general
view had to be taken in order that a firm foundation might be laid for
the early history of our own flags.

In the first chapter the ground worked over by Admiral Siegel has been
solidified by examination of the original authorities, with the result
that a few errors have been detected and some new facts brought to
light, and the investigation has also been extended further; the most
important of the additions being those relating to the standards in
the Phoenician and Greek ships of war, forms of the early "standard"
and "gonfanon," and the Genoese Standard of St George and the Dragon.
For the deduction that the use of a national flag arose in the Italian
city states I take the entire responsibility, well aware that further
investigations may possibly bring to light fresh facts which will
overthrow it.

The chapter on early English, Scottish and Irish flags serves as an
introduction to the history of our national flag, which was invented
for the use of the mercantile marine, though it was very soon
appropriated by the Royal Navy for its sole use. It is very improbable
that further research will enable the gap left by the unfortunate
destruction of the early 17th century records to be filled, so that the
story of the Union Flag may be taken as being substantially complete,
but there is still room for further work upon the history of its
component crosses. It will be seen that I have been unable to find any
solid ground for the common belief that the cross of St George was
introduced as the national emblem of England by Richard I, and am of
opinion that it did not begin to attain that position until the first
years of the reign of Edward I.

The chapters on the flags used to indicate distinctions of command and
service at sea give an account of the use (now obsolete) of the Royal
Standard at sea by naval commanders-in-chief; of the history of the
Admiralty anchor-flag; and of the steps by which the present Admirals'
flags were evolved. The history of the ensigns from their first
adoption at sea about the end of Elizabeth's reign has been set out in
some detail, but further research may bring to light more details of
interest in the years between 1574 and 1653. The causes which led to
the adoption of a red ensign as the most important British ensign and
the steps which led to its appropriation to the Mercantile Marine, and
not the Royal Navy, are stated as far as the records availed, though
here again further research is needed in the late Elizabethan and
early Stuart periods among records that may still survive in private
ownership. These chapters may, perhaps, appeal rather to the seaman
and the student of naval history than to the general reader, but it is
hoped that they may also prove of service to artists who wish to avoid
the anachronisms into which some of their brethren have been betrayed.

In order that the development of flag signals may be properly
appreciated it has been necessary, when dealing with the earlier years,
to take into account what had happened outside the narrow circuit of
British waters. The earlier matter, though here examined solely from
the point of view of the flags used, offers considerable interest to
the student of naval tactics, with which indeed the art of signalling
is inseparably connected.

The last chapter, on Ceremonial and other usages, is, from the author's
point of view, the least satisfactory. From the nature of the subject,
the official records contain very little information about it. It
is only by the slow and laborious process of examining contemporary
journals, diaries, accounts of voyages, and similar material that facts
can be found for any exhaustive treatment of these matters. Something
of this has been done, but more remains to do.

In concluding the work which has occupied a large portion of the
leisure hours of many years, it is my pleasant duty to express my
gratitude to the numerous friends whose encouragement and assistance
have enabled me to persevere in what has proved a somewhat arduous
task; especially to Sir Julian Corbett, who has read the proofs and
given me the benefit of his criticisms; to the officials of the
Pepysian Library, Public Record Office, British Museum and London
Library for the facilities afforded me; and not least to my friend Mr
Vaughan who has spared no pains in the preparation of the coloured


_January 1922_


  CHAPTER                                           PAGE

  CENTURY                    1


      (i) ENGLAND                                     30
      (ii) SCOTLAND                                   46
      (iii) IRELAND                                   50

  III. THE UNION FLAGS AND JACKS                      54


      (i) THE ROYAL STANDARD                          74
      (ii) THE ADMIRALTY FLAG                         81
      (iii) ADMIRALS' FLAGS                           85
      (iv) PENDANTS OF COMMAND                       102


      (i) PUBLIC SHIPS OF WAR                        110
      (ii) PRIVATE MEN-OF-WAR                        124
      (iv) MERCHANT SHIPS                            129
      (v) PLEASURE CRAFT                             136


      (i) EARLY SIGNALS                              140
      (ii) THE FIRST ENGLISH CODES                   161
      (iv) THE VOCABULARY SIGNAL BOOK                175
      (v) COMMERCIAL CODES                           183

  VII. CEREMONIAL AND OTHER USAGES                   189

  INDEX                                              205


  A SHIP OF HENRY VIII                               FRONTISPIECE
  (From a MS. plan of Calais in the British Museum, _c._ 1545)

  PLATE                                                      PAGE

  I. EARLY FLAGS                                         FACING 2

  1. Vexillum
  2. Harold's Dragon
  3. William's Gonfanon
  4. Knights Templars' Bauçan
  5. Knights Hospitallers
  6. St Edward
  7. St Edmund
  8. St George
  9. St Andrew
  10. Irish Saltire
  11. Baucan
  12. Holy Trinity
  13. Cinque Ports
  14. Yarmouth

  II. COINS                                              FACING 6

  1. Sidon, _c._ 370 B.C.
  2.    "    _c._ 380 B.C.
  3.    "    _c._ 360 B.C.
  4.    "    _c._ 90 B.C.
  5.    "    _c._ 400 B.C.
  6. Aradus, _c._ 350 B.C.
  7 and 8. Histiaea, _c._ 300 B.C.
  9. Rome (Hadrian)
  10. Northumbria, _c._ 925 A.D.
  11. Northumbria, _c._ 940 A.D.

  III. SEALS                                            FACING 46

  1. Lyme Regis, 13th cent.
  2. Yarmouth, 15th cent.
  3. Dover, 1305
  4. Sandwich, 13th cent.
  5. Faversham, 13th cent.
  6. Hastings, 13th cent.
  7. Tenterden, 15th cent.
  8. King's Lynn, late 16th cent.

  IV. UNION FLAG                                        FACING 54

  1. Union of 1606 and 1707
  2. Union of 1801

  V. UNION FLAGS AND JACKS                              FACING 58

  1. Quartered Union
  2. Union Pendant
  3. Commonwealth Jack
  4. Protectorate Jack
  5. Budgee Jack
  6. Privateer Jack
  7. Public Office Jack
  8. Admiralty Pattern (modern)

  VI. ROYAL STANDARDS                                   FACING 74

  1. Royal Standard, early
  2.   "       "     1340
  3.   "       "     1411
  4.   "       "     Stuart
  5. Commonwealth Standard
  6. Cromwell's Standard
  7. Royal Standard, 1689
  8.   "       "     1707

  VII. ROYAL STANDARDS                                  FACING 76

  1. Royal Standard, 1714
  2.   "       "     1801
  3.   "       "     1837

  VIII. ADMIRALS' FLAGS                                 FACING 84

  1. Admiralty Flag
  2. Distinction Pendant
  3. Commonwealth Admiral
  4. Rear Admiral of Blue, 1702
  5. Rear Admiral of White, 1702
  6. Budgee Pendant
  7. Rear Admiral of White, 1824
  8. Vice Admiral, 1889
  9. Rear Admiral, 1889
  10. Broad Pendant (modern)

  IX. EARLY ENSIGNS, ETC.                               FACING 92

  1. Levant Co., 1581
  2. Streamer of Royal Arms
  3, 4, and 5. Elizabethan Ensigns
  6. Jacobean Ensign
  7. Green and White Pendant
  8. Jacobean Ensign, 1615
  9. Jacobean Ensign, 1618
  10. Red Ensign, early 17th cent.
  11. White Ensign, early 17th cent.
  12. Blue Ensign, early 17th cent.

  X. ENSIGNS, ETC.                                      FACING 98

  1. Scots Ensign, 1686
  2. White Pendant
  3. Irish Ensign, 1686
  4. Scottish East India Co.
  5. Guinea Jack
  6. White Ensign, 1702
  7. Red Ensign, 1707
  8. White Ensign, 1707
  9. Blue Ensign, 1707
  10. White (St George) Ensign, 1707
  11. East India Co., 1822

  XI. MODERN ENSIGNS, ETC.                             FACING 118

  1. White Ensign, 1801
  2. Blue Ensign, 1801
  3. Red Ensign, 1801
  4. Admiralty, Blue Ensign
  5. Naval Ordnance, Blue Ensign
  6. Blue Pendant
  7. War Office Badge
  8. Military Auth. Afloat
  9. Post Office
  10. Royal Mail
  11. North Sea Fishery

  XII. MODERN ENSIGNS, ETC.                            FACING 134

  1. New Zealand Ensign, 1831
  2. New Zealand Blue Ensign
  3. Australian Blue Ensign
  4. Trinity House
  5. Cinque Ports
  6. Red Pendant
  7. Canada Badge
  8. South Africa Badge
  9. Indian Marine Badge
  10. Lloyds Badge

  XIII. NUMERARY SIGNAL FLAGS (1790-1810)              FACING 170

Chapter I

_The Origin of the Flag and its Development up to the end of the
Thirteenth Century_

A flag may be defined as a piece of pliable material, attached at
one end so as to move freely in the wind, serving as a sign or a
decoration. This word is now common to the nations of north-western
Europe[1], but it does not appear to have come into use in this
particular meaning until the sixteenth century, and the etymology of it
is obscure. Perhaps the most satisfactory of the derivations hitherto
put forward is that of Professor Skeat, who derives it from the Middle
English "flakken" to fly, one of a number of similar onomatopoeic
words suggestive of the sound of something flapping in the wind. Its
first appearance with a meaning coming within the above definition is
as a specific term denoting a rectangular piece of material attached
by one vertical edge, flown at the masthead of a ship, as a symbol of
nationality or leadership. It was not until towards the end of the
seventeenth century that the word began to take on the more general
meaning it now has, and indeed the restricted meaning still partially
survives in the German language, in which the word "Flagge" is properly
applicable only to flags flown at sea, those on land being called
"Fahnen." Before the seventeenth century there was no generic term in
the English language that covered the various forms--banners, ensigns,
streamers, pendants, etc.--that are now generally included under the
term "flag."

A somewhat similar change in meaning has, during the course of
centuries, affected nearly every flag name, and constitutes one of
the great difficulties in the way of a clear exposition of the early
history of flags. Moreover, the early writers are neither consistent
in their use of terms nor accurate in their application. This renders
the correct interpretation of many passages a matter requiring
caution and discrimination and, it may be added, experience. As a
guide to the reader we shall set down the principal terms to be met
with, and indicate the extent to which their meaning has changed, but
before doing so it is desirable to explain one or two technical or
semi-technical terms employed in connection with the parts of a flag.
The part next the staff or line to which it is attached is called the
"hoist" by seamen, or heraldically the head or "chief"; the remainder
of the flag is the "fly." The fly may be forked or swallow-tailed.
If the end of the fly is divided by a simple incision which does not
remove material, it is said to be "slit." The fly may be produced into
a number of pointed or round-ended tails, to which the Crusaders gave
the name of tongues (_linguae_, _lingulae_). The British and many other
ensigns have in the upper part next the staff a rectangular compartment
containing a national device. In modern flags this usually occupies
one-fourth of the flag, but in early flags it was much smaller. This is
called a "canton." The other terms that need explanation at this stage
are as follows:

Σημεῖον [Greek: Sêmeion] (Semeion). This word appears to have been
first used in the abstract meaning of "sign" or "signal"; to have been
then applied to the object by which the signal was made, or which
signalised the presence of the commanding officer. In the early period
of Greece this was not a flag, but a staff-like object.

=Insigne=, pl. =Insignia=. The Latin equivalent of the above, denoting
a sign, signal, or staff of office.

=Signum.= A token or sign, especially the distinctive sign of a
division of the Roman army. Also used to denote "signal" in the

=Vexillum.= A square flag hung from a transverse bar at the head of a
staff; the principal form of flag in use in the classical period. In
late writers this word is used to cover any form of flag, and from the
eighth century onwards will be found applied as well to objects that
were not flags, for which the word _insigne_ should have been used.

=Banner= (late Latin _bandum_, _bannum_). A rectangular flag attached
laterally to its staff. Originally of much greater depth than length,
a "band" of coloured material attached to a lance by one of its
longer sides, it gradually became square. The banner was primarily
the personal flag of an emperor, king, lord or knight, and served to
mark his presence in the army or fleet, and as a rallying point for
his retainers. On the introduction of heraldic devices these were
inserted upon it. It was also employed by religious or civic bodies for
a similar purpose. In modern language this term is usually applied to
flags hung from transverse bars, displayed in religious or political
processions, but we shall not employ it in this meaning.

[Illustration: PLATE I Early Flags]

=Gonfanon=, =Gonfalon=. This word appears in the _Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle_ as _guðfana_, and in the _Chanson de Roland_ as _gunfanun_.
It is apparently derived from the Norse _gunn-fane_ (war-flag) and in
its earlier forms was probably of the shape shown on the Northumbrian
coins about 925 A.D.[2] Among the Normans two centuries later it had a
square body and ended in three or more long tails, a form handed on
to the Italian Communes. Some writers apply this name (inaccurately) to
flags of vexillum form, with or without tails at the base.

=Standard.= This word presents great difficulty, and it has undergone a
radical change in meaning which (so far as I am aware) has never been
explained. As no historical survey of the development of the flag can
fairly ignore the need for such an explanation it will be necessary
to treat it at some length. At different periods in history since the
eleventh century the word under one or more of its many forms (e.g.
estandart, standart, standardum, standarz, standarum, standalem), has
had the following meanings:

(i) A tall pole or staff supporting some object that was not a flag.

(ii) A tall pole or mast set in a four-wheeled chariot, supporting
various objects, including one or more flags.

(iii) An elongated tapering flag containing the arms or badges of a
king or noble.

(iv) A rectangular banner containing the royal arms.

One of the earliest appearances of the word is in the _Chanson de
Roland_. The oldest existing MS. of this poem was, it is true, not
written before the latter part of the twelfth century, but it is well
known that the poem itself is much older. In this long poem of some
4000 lines the word occurs thrice only, and is confined to the episode
which relates to Baligant, Emir of Babylon, which M. Gaston Paris
considers to be the work of another author. The passages in question

    3265. Li amiralz mult par est riches hum
          Dedavant lui fait porter sun dragun
          E l'estandart Tervagan e Mahum.

          [The Emir is a very great man
          Before him he has carried his dragon
          And the standard of Tervagan and Mahomet.]

    3329. Carles li magnes, cum il vit l'amiraill
          E le dragun, l'enseigne, e l'estandart,

          [Charlemagne, when he saw the emir
          And the dragon, the flag and the standard,]

    3551. Baliganz veit sun gunfanun cadeir
          E l'estandart Mahumet remaneir.

          [Baligant sees his gonfanon fall
          And the standard of Mahomet remain (defenceless).]

In speaking of the flags the poet (or perhaps poets) uses either the
words "enseigne" or "gunfanun" or, in one instance, "orie flambe." What
then was the "Standard of Mahomet" which the author of this section
has in mind? The story he is telling is, of course, purely mythical,
so that he, or the original inventor of the myth, must have met the
word and the object which it connoted in some other connection. The
most likely source of this knowledge is the First Crusade. During the
struggle for the possession of Jerusalem in the summer of 1099, Robert
of Normandy, in personal combat, seized from one of the Saracen Emirs
an object which is described as a very long pole covered over with
silver, having at its top a golden ball or apple (_pomum aureum_).
This was called a standard, a word which was evidently at that time
of recent introduction, for the contemporary historians, some of whom
had been eye-witnesses of the events they relate, have various ways
of spelling it, and usually refer to it in such a way as to indicate
that the word was not in familiar use[3]. According to Albert of Aix[4]
this standard was borne in front of the army of the "King of Babylon"
and was the centre around which the flower of the army gathered and to
which stragglers returned. A few years later Fulcher of Chartres notes
the capture of three more "standards," but does not describe them.

The second form of standard (which was apparently imitated from the
Italian _carrocio_ presently to be described) makes its appearance
nearly a hundred years later. In an engagement with the Saracens near
Acre at the end of August, 1191, the banner of Richard I was borne
aloft on a machine of which the unknown but contemporary author of the
_Itinerarium Regis Ricardi_ gives the following description:

  The Normans formed a rampart around the Standard, which in order
  that it may be better known we have not thought it out of the way
  to describe. It consists, then, of a very long beam, like the
  mast of a ship, placed upon four wheels in a frame very solidly
  fastened together and bound with iron, so that it seems incapable
  of yielding either to sword, axe or fire. Affixed to the very top
  of this, the royal flag, commonly called banner, flies in the wind.
  For the protection of this machine, especially in battle in the
  open, a selected band of soldiers is appointed, so that it may not
  be broken down by onrush of the enemy or overthrown by any injury,
  for if by any chance it should be overthrown the army would be
  dispersed and confounded, because it would not know in what part of
  the field to rally. Moreover, the hearts of the soldiers would be
  filled with the fear that their leader had been overcome if they
  did not see his banner borne aloft. Nor would they in the rear
  readily come forward to resist the enemy if, from the withdrawal of
  his banner, they feared that some ill fortune had happened to their
  king. But while that standard remained erect the people had a sure
  place of refuge. Hither the sick were brought to be cured, hither
  were brought the wounded, and even famous or illustrious men tired
  out in the fighting. Whence, because it stands fast as a sign to
  all the people, it is called the "Standard."[5] It is placed upon
  four wheels, not without reason, in order that, according to the
  state of the battle, it may be either brought forward as the enemy
  yield or drawn back as they press on.

It is to a machine similar to this, and bearing aloft a pyx and three
banners, that the battle near Northallerton in 1138 owes its name of
Battle of the Standard.

The use of this form of standard was not confined to the English;
indeed it seems to have been in general use in the armies of western
Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and the transference
of the name from the support to the royal, ducal, or state flag that
it bore was a natural consequence. This transference evidently began
to take place about the end of the thirteenth century, for in 1282 the
State gonfanon of Genoa, hitherto called the "vexillum" of St George,
in the _Annales Genoenses_, becomes the "Stantarium B. Georgii." In
England the change seems to have taken place a little later. I have not
met with it before the year 1323, when the Exchequer Accounts contain
references to Standards (Estandartz, estandardes) bearing the royal
arms and made of worsted of Aylesham.

But the name was not given in England to every form of flag bearing
the royal arms or cross of St George. It was confined to a particular
type intermediate in length between the streamer and the banner[6].
This type was evidently the direct descendant of the "gonfanon," which
is the only form of flag represented on such of the great seals of our
early kings as show flags at all[7]. From the fact that it is this
form which is depicted at the masthead of the ships in early seals,
as for instance those of Hastings and Lyme Regis (thirteenth century)
and of Dover (1305) reproduced in Plate III, we may infer that it was
the type most convenient for use at the head of the "standard," and
therefore the type to which the name gradually became applied. During
the fourteenth century the tails were reduced in number to two and
the flag made to taper gradually throughout its length. Finally, the
heralds established a form in which the tails were short, blunt and
rounded off at the end, which they decided should contain the cross of
St George in chief with the motto and badges of the owner, but not his
arms, in the fly. This change seems to have taken place about the end
of the fifteenth century. By the restriction of the royal arms to flags
of banner form the name "standard," when qualified by the adjective
"royal" (but only in this connection), became transferred to the royal
banner of arms, not only in popular speech which makes no account of
such technical niceties, but also in official usage from Tudor times to
this day.

=Streamer.= A long and relatively narrow flag flown at sea from the
masthead, top or yardarm, often reaching down to the water. The
earlier name of the modern "pendant." The term is also applied to any
ribbon-like flag or decoration.

=Pennon.= Originally a small pointed flag worn at the lance-head by
knights; but the word was used at sea in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries to denote a short streamer.

=Pennoncel.= A small pennon.

=Pennant= (in modern official language written "pendant," but
pronounced "pennant"). A synonym for "streamer," a name which it has
gradually replaced.

=Geton=, =gytton=, =guidon=. A small swallow-tailed flag.

=Ensign= (corruptly written "ancient" during the sixteenth to
eighteenth centuries). This word was borrowed from the land service
in the sixteenth century to denote the striped flag then introduced
on the poop of ships. In explaining the meaning of this word in the
Army, Barret[8] remarks: "We Englishmen do call them (Ensigns) of late
Colours, by reason of the variety of colours they be made of, whereby
they be the better noted and known to the companie."

=Colours.= Originally applied to an ensign; afterwards extended to
mean the flags commonly flown by a ship. At the end of the seventeenth
century a "suit of colours" included ensign, jack and pendant.

=Jack.= A small flag flown on the bowsprit.

Upon the water, as upon the land, the Standard (taking the word in its
earliest meaning) seems to have preceded the Flag by many centuries.
The earliest knowledge we have of its existence is derived from the
pottery of the pre-dynastic Egyptians, to whom, on the most moderate
estimate of Egyptologists, a date not later than 4000 B.C. has been
assigned. Among the primitive decorations of the earthenware vases
and boxes of that period the representation of a boat[9] frequently
appears. In these boats, which seem to have been in use only on the
Nile, the two cabins amidships are a prominent feature. At the end
of the aftermost cabin rises a tall pole with an emblem at the top,
which is believed to represent the district or town to which the owner
of the boat belonged. There are at least eighteen different forms
of this emblem[10], but these standards all agree in having in their
upper part two pendent objects which appear to be long ribbons or
streamers attached to the pole. These standards were developed into
the nome-standards of the Egyptian armies, but they never again appear
in Egypt in connection with boats, which from the time of the First
Dynasty onwards are invariably represented without standard or flag of
any kind, although in rare instances the top of the steering oar is
decorated with two long ribbons.

[Illustration: PLATE II Coins]

Standards appear to have been in use at a later date among all the
Semitic nations, but evidence of their use upon the sea before the
fifth century B.C. is not forthcoming. From about the end of that
century onwards Sidon and Aradus (Arvad), the two great seaports of
Phoenicia, referred to by the prophet Ezekiel in his lamentation for
Tyre[11] as supplying the mariners for that city, placed upon their
coinage[12] a representation of a war galley. At the stern of this
galley, supported against a curved ornament similar to that to which
the Greeks gave the name "Aphlaston," is placed a tall staff having at
its top a globe within the arms of a crescent, representing the sun and
moon. In the earlier examples this is too indistinct for successful
photographic representation but it is clearly visible in the coins of
the fourth century shown in Plate II[13].

After the submission of those cities to Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.
the globe and crescent seems to have been exchanged for a cruciform
standard similar to that shown in the left hand of the goddess Astarte
in the coin of 87 B.C. depicted in Plate II, fig. 4. This cruciform
standard was probably adopted by Alexander from the Athenians, the
most prominent naval power of Greece, among whom it seems to have been
an object of great significance[14]. On two great amphorae awarded
to the victors in the Panathenaic games of 336-5 B.C., now in the
British Museum, it is represented in a manner which can leave no doubt
as to its symbolic importance. On one of them Athene holds in her
hand a long cruciform staff, the head of which is expanded in ovoid
form. On the other amphora the goddess has by her side a short column
which is surmounted by a winged Victory (Nike) holding in her left
hand a similar standard, and in her right the aphlaston of a galley.
Unfortunately for our purpose, the Athenians did not represent ships
upon their coinage, but similar standards are seen in the hand of the
nymph Histiaea upon the coins of the Euboean town of that name, dated
circa 313-265 B.C., two of which are represented in Plate II, figs.
7 and 8. Many other instances, too numerous to detail, will be found
upon later Greek coins. In these the crosses are not all of the same
design, and Prof. Babelon has collected examples of thirty-six forms,
all more or less different, from the plain cross to a more elaborate
form in which the head terminates in a ball and two small winged
figures of Victory kneel at the ends of the arms. Some of these forms
are decorated with narrow streamers; in many of them the cross-piece is
not at right angles to the staff, but it is possible that this may be
due to an attempt at perspective. One other instance deserves mention:
the excavations on the site of the important city of Pergamum in Asia
Minor, once the capital of the kingdom of Pergamus, and afterwards that
of the Roman province of Asia, have brought to light the bas-reliefs
which decorated the balustrade of the Portico of Athene Polias. On
this bas-relief, which, in the opinion of M. Collignon[15], alludes to
naval victories under Attalus (241-197 B.C.) or Eumenes II (197-159),
the cruciform standard is twice represented in highly ornate forms
terminating in pine cones at the head; in each case it is accompanied
with the aphlasta and beaks of galleys.

A careful study of all the examples leads to the conclusion that this
globe and crescent, or cruciform, standard was the symbol of naval
authority, the prototype in fact of the Admiral's flag. The name of
this standard is not specifically stated, but there can be no doubt
that it is the _semeion_ (σημεῖον [Greek: sêmeion]) frequently referred
to by Greek authors in describing naval actions. That the _semeion_
was a solid object we know from the fact that it was raised aloft in
giving signals[16]. There is evidence that _semeia_ were of various
forms and that these forms were distinctive of the nationality of the
ship. Of Artemisia, queen of Halicarnassus, who accompanied Xerxes in
his expedition against Greece and fought on the Persian side at the
Battle of Salamis (480 B.C.), Polyaenus, in his _Strategemata_, relates
that she had two _semeia_, one of "barbarian" form, the other Greek.
When she was pursuing a Greek ship she raised aloft the barbarian
standard[17], but when fleeing before a Greek ship she raised the
Greek standard, so that her pursuer took her ship for Greek and kept
off from it. The "barbarian" standard used by Artemisia was probably
the globe and crescent above referred to, for Sidon supplied Xerxes
with the best of his ships, and it was in Sidonian ships that Xerxes
himself was wont to embark[18]. It seems, on the other hand, probable
that a cruciform standard was in common use by all the Greek states
at an early period, for Polyaenus relates that Chabrias, the Athenian
general, just before his action off Naxos in 376 with the Lacedaemonian
fleet under Pollis, ordered his subordinate commanders to remove the
_semeia_ from their ships and to keep in mind, in the ensuing conflict,
that all ships bearing such signs were enemies[19].

The flag was evidently unknown to the early Greeks; it is never
mentioned by Homer, and indeed there is no equivalent word in the
language of the classical period, yet at the time when we first meet
with the standard on the Phoenician coins flags were in common use
by the Chinese. The Chinese classics on the art of war known as the
Sun Tzu and Wu Tzu, written in the fifth century B.C., make frequent
reference to them. They played a very important part in marshalling the
army and inspiriting the soldiers, and the correct moment to strike the
enemy was judged by the disorder of their flags. According to Wu, the
Chinese flags contained various animal emblems.

The origin of the flag in European waters may however be dated from
the end of the fifth century B.C., when a primitive form was, if later
writers[20] are a safe guide, in use in the Athenian navy. This was
the "purple garment" or "Phoinikis[21]," used as a signal for combat
or as the sign of the Admiral's ship. Possibly the use of this emblem
may have been imitated from the Phoenicians. It may, on the other
hand, have originated independently, from a necessity of rendering
the cruciform standard more conspicuous in action. There is not
sufficient evidence to decide this point, but it is significant that
the _vexillum_ in use among the Romans at a somewhat later date shows
traces of a similar origin.

The military standard or _signum_ of the Romans consisted of a lance
with silver-plated shaft with a cross-piece at the top, from which
in some instances a small vexillum was suspended. From the ends of
this cross-piece, whether it held a vexillum or not, hung ribbons with
silver ivy leaves at the ends. Below were a number of discs, which
are believed to represent the honours conferred upon the Legion to
which the _signum_ belonged[22]. Below these again was a crescent, as
a charm against ill-fortune. In the _signa_ of the Praetorian guard
the discs were replaced by crowns alternating with medallion portraits
of the imperial house. These _signa_ were used as company ensigns to
facilitate the tactical movements of the Legion. The principal standard
of the Legion, answering to the Regimental Colours, was the _aquila_ or
eagle. Pliny the Elder[23] informs us that

  Caius Marius in his second consulship (B.C. 103) assigned the eagle
  exclusively to the Roman Legions. Before that period it had only
  held the first rank, there being four others as well, the wolf, the
  minotaur, the horse and the wild boar, each of which preceded a
  single division. Some few years before his time it had begun to be
  the custom to carry the eagle only into battle, the other standards
  being left behind in camp. Marius however abolished the rest of
  them entirely.

The _vexillum_ consisted of a square piece of material, usually red or
purple but sometimes white or blue, hung by the top edge (or sometimes
its two top corners only) from a cross-piece at the head of a lance
and heavily fringed along its bottom edge. The peculiar method of
attachment at the corners, which caused it to hang in heavy folds
instead of straight down, would seem to indicate an origin similar
to that of the Greek "Phoinikis." This was the standard appropriated
to the cavalry and to the special detachments of infantry, and it is
said to be the oldest of the Roman military standards. It hung before
the General's tent and was used in giving the signal to prepare for
battle[24]. From its use in this connection it naturally became the
sign of a commander of a fleet of ships[25] and was used in giving the
signal for fleet actions.

Flavius Vegetius[26], writing at the close of the fourth century A.D.,
distinguishes six kinds of military insignia, viz.: aquila, draco,
vexillum, flammula, tufa and pinna. The _Draco_ or dragon had been
borrowed from the Parthians after the death of Trajan. It took the
form of a dragon fixed upon a lance with gaping jaws of silver. The
body was of coloured silk, and when the wind blew down the open jaws
the body was inflated. The _Flammula_ (little flame) was an elongated
flag attached to the staff at the side, split throughout its length so
as to form two narrow streamers. The _Tufa_ seems, from the name, to
have been some form of tuft[27] or helmet-crest, but the exact form is
not known. It is of interest as having been adopted in Britain under
the name _Tuuf_[28]. _Pinnae_ was the name given to the side wings
of the soldiers' helmets, apparently formed of feathers. The precise
form of the _pinna_ standard is not known, but it is probable that the
fan-shaped feather standards which are displayed at the coronation of
the pope are a survival of this, or the preceding form.

Until the end of the Roman Empire the standard was used at sea only
for signalling purposes or to mark the ship in which the leader was
embarked. Thus in the action off Marseilles in B.C. 49, in which
Caesar's fleet under the command of Brutus engaged the Massilian fleet
which was fighting on the side of Pompey, the ship in which Brutus was
embarked was quickly recognised by the leader's standard, and narrowly
escaped being rammed by two triremes from opposite sides[29].

There are frequent references to this standard in classical writers and
it is often depicted in reliefs or on coins. From these it is clear
that its position was on the starboard quarter of the ship, at the
leader's right hand; it was raised there in going into action, and its
removal was a sign of disaster or retreat. It would seem that it was
also removed if the fleet was about to be engaged by superior forces,
presumably in order that the enemy might not concentrate against the
leader's ship. Thus in B.C. 36 Octavian, when expecting an attack at
sea by Pompey, embarked in a liburnian and sailed round the fleet
exhorting his men to have courage. When he had done this he lowered his
standard "as is the custom in times of very great danger[30]."

Pompey, whose success at sea had already induced him to exchange the
customary purple cloak of the Roman commander for a dark blue one, "as
the adopted son of Neptune," inflicted on Octavian the defeat that the
latter had anticipated, but was shortly afterwards himself defeated
at Naulochus by Agrippa, whom Octavian, a few years later, after the
battle of Actium, honoured with a special dark blue flag[31] as a
symbol of his naval superiority. From the account given by Appian of
the action off Naulochus it is clear that there was no distinguishing
flag in the private ships, as he expressly states that the only
difference in the ships of Octavian and Pompey lay in the colours of
the towers erected on them. From another passage in Appian[32] it
appears that it was the rule for the inferior commander to lower his
standard on approaching a superior. It is evident that these standards
were not "national" in the sense that our modern flags are national.

It is difficult to understand why an invention so apparently simple
as the laterally-attached flag should have been so late in making
its appearance in Europe (except in the form of small ribbon-like
streamers), but the fact remains that it is not until the close of the
eighth century A.D. that we meet with evidence of its existence. About
the year 800 Pope Leo III caused a mosaic to be placed on the apse of
the Triclinium of the Lateran Palace, in which on the right Christ was
represented as handing the keys of the Church to Pope Sylvester and a
flag to Constantine, while on the left St Peter was handing a pallium
to Leo and a similar flag to Charlemagne. Except for some fragments
in the Vatican this mosaic has disappeared, but engravings showing
it before and after restoration are to be found in a description of
the Lateran published at Rome in 1625[33]. In these the flags are
depicted as attached by one side to a staff, whilst the fly is cut
into three pointed tails. The field in both flags is charged with six
roses, but the reproduction made from early drawings by Benedict XIV in
1743, which is still in existence at Rome in the Tribune against the
Santa Scala, shows the flag on the right, which is of a green colour,
sprinkled with golden stars, not roses. In the year 800 Charlemagne was
crowned emperor at Rome, and received from the Patriarch of Jerusalem
the keys of that city together with a flag the form of which is not
stated. Evidently these flags were symbols of authority, as we have
seen the vexillum to have been centuries before.

There are several instances during the succeeding centuries of this
ceremonial presentation of a flag by high ecclesiastical authorities
to the leaders of expeditions whose aims received the approval of
the Church, the most important, from our point of view, being the
presentation made to William the Conqueror before his expedition to
England. Beside these there appear to have been other flags in use
which symbolised the patronage and protection of some especial saint,
as for instance the vexillum of St Maurice borne in the Spanish
campaigns of Charlemagne.

It seems probable that the laterally-attached form of flag had its
origin in the East, for Ximenes de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, who died
in 1247, mentions this form as one of the special characteristics of
the Arabs who overcame Roderic in 711 A.D. and conquered Spain[34].

It is true that, as will be seen in the next chapter, the Danes were
using this form in the ninth century, but it is more probable that
they had adopted it from the Franks than that they had invented it;
certainly the only standards of the Germanic tribes known to the
Romans were animal emblems, which were kept in the sacred groves until
required in battle[35].

The form of flag that first comes into evidence in the Lateran mosaic,
that in which the flag is attached laterally to the staff while the fly
is cut into three pointed tails, appears again upon two Carlovingian
book-covers of carved ivory, one of the ninth and one of the tenth
century, now preserved in South Kensington Museum. Neither of these
bears any device upon it, but in another book-cover of the twelfth
century in the same collection a small cross saltire appears in the
body of the flag, and the tails are proportionately of much greater
length. This form, to which the term "gonfanon" became applied, was the
principal form in use until the twelfth century, when it began to be
replaced by the rectangular banner, which offered a more suitable field
for the display of the personal devices that afterwards developed into
heraldic charges.

The most important historical monument that has survived to illustrate
the use of the gonfanon is the celebrated piece of embroidery known as
the Bayeux Tapestry. We need not here enter into the controversy that
has so long raged over the question of the exact date to be assigned
to this unique work. The weight of evidence inclines strongly toward
a date within the last two decades of the eleventh century, but if
we admit a date as late as 1150 A.D. it will not materially affect
the conclusions we shall draw. In addition to five rather rudimentary
forms at the mastheads of the ships, twenty-five gonfanons in all are
depicted, two with five tails, one with four, and the remainder with
three. Only a small proportion of the hundreds of armed men who appear
in the various scenes of military activity portrayed bear gonfanons on
their spears. These are the greater leaders--the barons, as the Normans
called them. The variation in the number of tails is probably merely
an incidental caprice of the designer or embroiderers, but there is
one gonfanon which greatly exceeds the rest in size and in the length
of its tails, which in this case alone are shown of such length as to
curl in the wind[36]. It appears in the representation of that crucial
moment in the battle at which the Normans, taken with a sudden panic,
and believing that their Duke had fallen, were about to quit the fight,
when William, lifting his helmet from his face, turned towards them
and called out that he was still alive and by God's help would yet
conquer. At the same time, a companion figure, which from the mutilated
superscription in the tapestry appears to be Eustace of Boulogne, lifts
this gonfanon high in the air with his left hand while with the right
he points to the Duke's face; a significant action, calling attention
in a twofold manner to William's presence. This gonfanon is probably
the one consecrated and sent by Pope Alexander; the principal flag of
the Norman army on the day of battle[37]. It cannot be supposed that
the most elaborate flag in the whole tapestry is merely the personal
gonfanon of Eustace, and indeed the assertion of M. Marignan that the
device shown in this gonfanon represents the arms of the Counts of
Boulogne has been sufficiently refuted by Dr Round[38]. As a matter
of fact this device (which may be described as a cross formy between
four roundels) was not an uncommon one at that period. It will be found
upon the reverse of many of the coins of the Holy Roman Emperors from
Charlemagne onwards and upon those of some of the English monarchs
before the Conquest. On the other hand, the gonfanons which appear in
earlier scenes in the tapestry either in William's hand or in the hand
of the gonfanoner in attendance on him, display only a plain Greek
cross. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that this particular
device was associated with sovereign power and would consequently be
suitable for a banner that was intended to be an outward sign of the
Pope's claim to transfer the sovereignty of England from Harold to
William. Moreover, according to Wace, William formally adopted the
consecrated gonfanon as his own before the battle:

    Li Dus apela un servant
    Son gonfanon fist traire avant
    Ke li Pape li enveia,
    E cil le trait, cil le despleia:
    Li Dus le prist, suz le dreça
    Raol de Conches apela
    Portez dist-il mon gonfanon

        The Duke called a servant
        Caused his gonfanon to be brought forward
        Which the Pope sent him
        And the man brought it, he unfolded it
        The Duke took it, raised it erect
        Called to him Raol de Conches
        Bear, said he, my gonfanon.

  _Roman de Rou_, V, 12713-9.

Thus it appears that William's original gonfanon was not borne in the
battle, but was replaced by the consecrated flag, which would thereby
become the rallying point for the army and the special sign of the
Duke's location in the field.

Raol, who was the hereditary gonfanoner of the Duke of Normandy, asked
permission to decline the honour of bearing the consecrated flag on
the ground that he wished to take part in the fighting, as did Gautier
Giffard, to whom it was subsequently offered, and it was finally handed
to Toustain.

Before we deal with the remaining flags we must first examine the
square object shown at the masthead of William's ship the 'Mora.' This
has been commonly supposed to be the "consecrated banner" in question,
but, as pointed out by Freeman[39], it is really a great lantern. The
Norman army embarked at St Valery in the estuary of the Somme late in
the afternoon of the 27th Sept., and before William had got on board
the 'Mora' the sun had set. As he did not wish the fleet to make the
English coast before daybreak, he gave orders that on reaching the
open sea the ships were to anchor near him until he gave a signal by
lighting the lantern at the masthead and sounding the trumpet, when
they were to follow him across[40]. The object above the lantern, which
resembles a cross, may be intended to represent the weather-vane spoken
of by Wace:

    Une lanterne fist le Dus
    Metre en sa nef el mast de sus
    Ke les altres nès le veissent
    Et empres li lor cors tenissent
    Une wire-wire dorée
    Out de cuivre en somet levée.

        The Duke caused a lantern
        To be placed in his ship at the masthead
        So that the other ships might see it
        And hold their course near him.
        A gilded weather-vane
        Of copper it had raised on top.

        _Roman de Rou_, V, 11592-7.

The remaining flag of the Norman army is an enigma. In form, the
segment of a circle fringed along the circumference, it contains a
representation of a bird with closed wings and outstretched claws,
placed with its back to the staff, so that when the spear is held
inclined forward, as in the Tapestry, it appears to be standing on the
ground. The suggestion of Meyrick that this represents an ancestral
flag of the men of the Cotentin, the descendants of the Danes of Harold
Blaatand, is more ingenious than satisfying, for the Danish raven was
never depicted in this tame position. Its attitude resembles that of
the hawks seen perched on Guy's hand in the two early scenes in which
he leads Harold to William, and indeed in the lower border, which
throughout the tapestry contains frequent allusions to the events
depicted above it, there appears immediately below this flag a hawk
chasing a rabbit. From its unusual--not to say unique--form it would
seem to belong to a people of different race from that of the bulk of
the army, and the only body of men present in William's army fulfilling
this condition were the Celts of Brittany, whose leader Alan had
command of the third division of the army, and whose flag therefore
must have been one of the most important of those in the field.

On the English side, the most important object is the Dragon Standard
(Plate I, fig. 2) which is symbolically shown in two positions: upright
in the hand of the standard-bearer, and fallen to the ground with
its bearer lying dead across its staff. Immediately behind it Harold
himself is likewise represented twice, first upright and drawing the
arrow from his eye, and then prone, receiving his final wound. A little
before this, in the scene which portrays the death of Harold's brothers
Gyrth and Leofwine, there lies on the ground a triangular flag, with
fringed tails hanging from the lower edge, a form similar to that
found on the tenth century Northumbrian coins[41]. This is the only
flag which, like the standard, is lying on the ground; its overthrow
must therefore have had a great symbolic importance in the mind of
the designer of the tapestry, and the only flag that we know of which
would fulfil this condition is that one against which the brothers took
their stand (see p. 32). This was the flag upon which the figure of a
fighting man was worked in gold, and although the tapestry does not
show this figure (probably because there is not room for it), there can
be little doubt that the representation of that flag is intended.

    L'estendart unt à terre mis
    E li Reis Heraut unt occis
    E li meillor de ses amis;
    Li gonfanon à or unt pris.

        They have overthrown the standard
        And slain King Harold
        And the best of his friends;
        They have taken the gold-worked

        _Roman de Rou_, V, 13956-9.

We have, in the preceding pages, traced the development of the flag
up to the closing years of the eleventh century without finding any
evidence of the existence of a national flag, that is, of a flag flown,
not to denote the presence of some particular leader at sea or on the
field of battle, or that some especial religious sanction or blessing
had been conferred or expected, but to indicate that the ship, town or
other strong place upon which it was placed owned allegiance to some
particular state or sovereign authority: a flag that might, on suitable
occasion, be flown by any subjects of that state, not as their personal
ensign but as a symbol of the collective body of which they were

While the Roman Empire stood at the height of its power, with the whole
civilised world under its dominion, there was no need of any such
device; and long after it had in fact passed away the theory of its
nominal existence survived and hindered the development of any national
consciousness. It is clear that this feeling must have been strong
since we find it shared by such a man as Theodoric the Ostrogoth,
who, although _de facto_ ruler of Italy from 493 to his death in 526,
professed his allegiance to the Eastern Empire and showed anxiety
to get his position recognised by the Emperor at Constantinople.
The history of the next five hundred years is that of a continuous
succession of struggles for power and possession of territory between
kings, nobles and ecclesiastics, and although the crowning of
Charlemagne by the Pope in 800 was a formal repudiation by Rome of the
authority of the Eastern Emperor there is no indication that the idea
of nationality had yet arisen in the minds of men. The flag which Leo
III presented to him was not in any way a national emblem; it was the
symbol of his supreme authority and no more. In the ninth and tenth
centuries there existed a certain number of religious flags of greater
or less reputation for their wonder-working powers, of which the
Oriflamme of Saint Denis may be taken as the type, but these were never
national in the sense in which we have defined this word above.

The great movement known as the Crusades, which commenced at the end of
the eleventh century, and after two hundred years of failure, relieved
by a few transient successes, finally exhausted the enthusiasm of
western Europe at the end of the thirteenth century, has been claimed
as one of the main causes of the growth of national sentiment. In a
sense this is no doubt correct, though it is equally true that its
failure was primarily due to the national antagonisms of the peoples
who took part in the expeditions to the Holy Land, and the partisan
jealousies and individual self-seeking of their leaders. But there is
no doubt as to the effect it had in widening the mental horizon of
all the peoples of western Europe, and it is therefore not surprising
to find indications of a development of flag design during the course
of the struggle. Nevertheless, if we expect to find traces of any
national or popular flags among the early crusaders we shall be
disappointed. The kings, nobles, and military orders of the Temple
and Hospital had each their own special banner, but the common people
had none, and it was not until the year 1188, one hundred years after
the first crusaders had entered Syria, that a means was provided
for distinguishing the rank and file of different nationalities by
a variation in the colour of the crosses upon their shoulders. From
the beginning, the cross set upon the clothing of rich and poor alike
had been the outward symbol of a common religion and, in theory,
of a common aim among all who took part in the conflicts with the
followers of Mahomet, but the flags which led the armies into action
and crowned the towers of captured castles or the gates of towns were
those of the individual leaders. Squabbles over the precedence of such
flags were not infrequent. The well-known instance of Richard I and
Philip of France at Messina in 1190 was perhaps the most important
in its after effects, but it was by no means the first or last of
such occurrences. In 1098 the Emir in command of one of the castles
in the neighbourhood of Antioch, seeing that the Saracens had been
dispersed, and fearful for the result if the Christians assaulted the
castle, offered to surrender, and asked for a Christian flag, which
he placed on the highest point of the walls. He took that nearest to
hand, which happened to be that of Raymond of Toulouse. The followers
of Bohemond were very angry at this, and in the end the Emir gave back
Raymond's banner and erected that of Bohemond in its place. In August
of the following year the Emir of Ascalon, frightened by the fall of
Jerusalem, made a similar offer of surrender to Raymond and hoisted his
flag over the gate of the city. Godfrey of Bouillon, who had just been
elected ruler of Jerusalem, claimed possession for himself, whereupon
the Emir sent back Raymond's flag and refused to surrender to either of

The placing of the flag of one of the crusading leaders upon castle or
town was usually sufficient to protect that place from further assault,
but it was not always respected. On the capture of Jerusalem in July,
1099, a remnant of the wretched inhabitants who had escaped torture and
massacre at the hands of the Christians, had taken refuge on the roof
of the mosque which occupied the site of Solomon's Temple. Tancred,
moved by pity, wished to spare them, and he and Gaston de Bearn gave
them their gonfanons as a protection. This served them for a few hours,
but the Crusaders had not tasted enough blood, and early next morning,
ignoring the protection thus formally granted, they shot them down
with arrows or put them to the sword--men and women alike. Raymond and
Tancred had in a like manner given protection to the defenders of the
Tower of David, who received their flags "as a sign of protection and
life." Raymond was more successful, perhaps because the Tower of David
was not so easily entered, and he succeeded in getting the prisoners
away safely, thereby giving rise to the scandalous imputation that he
had neglected his duty and sold his protection for gold.

Our last instance of the use of the flag during this (the first)
Crusade will concern its employment at sea. In May, 1102, Jaffa was
being threatened by the Saracens, and Baldwin, then King of Jerusalem,
was anxious to encourage the inhabitants to hold out. The Saracen
forces prevented him from getting there by land; he therefore embarked
at Arsuf in a buss, together with one Goderic, who is described by
Albert of Aix as an English pirate. On approaching Jaffa the flag of
Baldwin was fastened to a spear and raised high in the sun, so that the
Christians in Jaffa, on seeing it, might be sure that Baldwin was still
living. The Saracens also recognised it, and hastily collecting a force
of twenty galleys and thirteen other craft, attempted to sink the buss.
The king, however, got through in safety.

We have, unfortunately, no exact description of the various flags
mentioned, for the contemporary writers do not condescend to give
such details, though they occasionally allude to some characteristic
feature. Thus the flag of Bohemond is stated to have been of a red
colour (_rubicundum, sanguineum_) while that of Robert of Normandy was
yellow (_aureum_). That of Baldwin is referred to several times as
being white. On one occasion it was torn from his lance through being
driven into the body of an Arab whom he slew. The flags[42] borne on
lances in battle were evidently of gonfanon form, as there are several
references to the tails flying in the faces or over the heads of the
enemy, but it seems that there were also a number of larger flags,
for several of the greater leaders, including Bishop Adhemar the
Papal Legate, had a special flag-bearer (_vexillifer_). These were
probably also of gonfanon form during the First Crusade, for the deep
rectangular banner does not appear to have been introduced until the
Second Crusade.

It seems that crosses were borne in some of the flags, but there is
no mention of any personal device, though some flags are stated to
have been resplendent with purple and precious stones. It is commonly
supposed that the introduction to western Europe of the cross of St
George (the red cross on white ground) dates from this first crusade,
yet it does not appear at that time to have been associated with him.
On the 28th June, 1098, the crusaders besieged in Antioch by Corbogha,
finding themselves within measurable distance of destruction by famine,
determined to risk all upon a pitched battle. In this forlorn hope they
were completely successful. Unable to account for this by any earthly
cause, they imagined that they had seen a great army on white horses,
clothed in white and bearing white banners in their hands, issue from
the neighbouring mountains and come to their assistance. The leaders of
this ghostly army, recognised by their names written on their banners,
were St George, St Demetrius, and St Mercurius[43]. If at this time the
red cross had become the distinctive sign of St George one or other of
these writers would surely have mentioned it, but all agree that the
banners were white.

We may gather a few more details regarding the flags of the crusading
period from some of the earlier _chansons de geste_. The gonfanon, the
use of which was confined to the nobility, was fastened to the shaft of
the spear before going into action by three or five nails[44], and it
must have needed a strong fastening if it was to remain on the spear
throughout the battle. Indeed, the poets give a realistic touch to
their descriptions of the various combats by narrating how their heroes
drove the cloth of the gonfanon into the body of the foe. As they sat
upright upon their horses the tails of the gonfanon reached down to
their hands or even to their feet.

    Dunc met sa main en sa vermeille chalce
    Si traist tut fors une enseigne de palie
    A treis clous d'or en sa lance la lacet
    Ot le braz destre brandist l'espié en haste
    Des i qu'as poinz les lengues d'or li'n batent.

    Then thrust his hand into his scarlet hose
    And drew forth an ensign of rich silk
    With three golden nails fastened it to his lance
    In his right hand brandished the spear with vigor
    Down to his fist the golden tongues beat down.

    _Guillaume d'Orange_, _v._ 317.

The designs are simple in colour--red, white, yellow--and there is no
mention of any charge upon them, though in one instance a red gonfanon
is marked by a golden cross:

  L'espié trait en sa main au vermel gonfanon
  Une Crois i ot d'or.

      _Conquête de Jerusalem_, _v._ 425.

The pennons were carried by knights; they appear to have been of
similar colours to the gonfanons, but were much smaller.

  Tos chevaliers, n'i a cel n'ait penon.
    (All knights, there was not one but had a pennon.)

      _Ogier l'Ardenois_, _v._ 4440.

We have already noticed that the name "Standard" appears first applied
to a Saracen ensign. Further corroboration of this is supplied by the
_Chanson d'Antioche_ and _Le Conquête de Jerusalem_. In the latter poem
the author (Richard the Pilgrim) has imagined a wonderful standard
carried on an iron chariot and made of ivory and various precious
woods, and of an enormous height:

    L. toises longes i puet on brachoier
    Onques nus homs de char ne vit si haut clochier.

The custom of marking the flag with some distinctive heraldic device
appears to have been introduced about the middle of the twelfth
century, for the seal of Philip of Flanders (A.D. 1161) shows the
Flemish lion on his banner. During the Third Crusade, which followed
upon the re-capture of Jerusalem by Saladin (October, 1187), the
banner[45] of Richard I of England, which flew from the top of the
"Standard" already described, contained a single lion, while that of
his great rival, Philip Augustus of France, was blue powdered with gold
fleurs-de-lis. The Knights of the Temple, who first come into view in
1128, adopted a banner half black and half white (drear and black to
their foes but fair and favourable to their friends) to which they gave
the name _bauçan_[46]. Their rivals, the Knights of the Hospital of
St John in Jerusalem, who first enter into military activity in 1136,
had a red banner with a white cross upon it. The representation in
Plate I (fig. 5) is taken from an early manuscript of Matthew Paris and
shows a Latin cross; the eight-pointed cross[47], associated with this
order, was rarely used except on the vestments of the order, though it
occasionally appears on the banner of the commander-in-chief.

Mention has already been made of the consecrated flags which it was
customary for the Pope to present to the leaders of expeditions which
had the approbation of the Church. The flag entrusted to the Bishop
of Puy, the Papal Legate present at the First Crusade, was of this
nature. It is referred to in 1098 as the _signum magni papae_. In
1104 when Paschal sent Bohemond into France to gather support for him
against the Emperor, he entrusted him with another of these flags, to
which the name _vexillum Sancti Petri_ is applied. This change of name
would appear to indicate a difference in the device on the flag. That
difference was probably the introduction of the two Keys of St Peter
beside the cross, a point of some interest to us as it might affect the
question of the identity of the gonfanon on the Bayeux Tapestry already
discussed, and incidentally the date of that work. We have, however, no
certain knowledge of the presence of these keys before the year 1203.
In March of that year Innocent III sent to Calojohannes, King of the
Bulgars and Wends, one of these flags, together with a letter in which
he explained its symbolism at some length. This flag contained a cross
and the two keys symbolic of the powers entrusted to Peter according
to the tradition of the Church[48]. From the tenor of this letter it
may be inferred that the device was not a new one in 1203, so that this
was no doubt the device upon the _vexillum S. Petri_ met with during
the Third Crusade in 1199 and 1201. An interesting instance of the use
of a flag to convey authority occurs in 1216, when Rupen, nephew of
Leo of Armenia, was formally seised of the lordship of Antioch by the
patriarch of that city handing him a flag in the church of St Peter.

Thus far we are still without evidence of the existence of any flag
that could be described as "national," and we shall therefore turn
our attention to the birthplace of so much that was great in art and
literature, the Italian city-states, and since we are primarily seeking
evidence as to the early use of the flag at sea (though hitherto
without much success) we shall turn first to the maritime states of
Genoa and Pisa.

Of these two, Pisa was the first to rise as an important maritime
city, and in 980 she was supplying vessels to transport the troops of
the Emperor Otho II. By the end of the eleventh century a system of
government by Consuls had been firmly established, and the city can be
looked upon as an independent state. Shortly after this (in 1114) the
Pisans proceeded to capture the Balearic Isles from the Saracens. A
contemporary metrical account[49] of this struggle gives an indication
of the flags then in use in the following words:

    Tunc vexilla gerens Pisanae signifer urbis
    Valandus cuneos in campum ducit apertum.
    Hinc Ildebrandus sanctae vexilla Mariae
    Consul habens dextra saevos incurrit in hostes,
    Sedis Apostolicae vexillum detulit Atho.

Here we have evidence of at least three different flags in the Pisan
host: the Standard-bearer of the city carries the communal flag, the
nature of which is not indicated (in 1242 and 1350 it was a plain red
flag); Hildebrand the Consul carries a flag[50] of the B. V. Mary; and
Atho carries the papal flag[51], which had no doubt been presented
by the Pope when sending his benediction to the expedition through
the Archbishop of Pisa. These flags were fastened to spears (_hastis
vexilla micabant_) which were used in the conflict without regard to
the sanctity of the emblems borne on them:

    Tunc Ildebrandus consul dirum Niceronta
    Transfodiens ferro per pectus dirigit hastam
    Vexillumque trahit madefactum sanguine Mauri.

This matter-of-fact method of utilising the flag of the B. V. Mary by
thrusting its staff through the breast of an enemy and withdrawing
it stained with his blood does not accord with modern notions of the
sanctity of the flag.

The first important step in the rise of Genoa occurred in 958, when
Berengarius and Adalbert guaranteed its communal rights. Some thirty
years after this the Cathedral was founded, and as it was dedicated to
St Lawrence it is evident that at this early date St George had not yet
become the patron saint of the city.

The original manuscript of the _Annales Genuenses_, which narrate (not
without partisan bias) the principal events affecting the state and its
relations with Pisa and other rivals during the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, was at one time in the Archives of Genoa, but it is now in
the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. Commenced by Caffaro in 1154 on
the basis of a diary of events, which he had kept since early youth,
and continued from time to time by later writers under the instructions
of the municipal authorities, it presents a contemporary record from
the year 1099 to 1293, and, what is even more important for our
purpose, it contains in its margin a number of illustrations in which
flags appear both ashore and afloat.

Evidently, at some date after 958 the Genoese transferred their
spiritual allegiance from St Lawrence to St George in much the same way
that the Venetians had transferred their allegiance from St Theodore
to St Mark when the supposed relics of that saint were translated from
Alexandria to Venice, or as the English, in the fourteenth century,
replaced Edward the Confessor by St George, but it is not until the
year 1198 that we meet with a distinct reference by name to the flag
of St George as being that of the State. From that year onward it is
frequently referred to in terms which leave no doubt that it had been
the outward symbol of Genoese power from a much earlier period. Indeed,
in an illustration, against the year 1113, of the castle of Porto
Venere, then newly built by the Genoese, there flies above the castle a
large three-tailed gonfanon bearing a cross that extends to the three
sides and to the commencement of the tails. This is a pen-and-ink
sketch, so that the colour of the cross is not shown, but there can be
little doubt that this was a flag of St George. I say _a_ flag of St
George because, although the red cross on white was ultimately adopted
as the State ensign, _the_ State flag of St George in the thirteenth
century was not a cross at all; it was an actual representation of St
George himself on horseback in the familiar attitude of slaying the
dragon with a spear. This is shown clearly in a coloured miniature
which accompanies the events of 1227. In that year, at the commencement
of the struggle between the papacy and the Emperor, the Genoese laid
siege to Savona and the neighbouring town of Albizzola, which were
attempting to withdraw from their allegiance to their great neighbour
and to take sides with the Emperor Frederick. The artist depicts the
siege operations against these two towns, and shows the principal
citizens of Savona on their knees before the Podesta of Genoa in his
tent, humbly offering their submission[52]. Before the tent floats a
large red gonfanon, rectangular in form, and with four square-ended
tails, having the above-mentioned device in a light yellow colour, and
the word "vexillum" written under it to call attention to the fact that
it was the State flag.

The record of the events in 1242 provides a typical example of the use
of this flag of St George by the Genoese. Having heard on the 10th July
that the Emperor Frederick had sent sixty galleys and two great ships
under the command of Ansaldus de Mari to Pisa, and that the Pisans were
themselves fitting out fifty-eight galleys and other vessels under
Buscarius Pisanus, the Genoese immediately fitted out eighty-three
galleys, with thirteen tarids[53] and four great ships, at Genoa. These
were all painted white with red crosses in lieu of the sea-green colour
in which they had hitherto been accustomed to paint their vessels[54].
Instructions were then sent throughout all the districts owning
allegiance to the city that all men should prepare to embark, armed and
supplied with victuals. The Podesta[55] then collected the people in
the Square of St Lawrence, and after delivering an oration encouraging
them for the coming conflict, he, amid general rejoicing, solemnly took
possession of the state flag of St George, "to the honour of God and
of Holy Church and the confusion of their enemies," and constituted
himself Admiral of the fleet. His next step was to superintend the
election of eight Protentini and ninety-six Comiti according to
districts[56]. He then handed to each Protentinus, who became the
Squadron Commander of one of the eight squadrons into which the fleet
was divided, a splendidly worked flag embodying the device of his
district (_vexillum unum juxta formam cuiuslibet compagnae mirabiliter
designatum_) and to each Comitus two flags; one of the State device
(_vexillum ad signum communis_), evidently the red cross of St George,
which he was to place on the starboard quarter of his ship, and the
other containing the lion of St Mark (_vexillum ad signum Venetorum
Sancti Marchi_), which was to be placed on the port quarter. This is an
extraordinary instance of the use of dual national flags in a fleet,
and was the consequence of a treaty made between Genoa and Venice in
1238 whereby the two great rival sea powers agreed that their war
vessels should bear the flags of both States as a token of amity and
alliance between them. The Admiral's flag was then erected in one of
the best galleys, and the Protentini (Squadron Commanders) and Comiti
(Captains) proceeded to hoist theirs in the galleys and tarids assigned
to them, which were then apportioned off to the various squadrons. No
officers were appointed to the four great ships (_naves magnae_), which
were evidently victualling and store ships, relying almost entirely
upon sail power for propulsion and therefore of little use in fighting
at that period. As there were 96 comiti and 96 fighting ships, it is
clear that the galleys of the Admiral and of the eight Protentini had
each three flags, the State flag and the district flags being probably
placed in the bows. This appears to be the first recorded instance of
the division of a fleet into squadrons by means of flags. The most
striking detail of the interesting events in 1227 and 1242--one that
has hitherto escaped attention--is the fact that in the Republic of
Genoa, one of the earliest States to adopt a national flag, two forms
of that flag existed side by side; one containing a representation
of the patron saint (_vexillum Beati Georgii_) flown only in the
presence of the chief of the State or the Commander-in-chief, the other
containing merely the red cross emblematic of that saint, the general
device of the community (_signum communis_), in other words the flag of
the common people. Thus the supreme power and the common source of that
power are represented distinctly, and in such a way as to indicate that
fundamentally they were one and the same thing.

There are other instances in these Annals from which it is clear that
the flag of St George was erected only in the galley of the Admiral.
Indeed in 1282 it was expressly ordained by the _Sapientes Credentiae_
(Council of XV) that no leader should have the title of Admiral, but
only of Captain, unless he had at least ten galleys under his command,
and that the flag of St George should not be borne at sea unless the
fleet comprised ten or more galleys.

On the farther side of Italy another great maritime power had sprung
into existence at Venice. Owing to its remoteness from the lines of
military communication and the protection of its surrounding lagoons,
Venice enjoyed a comparative immunity from outside interference that
enabled her to form a settled government at a much earlier date
than had been possible at Genoa or Pisa, although the city was of
much later origin. In such circumstances one might suppose that the
Venetians would choose a national symbol at an early period, and that
the famous Lion of St Mark was adopted for this purpose shortly after
the translation of the relics of that saint to Venice in 828 A.D.[57]
I have, however, not met with any reference to this celebrated flag
earlier than the passage in which Villehardouin describes the attack of
the Crusaders on Constantinople in July, 1203. As the fleet approached
the walls of the city the aged and blind Doge Dandolo stood at the prow
of his galley with the Gonfanon of St Mark displayed before him. When
he landed the Gonfanon was carried before him,

  And when the Venetians saw the Gonfanon of St Mark on land and the
  galley of their leader which had been beached in front of them,
  then each man felt himself shamed, and all approached the land, and
  those in the huissiers (horse transports) leapt out and went on
  shore, and those in the great ships got into barges and got to the
  shore as quickly as each one could.

It will be noted that there was but one gonfanon of St Mark, that borne
before the leader, although there were evidently many other flags, for
in describing the preparation of the fleet for action a little earlier
Villehardouin states that banners and gonfanons were erected on the
castles of the ships, and that shields were placed along the sides[58].

Here we have evidently an arrangement of flags somewhat similar to that
already described as prevailing in the Genoese fleet. The State flag
is confided to the commander-in-chief, while other ships display the
banners of the subordinate leaders.

But it is doubtful whether the idea of a national ensign originated
in the maritime states. The first of the Italian cities to adopt a
democratic form of government was Milan, where the people, under the
leadership of their Archbishop, Aribert, successfully resisted the
Emperor Conrad himself. In the course of the struggle, about the year
1038, Aribert introduced as a rallying point for his people in battle
a movable standard, which is described by Arnulf as a lofty beam, like
the mast of a ship, fixed on a strong wagon and bearing a golden apple
at the summit, from which hung two white streamers (_pendentibus duobus
candissimi veli limbis_). Midway on this pole was placed a crucifix,
to which the eyes of the citizens might turn for comfort whatever the
fortunes of the fight might be. This device was afterwards adopted by
most of the city-states of Italy, and under the name of _carroccio_
(chariot) will be met with frequently in their annals. In its later
development an altar was placed at the base of the mast, while the
wagon, drawn by white oxen, was hung with scarlet cloth and the city
flag floated at the masthead.

Among the cities that adopted this form of standard were Cremona,
where it was named "Berta," Brescia, Bologna, Florence and Parma.
In the case of Parma, where the standard was called "Blancardo," an
interesting instance of its symbolic importance other than in battle is
recorded. In 1303, when Ghiberto of Correggio obtained possession of
that city, he got himself confirmed as "lord, defender, and protector
of that city, and was invested by the resignation into his hands of the
standard of the Virgin and the flag of the Carroccio[59]."

This investiture by flag, already illustrated in the case of
Charlemagne and Rupen, is worthy of two further illustrations. In 1329
Padua recognised Alberto della Scala as its lord by presenting him with
the flag of the people (_vexillum populi_) in public assembly, and in
1406 acknowledged its overthrow by Venice by presenting the same symbol
to the Doge Steno. In this year also Verona acknowledged its defeat by
surrendering to the Venetians its communal flag (a white cross on red
ground) and its _vexillum populi_ (a golden cross on azure field).

As a final example of the use of flags in the mediaeval Italian
republics we may take the case of Florence. In October, 1250, in the
course of a sanguinary struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines,
the popular party (then Guelph)

  marched in military array to San Lorenzo, and there elected thirty
  leaders, annulled a portion of the functions of the Podestà, and
  appointed as guardian of the new government a captain of the
  people, Messer Uberto da Lucca, with whom were to be associated
  twelve elders (two for each division of the town) as councillors
  for him and advisers of the people.

  The captain was to be a foreigner; but the elders were to be

  The fighting population was divided into twenty companies each with
  a standard of its own, and the force thus created was intended,
  under the leadership of the captain, to defend the liberties of the
  people within the town. Outside Florence the army was still to be
  commanded by the Podestà. The captain's standard showed a red cross
  on a white field: to this day the ensign of the town of Florence.
  The nobles and the powerful burghers (popolani) formed a separate
  force--that of the knights. Each sesto or division of the town had
  a separate ensign for its troop of cavalry, and these banners, with
  many others, were given solemnly by the Podestà on every Whitsunday.

  The contado was also divided into companies under respective
  standards, and when called into the town, fell naturally into line
  with the city bands.

  All these changes were intended to check the power of the
  Ghibellines, who soon came to be so hated by the majority of
  Florentines that a common banner even was felt as an intolerable
  evil, and the Guelph party adopted a red lily on a white field,
  leaving the white lily on a red field (the old arms of the commune)
  to the opposite faction[60].

Here again we have two national flags as at Genoa, but with a marked
difference in the underlying meaning. One, the red flag with white
lily, the ensign of the aristocratic classes: the other, the red cross,
that of the common people.

From the facts set forth in the preceding pages (and they are supported
by a number of less important details with which we shall not weary
the readers' attention) it may be inferred that national flags came
into being during the course of the twelfth century and had a twofold
origin. In the case of the smaller states organised on a popular basis
under continually changing Consuls or magistrates, they arose from the
necessity of having some clearly recognisable rallying point in action
that was not personal and therefore subject to frequent change. This
was supplied either by a common devotion to a particular saint, as at
Genoa and Venice, or by the adoption of one particular colour, as at
Pisa, or in the solitary case of Rome, the greatest of all in wealth
of historic memories, by the re-adoption of an ancient classic device,
the S.P.Q.R. of the Senatus Populusque Romanus. In the larger states,
which from their very size were at that period necessarily organised on
a feudal basis, the banner of the sovereign lord became the national
flag. This was what happened in France and (as will appear in the next
chapter) also happened in England.

In this, the most memorable advance in the use of flags, it was the
city-states of Italy that led the way; and it was the great development
during the Crusades of the activity of the maritime states of Genoa,
Venice and Pisa that spread the example throughout Europe.

By the end of the thirteenth century the maritime city-states of
northern Europe, which had arisen to prominence in consequence of the
development of their shipping under the influence of the Crusades, had
begun to make regulations governing the use of their flags at sea. Thus
the maritime laws of Hamburg, to which Pardessus[61] assigns a date
prior to 1270, contained a provision to the effect that every burgher
of that town should fly at sea a red flag[62], under penalty of three
silver marks, unless the flag had been lowered in time of danger,
and a like penalty was to be inflicted on any stranger who flew this
flag, on plaint being made against him. A similar provision appears in
the Maritime Law of Riga of the same date, with the difference that
the flag is to bear a white cross, the colour of the field not being
stated, though at a later date it is given as black. The Laws of Lubeck
contain a like provision in 1299, the "Lubeschen Vloghel[63]" being
presumably the flag, white and red in two horizontal bands, flown by
that town until its absorption into the German Empire.

Two years earlier, in 1297, appeared the first recorded provision for
the bearing of an English flag at sea, and we may therefore, with the
close of the thirteenth century, quit the wide field of research that
we have been attempting to survey for a more detailed investigation of
the history of British national flags.


[1] I.e. Flag (Danish and Norse), Flagg (Swedish), Flagge (German),
Vlag (Dutch).

[2] See Plate II, fig. 10.

[3] E.g. Albert of Aix: longissima hasta quod vocant standart. Baldric
of Dol: admiravisi stantarum. Peter Tudebode: Quod stantarum apud nos
dicitur vexillum. Robert the Monk: vexillum admiravissi quod standarum

[4] _Historia_, lib. VI: this with the other authorities quoted will be
found in the _Recueil des Historiens des Croisades_.

[5] Unde quia stat fortissime compaginatum in signum populorum a stando
standardum vocitatur.

[6] In 1337 streamers were from 14 to 32 ells long and 3 to 5 cloths
wide; standards were 9 ells long and 3 cloths wide; while banners were
1¾ ells long and 2 cloths wide.

[7] E.g. those of William II, Henry I, Stephen and Alexander I of

[8] _The Theorike and Practike of moderne warres_, 1598.

[9] The fact that the object represented is really a boat has been
disputed, but there seem to be no good grounds for the objections made.
The question is discussed by Dr Wallis Budge in his _Egypt in the
Neolithic and Archaic Periods_ (Books on Egypt and Chaldea, vol. IX),
pp. 71 et seq.

[10] They are represented in de Morgan's _Recherches sur les Origines
de l'Egypte_, in Dr Wallis Budge's work just cited, p. 78, and in
Capart's _Primitive Art in Egypt_, p. 210.

[11] Ezekiel, chap. xxvii.

[12] See the British Museum _Catalogue of Greek coins (Phoenicia)_,
edited by Mr G. F. Hill, and Mr Hill's remarks in his introduction, p.

[13] In Figs. 1, 2, 3 and 5.

[14] For a more detailed discussion of these standards see papers by
Dr Assmann and Mr Hill in the _Zeitschrift für Numismatik_, vol. xxv,
and by Prof. E. Babelon in the _Revue Numismatique_ for 1907. Prof.
Babelon holds that this cruciform staff is the object which the Greeks
called στυλις [Greek: stylis], a word whose meaning has never been
satisfactorily determined, and that its primary object was to support
the "aphlaston." The other writers do not concur. His theory that the
boards which formed the aphlaston were movable and, supported by the
"stylis," served to aid the navigation of the ship will not, I think,
command many adherents.

[15] Pontremoli et Collignon: _Pergame, Restauration et description des
Monuments de l'Acropole_, Paris, 1900.

[16] See the instances quoted in the chapter on signals, p. 140.

[17] τὸ βαρβαρικὸν ἀνέτεινε σημεῖον [Greek: to barbarikon aneteine
sêmeion]. _Strategemata_, VIII, 53 (iii). Polyaenus flourished circa
150 A.D. and was therefore writing long after the event he relates, but
he appears to have had access to earlier authors whose works have now

[18] Herodotus, VII, 100, 128.

[19] _Strategemata_, III, 11 (xi).

[20] E.g. Diodorus Siculi, XIII, 46, 77; Polyaenus, I, 48 (ii);
Polybius, II, 66 (ii).

[21] Φοινικις [Greek: Phoinikis] said to be derived from Φοίνιξ [Greek:
Phoinix] dark red or purple. Φοίνιξ [Greek: Phoinix] which also
denotes a Phoenician is of doubtful etymology and may have been derived
from the name of the date palm.

[22] _Vide_ Stuart Jones, _Companion to Roman History_.

[23] _Natural History_, Book X, 5 (4).

[24] Caesar, _B.G._ II, 20: vexillum proponendum, quod erat insigne,
quum ad arma concurri oporteret.

[25] Tacitus, _Hist._ V, 22: Namque praetoriam navem vexillo insignem,
illic ducem rati, abripiunt.

[26] _De Re Militari_, III, 5: "Muta signa sunt aquilae, dracones,
vexilla, flammulae, tufae, pinnae. Quocunque enim haec ferri iusserit
ductor, eo necesse est signum suum comitantes milites pergant." He is
here using the word _signum_ in the sense of signal, and divides these
signals into _vocalia_ or orders given by word of mouth, _semi-vocalia_
or those given by trumpet, and _muta_ or those denoted by the movement
of the standards.

[27] Du Cange, _Glossarium_: Tufa genus vexilli apud Romanos ex
confertis plumarum globis.

[28] See p. 30.

[29] _De Bello Civili_, II, 6: Conspirataeque naves triremes duae navem
D. Brut quae ex insigni facile agnosci poterant, duabus ex partibus
sese in eam incitaverant.

[30] Appian, V, 111: ἐπὶ δὲ τῇ παρακλήσει τὰ στρατηγικὰ σημεῖα, ὡς ἐν
κινδύνῳ μάλιστα ὤν, ἀπέθετο. [Greek: epi de tê paraklêsei ta stratêgika
sêmeia, hôs en kindynô malista ôn, apetheto.]

[31] Dio, LI, 21: σημείῳ κυανοειδεῖ ναυκρατητικῷ [Greek: sêmeiô
kyanoeidei naukratêtikô]. Suetonius II: caeruleo vexillo donavit.

[32] _Civil Wars_, V, 55.

[33] Alemannus, _De Lateranensibus parietinis_.

[34] _De Rebus Hispaniae_, III, 18: Arabum ... qui sua capita tegunt
vittis, ... habentes vestis diversis coloribus variegatas, tenentes
gladios et ballistas, et vexilla in altum tensa.

[35] _Germania_, VII: effigiesque et signa quaedam detracta lucis in
praelium ferunt.

[36] See Plate I, fig. 3.

[37] "There in the midst of all, the guiding star of the whole army,
floated the consecrated banner, the gift of Rome and of Hildebrand....
There rode the chief of all, the immediate leader of that choicest and
central division, the mighty Duke himself." Freeman, _Norman Conquest_,
2nd edition, III, 463. It is true that (p. 465) Freeman says "I cannot
see the banner in the tapestry," but if he was looking for a "banner"
he certainly would not find one at this early date, and Wace (v, 11451)
expressly says that it was a "gonfanon": "L'Apostoile...un gonfanon
li enveia." Freeman supposes (p. 768) that at this point Eustace is
giving advice to which William will not listen, but surely this is
a misconception of a striking incident spiritedly portrayed by the

[38] "The Bayeux Tapestry" in _Monthly Review_, Dec. 1904.

[39] _Op. cit._ p. 400: "the lantern on the Duke's mast is shown
plainly in the Tapestry."

[40] William of Poitiers (his chaplain) says: "Verum ne prius luce
littus, quo intendunt, attingentes, iniqua et minus nota statione
periclitentur; dat praeconis voce edictum, ut cum in altum sint
deductae, paululum noctis conquiescant non longe a sua rates cunctae
in anchoris fluitantes, donec in ejus mali summo lampade conspecta,
extemplo buccinae clangorem cursus accipiant signum."

[41] See Plate II, fig. 10 and p. 31.

[42] The chroniclers adopt no technical terms for the flags, but use
_vexillum_ or _signum_ indiscriminately, the former word being no
longer restricted to hanging flags, and being occasionally used for a
standard or even for a cross.

[43] Thus Albert of Aix; Tudebode substitutes Theodore for Mercurius,
and Robert the Monk, Maurice.

[44] _Ogier l'Ardenois_, _v._ 1744: A trois claus d'or son gonfanon
lacié. _Ibid._ _v._ 9910: A cinq claus d'or.

[45] _Itin. Regis Ricardi_: regium cum leone vexillum.

[46] Plate I, fig. 4. Vexillum balzanum, so named from "balzan," a
piebald horse; the word was subsequently corrupted to "beauseant."

[47] Known as the Maltese Cross--Malta having been handed over to the
Knights after their ejection from Rhodes by the Turks in 1522.

[48] Baluzius, _Epistolarum Innocentii III Pontificis lib. undecim._
1682: Praetendit autem non sine mysterio crucem et claves; quia beatus
Petrus Apostolus et crucem in Christo sustinuit et claves a Christo
suscepit. Repraesentat itaque signum crucis, etc.

[49] Laurentius Veronensis, _De Bello majoricano_.

[50] The plural form _vexilla_ seems to have been necessitated by the
scansion of the verse.

[51] Michael de Vico in his _Breviarium Pisanae Historiae_, written in
1371, says this was red (_vexillum vermileum_) and that thereafter the
Pisans always flew a red flag.

[52] Reproduced in colour in the _Monumenta Germaniae Historica.
Scriptores_, vol. 18. The MS. itself has also been reproduced in
photographic facsimile.

[53] The tarid at this date was shorter and broader than the galley,
and therefore able to carry a heavier burden, but it was on this
account less mobile, and therefore defensive rather than offensive
in action. These tarids were fitted out with fighting castles
(_hediffitia_ (aedificia) _mirabilia ad proelium_) to increase their
defensive qualities.

[54] Depictae colore albo cum crucibus per totum, dimisso tunc glauco
colore quo depingi solebant.

[55] Chief Magistrate or "President" of the Republic.

[56] The term "Protentinus" was adopted from the Normans then ruling
in Sicily, who had acquired it from the Byzantines. As in Sicily, the
Protentinus appears to have been primarily the chief magistrate of one
of the districts (compagnae) into which the state territory was divided
for administrative purposes, the "comitus" being one of his subordinate
officers. Thus the fleet was organised on a territorial basis. The term
"comitus" was afterwards applied to the officer occupying the position
of boatswain in a galley, but it has not that meaning at this date.

[57] A medal of Doge Pietro Candiano, 887 A.D., has on the reverse a
war vessel with a flag at the mast, too small to show any distinctive

[58] LXVI: furent drecies les banieres et li gonfanon es chastiaus des
nés, et les houces ostées des escuz et portendu li bort des nés.

[59] Sismondi, _History of the Italian Republics in the Middle Ages_,
ed. by Wm. Boulting, p. 252.

[60] Bella Duffy, _The Tuscan Republics_, pp. 78-80.

[61] _Collection de Lois Maritimes_, II, 337.

[62] In the seventeenth century this red flag was charged with a white

[63] Pardessus, II, 411.

Chapter II

_Early English, Scottish, and Irish Flags_


So far as may be judged from the scanty records that remain, the
ancient inhabitants of these islands do not seem to have known the use
of flags until the Romans made them acquainted with their military
_signa_. Adopted by the Saxons either directly from the Romans before
they left their homes on the continent or from the Britons whom they
subdued, flags formed, from the seventh century onwards, an important
part of the regalia. Speaking of Eadwin King of Northumbria, under date
628 A.D., the Venerable Bede says:

  his dignity was so great throughout his dominions that banners
  (vexilla) were not only borne before him in battle, but even in
  time of peace when he rode about his cities and towns or provinces
  the standard bearer was wont to go before him. And when he walked
  about the streets that sort of standard which the Romans call Tufa,
  and the English Tuuf, was borne before him[64].

A few years later, on the translation of the bones of King Oswald,
the royal vexillum of purple and gold (_auro et purpura compositum_)
was placed above the tomb, a practice that was followed through many

The Saxons of Wessex adopted as their principal war standard the
dragon, which in various forms was destined to appear at many crucial
moments in English history. At the battle of Burford in 752, according
to Henry of Huntingdon, the Wessex standard was a golden dragon, while
the Mercians used the vexillum[65].

The Danish vikings, who commenced their descents upon the southern
coasts of England in the middle of the ninth century, had as their
ensign a raven embroidered in a flag, which appears to have been used
for divination. In the year 878 Hubba

  the brother of Hingwar and Halfdene, with 23 ships ... sailed to
  Devon, where with 1200 others he met with a miserable death, being
  slain before the castle of Cynuit[66]. There (the Christians[67])
  gained a very large booty, and amongst other things the flag
  called Raven[68], for they say that the three sisters of Hingwar
  and Hubba, daughters of Lodobroch, wove that flag and got it ready
  in one day. They say moreover that in every battle wherever that
  flag went before them, if they were to gain the victory a live
  raven would appear flying in the middle of the flag, but if they
  were doomed to be defeated it would hang down motionless, and this
  often proved to be so[69].

From this description it is clear that the raven flag was attached by
one side to a staff, instead of by the top to a crosspiece like the
Roman vexillum. We meet with it next at the beginning of the eleventh
century, when the Danish hordes again invaded England under Sweyn and
Cnut and conquered it. The anonymous author of the _Encomium_ of Queen
Emma, the wife of Cnut, gives a description of the flag and attributes
to it magical properties, in which he is good enough not to expect his
readers to believe. He says:

  For they had a flag of wondrous portent, which, though I may well
  believe this to be incredible to the reader, yet because it is true
  I will mention it in this truthful account. Of a truth, although it
  was woven of quite plain white silk and there was no image of any
  kind in it, yet in time of war there always appeared in it a raven,
  as though it were woven thereon, which when its own party was
  victorious appeared with open beak, shaking its wings and moving
  its legs, but when that party was defeated, very quiet and with its
  whole body hanging down (_toto corpore demissus_)[70].

Possibly this flag was triangular, for in the early years of the tenth
century the viking kings of Northumbria introduced into the reverse
of their coins a triangular flag affixed laterally to a staff[71].
The top edge of this was horizontal and the lower, which was inclined
upward from the staff, was heavily fringed. In the field was a
small cross, which had--possibly under the influence of a nominal
christianity--replaced the raven, although that bird is found on the
obverse of some of the later coins[72]. These coins are of especial
interest to us as they contain the earliest representation of a flag
of any of the northern nations. This triangular flag appears first in
a coin of Sihtric, who, after being driven from Dublin by the Irish in
920, reigned at York and died about 927, and later in a coin of Regnald
(King of Northumbria in 943) and upon coins of Anlaf (949-952)[73].

It is about this period that flags first become associated with
particular saints. Among the treasures sent by Hugh the Great, Duke
of the Franks, to King Æthelstan in 927 was a banner of St Maurice,
which is said to have been of especial assistance to Charlemagne in
his Spanish wars[74]. We do not know what form this banner took,
presumably it was a representation of the saint, but it is of
especial significance to us that this saint had been a soldier, for
it enables us in some measure to understand why St George had such an
extraordinary vogue a few centuries later.

At the battle of Assandune (1016) in which the English under Eadmund
Ironside were defeated by the Danes under Sweyn and Cnut, the Raven was
opposed to the Dragon and to another ensign described as a "Standard."
This is the first occasion on which an English king appears in the
field with two different "standards," and it is of interest to note
that his place in battle was between them[75].

It is to be regretted that Henry of Huntingdon did not explain what
this royal "Standard," for which he has no exact Latin equivalent, was
like. He tells us that Harold also had a "Standard" (_signum regium
quod vocatur Standard_) at the Battle of Hastings, and that a band
of Norman knights bound themselves by oath to seize it: an effort in
which they were successful, although many were slain. This Standard was
apparently the "Dragon" seen in the Bayeux Tapestry in the hands of
Harold's standard-bearer[76]. According to William of Malmesbury[77],
Harold, who was fighting on foot, placed himself with his brothers
near his _vexillum_, which was in the likeness of a man fighting,
and was sumptuously adorned with gold and precious stones. After the
battle William presented it to the Pope. Probably this fighting man
was the emblem of the South-Saxons, for on the Sussex Downs above
Wilmington--once the home of Earl Godwin, Harold's father--may be seen
the outline of a gigantic figure armed with a staff or lance in either
hand[78]. Evidently Harold's position was between the Dragon standard,
and his personal ensign, a position similar to that occupied "according
to custom" by Eadmund fifty years before.

Of these two the "signum regium," or principal "standard" appears to
have been fixed in a central position or rallying point, while the
other, the Dragon, was carried in the hands of a standard-bearer chosen
for his personal strength and prowess. In September of the year 1191
when Richard was fighting in the Holy Land in company with the French
under the Duke of Burgundy, and the crusading army was drawn up for
battle, Richard fixed his standard in the midst of the forces and
handed the Dragon to Peter des Preaux to carry, despite the claim of
Robert Trussebut to bear it by hereditary right[79]. By this time the
royal "standard" supported an heraldic banner that displayed the lion
which Richard placed upon his first great seal and which on his return
to England he multiplied by three; but why did a symbol so obviously
pagan as the Dragon survive the Conquest and that greater attention to
religion--or at any rate to its outward observance--that the Conquest
had brought in its train? William of Normandy had conquered England
beneath the aegis of the gonfanon with golden cross that the Pope had
blessed for him, yet we hear no more of it. The battle of the Standard
in 1138 was fought around a ship's mast bearing aloft the banners of St
Peter, St John of Beverley and St Wilfred of Ripon. The very crusade
in which Richard was engaged had been inaugurated with the solemn
assumption of coloured crosses by the combatants at the hands of the
Archbishop of Tyre, white for the English, red for the French, and
green for the men of Flanders[80]. Yet the standard under which the
English crusaders were led to the attack was none of these, but the
same Dragon under which the Parthians had fought the Romans and the men
of Wessex had beaten the men of Mercia. And the chronicler who records
this fact was an eye-witness.

When, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign, Henry III was about to
visit the Abbey at Westminster, which he was rebuilding,

  he commanded Edward FitzOdo to make a Dragon in the manner of a
  Standard or Ensign of red Samit, to be embroidered with gold, and
  his tongue to appear as though continually moving and his eyes of
  Saphires or other stones agreeable to him[81]

which was to be placed in the Abbey Church against the King's coming
thither. What then was its religious significance?

But we must leave this question to the student of folklore[82].
Suffice it to say that the Dragon was borne in the English army at
Lewes in 1216, at Creçy in 1346, and finally at Bosworth Field in 1485,
whence, in company with two banners, one containing the image of St
George and the other a Dun Cow, it was carried in state to St Paul's
Cathedral. Under all the Tudor sovereigns the Dragon formed one of
the supporters of the Royal Arms, it appeared on the streamers of the
_Henri Grace à Dieu_, and to this day it supports the Arms of the City
of London and gives a name to one of the Officers of Arms--Rouge Dragon.

Before we turn aside to retrace the steps by which St George became the
patron saint of England and the red cross on white ground England's
national flag, we must first briefly notice the other saintly banners
with which, for a time, it contested the pre-eminence. Mention has
already been made of the "Standard" from which the battle of 1138 took
its name. This standard consisted of the mast of a ship fixed on a
four-wheeled frame. At the top was placed a silver pyx containing a
consecrated wafer, and beneath this were suspended the banners of St
Peter (of York), St John (of Beverley), and St Wilfred (of Ripon).
The entirely religious nature of this standard is no doubt due to the
fact that the English levies had been gathered under the direction of
Thurstan, the aged Archbishop of York[83].

The banner of St John of Beverley was again in evidence during the
Scottish wars of Edward I, and during these same wars there appears
for the first time the banner of another north of England saint, St
Cuthbert of Durham. Both these banners were carried by ecclesiastics,
who were paid by the king for their services. In addition to these,
which seem to have been carried only in the Northern wars, there were
in use, as appears from the Wardrobe Accounts for 1299-1300[84], five
other banners: two of the Arms of England, one of the arms of St
George, one of the arms of St Edmund, and one of the arms of St Edward.

A description of the banner of St Cuthbert has been preserved for us in
a MS. of the sixteenth century[85]:

  There was also a Baner ... called Sanct Cuthbertes Baner which was
  five yards in length. All the pippes of it were of sylver to be
  sleaven on a long speire staffe, and on the overmost pype on the
  hight of yt was a ffyne lytle silver crosse, and a goodly Banner
  cloth perteyned to yt. And in the mydes of the banner cloth was
  all of white velvett, halfe a yerd squayre every way, and a faire
  crose of Read velvett over yt, and within ye said white velvett was
  ye holy Relique, ye Corporax that ye holy man Sancte Cuthbert did
  cover the chalyce withall when he sayd mess. And the Resydewe of ye
  Banner clothe was all of Read velvett, imbrodered all with grene
  sylke and goulde most sumtuousle.

The arms of England were at this period the three leopards (or lions):
those of St George the well-known red cross. St Edmund's arms are
believed to have been three golden crowns on a blue field[86], those of
St Edward (Edward the Confessor) were, also on a blue field, a cross
flory between five martlets, gold[87]. Some of Edward's coins show on
the reverse a cross between four small birds that may be taken to be
martlets, the heraldic swallow without feet or beak. These alone of all
the saintly "arms" appear to have had any direct connection with the
man with whose name they are associated.

Under Henry V there was added to these a banner emblematic of the Holy
Trinity[88], which was carried at Agincourt. In addition to these we
hear of a banner of St William, carried in the Earl of Surrey's army in
the north in 1513.

It will have been noticed that, with the exception of the two apostles,
only one of these saints, St George, is of foreign extraction. How did
it come to pass that this foreign saint completely eclipsed those who,
in the literal sense of the word, were strictly national?

Few saints have been so universally honoured as St George, and yet
there is not a saint in the calendar about whose life so little
that is authentic is known. He was a soldier who attained the crown
of martyrdom during the reign of Diocletian. That is the extent of
our knowledge, and on this meagre foundation the wildest, the most
incredible legends have been embroidered. Even the date of his death is
not certain[89], yet from an early age he was one of the most popular
of saints, especially in the East, where he was revered by Mahometan
and Christian alike. And here it is to be noted that he is not the
George of Cappadocia, the Arian Bishop of Alexandria who met with the
death his acts had amply merited at the hands of the populace in the
year 361, although so eminent an authority as Gibbon[90] has declared
them one and the same.

The cult of St George spread from East to West. In the fifth century he
was honoured in Gaul. The monastery at Thetford, founded in the reign
of Canute, was dedicated to him[91], and the churches of St George
at Fordington (now a part of Dorchester) and Southwark were founded
before the Norman Conquest. But although his feast day (23rd April) had
been included by the Venerable Bede in his _Martyrologium_ it does not
appear to have been generally observed in England till a later date.
One of the payments in the Misae roll of 14 John (1213)[92] is dated
as the day before the feast of St George, and this feast was included
among the minor festivals by the Council at Oxford in 1222[93], yet it
is not mentioned in the Constitutions of the Bishop of Worcester in
1240[94]. It is included in the list of saints' days drawn up by the
Synod of Exeter in 1287, but it is not included in lists drawn up by
Archbishops of Canterbury in 1332 and 1400, nor in one drawn up by the
Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1342[95].

The explanation of this lies in the fact that St George was not a
churchman's but a soldier's saint. It is to our crusading kings,
Richard and Edward I, and to their followers that he owes a popularity
that extends to numbers that do not reverence saints and would be hard
put to it to name offhand half a dozen others.

St George became especially popular among the crusaders, and his
miraculous intervention was believed to have decided victory in their
favour on several occasions. The early sculptured tympanum over the
south door of St George's Church at Fordington is supposed to represent
the saint intervening in behalf of the Christians at the battle of
Antioch in 1098. The same subject occurs in a mural painting in the
church at Hardham in Sussex[96]. Both painting and sculpture are
assigned to the twelfth century. In both instances the saint is on
horseback and carries a lance; with the butt end he strikes down the
foe. Near the head of the lance is a gonfanon the fly of which is split
into long tails. No sign of the cross now remains in the painting, but
in the sculpture it is plainly visible at the head of this gonfanon.
As the earliest representation in England of St George's flag, this
sculpture is of especial interest.

As already remarked in the previous chapter, the date at which the
red cross on a white field first became associated with St George is
not known. Jacobus de Voragine, the thirteenth century author of the
_Legenda Aurea_, quotes an earlier history of Antioch as his authority
for the statement that at the Siege of Jerusalem (1099) the Christians
hesitated to ascend the scaling ladders until St George, clad in white
armour marked with the red cross, appeared and beckoned them on.

The date at which St George's cross became accepted as the English
national flag has also yet to be ascertained. It does not appear to
have been used as such at the time of the Third Crusade. In January,
1188, when Henry II and his followers enrolled themselves in response
to the preaching of William of Tyre, they received white crosses, while
the French took red and the Flemings green ones[97]. At first sight it
may seem that there is some error in this statement. We know that at
a later period the English had adopted the red cross on white ground
while the French made use of a white one on a blue ground. Cleirac[98],
writing in 1661 and knowing of no other authority for the statement
than Matthew Paris, attempted to solve this difficulty by "restoring"
the text and interchanging "red" and "white," but this simple expedient
is not allowed to the modern student. The statement occurs not only
in Matthew Paris, who had probably taken it from the Abbot Benedict's
_Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi_, but also in the works of John de
Oxenedes, Bartholomew de Cotton, Roger de Wendover and Ralph de Diceto.
It is not probable that so many contemporary, or nearly contemporary,
writers would make or repeat such a statement if it were erroneous.

Time and circumstances have not permitted of an absolutely exhaustive
examination of the public records, but after a lengthy search in all
likely places the author has not been able to find any mention of the
"arms" or flag of St George in English earlier than the year 1277.
In the roll of accounts[99] relating to the Welsh War of that year
(the fifth of Edward I) occur payments to Admetus, the king's tailor,
for the purchase of white and coloured cloth, buckram, etc., for the
manufacture of pennoncels and bracers "of the arms of St George." In
the original these entries have all been struck through, probably
because they were accounted for elsewhere in some roll now perished.
While this account only mentions three streamers of the king's arms,
it includes the comparatively large number of 340 pennoncels of St
George's arms. It is probable that banners of the king's arms and of
the arms of St Edward and St Edmund were also in use, together with
banners of the feudal lords taking the field, just as we find them in
use twenty-three years later at the siege of Carlaverock[100], but
it is evident from the entries above referred to that the arms of St
George were in great, if not exclusive, demand for the smaller flags,
which in some cases are expressly stated to be for the king's foot
soldiers (_pro peditibus regis_).

We have, therefore, in determining the probable date of the
introduction of St George's cross as an English national flag to take
into account the following facts.

In the year 1188 the red cross was not a mark of English nationality,
although it was certainly in use in the East and by the Genoese as a
religious emblem associated with St George.

In 1213 the feast of St George was recognised by the Court officials
and used in dating payments, but was not yet generally observed by the

In 1222 this feast was included among the minor festivals to be
observed in the English Church, but its omission in later lists shows
that it was not universally observed and that no special importance was
attached to it.

The cross of St George is definitely referred to in 1277 in
circumstances that leave no doubt that it was then in use in England as
a national emblem.

We must now briefly recall the state of affairs in England during those
ninety years. After Henry II assumed the cross in 1188 his quarrel with
Philip of France and with his own son prevented him from proceeding
to the Holy Land. Richard, who succeeded him in 1189, spent only six
months of his ten years' reign in England. On his return in 1194 after
his long absence at the Crusades and in captivity, he spent only two
months in this country and then went to France, where the remainder of
his life was spent. The whole of John's reign was spent in quarrels
with his subjects. Henry III, throughout his long reign of fifty-six
years, took up an attitude which was decidedly un-English. On the other
hand, Edward I is generally recognised by historians as the first king
of "English" nationality. At the date of his succession to the throne
he was absent at the Crusades, and as the country was enjoying peace at
the hands of those entrusted with the administration of the government
he did not return to England until 1274. This peace was not broken
until the attempt of Llewellyn to secure the absolute independence of
Wales brought on the Welsh War of 1277.

Having all these circumstances in view, it seems on the whole probable
that the cross of St George, although more or less familiar to the
English, was first erected by Edward I into a national symbol for a
people that, by the incorporation of the foreign elements introduced
at the Norman Conquest (assisted by the loss of the greater part of
the continental possessions of its kings) had at length become a
homogeneous nation. From the entries in the roll above referred to and
from similar entries in later rolls of Edward I it appears that the
cross of St George was almost entirely confined to the pennoncels on
the spears of the foot-soldiers and to the "bracers" which the archers
bore on their left forearms. Why the bracer should be singled out for
this distinction is not clear, but it will be remembered that little
over a hundred years later the bracer of Chaucer's "Yeoman" was a
conspicuous part of his dress.

    And in his hond he bar a mighty bowe
      *       *       *       *       *
    Upon his arme he bar a gay bracer
    And by his side a swerd and a bokeler[101].

We may suppose that the cross of St George, the simplest and most
conspicuous of all the saintly devices, was chosen as the distinctive
badge of all those not entitled to armorial bearings and not clothed in
the livery of the feudal lords. Indeed, from the expression "for the
King's footsoldiers" (_pro peditibus regis_), which occurs in more than
one of the rolls, it would seem that the St George's cross was used
instead of the royal arms for the soldiery raised directly by the king
and not brought into the field under the banner of any of the nobles.
It is not until the reign of Richard II that we meet with an order for
the whole of the army to be ensigned with the St George's cross.

Among the greater banners that of St George was not as yet supreme; it
was indeed only one of four, for when the Castle of Carlaverock was
taken in the year 1300:

    Puis fist le roy porter amont
    Sa baniere et la Seint Eymont
    La Seint George et la Seint Edwart
    Et o celes par droit eswart
    La Segrave et la Herefort
    Et cele au Seignour de Clifford
    A ki li chasteaus fut donnes[102].

        Then the king caused his banner
        and that of St Edmund, St George,
        and St Edward to be displayed on
        high, and with them, by established
        right, those of Segrave and Hereford
        and that of the Lord of Clifford
        to whom the castle was entrusted.

The first step towards the promotion of St George to a position of
predominance seems to be due to Edward III, who in gratitude for his
supposed help at the Battle of Creçy founded the Chapel of St George
at Windsor in 1348. It is from this time that we may date the actual
dethronement of Edward the Confessor from the position of "patron
saint" of England and the definite substitution of St George in his
place. This process was completed under Henry V after the Battle of
Agincourt. A Convocation of the province of Canterbury held at St
Paul's towards the end of 1415 raised the festival of St George to
the position of a "double major feast" and ordered it to be observed
throughout the province (which includes England and Wales south of
Cheshire and Yorkshire) with as much solemnity as Christmas Day. The
Archbishop[103], in his formal communication to the Bishop of London of
the decision arrived at, refers to St George as being "as it were the
patron and special protector" of the nation, "For by his intervention,
as we unhesitatingly believe, not only is the armed force of the
English people directed in time of war against hostile incursions, but
by the help of such a patron the struggles of the unarmed clergy[104]
in time of peace are frequently strengthened[105]."

When the Prayer Book was revised under Edward VI, the festival of St
George was abolished, with many others. Under the influence of the
Reformation the banners of his former rivals, St Edward and St Edmund,
together with all other religious flags in public use, except that of
St George, entirely disappeared, and their place was taken by banners
containing the royal badges.

We have seen that the appearance of the red cross on the clothing of
the soldiery can be traced back to the "bracer" of the archers of 1277.
The Ordinances of War made by Richard II at Durham in 1385, when on his
way to repel a threatened invasion from Scotland, required every man
in the king's army to bear a large cross of St George on his clothing
before and behind. Richard appears to have adopted this expedient from
the Scots, though they were of course not the first people to make
use of it. On the 1st of July in that year orders had been issued
for the soldiers of the Scottish army to be marked with a white St
Andrew's cross (see p. 47). At that date Richard was at Westminster;
he left there about the 4th of July, was at Leicester on the 7th, and
at York from the 17th to 22nd. On the 26th he had reached Durham; he
remained there till the 28th, and arrived at Morpeth by the 31st. The
ordinances which he issued at Durham must therefore be dated at the
end of July[106], and as there is no evidence that the English were
at this time in the habit of marking their coats with the red cross
before and behind, we may reasonably infer that it was then done for
the first time in direct imitation of the Scots. This provision is also
found in the similar ordinances made by Henry V at Mantes in 1419, the
only difference between them being that while under the older orders no
prisoner was allowed to wear this cross, under the later ones prisoners
in the custody of their captors might do so.

  Ordinances of War made by King
  Richard II at Durham A^o 1385.
  _Cott. MS. Nero_ D. vi, f. 89.

  Item que chescun, de quel estat
  condicion on nacion qil soit, issint
  qil soit de nostre partie, porte un
  signe des armes de Seint George
  large devant et autre aderer, sur
  peril qe sil soit naufre ou mort en
  defaute dycel, cely qe le naufra ou
  tue, ne portera nul juesse pur li, et
  que nul enemy ne porte le dit signe
  de Seint George, coment qil soit
  prisoner ou autrement sur peyne
  destre mort[107].

      Ordinances of War made by
      Henry V at Mawnt (Mantes,
      prob. July, 1419). _Lansdowne
      MS._ 285.

      Also, that every man of what estate,
      condicion or nacion that he be, of
      oure partie, bere a band of Seint
      George suffisant large, upon the
      perile, if he be wounded or dede
      in the fawte thereof, he that hym
      wounded or sleeth shall bere no
      peyn for hym: and that none enemy
      bere the said signe of Seint George,
      but if he be prisoner & in the warde
      of his maister, upon peyn of deth

There is no record of the flags flown on English ships earlier than the
thirteenth century, but there can be little doubt that in the eleventh
and twelfth centuries they were of the rudimentary form (little more
than wind vanes) depicted on the ships of the Bayeux Tapestry. The
invention of the banner of arms about the middle of the thirteenth
century provided a ready means of distinguishing the nationality, port
of origin, or ownership of a ship at sea, and its use for that purpose
is indicated in a number of seals of seaport towns which may be dated
from the latter half of that century. Thus the seal of Lyme Regis
(Plate III, fig. 1), incorporated in the reign of Edward I, shows in
addition to the early type of gonfanon simply charged with a cross,
displayed from the masthead, banners of arms on spears amidships,
the arms being those of England and of Castile and Leon, the latter
in compliment to Eleanor of Castile, Queen of Edward I. The seal of
Sandwich (Plate III, fig. 4), somewhat earlier in design if not in
actual date, shows in addition to a small pendant at the masthead,
a banner on the forecastle and two banners on the aftercastle. The
ship in the seal of Faversham (Plate III, fig. 5) displays a pendant
at the masthead, the banner of St George on the forecastle, and a
banner charged with three chevronels on the aftercastle, while the
ship of Hastings (Plate III, fig. 6) displays the banner of the
Cinque Ports (Plate I, fig. 13) at the bow and the banner of England
on the aftercastle, in addition to a gonfanon at the masthead. From
the closing years of this century onwards a number of documents have
survived in the Public Records which give indications of the nature of
the flags displayed at sea. Thus the accounts[109] of the ship sent
from Yarmouth to fetch the "Maid of Norway" in 1290 show that this ship
was provided with banners of the Royal Arms and silken streamers, and
in the year 1294 sum of 5_s._ 6_d._ was expended in the purchase of a
streamer, and 20_d._ for a banner containing the figure of St George,
for a galley building at York, while for one building at Southampton in
the same year no less than 40_s_. (relatively a large sum) was expended
in purchasing two streamers and twenty-five banners of the Royal Arms.
The most interesting documents of that period are, however, first an
ordinance made at Bruges on 8th March, 1297, between Edward I and
the Count of Flanders[110] which provided that all ships of England,
Bayonne and other places under the English crown going to Flanders
should display a banner of the Royal Arms (_le signal des armes du Roy
d'Engleterre_) and that the ships of Flanders should display the arms
of the Count and be provided with letters patent sealed with the seal
of their port of origin confirming their right to do so--probably the
earliest instance of the existence of "ships' papers" upon record. The
second document[111] is a long recital of disputes at sea between the
mariners of England and Bayonne on the one side and the Normans on the
other, during the years from 1292 to 1298. From this it appears that in
a pitched battle which took place off the coast of Brittany the Normans
had flown at the mastheads streamers of red sendal 30 yards long and 2
yards broad called "baucans," and "signifying death without quarter and
mortal war in all parts where mariners are to be found."

When we enter upon the fourteenth century the sources of information
become more ample and the flags show greater diversity of device. The
ship in the seal of Dover of 1305 (Plate III, fig. 3) displays the
banner of the Cinque Ports on the stern castle and a gonfanon at the
masthead. The accounts of the king's armourer in 1322 contain entries
of eighty penoncels for galleys with the royal arms in chief, a large
number of banners of the arms of St Edmund (Plate I, fig. 7) and of
the arms of St Edward (Plate I, fig. 6), standards of the royal arms,
penoncels of St George for lances, and three banners of St George, but
it is not clear whether any of the above, except the 80 penoncels, were
for the king's ships. The material used, in addition to sendal, was
worsted, sindon and cloth of Aylsham.

A roll of the expenses of John de Bukyngham, clerk of the great
wardrobe, shows the following flags to have been manufactured under his
directions for the king's ships in 1350:

  2 penoncels of sindon, 7¼ yards long and 2 cloths wide, red with
  a white pale charged with 3 blue garters,

  2 penoncels 3¼ yards long and 3 cloths wide, charged with a
  shield of the royal arms surrounded by a blue garter,

  2 streamers for the "Jerusalem," one 32 yards long and 5 cloths
  wide with the royal arms in chief and striped red and white fly;
  the other 30 yards long, of red worsted, charged with white
  dragons, green lozenges and leopards' heads,

  2 standards for the same ship, 8 yards square,

  A streamer for the "Marye," 32 yards long with figure of St Mary in
  chief, and the royal arms quarterly in the fly,

  A streamer for the "Edward" 33 yards long with an "E" in chief and
  the royal arms in the fly,

  Streamers for the "John," "Edmund" and several other ships with
  figures of the saint appropriate to the name painted upon linen
  cloth in chief,

  3 streamers 5, 10, and 30 yards long with the royal arms in chief
  and fly chequered green and white powdered with green and red roses,

  A streamer 24 yards long and 4 cloths wide for the ship assigned to
  the King's Wardrobe, charged with the royal arms, with a black key
  in chief, and 6 standards for the same ship with a leopard at the
  head followed by a black key and the royal arms.

A few years later we have an indenture dated in the forty-third year of
Edward III whereby John de Haytfeld, clerk of the armour and artillery
of the king's ships, acknowledges the receipt from Thomas de Carleton,
the king's armourer[112], of a number of flags of the following types:

  Streamers with the royal arms in chief varying in length from 8 to
  38 yards

  Standards with the royal arms in chief varying in length from 7 to
  12 yards

  Banners of the royal arms

  Banners of St George

  A Gonfanon of council of red tartaryn worked with nine golden
  angels supporting a shield of the royal arms, each angel having
  on his head a chaplet of the Order of the Garter (_Un gonfanon de
  conseil de tartaryn rouge batuz od ix angelis dor tenantz un escu
  des armes du Roy eiant suz les testes chapeles de garetters des
  conflarie de saint George_)

  A gonfanon blue and white with a shield of the royal arms
  surrounded by a garter powdered with a golden fleurs de lis.

A similar indenture made with John of Sleaford, Clerk of the Privy
Wardrobe, mentions 18 standards of worsted of the royal arms, and 234
standards of linen of the arms of St George with leopards of worsted in

The flags of the fifteenth century were of similar type. A roll of the
tenth year of Henry V[113], containing a long list of articles supplied
for the royal ships, mentions the following flags:

  For the "Trinity Royal"

      A banner of council of the royal arms and St George,
      Gittons of the Holy Trinity, St Mary, St Edward, royal arms,
      St George, the ostrich feather, and swan,
      Standards of St Mary, St George, the ostrich feather and royal

  For the "Holy Ghost"

      A streamer of the "Holy Ghost,"
      Gittons of the Holy Ghost, antelope, royal arms, swan and
      St Edward,
      Standards of the Holy Ghost, St George, antelope and swan.

  For the "Gabriel"

      A streamer of St Katherine,
      A gitton of St Edward.

  For the "Nicholas"

      A streamer of St Nicholas,
      Gittons of St Edward, royal arms and ostrich feather,
      Standards of St Edward and St George.

  For the "Grace Dieu"

      A streamer of St Nicholas,
      A gitton of St Edward.

This exuberance of design persisted until the Reformation in England
put the saints out of favour. While in the early years of Henry VIII
the 'Henri Grace à Dieu' was provided with banners of England, England
and Spain, Castile, Guienne, Wales, Cornwall, the pomegranate and
rose, the rose of white and green, and St Edward streamers "with a
dragon" 45 and 42 yards long, one with a lion 36 yards long, one with
a greyhound 18 yards long and two "litell streamers with crosse of
saint George" 15 and 12 yards in length respectively, and other ships
had banners of St Peter, St Katherine, St Edward, St Anne, the dragon,
greyhound, portcullis and red lion, towards the end of his reign the
saintly flags had disappeared for ever, except for the red cross of St
George, and the royal arms and royal badges alone remain. Thus the ship
reproduced in the frontispiece from a plan of Calais harbour[114] made
about the year 1545 displays, in addition to the huge streamer of St
George, only the royal arms and the royal badges of the fleur-de-lis
and crown, ostrich feather, portcullis and crown, and rose and crown.

The rolls of Anthony Anthony, prepared in the last year of Henry VIII,
show streamers party green and white (the Tudor colours) with St
George's cross in chief; banners of St George and of the Tudor colours
in horizontal stripes, and a few banners of the royal arms, and of the
fleur-de-lis badge.

The accounts for the year 1574, when ensigns appear for the first time
among sea stores, give the following details as to their construction.
There were twenty-four of them made "for her Ma^{ts} newe shippes,"
the material being "bolonia sarcenett of diverse coulors." Staves were
provided, one with a gilt and the others with steel heads, with a pair
of tassels to each. The flags were provided with canvas sockets. For
the banners red and blue say was provided, with buckram for the socket,
and "mockadoe fringe." Streamers and banners were primed, painted and
coloured in oil colours by Wm Herne, the queen's serjeant painter, and
the streamers were of the following lengths:

  84 feet long and 9 feet broad at the head
  60   "    "      7      "       "      "
  54   "    "      8      "       "      "
  45   "    "      6      "       "      "
  36   "    "      6      "       "      "

There were besides four banners of fine linen cloth, fringed, and
quartered with the royal arms, each being 15 feet long and 13 feet 6
inches deep. "And more twoe banners of damask thone of crymson with a
lyon of gold, thother of purple with affaulcon of silver fringed with

When Drake and Hawkins set out for their last voyage in 1594 they were
provided with

  4 flags gilt with her Majesty's arms costing 60_s._ each
  30 flags of St George costing 16_s._ and 8_d._ a piece
  3 streamers with the Queen's badges in silver and gold that cost £8 each.
  80 other streamers costing 25_s_. each, and
  26 ensigns;

the total cost of these flags reaching the large amount (for those
days) of £221.

Very little record remains of the flags flown by British merchant ships
during this period. It has been already remarked that those going to
Flanders at the end of the thirteenth century were ordered to fly
the royal arms, and banners of these arms appear on the ships in the
early seals of Lyme Regis, Hastings and Bristol. The fifteenth century
seal of Yarmouth (Plate III, fig. 2) shows the banner of St George
on the forecastle, a pendant with cross of St George in chief at the
masthead, and a banner of the arms of Yarmouth[115] (closely resembling
the Cinque Ports flag but with herrings' tails substituted for the
dimidiated hulks) upon the stern castle. In the seal of Tenterden
(Plate III, fig. 7) and of Rye, also of the fifteenth century, the
banner of St George is prominent. It seems probable that from the
fourteenth century onwards ships not belonging to the king or the
nobility flew the flag of St George when they flew any flag at all. In
ships belonging to the greater nobles the custom appears to have been
to display a streamer of the owner's badges; thus the ships in the
"Warwick Pageant[116]," drawn circa 1490, display streamers containing
the badges of the bear and ragged staff with St George's cross in
chief. Ships of lesser owners, belonging to an important seaport such
as the Cinque Ports or Yarmouth, appear to have flown the recognised
flag of that port in addition to a flag or streamer of St George.

By the end of the sixteenth century the use of the royal arms had
become confined to the Admiral of the Fleet; the royal badges had
nearly disappeared from the sea, though they are occasionally to be
met with during the next century, and the flag of St George had taken
the lead as the distinguishing characteristic of English ships, both
men-of-war and merchantmen.

[Illustration: PLATE III Seals]


The history of the national flags of Scotland is much less complicated
than that of the flags of England, for the northern nation had decided
upon their patron saint at a much earlier date than their neighbours
south of the Tweed. There was a similar struggle for supremacy among
competing saints, but the issue was decided in the eighth century
and appears to have remained unchallenged ever since. In the words of
Wm Forbes Skene, the Scottish historian,

  With the departure of the Columban Clergy, the veneration of
  St Columba as the apostle of the northern Picts seems to have
  been given up, at least by the southern portion of that people,
  and St Peter now became the patron saint of the kingdom and
  continued to be so till the year 736, when Angus the son of Fergus
  established his power by the defeat of Nectan himself, and the
  other competitors for the throne. As the king rapidly brought the
  territories of the other Pictish families under his sway, and even
  added Dalriada to his kingdom, he seemed desirous to connect a new
  ecclesiastical influence with his reign, for in the same year that
  he completed the conquest of Dalriada he founded a church at St
  Andrews, in which he placed a new body of clergy, who had brought
  the relics of St Andrew with them, and this apostle soon became
  the more popular patron saint of the kingdom, while the previous
  patronage of St Peter disappeared from the annals[117].

It is probable that the cross-saltire was adopted by the Scots as a
national ensign at a very early period, but there seems no direct
evidence of this before the fourteenth century. The earliest Scottish
records were unfortunately lost at sea in the ship that was sent to
return them to that country, whence they had been carried off, with the
Stone of Destiny, by Edward I.

In the summer of the year 1385 the Scots planned a raid into England,
in which they were assisted by a considerable contingent of French.
The Ordinances for the allied army drawn up by the Council for this
occasion and promulgated on the 1st July contained the following

  Item every man French and Scots shall have a sign before and
  behind, namely a white St Andrew's Cross, and if his jack is white
  or his coat white he shall bear the said white cross in a piece of
  black cloth round or square[118].

It will be noted that the field on which the cross-saltire was to be
placed was immaterial, but if the coat happened to be white the field
was to be black. There is other evidence that the ground colour was
not an essential part of the design, although the prevailing colour
at a later date seems to have been blue. In the Accounts of the Lord
High Treasurer of Scotland[119] for the year 1512 there is recorded a
payment for a roll of blue say for the banner of a ship "with Sanct
Androis cors in the myddis." In 1513 the ground colour was also blue.
In 1523, however, when orders were again issued for each man to bear
the white saltire before and behind, no ground was mentioned, while in
1540 and 1542 the ground colour of the ensigns was yellow and red (the
Stuart livery colours) or red, as the following entries show:


  Item, the x day of Junii deliverit to Thomas Arthur to be iii
  anseƷeis[120] to the schippis xvj elnis reid and Ʒallow taffites of
  cord, price of the elne xviij s. Summa xiiij li. viij s.

  Item, deliverit to him to be the croces thairof iiij elnes half
  elne quhyte taffites of Janis[121] price the elne xv s. Summa iij
  li. vij s. vj d.[122]


  Item, the vij day of August, deliverit to Charles Murray to be and
  ansenƷe, x elnis raid and Ʒallow taffitis of cord, price of the
  elne xviij s. and twa elnis quhite taffites of Janis to be croces
  thairto, price of the elne xiiij s. Summa x li. viij s.[123]

There is a similar entry on the 12th for 8 ells red, and 2½ ells
white for the cross.

Cleirac, in his _Explication des Termes de Marine, etc._[124], gives
for the Scotch flag a ground of red or blue, and also a ground of red,
yellow and green, with the saltire in a canton or overall[125]. It is
probable, however, that he was relying on obsolete information, for
there seems no other evidence of a parti-coloured field so late as
1670[126], though a red ensign for ships, with white saltire in a blue
canton[127], was in use until the Legislative Union of 1707.

It remains to say a few words about the royal banner, which may be
considered in a sense national although it is the personal heraldic
flag of the sovereign and ought not to be used by any subject. The
rampant lion with a tressure fleur-de-lisé first appears in a seal
of Alexander II appended to a Charter dated 1222[128]. Except for
the period during which Mary Queen of Scots, after her marriage with
the Dauphin, impaled the French Arms with her own it has remained
unaltered, in the form in which we now see it quartered in the Royal
Standard, since the thirteenth century.

The Raven and the Dragon Standards found their way into Scotland, but
are not met with after the twelfth century. In the early years of
the eleventh century Sigurd, Earl of Orkney, who afterwards carried
the Raven standard against the Irish at Clontarf, was challenged by
Finleic, Earl of the Scots, to battle at Skedmire.

  Sigrod sought his mother that she might divine unto him upon the
  matter, for she was a wise woman. The earl told her that the odds
  in number between his foeman and his own men would not be less than
  seven to one. She answered, "I would have brought thee up all thy
  life in my wool-basket, if I had known that thou wert bent upon
  living for ever; but 'tis Fate that settles a man's days whatever
  he is. It is better to die with honour than to live with shame.
  Now take this banner, which I have wrought for thee with all my
  skill! And I say, by my knowledge, that the victory shall be to
  them before whom it is borne, but deadly shall it be to them that
  bear it." The banner was made with much fine needle-work, and with
  exceeding art. It was wrought in the likeness of a raven, and when
  the wind blew upon the banner it was as if the raven flapped his
  wings in flight. Earl Sigrod was very angry at his mother's words;
  and gave the Orkneymen their ethel-holdings free to raise a levy
  for him; and went to Skedmire to meet Earl Finleic, and each of
  them set his host in array. And as soon as the battle was joined,
  Earl Sigrod's standard-bearer was shot to death. The Earl called
  upon another man to carry the standard, and he bore it for a short
  while and then fell also. Three of the Earl's standard-bearers fell
  indeed, but he won the victory[129].

The Dragon appeared as the Scottish Royal Standard at the Battle
of the Standard (1138). According to the contemporary "Relatio de
Standardo[130]," written by St Aelred, Abbot of Rielvaulx Abbey in
Yorkshire, when the Scots broke and fled those in flight saw from
the position of the royal standard, which was in the likeness of a
dragon[131], that their king was not slain, and gathering themselves
to him they renewed the fight. On this occasion the Scottish king's
son made use of the following ruse. Finding himself cut off with a few
companions, he told them to throw away the banners by which they were
to be recognised from the English and then, mixing with the latter as
though fighting on their side, they reached his father in safety.

Except for a short period during the reign of James IV (1473-1513) a
Scots navy was either non-existent or of little importance, and it is
therefore not to be expected that any great development took place in
its flags; nevertheless, from the Lord High Treasurer's accounts it
appears that no less a sum than £72. 7_s._ 6_d._ was expended upon the
"mayn standert" of the "Great Michael" in 1513. This flag appears to
have had a St Andrew's cross on a blue ground at the head, and a fly
of red and yellow on which the royal badges of the red lion and white
unicorn appeared. Other flags of this period were the banners of St
Andrew and St Margaret, and a banner and standards with the red lion
upon a yellow field.


In St Patrick the Irish possess a patron saint who is in the truest
sense national. Although a native of Scotland, the best of his life and
work was devoted to the people among whom in early youth the fortune
of war placed him. He seems, moreover, never to have had a serious
competitor for their favour[132], and they have been unwavering in
their allegiance to him. Nevertheless, there is no ancient flag, and no
symbol except the shamrock, associated with his name.

Flags do not seem to have been in use at a very early period among the
celtic nations, and when we meet with them in Irish literature in the
eleventh century the terms used for them are not native Irish words
but had apparently been borrowed from the Danish invaders who wrought
such havoc to the ancient Irish civilisation from the ninth to the
eleventh centuries. The word used by the author of the _Cogadh Gaedhel
re Gallaibh_ is "mergi[133]," which is believed to be borrowed from the
Scandinavian "merke" (mark), while the other word met with, "confingi,"
seems to be derived from the Norse "gunfana."

At the great battle of Clontarf fought in the year 1014 between the
Irish under their king Brian Borumha and the Danish invaders of Ireland
under the Earl Sigurd, assisted by the revolted king of Leinster, the
Irish under Brian had many banners, but these banners were known by
their colours rather than by any particular device in them.

  Brian looked out behind him and beheld the battle phalanx ... and
  three score and ten banners over them, of red, and of yellow,
  and of green, and of all kinds of colours; together with the
  everlasting, variegated, lucky, fortunate banner that had gained
  the victory in every battle and in every conflict, and in every
  combat ... namely the gold-spangled banner of Fergal Ua Ruairc[134].

These banners appear to have been personal to the chiefs and to have
been taken down when they were slain, even if their forces still
remained undefeated. During the conflict Brian, who on account of his
age took no part in the battle and was engaged in prayer at a little
distance, enquired repeatedly of his attendant whether the banner
of his eldest son, Murchadh, still remained aloft. Towards the end
he asked once more, and the attendant reported that it was far from
Murchadh but still standing. Brian said "The men of Erinn shall be
well while that banner remains standing because their courage and
valour shall remain in them all, as long as they can see that banner."
At length Murchadh was mortally wounded, and although the enemy were
defeated his banner was taken down. When his father asked again, the
attendant answered, "... the foreigners are now defeated and Murchadh's
banner has fallen." "That is sad news," said Brian, "... the honour and
valour of Erinn fell when that banner fell and Erinn has fallen now

It may be concluded from this narrative that the Irish of the eleventh
century had no national flag common to the whole people. This, together
with the fact that after the death of Brian no Irish king arose great
enough to secure the allegiance of the whole nation, may explain why
the Irish never developed a national flag as did the English and Scots.

The red saltire on white ground which represents Ireland in the Union
flag had only an ephemeral existence as a separate flag. Originating
as the arms of the powerful Geraldines, who from the time of Henry II
held the predominant position among those whose presence in Ireland was
due to the efforts of the English sovereigns to subjugate that country,
it is not to be expected that the native Irish should ever have taken
kindly to a badge that could only remind them of their servitude to a
race with whom they had little in common, and the attempt to father
this emblem upon St Patrick (who, it may be remarked, is not entitled
to a cross--since he was not a martyr) has evoked no response from the
Irish themselves.

The earliest evidence of the existence of the red saltire flag[135]
known to the author occurs in a map of "Hirlandia" by John Goghe dated
1567 and now exhibited in the museum of the Public Record Office.
The arms at the head of this map are the St George's cross impaled
with the crowned harp, but the red saltire is prominent in the arms
of the Earl of Kildare and the other Geraldine families placed over
their respective spheres of influence. The red saltire flag is flown
at the masthead of a ship, possibly an Irish pirate, which is engaged
in action in the St George's Channel with another ship flying the St
George's cross. The St George's flag flies upon Cornwall, Wales and
Man, but the red saltire flag does not appear upon Ireland itself,
though it is placed upon the adjacent Mulls of Galloway and Kintyre in
Scotland. It is, however, to be found in the arms of Trinity College,
Dublin (1591), in which the banners of St George and of this saltire
surmount the turrets that flank the castle gateway.

The Graydon MS. Flag Book of 1686 which belonged to Pepys does not
contain this flag, but gives as the flag of Ireland (which, it may be
noted, appears as an afterthought right at the end of the book) the
green flag with St George's cross and the harp, illustrated in Plate X,
fig. 3. The saltire flag is nevertheless given as "Pavillon d'Ierne" in
the flag plates at the commencement of the _Neptune François_ of 1693,
whence it was copied into later flag collections.

Under the Commonwealth and Protectorate, when England and Scotland were
represented in the Great and other Seals by their crosses, Ireland was
invariably represented by the harp, and in the Union flag of 1658, as
will be seen later, it was the harp that was added to the English and
Scottish crosses to form a flag representative of the three kingdoms.
At the funeral of Cromwell the Great Standards of England and Scotland
had the St George's and St Andrew's crosses in chief respectively, but
the Great Standard of Ireland had in chief a red cross (not saltire) on
a yellow field[136].

When the Order of St Patrick was instituted in 1783 the red saltire
was taken for the badge of the Order, and since this emblem was of
convenient form for introduction into the Union flag of England and
Scotland it was chosen in forming the combined flag of England,
Scotland and Ireland in 1801.

Ireland has been represented in the royal standard since 1603 by the
golden harp on a blue field, but it would seem that this is not the
original arms of that country, for the augmentation of arms granted by
Richard II to his favourite Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, whom he
created Duke of Ireland in 1386, was _azure_, three crowns, _or_, and
these are said to have been confirmed as the true arms of Ireland by a
commission of enquiry under Edward IV. The harp, which appears to have
been an ancient badge of Ireland, was formally adopted as the arms of
that country by Henry VIII in the year when he changed the royal style
from "Dominus Hiberniae" to "Rex Hiberniae." The change in the colour
of the field from blue to green, as is commonly seen in the flags
of Irishmen in rebellion against English rule, is believed to have
originated with Owen Roe O'Neill in 1642.

There is very little information as to the flags flown in Irish ships.
From a date at least as early as the thirteenth century certain
of the Irish ports were accustomed to supply ships for the king's
service[137]. Such ships would have flown the English or Cinque Ports
flag. There is indeed a mention in the State Papers of 1586[138] of
an Irish ship attacking an English merchantman under the Scots flag,
"showing forth a Skottish ensigne," and a passage in Dudley's voyage in
1594[139] from which it may be inferred that there was no recognised
Irish flag at that date. In Feb. 1785, a brig from Dublin hoisted at
Antigua a green ensign with the harp and crown in the centre, which was
seized by Collingwood's orders, and later in the same year another ship
from Belfast, flying a similar ensign, was detained until the master
had gone ashore and bought proper colours for the vessel[140].


[64] Beda, _Historia Ecclesiastica_, II, 137. For _Tufa_, see _ante_,
p. 11.

[65] _Historia Anglorum_: "Aciebus igitur dispositis, cum in directum
tendentes appropinquarent, Edelhun praecedens West sexenses, regis
insigne draconem scilicet aureum gerens, transforavit vexilliferum

[66] Probably Combwich, _vide_ Major, _Early Wars of Wessex_, 1913.

[67] Under the Devon earldorman Odda, Alfred being then in hiding at

[68] "Vexillum quod Reafun nominant." Cf. the _A. S. Chronicle_, "þær
wæs se guðfana genumen þe hie Hraefn."

[69] Asser, _Life of King Alfred_.

[70] _Emmae Reginae Anglorum Encomium_, lib. II.

[71] Plate II, fig. 10.

[72] Plate II, fig. 11.

[73] Anlaf seems to have lived alternately in Ireland, Scotland, and
Northumbria, and to have been King of Dublin in 945. On his final
expulsion from Northumbria in 952 he returned to Ireland, and after
the battle of Tara in 980 became a monk at Iona. See Todd, _War of the
Gaedhil with the Gaill_ (Rolls Series).

[74] William of Malmesbury, _De Gestis Regum Anglorum_: "Vexillum
Mauricii beatissimi martyris Thebae legionis principis, quo idem rex
in bello Hispano quamlibet infestos et confertos inimicorum cuneos
derumpere et in fugam solitus erat cogere."

[75] Henry of Huntingdon, _Historia Anglorum_: "Cum enim Dacos solito
acrius pugnare videret (Edmund) loco regio relicto, quod erat ex more
inter draconem et insigne quod vocatur 'Standard,' cucurrit terribilis
in aciem primam."

[76] Plate I, fig. 2; see p. 16.

[77] _Gesta Regum Anglorum_: "Rex ipse pedes juxta vexillum stabat cum
fratribus ... vexillum illud post victoriam papae misit Willelmus, quod
erat in hominis pugnantis figura, auro et lapidibus arte sumptuosa

[78] There is a smaller figure of a man in the act of striking with
a club on the downs near Cerne Abbas in Dorset. Possibly both these
figures are pre-Saxon. The horse, a favourite subject for treatment in
this manner, is almost certainly pre-Saxon; yet it was adopted by the
Saxons of Kent.

[79] Roger de Hoveden, _Chronica_ "cum ... rex Angliae fixisset
signum suum in medio, et tradisset draconem suum Petro de Pratellis
ad portandum contra calumniam Roberti Trussebut, qui illum portare
calumniatus fuit de jure praedecessorem suorum."

[80] See p. 37.

[81] Dart, _Westmonasterium_, 1742.

[82] See especially Elliot Smith, _The Evolution of the Dragon_, 1919.

[83] In this same battle the Scots were led under the Dragon standard.
See p. 49.

[84] _Liber quotidianus Contrarotulationis Garderobae_ 29 Edward I.
This was printed by the Society of Antiquaries in 1787.

[85] _Rites of Durham_ (Surtees Society), 1903.

[86] Plate I, fig. 7.

[87] Plate I, fig. 6.

[88] Plate I, fig. 12.

[89] It is usually taken as 303 but the Rev. Baring Gould in his _Lives
of the Saints_ shows good reason for believing the actual date to be

[90] _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, chap. XXIII.

[91] Baring Gould, _Curious Myths_, 1872.

[92] _Exchequer Accounts_, 349/2.

[93] Bail, _Summa Conciliorum_.

[94] Wilkins, _Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae_.

[95] _Ibid._

[96] Keyser, _Norman Tympana and Lintels_, 1904; _Sussex Archeological
Collections_, xliv.

[97] Benedict Abbas, _Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi_: "Praedicti vero
reges in susceptione crucis ad distinguendam gentem suam signum evidens
providerunt. Nam rex Franciae et gens sua cruces rubeas susceperunt, et
rex Angliae et gens sua cruces albas susceperunt, et comes Flandriae
cum gente sua cruces virides suscepit."

[98] _Les Us et Coutumes de la Mer._

[99] _Exchequer Accounts_, 3/15. Rotulus forinsecus de guerra Walliae
anno regni regis Edwardi quinto.

"Flind. Die martis in Festo Sancti Laurentii [pro tribus peciis de
Buckeram et tribus peciis telae de Aylesham emptis per manus Admeti
cissoris ad faciendum C Braceria et xx*xj penuncella de Armis
sancti Georgii et pro emendendum et sudendum eorundem Bracerium et
penuncellorum. ci s vi d. Item pro sex peciis telae de Aylesham emptis
ad faciendum Braceria et penuncella pro peditibus Regis per manus
eiusdem A. xx s. Item pro cl ulnis telae tinctae emptis pro eodem c s.
Item pro custura cxx penuncellorum de Armis sancti Georgii per manus
eiusdem A. xxiij s] (_other similar entries for material for Bracers_)
... pro tribus Stemeris emptis ad fracandum intus arma Regis vij s. vj

[100] _Vide_ Nicolas, _Siege of Carlaverock_.

[101] _Prologue to the Canterbury Tales_, II. 108 et seq.

[102] Nicolas, _Roll of Carlaverock_.

[103] Henry Chicheley.

[104] I.e. fighting against ghostly enemies.

[105] Wilkins, _Concilia_, III, 375: "Hujus itaque dispositionis ex
clementissima et benignissima Dei Salvatoris nostri misericordia
procedentis consideratione, nationis Anglicanae plebs fidelis, etsi
Deum in sanctis suis omnibus laudare ex debito teneatur, ipsum tamen,
ut orbis affatus, ipsaque gratiae desuper concessae experientia, rerum
cunctarum interpres optima, attestantur, in suo martyre gloriosissimo,
beato Georgio, tanquam patrone et protectore dictae nationis speciali,
summis tenentur attollere vocibus, laudibus personare praecipuis et
specialibus honoribus venerari. Hujus namque, ut indubitanter credimus,
interventu, nedum gentis Angligenae armata militia contra incursus
hostiles bellorum tempore regitur, sed et pugna cleri militaris inermis
in sacrae pacis otio sub tanti patroni suffragio celebriter roboratur."

[106] In the MS. they are dated xvii July, but this is apparently an
error for xxvii.

[107] Twiss, _The Black Book of the Admiralty_, I, 456.

[108] _Ibid._ I, 464.

[109] _Exchequer Accounts_, 4/26.

[110] Rymer, _Foedera_, II, 759 and Marsden, _Law and Custom of the
Sea_ (N.R.S.), I, 46.

[111] Printed in _Lettres des Rois, etc._ (Documents inédits sur
l'histoire de France) I, 392, and in part by Mr Marsden (_op. cit._ I,
50). See also p. 160.

[112] _Exchequer Accounts_, 30/16.

[113] _Exchequer Accounts_, 49/29.

[114] B. M. _Cott. Aug._ I, ii, 57^{b.}

[115] Plate I, fig. 14.

[116] _Cott. Julius_ E. IV.

[117] _Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and other early
Memorials of Scottish History_ (Rolls Series), Preface, clix.

[118] _The Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland_, I, 191: "Item que tout
homme francois et escot ait un signe devant et derrere cest assauoir
une croiz blanche saint andrieu et se son Jacque soit blanc ou sa cote
blanche il portera la dicte croiz blanche en une piece de drap noir
ronde ou quarree."

[119] _Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland_ (Rolls Series),
edited by Sir Jas. B. Paul, III, 90.

[120] Ensigns.

[121] White taffety of Genoa (jean).

[122] _Op. cit._ VII, 189.

[123] _Ibid._ IX, iii.

[124] Rouen 1670, bound with his Les Us et Coutumes de la Mer.

[125] Escosse le Sauteur d'argent qui est la Croix des Chevaliers Saint
Andre, au drap de gueles ou d'azur: portent aussi face de gueles d'or
et de Synope qui est verd, le Sauteur au quanton ou sur le tout.

[126] The work appears, however, to have been written in 1634.

[127] Plate X, fig. 1.

[128] Dunbar, _Scottish Kings_, p. 89.

[129] _Orkney Saga_, XI.

[130] _Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, etc._ (Rolls Series), III,

[131] Regale vexillum, quod ad similitudinem draconis figuratam facile

[132] Except possibly in St Brigit and St Columcille.

[133] Elsewhere "meirge."

[134] _War of the Gaedhill with the Gaill (Cogadh Gaedhel re
Gallaibh_). Ed. with translation by J. H. Todd (Rolls Series), p. 156.

[135] Plate I, fig. 10.

[136] Prestwich, _Respublica_.

[137] E.g. Nicholas quotes an example in 1233, when the inhabitants of
Dublin were directed to prepare their new great galley for the king's
service, and ships from Waterford, Dublin, Youghal, Ross and Drogheda
were supplied for the Flanders expedition in 1304. Some, perhaps all,
of these ports were affiliated to the Cinque Ports, as, for instance,
Youghal, which became "one of the Petylymmes of the Cinque Ports in
Ireland" in 1462. (_Cal. Pat. Rolls._)

[138] _S. P. D. Eliz._ CLXXXVII, 13.

[139] See p. 198.

[140] It may be pointed out, however, that under the present Merchant
Shipping Act the flying of such a flag, if it did not imitate the
British or other national colours, would not be illegal, but the ship
must show the red ensign when required under Art. 74 of that Act.

Chapter III

_The Union Flags and Jacks_

In the preceding sketch of the early history of the British flags we
have, so far as evidence is available, followed the steps by which the
red cross on a white ground came to represent the people of England,
and we have seen, though less clearly, how the white saltire on a blue
ground became the chosen flag of the Scottish nation. It now remains
to trace the process by which these two flags became united in one,
and finally, by the addition of a red saltire to represent Ireland,
developed into the present Union flag.

On the death of Queen Elizabeth in March, 1603, the succession to the
crown lay open.

  There had been no repeal of the stipulation made by Henry VIII,
  both in Act of Parliament and in his will, that after the death
  without heirs of his three children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth,
  the crown should descend to the heirs of his younger sister,
  Mary.... Consequently, the rightful heir when Elizabeth lay dying
  was no scion of the Scottish House, but the eldest representative
  of the Suffolk line--Princess Mary's great-grandson, Edward
  Seymour, Lord Beauchamp. But Elizabeth's ministers were not the
  slaves of legal niceties. The Queen's neutrality left their choice
  unfettered; and though expectation of personal profit largely
  moved them, their action proved politic. Lord Beauchamp was a
  man of insignificant position and character; James VI, however
  contemptible in many respects, had experience as a ruler, and
  a contiguous kingdom to add to the endowments of the English

[Illustration: PLATE IV Union Flag]

But the union of crowns brought about by Elizabeth's ministers with
the tacit approval of the two nations did not directly lead to
the union of peoples. The Parliaments remained separate; national
jealousies ran high, especially in England, and James was foiled in
his efforts to bring about the closer union he sought. Nevertheless,
he was determined[142] that the union of the two nations should have
some other outward expression than the change in the royal standard,
and in the beginning of the fourth year of his reign he issued a
proclamation in the following words:

  A Proclamation declaring what Flags South and North Britains shall
  bear at Sea.

  Whereas some difference has arisen between our Subjects of South
  and North Britain, Travelling by Sea, about the bearing of their
  flags, for the avoiding of all such contentions hereafter, We have
  with the advice of our Council ordered That from henceforth all
  our subjects of this Isle and Kingdom of Great Britain and the
  Members thereof shall bear in their maintop the Red Cross, commonly
  called St George's Cross, and the White Cross, commonly called St
  Andrew's Cross, joined together, according to a form made by our
  Heralds and sent by Us to our Admiral to be published to our said
  Subjects[143]. And in their foretop Our Subjects of South Britain
  shall wear the Red Cross only as they were wont, and our Subjects
  of North Britain in their Foretop the White Cross only as they
  were accustomed. Wherefore We will and command all our Subjects
  to be conformable and obedient to this Our Order, and that from
  henceforth they do not use to bear their flags in any other Sort,
  as they will answer the contrary at their Peril.

  Given at our Palace of Westminster the 12th.
  day of April in the 4th. year of our Reign of
  Great Britain France and Ireland Annoq.
  Domini 1606.

Unfortunately the naval records of the early years of the seventeenth
century have almost entirely disappeared from the State archives; the
"State Papers" themselves are but fragmentary remains; and the English
Privy Council Registers from 1602 to 1613 were destroyed by the fire at
Whitehall in 1618, so that it is impossible to say what were the points
of contention referred to in the Proclamation.

The birth of the flag that is now the pride of so many millions was
indeed obscure. Intended at first for use only at sea, it appears to
have excited no attention except from those directly concerned with
shipping. The royal and merchant navies were alike dwindling away, and
the sea did not fill that place in the minds of James' subjects that it
had filled in the greater days of Elizabeth.

The only strictly contemporary evidence of the actual design chosen in
1606 is to be found in the following appeal from the shipmasters of
Scotland, whom it did not by any means please.

  7 Aug. 1606

  Most sacred Soverayne. A greate nomber of the maisteris and awnaris
  of the schippis of this your Majesteis kingdome hes verie havelie
  compleint to your Majesteis Counsell that the form and patrone
  of the flaggis of schippis, send doun heir and commandit to be
  ressavit and used be the subjectis of boith kingdomes, is very
  prejudiciall to the fredome and dignitie of this Estate and will
  gif occasioun of reprotche to this natioun quhairevir the said
  flage sal happin to be worne beyond sea becaus, as your sacred
  Majestie may persave, the Scottis Croce, callit Sanctandrois
  Croce is twyse divydit, and the Inglishe Croce, callit Sanct
  George, haldin haill and drawne through the Scottis Croce,
  whiche is thairby obscurit and no takin nor merk to be seene of
  the Scottis Armes. This will breid some heit and miscontentment
  betwix your Majesteis subjectis, and it is to be feirit that some
  inconvenientis sall fall oute betwix thame, for oure seyfairing men
  cannot be induceit to ressave that flag as it is set doun. They
  haif drawne two new drauchtis and patronis as most indifferent for
  boith kingdomes which they presented to the Counsell, and craved
  our approbatioun of the same; bot we haif reserved that to your
  Majesteis princelie determination,--as moir particularlie the Erll
  of Mar, who wes present and hard thair complaynt, and to whome
  we haif remittit the discourse and delyverie of that mater, will
  inform your Majestie, and latt Your Heynes see the errour of the
  first patrone and the indifferencie of the two new drauchtis. And
  sua, most humelie beseiking your Majestie, as your Heynes has evir
  had a speciall regaird of the honnour, fredome and libertie of
  this your Heynes antient and native kingdome that it wuld pleis
  your sacres Majestie in this particulair to gif unto your Heynes
  subjectis some satisfactioun and contentment, we pray God to
  blisse your sacred Majestie with a lang and prosperous reignne and
  eternall felicitie[144].

There is nothing to show that this appeal met with any response, but
the Scots never took kindly to the new flag and rarely used it until
after the Legislative Union of 1707. Sir Edward Nicholas in 1634 was
doubtful "whether the Scots have used to carry that Flag of the Union."

It is unfortunate that these "drafts and patterns" have disappeared,
perhaps in the same fire that consumed the "form" made by the
heralds. There is no doubt about the main outline, but the absence
of precise detail has led several writers--purists in heraldic
matters--to contend that the white border of the red cross was simply
a narrow fimbriation[145]. I think, however, that examination of the
available evidence will show that this border did not originate as
a mere "fimbriation," that it was in fact part of the field of the
English flag, and that the new flag was, as described by Sir James
Balfour[146], "the flagis of St Andrew and St George interlaced," not
merely the red cross surmounting the Scots flag. Material proof that
it was so regarded sixty years later is in existence in Amsterdam in
the shape of actual flags captured during the Second and Third Dutch
Wars, and belonging therefore to the second half of the seventeenth
century. These show a very wide border to the red cross, and in two
instances[147] the red cross, the white border and the white saltire
are each of the same width.

The heralds had been faced by a dilemma. It was impossible to combine
the two flags so as to form a new one without giving precedence to one
of them. If quartered, the upper canton next the staff was the place
of honour, and both could not occupy it at the same time. In the reign
of James II this difficulty was solved, in the case of the Royal Arms,
by placing the Scots' Lion in the first quarter in the Great Seal of
Scotland. Possibly a similar solution was suggested by the Scottish
shipmasters. But there was a precedent for a closer union than this
quartered form, which no doubt the heralds had in mind. Elizabeth had
granted the Levant Company, by her charters of 1581 and 1592, the
right to wear as a flag "the Armes of England with the redde crosse in
white over the same[148]." We may be quite sure that in consenting to
such an arrangement Elizabeth had no thought of giving the national
flag precedence over the royal standard, but merely wished to signify
their intimate union and the extension of the royal protection to the
company. The method adopted in 1606 was exactly the same, the "red
cross in white" being placed over the Scots flag.

The quarterly arrangement of the crosses appears to have been used on
one occasion; the dispatch of a fleet in 1623 to bring back Prince
Charles and the Duke of Buckingham from Spain. Mr Serjeant Knight, in
a "discourse" on the St George's flag written in 1678 at the request
of Pepys[149], stated that he had in his possession the Order from the
Great Wardrobe directed to his father, Mr Thomas Knight, Arms Painter,
who was to paint the banners and streamers required for the Prince. The
principal flag was to be that shown in Plate V, fig. 1: "Imprimis in
ye Prince's ship wherein he goes, on ye top ye Crosses of St. Andrew
and St. George." Mr Knight assured Pepys that he could not be mistaken
about this "cobled Banner," as he scornfully called it, "ye severall
arms being trickt in ye margin of ye Order," and he proceeded to give
a sketch of it. Indeed, he was disposed to believe this to be the
original form of the Union flag:

  having seen severall Flaggs with St. George and St. Andrew
  quarterly and may every Lord Mayor's Day be seen born by some of ye
  Companies Barges, these flags being made much about that time, all
  men being willing to flatter their new king.

The evidence of the Privy Council Register of Scotland is, however,
sufficient to prove that this inference was incorrect.

The documents of 1606 do not give any name to the flag they describe.
It appears first to have been called the "Britain" or "British"
flag[150], and I have not found the name "Union" earlier than 1625,
when it appears in the list of the flags and banners used at the
funeral of James I[151]. Three years later it appears in the Sailing
Instructions of the Earl of Lindsey[152], but the older name still
persisted at sea and is found in inventories of stores and in sailing
and fighting instructions until 1639[153].

Hitherto this "British" or "Union" flag had, like the old English
flag of St George, been flown equally by merchantman and man-of-war,
strangers being expected to distinguish the latter by their more
warlike appearance.

[Illustration: PLATE V Union Flags and Jacks]

Towards the year 1633, however, the old question of the salute in the
Narrow Seas was becoming more and more acute, "because," in the words
of Sir Wm Monson, "both the French and Hollanders seek to usurp upon
his Majesties right[154]." Sir John Pennington, the "Admiral of the
Narrow Seas," seized on this as an excuse to advocate a difference in
the flags of the king's and the merchants' ships. In a letter dated
7th April, 1634, asking for instructions on various points relative to
his duties as Admiral of the Narrow Seas he writes:

  For alteringe of the Coulers whereby his Ma^{ts} owne Shippes may
  be knowne from his Subiects I leave to yo^r Lo^{pps} more deepe
  consideration. But under correction I conceive it to bee very
  materyall and much for his Ma^{ts} Hono^r, and besides will free
  disputes with Strangers, for when they omitt doinge their Respectes
  to his Ma^{ts} Shippes till they bee shott at they alleadge they
  did not know it to be the kinges Shippe[155].

The plea that the existing arrangement caused confusion in the minds
of foreigners was quite justified, but it is probable that there was
a deeper underlying cause, jealousy of the mercantile marine. Be
this as it may, Pennington's suggestion was favourably received, and
the approval of the king was obtained to the issue of the following

  A Proclamation appointing the Flags, as well for our Navie Royall
  as for the Ships of our Subjects of South and North Britaine.

  Wee taking into Our Royall consideration that it is meete for the
  Honour of Our owne Ships in Our Navie Royall and of such other
  Ships as are or shall be employed in Our immediate Service, that
  the same bee by their Flags distinguished from the ships of any
  other of Our Subjects, doe hereby straitly prohibite and forbid
  that none of Our Subjects, of any of Our Nations and Kingdomes,
  shall from hencefoorth presume to carry the Union Flagge in the
  Maine toppe, or other part of any of their Ships (that is) S.
  Georges Crosse and S. Andrews Crosse joyned together upon paine
  of Our high displeasure, but that the same Union Flagge bee still
  reserved as an ornament proper for Our owne Ships and Ships in Our
  immediate Service and Pay, and none other.

  And likewise Our further will and pleasure is, that all the other
  Ships of Our Subjects of England or South Britaine bearing flags
  shall from hencefoorth carry the Red-Crosse, commonly called S.
  George his Crosse, as of olde time hath beene used; And also that
  all the other ships of Our Subjects of Scotland or North Britaine
  shall from hencefoorth carry the White Crosse commonly called S.
  Andrews Crosse, Whereby the severall Shipping may thereby bee
  distinguished and We thereby the better discerne the number and
  goodnesse of the same. Wherefore Wee will and straitly command all
  Our Subjects foorthwith to bee conformable and obedient to this Our
  Order, as they will answer the contrary at their perills.

  Given at Our Court at Greenwich this fifth
  day of May in the tenth yeere of Our Reigne
  of England Scotland France and Ireland, Defender
  of the Faith &c.

The ostensible reason for this distinction in flags--to enable the
"number and goodnesse" of the ships of the two nations to be more
readily discerned--is obviously an afterthought[156]; a sugar coating
to the pill. The customs officers of the various ports could, of
course, have provided any information desired relative to the shipping,
and were not dependent on the flags for their knowledge of the ships'
nationalities. The point is of some interest as it marks a distinct
step in the exaltation of the Navy Royal and its officers into a
position of superiority over the mercantile marine.

It will also be observed that the proclamation of 1634 does not require
the flags to be hoisted at the masthead as did that of 1606. Probably
this was no accidental omission but was the outcome of the general
introduction of the "Jack" on the bowsprit a year or two before.
Flags had no doubt been occasionally carried on the bowsprit from the
time when that spar was first invented, but the practice had been
exceptional, at any rate in the English navy. An early instance was
depicted in a contemporary picture in Cowdray Castle, since destroyed
by fire, which represented "the encampment of the English forces near
Portsmouth, together with a view of the English and French fleets at
the commencement of the action between them on the 19th of July, 1545."
In this picture, which fortunately was reproduced in an engraving by
the Society of Antiquaries in 1780, the Lord Admiral's ship, the 'Henri
Grace à Dieu,' was seen flying a royal standard on the bowsprit. Drake,
also, had flown a striped flag in this position in that last voyage
which ended for him in his death at sea in January, 1596[157]. Yet when
Captain Young submitted his "Noates for Sea Service" to the Earl of
Essex[158] he wrote as though the idea were unusual:

  and that the cullers maye bee the better knowne from those of
  the enemies and yf they chance to have the like it shalbe then
  convenient that upon o^r misson flagge-staves or th ende of o^r
  bowlesprits and that theare bee but a smawle litle flagge with a
  red Crosse yt being but a litle bigger than a vaine of a great

As remarked by Admiral Sir Massie Blomfield[160], this "jack" is not
shown in the "illustrations of the flagships of the Expedition of 1596
reproduced in the 'Naval Miscellany,'[161]" so that the suggestion was
probably not received with favour.

There is no mention of, or provision for, "jacks" in the inventories
which accompanied the report of the committee that inquired into the
state of the navy in 1618. Sir Julian Corbett has pointed out[162]
that the earliest instance of the use of the word "jack" to denote a
flag occurs in the orders issued by Sir John Pennington to one of his
captains on 3rd July, 1633. The original has not survived, but the
copy[163] is in a contemporary hand and is corroborated by Pennington's
Journal, now among the MSS. of Lord Muncaster.

In the summers of the years 1631, 1633 and 1634 Pennington was in
command of a small squadron as Admiral of the Narrow Seas, charged
especially with the duty of freeing the coast from pirates. He tells us
in his journal[164], under the above date (3rd July, 1633):

  In the morninge it blew very hard at SW by W. Aboute noone we
  weyed--leavinge the 8th Whelpe in Catt Water and stoode of to sea
  with the rest of our Fleete, knowinge it to bee a very hard matter
  for any small vessels to keepe the sea in such fowle weather, and
  the likelyest place for them to shelter in with these winds was
  Torbaye, for which place we stoode, causinge the 10th Whelpe to
  goe a head of us and close aboard the shore, with her coullers and
  ordynance in, that shee might not bee suspected to bee one of our
  Fleete, the better to intrap any Pyrates.

The order, which is dated the same day on board the 'Vanguard,'
Pennington's flagship, is evidently the one given to the 10th
Whelp[165]. It contains instructions as to rendezvous in case the ships
lost company, and continues as follows:

  you are to looke out carefully for these pirates night and day;
  that if it be possible wee maie intrapp them. You are alsoe for
  this present service to keepe in yo^r Jack at yo^r Boultsprit end
  and yo^r Pendant and yo^r Ordinance[166].

The fact that the position of the "Jack" is defined in this order tends
to show that the term had not yet become common, and this is fully
confirmed by a passage added by Sir Nathaniel Boteler to one[167]
of the manuscript copies of his well-known _Six Dialogues about Sea
Services_, written about the year 1634.

Boteler, who last served at sea in the Ile de Ré Expedition of 1627,

  but of late ther hathe bin invented an order that none of our
  Englishe shypps should be allowed to carry the king's flagge (that
  is the English Crosse quartered[168] w^h the Scottish, and called
  the Brittish flagge or Colours) save only such shyps as are either
  of his Ma^{ties} owne or serve under his paye, and every such
  vessel, though but a Catche, is permitted and enjoined to weare one
  of thes in a smale volume in her Boltsprites Topp. And the flaggs
  thus worne are tearmed Jacks.

The "Order" referred to is evidently the Proclamation of 1634,
which, as already remarked, was the outcome of Pennington's request
for instructions. It seems highly probable that it is to the same
outstanding personality[169] that we owe the institution of the "Jack"
on the bowsprit.

From 1634 until the death of Charles I the royal ships continued to
be distinguished from the merchant ships by this difference in their
flags, although, as a distinct favour, merchant ships were, in a few
special cases, granted permission to carry the Union flag.

The execution of Charles I on 30th January, 1649, dissolved the
dynastic union between England and Scotland. The two nations, which
only a few years before had been united in a "Solemn League and
Covenant" against Charles, had been gradually drifting apart, and
on the proclamation by the Scots of Charles' son as king the two
governments fell into open enmity. In these circumstances the Union
flag had become meaningless. On the 22nd of February the Parliament
decreed that the "Admiralty" should be settled in the Council of
State[170], and the "Navy Committee," that is, the Committee of the
Council, who were managing those affairs of the navy that had formerly
been within the jurisdiction of the "Principal Officers of the Navy,"
immediately applied to the Council to know what they were to do about

  This Committee taking notice of the arms y^t are engraven upon ye
  sternes of ye shipps belonging to ye Comonwealth & intended for
  this Summers fleet doe think fit to inform the Com^{tee} of State
  therewith that so directions may be given what arms shalbe placed
  in their steed & likewise what characters shalbe given to the
  flaggs that are to be worne in this service[171].

The Council of State promptly decided "That the Ships at Sea in service
of the State shall onely beare the red Crosse in a white flag[172],"
thus bringing the navy back to the old English flag and once more
into line with the merchant shipping. The royal arms were ordered to
be removed from the sterns and replaced by "the Armes of England and
Ireland in two Scutcheons[173]."

Two days later the Generals at Sea were informed, in answer to a
further inquiry, that if Scots ships were found "bearing either the red
cross or the Armes heretofore called the King's Armes" they were to
admonish them to "forbeare the carrying of them for the future[174]."

It is probable that the order of 22nd Feb. was not altogether welcome
to the navy officers, for on 5th March, only a few days after the above
order had been issued, the Council of State decided upon a new union
flag for naval use. The union now to be symbolised was that of England
and Ireland. Although Ireland had been more or less under the rule of
the kings of England from the time of Henry II, it was not until the
accession of James I in 1603 that she had found recognition in the
royal standard, and it remained for the Commonwealth to give her due
recognition in the national flag. The entry in the Council Minute Book
runs: "That the fflagg that is to be borne by the Admirall be that
now presented, viz: the Armes of England and Ireland in two severall
Escotchons in a red flagg w^{th} in a Compartiment (or)[175]."

At the same time two other variants of this design were introduced, a
standard and a jack. The order for these cannot be found, but they are
referred to in the following letter to the Committee of the Navy signed
by Deane and Blake (two of the Generals at Sea[176]) and dated 21st
April, 1649:


  Touching the flaggs &c. It seems strange you referre the
  proportions to bee ascertained by us, yo^rselves knowing best the
  former allowaunces, which wee suppose are alike in number in every
  expedition, but since the Issue depends on o^r resolution wee
  think needfull that you make up what you have allready sent, for
  o^rselves three Standards, o^r viceadm^{ll} and Rereadm^{ll} with
  the Adm^{ll} Viceadm^{ll} & Rereadm^{ll} of Ireland three flaggs
  apiece, with two Jackes for every Shipp in the ffleet. ffor the
  Ensignes and pendants you best know how many are wanting, which
  (whatsoever they are) with the flaggs &c. we desire may bee noe
  longer delayed[177].

In the standard, intended to replace the royal standard, and to be used
by the Generals at Sea, the yellow "compartment" was omitted and the
two escutcheons were surrounded by green branches of laurel and bay.
Fortunately, an actual specimen[178] has survived of this interesting
flag, which was destined to wave over Blake's ship at the heroic battle
of Santa Cruz and to see the rise of the English navy to an eminence
unequalled even in the days of Elizabeth.

The jack contained only the cross and harp on their white and blue
fields, corresponding with the centre part of the Admirals' flags.
It is to be seen in several pictures of battles of the First Dutch
War[179]. Apparently this jack was also used by ships having letters of
marque; "privateers" as we should now call them. In December, 1652, the
captain of a small frigate, called the 'Helena,' fought with two armed
ships from Brest, "putting out the Parliament Jack on the bowsprit
end and the English ensign on the poop, the enemy having hung out the
disunion flag or late King's colours[180]."

Early in 1653 the junior Admiral's flag with the red border and yellow
compartment seems to have been abandoned, and a flag like the jack,
with the harp and cross only, substituted for it[181], probably because
the red border would cause confusion when flown in the white and blue

Scotland was formally re-united to England by an Ordinance of the
Commonwealth Parliament dated 12th April, 1654, and the cross of St
Andrew was ordered to be brought once more into conjunction with that
of St George:

  And that this Union may take its more full effect and intent Be
  it further ordained by the Authority aforesaid That the Arms
  of Scotland viz: a Cross commonly called Saint Andrews Cross
  be received into and borne from henceforth in the Arms of this
  Commonwealth as a Badge of this Union.

In the new great seal which was prepared in 1655 the St Andrew's cross
was quartered with St George's cross and the Irish harp, but it was not
at once introduced into the naval flags, although placed on the obverse
of naval medals struck in 1654.

The cross of St Andrew was re-introduced into the naval flags by the
following order of the Council of State dated 18th May, 1658[182]:

  That the Standard for the Generall of his Highness ffleete be
  altered, and doe beare the Armes of England, Scotland, and Ireland,
  with his Highness Escutcheon of pretence, according to the
  impression of the Great Seale of England; and that the Jack fflaggs
  for the fflagg officers of the ffleete and for the severall Shipps
  of Warre of his Highness be the Armes of England and Scotland
  united, according to the auncient forme, With the addition of the
  Harpe, according to a Modell now showd; and that the Com^{rs} of
  the Adm^{ty} and Navy to take order That the standard and Jacke
  fflaggs be prepared accordingly.

In the standard the two crosses and the harp were borne "quarterly"
surmounted by an inescutcheon (sable, a lion rampant argent), the
personal arms of Cromwell[183], but in the other Admirals' flags and
the jack the crosses were superposed, as in the Union flag of 1606,
with the addition of a harp in the centre. The "model" has disappeared,
like all its predecessors, and nothing remains to show for certain
whether this harp was placed in a blue escutcheon as in the earlier
Commonwealth flags or not, but since a request was received from
Chatham in the following November for 200 yards of blue bewper "for
ye altering of all y^e fflaggs and Jacks here y^t are of y^e former
fashion into y^e new forme[184]" it seems on the whole probable that
the harp was in an escutcheon with a blue field.

This return towards the flag of 1606, prophetic of the coming
restoration, lasted for a few months only. In September Cromwell died,
and his son, the shadow of a great name, after being tolerated as a
mere figurehead for a few months, was in the following May forced
to abdicate. The remnant of the Long Parliament, which had just
re-assembled, passed an "Act for the Great Seal of England" which
restored the seal of 1651 with its map of England and Ireland and
shields with the St George's cross and the Irish harp. The cross of
Scotland vanished and the Commonwealth "Cross and Harp" jack supplanted
Cromwell's Union Jack.

In March, 1660, the Navy Commissioners were told to furnish General
Mountagu, then in command of the Fleet[185], "with Standards for the
Naseby suitable to the Jacks now worne in the ffleete[186]." This was
the standard which Mountagu was flying when ordered to cross to the
Hague and bring back the king.

On 1st May, 1660, the newly assembled Houses of Parliament passed a
joint vote for the restoration of the ancient government, and a few
days later, before Charles was publicly proclaimed, the Commissioners
of the Admiralty and Navy, at the instance of the Council of State,
issued the following order to their subordinate Board:

  In pursuance of an order of the Councell of State of the 5th of
  this instant May It is ordered that it be referred to the Com^{rs}
  for the Navy forthwith to take care that such Standards, fflags
  and Jacke Colours for the ffleete be forthwith prepared as were
  in use before 1648 and that they be sent downe with all speed to
  Generall Mountagu as alsoe that Carvers and Painters be appointed
  to goe down for the altering of the Carved workes according to such
  directions as they shall receive from Com^r Pett, who is ordered
  by ye Councell forthw^{th} to goe to ye Generall. And the said
  Com^{rs} are to give order for the sending downe to the Generall
  One silke Standard and one silke Ensigne and Jacke and such other
  silke fflags as may compleate a suite for the Naseby[187].

Instructions to this effect must have reached the fleet before it left
England, but the flag-makers had evidently not had sufficient time to
prepare the new royal standard, for on the 13th May, on the way over,
(so Pepys, then secretary to Mountagu, tells us[188])

  the tailors and painters were at work cutting out some pieces of
  yellow cloth into the fashion of a crown and C.R. and put it upon a
  fine sheet and that into the flag instead of the State's arms[189]
  which after dinner was finished and set up.... In the afternoon a
  Council of War only to acquaint them that the Harp must be taken
  out of all their flags, it being very offensive to the King.

The Union flag, like the Government, now reverted to its original form,
but the right to fly it remained the special prerogative of the State's
ships, a prerogative much sought after by merchant ships, and often
assumed by them without warrant. For the next half century a long-drawn
struggle was waged by the merchant shipping for the possession of this
right. It begins with a special instruction sent by the Lord High
Admiral, James Duke of York, to the Corporation of Trinity House on 9th
March, 1661:

  I desire you will give notice unto all Commanders and Masters of
  Shipping belonging to the Subjects of the King, my Sovereign Lord
  and Brother, that from henceforward they forbear to wear the Flag
  of Union; and also acquaint them, that such as presume to wear the
  said Flag contrary hereunto, the King's Ships will have orders to
  take it from them[190].

The Trinity House issued orders to this effect, but although the
prohibition had been stiffened with a threat that the flag would be
taken by force from those displaying it, the notices seem to have had
so little effect that, on 19th Nov., when a royal proclamation was
issued "For prohibiting the Imbezlement of His Majesties Stores," the
opportunity was taken to make the further threat that the Commander of
the ship would be seized also:

  And for preventing the abuse which hath been of late practised
  concerning Flags, Pendents and other Ornaments His Majesty doth
  hereby strictly prohibit & forbid the use of His Majesties Colours
  in Merchant Ships, and doth Authorize and Command all Commanders
  and Officers of any His Majesties Ships of War not only to take
  from Merchants Ships all such Colours but likewise to seize the
  Commander of such Merchant Ships, wherein after the first day
  of April next they shall be used, and to bring them to condign

It is interesting to find here, as in 1634, an excuse made for the
order which is not the main reason for it. No doubt a certain number of
colours were embezzled and sold by the boatswains of the king's ships,
just as the gunners embezzled and sold the powder, but the desire of
the merchant shipping to fly the Union flag was not due to the fact
that they might occasionally pick that flag up cheap, it was due rather
to the privileges, especially freedom from pilotage and port dues in
foreign ports, which the flag assured them.

Probably the further threat of imprisonment checked the practice for
a time, but not entirely, for the Lord High Admiral was again taking
action in 1666.

  Warrant for taking into custody such Ma^{rs} of Merch^t Ships as
  shall presume to Wear the Kings Jack.

  Whereas I am informed y^t the Ma^{rs} of severall Merchant Shipps
  outward bound from the River of Thames have presumed to Wear the
  Kings Jack without having leave from myself or the Prin^{le}
  Officers & Comm^{rs} of His Mat^{ys} Navy or any other just
  pretence for so doing These are therefore to will and require you
  forthwith to goe down the River of Thames and examine and enquire
  what Merchant Ships either do or have lately Wore the Kings Jack
  not being hired nor carrying goods for His Ma^{tys} Service and
  yt you apprehend the Ma^{rs} of them ... (except the Ship Tryall
  whereof Hope for Bendall is Ma^r, which is bound for New England &
  is to carry some Goods for me) and keep them in safe custody that
  they may be punished for their presumption.

  And all May^{rs} Sheriffs &c.
  Dated 11th May 1666.

Deterred by these measures from a direct attempt to make use of the
Union flag, the merchant shipping hit upon the device of flying a flag
which was a sufficiently close imitation of the forbidden colours to
deceive foreign powers[193] without falling within the strict letter of
the law. In 1674 this practice had evidently become common, for Pepys
acquainted the Trinity House, in June, of the King's intention to put
a stop to it[194]. Three months later the following proclamation was

  Whereas by ancient usage no merchant's ship ought to bear the
  Jack, which is for distinction appointed for his Majesty's ships;
  nevertheless his Majesty is informed that divers of his Majesty's
  subjects have of late presumed to wear his Majesty's Jack on board
  their ships employed in merchants' affairs, and thinking to evade
  the Punishment due for the same, bear Jacks in shape and mixture of
  colours so little different from those of his Majesty as not to be
  without difficulty distinguisht therefrom, which practice is found
  attended with manifold Inconveniences; for prevention whereof for
  the future his Majesty hath thought fit, with the advice of his
  Privy Council, by this his Royal Proclamation, strictly to charge
  and command all his subjects whatsoever, that from henceforth they
  do not presume to wear his Majesty's Jack (commonly called The
  Union Jack) in any of their ships or vessels, without particular
  warrant for their so doing from his Majesty, or the Lord High
  Admiral of England, or the Commissioners for executing the office
  of Lord High Admiral for the time being; and his Majesty doth
  hereby further command all his loving subjects, that without such
  warrant as aforesaid, they presume not to wear on board their
  ships or vessels, any Jacks made in imitation of his Majesty's, or
  any other flags, Jacks, or Ensigns whatsoever, than those usually
  heretofore worn on merchants' ships, viz., the Flag and Jack White,
  with a Red Cross (commonly called Saint George's Cross) passing
  right through the same; and the Ensign Red, with a like Cross in a
  Canton White, at the upper corner thereof next to the staff.

  And his Majesty doth hereby require the principal officers and
  Commissioners of his navy, Governors of his Forts and Castles, the
  Officers of his Customs, and Commanders or officers of any of his
  Majesty's ships, upon their meeting with, or otherwise observing
  any merchants' ships or vessels of his Majesty's subjects wearing
  such a flag, jack, or ensign, contrary hereunto, whether at Sea
  or in Port, not only to cause such flag, jack or ensign to be
  forthwith seized, but to return the names of the said ships and
  vessels, together with the names of their respective masters, unto
  the Lord High Admiral, Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, or the
  Judge of the High Court of Admiralty for the time being, to the end
  the Persons offending may be duly punished for the same.

  And his Majesty doth hereby command and enjoyn the Judge and Judges
  of the High Court of Admiralty for the time being, that at the
  several Sessions to be hereafter held by his Majesty's Commission
  of Oyer and Terminer for the Admiralty, they give in charge, that
  strict enquiry be made of all offences in the premises, and that
  they cause all offenders therein to be duly punished. And all Vice
  Admirals and Judges of Vice Admiralties, are also to do the same,
  and to attend the due observation hereof, within the several Ports
  and Places of their respective Precincts.

  Given at our Court at Whitehall the Eighteenth
  Day of September 1674, in the Six and Twentieth
  Year of our Reign.

  By his Majesty's Command.

A new competitor for the privilege now appeared in the yacht--a type
of pleasure-boat introduced from the Netherlands at the Restoration.
In 1676 the request of the Governor of Dover "to have the liberty of
wearing his Maj^{ts} Jack upon his private yacht" was refused by the
king in Council[195], but the practice of hoisting the Union Jack upon
yachts without warrant had become sufficiently widespread by 1686 to
attract the notice of the navy authorities, as shown by the following
memorandum of Pepys:

  Notes about the Jack taken by S. P. at the Navy Board the 20th of
  Sept^r 1686 upon occasion of the liberty taken by Private Yachts to
  wear the Kings Jack without License.

  Memorandum. That the temptations to this Liberty (besides the pride
  of it) are

  1st. That in Holland they are freed by it from taking a Pilot.

  2dly. As to France they are by the Jack excused from paying the
  Duty of 50 Sous by Tun paid by every Mercht Man coming into a
  French Port.

  3dly. All our Merchant Men lower their Topsails below Gravesend
  to any ship or vessel carrying the King's Jack, be it but a
  Victualling Hoy[196].

About this time another form of jack had come into use in the
Mediterranean. Its origin is obscure: we first meet with it in some
notes of matters to be looked into jotted down by Pepys about 1687:
"Quaere, the Practice of wearing Colours in Boats? And the Budgee[197]
Jack now familiarly used abroad (as lately by St Loe[198]) being the
Union Jack in a Canton upon a Red Flag." It will be seen from this note
that it was of similar design to the red ensign instituted in 1707, and
from the juxtaposition of "Colours in Boats" it may be inferred that it
was a combination of the jack and red ensign for use in boats only. It
was afterwards made the distinctive jack of a privateer[199].

For the next few years more serious matters than the misuse of the
Union Jack occupied the attention of the authorities, but in 1694[200],
when William III was safely seated on the throne, another Proclamation,
similar to that of 1674, was issued forbidding merchant ships, except
those having letters of marque, to wear other colours than the "Flag
and Jack white with a Red Cross commonly called St George's Cross
passing quite through the same and the Ensign Red with the like Cross
in a Canton White at the upper corner thereof next the staff." The
privateers were to wear the same ensign as other merchant ships, but
were to have the red (Budgee) jack.

Another Proclamation in identical terms was issued in the first year of
Queen Anne's reign[201].

Meanwhile yet another variant of the Union Jack had been created for
the use of ships commissioned by the Governors of the North American
Colonies. In July, 1701, the Admiralty complained to the Council of
"the inconvenience by Merchant Ships wearing the King's Colours in
and among the Plantations abroad, under colour of Commissions from
the Governors of the said Plantations," and obtained the Council's
approval to the use by such vessels of a distinctive Jack which is thus
described in the Instructions to the Governors.

  Whereas great inconveniences do happen by Merchant Ships and other
  Vessels in the Plantations wearing the Colours born by our Ships of
  War under pretence of Commissions granted to them by the Governors
  of the said Plantations, and that by trading under those Colours,
  not only amongst our own Subjects, but also those of other Princes
  and States, and Committing divers Irregularities, they do very much
  dishonour our Service--For prevention whereof you are to oblige the
  Commanders of all such Ships, to which you shall grant Commissions,
  to wear no other Jack than according to the Sample here described,
  that is to say, such as is worn by our Ships of War, with the
  distinction of a White Escutchion in the middle thereof and that
  the said mark of distinction may extend itself to one half of the
  depth of the Jack and one third of the Fly thereof[202].

In 1707 was brought about that complete union of England and Scotland
that James had worked for a hundred years before. The first article
in the Treaty of Union provided that the crosses of St George and St
Andrew should be conjoined in such manner as the queen thought fit.
After due consideration of various designs suggested by a Committee
of the Privy Council in conjunction with the Heralds College, it was
finally decided by an Order in Council of 17th April, 1707, "That the
Union Flag continue as at present." Coloured drawings of the Royal
Standard, Union Flag, and Red Ensign were formally communicated to the
Admiralty by a further Order in Council with instructions that these
designs were to be adhered to in the flags flown at sea[203].

But although no change was made in the Union flag an important
alteration was made in the Ensign; the English and Scots navies being
now united, the Union was introduced into its canton in place of the St

In promulgating[204] this change of ensign opportunity was taken to
repeat the thunders of the former proclamations against the offending
merchant service, but with the inclusion of the Union in the ensign the
fight practically came to an end. Before long the general introduction
of fore and aft headsails led to the disappearance of the sprit
topmast on which the jack had been displayed, and as the flagstaff on
the bowsprit, which took its place, was in the way of the jib when
headsails were set, it became the common practice to fly a jack only
when the ship was in harbour.

With the opening of the nineteenth century came the final change in the
design of the Union flag. By the Act of 1800 the union of Great Britain
and Ireland was to take effect from the first day of the new century,
and by the first of the Articles of Union the "Ensigns, Armorial Flags
and Banners" were to be such as the king by "Royal Proclamation under
the Great Seal of the said United Kingdom should appoint."

The Privy Council, after consulting the Heralds, recommended to the
king "that the Union Flag should be altered according to the Draft
thereof marked (C) in which the Cross of St George is conjoined with
the Crosses of St Andrew and St Patrick." This proposal was approved by
Order in Council of the 5th November, 1800.

The Proclamation[205] was issued on the 1st January, 1801. It decreed

  that the Union Flag shall be azure, the Crosses Saltires of St
  Andrew and St Patrick Quarterly per Saltire, counterchanged Argent
  and Gules; the latter fimbriated of the Second[206] surmounted by
  the Cross of St George of the Third[207], fimbriated as the Saltire.

In his desire to adhere to those pedantic formulae which came into
being during the decadence of heraldic art, the draftsman of this
clause was unfortunately obscure in a matter that called for the
clearest precision. The "Draft marked C" showed a fimbriation or
border for the St George's cross nearly as wide as the counterchanged
saltires[208]. This drawing and the verbal blason of it above
recited, were supplied to the Council by Sir Isaac Heard, the Garter
King-at-Arms, and since in so important a matter he is not likely
to have been guilty of carelessness, while there is no question of
incompetence, it is clear that "fimbriated as the saltire" was not
intended to denote that the border was to be of the same width as for
the saltire, but simply that this border was to be of the same colour.
In other words, a fimbriation was not so strictly defined as to width
in 1800 as some persons at the present day would have us believe.

There would be no need to dwell upon this point were it not for the
importance of this flag and the confusion into which the details of its
construction have fallen.

It may seem an extraordinary statement to make, but it is a fact that
the Union flag is never made in strict accordance with the original

In the pattern approved for the navy[209], which is also that flown
on the Houses of Parliament and on the Government Offices, and is
that adopted almost universally by private individuals of British
nationality, the Irish saltire is reduced in width by having its
fimbriation taken from itself instead of from the blue ground.
Apparently this has been done to bring the outer boundaries in line
across the flag, but it seems neither heraldically nor historically
correct, for the saltire representing Ireland[210] should be of equal
width with that of Scotland.

The other pattern in use is that established in 1900 by the War
Office, in an attempt to comply with the literal terms of the
Proclamation of 1st January, 1801, as interpreted by modern heraldic
definitions[211]. In this pattern the two saltires are of equal
breadth, but the "fimbriation" of the St George's cross has been
reduced to the same width as that of St Patrick's saltire.

However, these differences are of no serious importance, and indeed
this flag seems doomed to misrepresentation, which extends even to
its name. A "Union Jack" is, correctly speaking, a small Union flag
intended to be flown in one particular place, the bows of one of H.M.
ships: yet for many years past this technical distinction has been lost
sight of[212] and the misapplication of the term "Jack" has become
almost universal, so much so that we have the Government solemnly
announcing that "The Union _Jack_ should be regarded as the national

The Union Pendant, that is a pendant with St George's Cross at the
head and with the fly striped longitudinally red, white and blue (see
Plate V, fig. 2) appears to have been first instituted in 1661 as a
pendant which combined the colours of the Union flag and which, like
that flag, was to be flown only by H.M. ships. It was afterwards known
as the "Ordinary" or "Common" Pendant[214]. It went out of use when
the squadronal colours were abandoned in 1864, though it survives in
a smaller form (in which the fly is not slit) to this day as a signal
that the ship's company is engaged in divine service.


[141] _Cambridge Modern History_, III, 360.

[142] Mr Oppenheim suggests that this was partly due to James's natural
vanity and his jealousy of anything that could remind the English
seamen of their late Queen.

[143] This was sent to the Lord High Admiral to be communicated to the
Navy and Mercantile Marine, _vide_ draft letter _S. P. D. Jas I_, App.
XXXVIII, 16. An earlier draft altered from a signet warrant of James
I, and now in part illegible, is to be found in _S. P. D. Jas I_, App.
XXXV, 23, misplaced among the papers of 1603. The deleted ninth and
tenth lines, however, read: "Given under [our signet?] at our Pallace
of Westm^r the first day of April in the fourth year of o^r raigne of
Great Britaine ffrance and Ireland."

A writer on the Union flag in the _Archeological Journal_, 1891, misled
by the date at the top of the page containing the entry of the above
Proclamation in the Syllabus to Rymer's _Foedera_, has stated that
there was an earlier proclamation issued in 1605; an error that has
been repeated by several subsequent writers.

[144] _The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland_, VII, 498.

[145] The object of a fimbriation is to prevent colour touching colour
or metal touching metal, and, according to modern heraldic rules, it
should be as narrow as possible consistent with this result. White is
of course a metal: "argent."

[146] _Annales of Scotland_ (_s.v._ 1606), written about 1640.

[147] In the Rijks Museum. There are many illustrations of the Union
flag in late seventeenth century MSS., one of the most important of
these being the Flag Book of Lieut. Graydon (1686) in the Pepysian
Library. They all show a broad border.

[148] See p. 134.

[149] _Pepys MSS._, Miscellanea, IX.

[150] _S. P. D. Jas I_, CI, 8: A Survey of the present rigging of all
His Maj^s Ships 1618.

  1 Imperiall fflag w^h the kings armes of taffaty guilded.
  1 Brittish fflag of 15 clothes of taffaty.
  1 of St George of 12 breadths of taffaty.

[151] _S. P. D. Chas I_, I, 98: "the Banner of the Union with the
Crosses of both kingdoms."

[152] _Ibid._ CXVI, 50: "When you shall heare a piece of ordnance from
ye Adm^{ll} of the fleete and see ye Union fflagg in ye misne shrowds
y^t shalbe a signe for ye Counsell of Warre to come aboard."

[153] _Ibid._ CCCCXV, 49: Instructions given by Sir John Pennington,
26th March, 1639. "And when you see ye British Flagg spread upon my
Mizen Shrowds...."

[154] Really because the English navy had become so weak that other
nations saw no longer any reason to yield those marks of respect
formerly exacted of them.

[155] _S. P. D. Chas I_, CCLXV, 23.

[156] It is not mentioned in the Council's warrant to the Attorney
General directing him to prepare the proclamation.

[157] See "An Atlas of Drake's last voyage," by Dr Jules Sottas,
_Mariner's Mirror_, May, 1912.

[158] Probably about June, 1596.

[159] _S. P. D. Eliz._ CCLIX, 48. For full transcript of the second
section of these notes see _The Naval Tracts of Sir Wm Monson_, edited
by Mr Oppenheim (Navy Records Society), IV, 202. The first part has
never been published.

[160] _Mariner's Mirror_, April, 1911.

[161] Navy Records Society, vol. XX, 1902.

[162] _Fighting Instructions_ 1530-1816 (N.R.S.), 1905, p. 108.

[163] _B. M. Sloane MS._ 2682. The copy was probably made in 1638.

[164] See _Hist. MSS. Com._ Report X, App. IV, p. 280.

[165] The 'Lion's Whelps,' ten in number, were built in 1628.
They were small craft, of the "Pinnace" type, ship-rigged, with

[166] On a later occasion the two Whelps were ordered to take down
their topgallant masts as well, to complete the disguise.

[167] B. M. _Sloane MS._ 2449, a holograph copy: the page is headed
"of the Flagge called the Jacke." It does not occur in _Sloane_ 758 or
_Harleian_ 1341, or in the Bodleian MS. _Rawlinson_ A 463.

[168] He is using this word incorrectly.

[169] Pennington was the principal figure at sea on the royalist side
until the Parliament drove him from the navy in 1642.

[170] _S. P. D. Inter._ I, 62, p. 7: the Act was, however, dated 23rd.
See _Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum_, II, 13.

[171] Bodl. _Rawlinson MS._ A 224. The entry is dated 22nd Feb.

[172] _S. P. D. Inter._ I, 62, p. 8. In the letter to the Navy
Commissioners the words "quite through the flagg" were added.

[173] _Ibid._ The order about the Arms does not appear to have been
immediately acted upon, for it was repeated on 6th June.

[174] _Ibid._ p. 24.

[175] _Ibid._ I, 62, p. 53. See Plate VIII, fig. 3.

[176] The Commissioners (Blake, Deane, and Popham) for exercising
the office of "Admiral and General of the Fleet" created by Act of
Parliament 24th Feb. 1649, usually known as the "Generals at Sea." They
stood in much the same position as that formerly occupied by the late
Lord High Admiral, the Earl of Warwick, so far as the management of
the fleet was concerned, though without the Lord Admiral's full legal
powers, which were vested in the Council of State.

[177] _S. P. D. Inter._ I, 65.

[178] See Plate VI, fig. 5. This flag, which tradition connects with
Blake himself, has been preserved at Chatham Dockyard from time
immemorial, but was recently loaned by the Admiralty to the Royal
United Service Institution, where it may now be seen. Mr Fraser has
discussed its connection with Blake in his book _The Fighting Fame of
the King's Ships_, 1910, p. 110.

[179] E.g. R. Nooms (Zeeman), _Zeegevecht voor Livorno_ (1653), and J.
A. Beerstraten, _Zeeslag by ter Heide_ 1653, in the Rijks Museum at
Amsterdam. Also in etchings by Zeeman. See Plate V, fig. 3.

[180] _Letters and Papers relating to the First Dutch War_ (N. R. S.),
III, 189.

[181] Bodl. _Rawlinson_ A 227. Order of Navy Commissioners hastening
supply of flags for the fleet, dated 2nd March, 1653: "3 Standards
of ye usuall colo^{rs} w^{th} ye field Red, 4 fflags of ye Jack
colo^{rs}." Cf. also Instructions of Vice Adm. Goodson to Penn 21
June, 1655: "You shall wear the jack-flag upon the maintop masthead
during your continuance in the service aforesaid" (_Memorials of the
Professional Life and Times of Sir Wm Penn_, II, 116.)

[182] _S. P. D. Inter._ I, 78, p. 627.

[183] See Plate VI, fig. 6. The quarterly form was best adapted to
admit of this surcharge, as the harp was to occupy the centre of the
Union flag.

[184] _S. P. D. Inter._ CXCV, 162. Presumably "ye former fashion"
refers to the pre-Commonwealth flags still in store, as the Parliament
jack and flag would not lend itself to conversion into the new form.

[185] Nominally in joint commission with Monk as General at Sea.

[186] _S. P. D. Inter._ CCIII, 69. This standard was the same as that
in use from 1649 to 1658.

[187] _Ibid._ CCI, 15.

[188] _Diary_, 13th May, 1660.

[189] I.e. covering over the escutcheons containing the cross and harp.

[190] _Memoirs of the English Affairs, chiefly Naval_..., 1729.

[191] B. M. 1851, C, 8 (129).

[192] Adm. Lib. _D'Eon MS._ p. 367.

[193] Not a difficult matter, to judge from some of the "union flags"
flown by foreign men-of-war at the Naval Review at Spithead in 1911.

[194] Mayo, _The Trinity House of London_, 1905, p. 44.

[195] _Pepys MSS._ Miscellanea, ix.

[196] _Ibid._

[197] The name "Budgee," in flag-books of the early eighteenth century,
is derived from Bugia (Bougie) in Algeria. In the tenth century this
was one of the most important seaports in North Africa, but in the
seventeenth century it was fast falling into decay, and beyond the fact
that the Algerine pirates lying there were successfully attacked by Sir
Edward Spragge in 1673 there was nothing to connect the name with the
English navy.

[198] George St Lo.

[199] By the Proclamation of 1694. "All such ships as shall have
Commissions of Letters of Mart or Reprisals shall, besides the colours
which may be worn by Merchants' ships, wear a Red Jack, with the Union
Jack described in a Canton of the upper corner thereof next the staff."
It retained this use until privateering was abolished in 1856.

[200] 17 July, 1694. B. M. 21 _h_, 3 (157).

[201] 18 Dec. 1702. _London Gazette_, 3872.

[202] See Plate V, fig. 6, and page 127.

[203] 21st July, 1707, _Adm. Sec. In. Lrs._ 5151. The illustration
in Plate IV, fig. 1, is a reduced facsimile of the Union flag as
therein depicted. It will be seen that the St George's cross has a
comparatively wide white border, and that the blue was of a lighter
colour than that which afterwards became customary.

[204] Proclamation 28th July, 1707, _London Gazette_, 4356.

[205] _London Gazette_, No. 15324.

[206] I.e. the second colour named: argent, or white.

[207] I.e. gules, or red.

[208] See the flag in Plate IV, fig. 2, which is a reproduction of the
original drawing preserved in the Privy Council Register.

[209] See Plate V, fig. 8.

[210] For discussion of the question how this came to represent Ireland
see Chapter II.

[211] The Union flag flown by the War Office on ceremonial days is,
however, of naval pattern.

[212] Probably because after the seventeenth century the Union flag was
rarely seen at sea in any other position.

[213] The Earl of Crewe, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, in the
House of Lords 14th July, 1908.

[214] Pepys calls it "the Ordinary or Union Pendant used by the King's
ships only."

Chapter IV

_Flags of Command_


Highest in dignity among the flags which have been used to denote the
leader of a British fleet comes the Royal Banner commonly spoken of as
the Royal Standard.

Its use in this connection has for very many years been obsolete, but
before noting the occasions on which it has been flown for this purpose
it will be convenient to sketch its history down to our own times.

The royal arms make their first[215] appearance in 1189 in the Great
Seal of Richard I as a single lion rampant contourné upon the king's
shield. In Richard's second seal, made in 1198 to replace the first
one which was lost during his captivity, the single lion became the
three lions[216] passant guardant in pale which have remained in the
arms of England until the present day. In 1339 Edward III, angered at
the assistance given by Philip of France to the King of Scotland, took
steps to assert a claim to the throne of France, and, in earnest of
this, in January, 1340, he formally assumed the title and arms of King
of France, quartering the arms of France (azure semé of fleurs-de-lis)
with those of England in the royal banner and on the great seal. In
doing this he, somewhat unpatriotically, placed the arms of France in
the first and third quarters, thereby giving them precedence over those
of England.

[Illustration: PLATE VI Royal Standards]

From this date[217] until the death of Elizabeth these were the royal
arms of England, but during the reign of Richard II (1377-99) the
legendary arms of Edward the Confessor (or, a cross patoncé between
five martlets on a field azure) were impaled with them, and Queen
Mary, after her marriage with Philip of Spain, impaled the arms of
Spain. About the year 1411 Henry IV, in imitation of the change made
by Charles V in his arms, reduced the fleurs-de-lis to three in
number. On the accession of James I it became necessary to add the
arms of Scotland (or, a lion rampant within a double tressure flory and
counterflory, gules) and in doing this James took the opportunity to
add arms representing Ireland. For these he took the badge chosen for
Ireland by Henry VIII (a harp or, stringed argent). Mr Serjeant Knight,
in the memorandum referred to on p. 57 becomes very indignant over this
harp, and gives vent to his feelings in the following words:

  At the same time (upon what consideration I am ignorant) something
  was to be added for ye Kingdome of Ireland or something that
  might signify so much and ye Harpe (as at present borne) it
  seems resolv'd on. But for what reasons am as ignorant as for ye
  former, ye Harpe being no more the Armes of that Kingdome or of
  any one from whence that King was lineally descended than any
  other Constellation or any of ye Signes of the Zodiack. Having
  often contemplated this, ye only satisfaction I could forme to
  myselfe was from ye temper of ye times & doe suspect ye Leaven of
  Puritanisme in it by soe readily foysting this to ye exclusion of
  that of his Mat^y had (as has all his Posterity) an indisputable
  Hereditary Right unto, equal to that of England, ... viz the Arms
  of Ulster: or, a cross gules.

This harp was not the ancient arms of Ireland. Those arms are supposed
to have been three crowns in pale in a blue field, but as there was
never a native king of the whole of Ireland it is clear that there
could never have been a native coat of arms representative of the whole
country. Placing the arms quarterly of France and England in the first
and fourth quarters of his shield, James put those of Scotland in the
second quarter and those of Ireland in the third. This arrangement was,
however, not invariable. In some of the Irish seals[218] Ireland is
found in the second place and Scotland in the third, while in the Great
Seal of Scotland made in James II's reign the arms of Scotland occupy
the first and fourth quarters, with England second and Ireland third.

After the execution of Charles I, the royal standard was replaced
by the Commonwealth standard, with the cross and harp[219]. During
the Protectorate (1653-9) the standard consisted of: 1 and 4 the
cross of St George, 2 the cross of St Andrew, and 3 the Irish harp,
with an inescutcheon of the arms of Cromwell (sable a lion rampant,
argent)[220]. The Commonwealth standard came back for a few months in
1659-60, to be replaced by the royal standard of James I; the makeshift
used by Mountagu while on his way to fetch Charles II back to the
throne has already been described.

The remaining changes have been succinctly described by Mr
Fox-Davies[221] as follows:

  When William III and Mary came to the throne an inescutcheon of
  the arms of Nassau (Azure, billetty and a lion rampant or) was
  superimposed upon the Royal Arms as previously borne, for William
  III, and he impaled the same coat without the inescutcheon for his
  wife. At her death the impalement was dropped. After the Union
  with Scotland in 1707 the arms of England (Gules, three lions,
  etc.) were impaled with those of Scotland (the tressure not being
  continued down the palar line), and the impaled coat of England and
  Scotland was placed in the first and fourth quarters, France in the
  second, Ireland in the third.

  At the accession of George I. the arms of Hanover were introduced
  in the fourth quarter. These were: Tierced in pairle reversed,
  1. Brunswick, gules, two lions passant guardant in pale or; 2.
  Luneberg, or, semé of hearts gules, a lion rampant azure; 3.
  (in point), Westphalia, gules a horse courant argent, and on
  an inescutcheon (over the fourth quarter) gules, the crown of
  Charlemagne (as Arch Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire).

  At the union with Ireland in 1801 the opportunity was taken to
  revise the Royal Arms, and those of France were then discontinued.
  The escutcheon decided upon at that date was: Quarterly, 1 and 4,
  England; 2. Scotland; 3. Ireland, and the arms of Hanover were
  placed upon an inescutcheon. This inescutcheon was surmounted by
  the Electoral cap, for which a crown was substituted later when
  Hanover became a kingdom.

  At the death of William IV., by the operation of the Salic Law, the
  crowns of England and Hanover were separated, and the inescutcheon
  of Hanover disappeared from the Royal Arms of this country, and
  by Royal Warrant issued at the beginning of the reign of Queen
  Victoria the Royal Arms and badges were declared to be: 1 and 4,
  England; 2. Scotland; 3. Ireland.

[Illustration: PLATE VII Royal Standards]

The principles which governed the use of the royal standard at sea
prior to the sixteenth century are somewhat obscure. In the thirteenth
century and early part of the fourteenth the three lions (or leopards)
of England appear to have been regarded not only as the personal arms
of the Sovereign but also as the English national emblem, and to have
been used as such by all ships, royal and merchant. By the addition,
in January, 1340, of the arms of France, Edward III adopted a royal
standard that could no longer be regarded in this light. Yet although
the royal standard now became more peculiarly the personal ensign of
the king it is clear, from the frequency with which this flag occurs in
inventories of ships' stores, that its use was not confined to ships
in which the king or his admiral were embarked. It seems, however, to
have been flown only on ships temporarily or permanently in the king's
service, and to have been displayed by such ships from the deck, in
company with the flag of St George and other flags containing royal
badges, or emblems representative of the saints after whom the ships
were named.

There was, however, some distinction by which the presence of the king
could be denoted, and this difference lay most probably in the position
of the standard. We know that the "banner of council" placed in the
shrouds as a signal to call the council to the flagship, which is the
earliest signal recorded as used in the English fleet, dates from this
period, and that it contained the royal arms, with angelic supporters,
or impaled with the cross of St George, and that from the sixteenth
to the eighteenth century this "banner" was the royal standard[222].
But the most prominent position for a flag worn in a ship is at the
masthead, and it would seem that it was this position of the standard
that was reserved for the king or his deputy, the Lord Admiral. When
Edward III led the English fleet to the attack on the French fleet at
Sluys in June, 1340, his ship was decorated with banners and streamers
containing the new royal arms, and had a silver-gilt crown at the

  Li rois estoit en un vassiel moult fort et moult biel qui avoit
  esté fais, ouvrés et carpentés a Zandwich et estoit armés et parés
  de banières et d'estramières très rices, ouvrées et armoiies des
  armes de France et d'Engleterre esquartelées; et sus le mast amont
  avoit une grande couronne d'argent dorée d'or qui resplondisoit et
  flambioit contre le soleil[223].

It was, however, not the gilt crown but the flags that denoted the
king's presence, for Froissart explains that it was by these flags
that the French knew the king was himself present. "Bien veoient entre
yaus[224] li Normant par les banières que li rois d'Engleterre y estoit

In 1495, when Henry VII was encouraging John Cabot and his sons in
their voyages of discovery, he granted them the right to fly the royal
banners and flags: "plenam ac liberam authoritatem, facultatem et
potestatem navigandi ad omnes partes ... sub banneris, vexillis, et
insigniis nostris[226]," presumably in the same way as they were flown
on the royal ships.

The earliest surviving orders directing the Lord High Admiral to fly
the royal standard at the masthead are those of 1545, at the end of
Henry VIII's reign. "Item the Lord Admiral shall beare one banner of
the Kings Maj^{ts} Arms in his mayne topp and one flag of saint George
crosse in his foretopp[227]."

The royal standard was flown at the main, with the St George at
the fore, by Howard during the Armada fights in 1588 and during the
Cadiz Expedition of 1596. In 1618, by arrangement with the Marquis
(afterwards Duke) of Buckingham, Howard (then Earl of Nottingham)
resigned the office, which was transferred to the Marquis. Buckingham
made his first appearance at sea as Lord High Admiral when he
accompanied Prince Charles on his return from Spain in 1623. For this
voyage, a not inconsiderable sum of money was expended in flags, which

  Ye great silke flagg w^{th} ye Kings Armes for ye Prince
  the great fflag w^{th} ye Princes Armes & ye armes of Spaine empaled
  a fflag for ye foretop w^{th} the Prince of Wales armes
  a fflag of Bewpers of 24 breadthes w^{th} the Kings Armes
  a fflag of 18 breadthes w^{th} the Kings Armes
  an Ensigne of 16 breadthes w^{th} ye Lord Admiralls armes
  an Ensigne w^{th} ye L^d Admiralls Badge and Motto[228]

with a number of other flags, ensigns and pendants. As the Prince had
a special silk standard, it would seem that one of the other standards
was for Buckingham[229]. The Earl of Rutland was in command of this
fleet on its outward voyage to Santander, and apparently he was given
permission to fly the standard while in supreme command.

The following year Sir R. Bingley was instructed to put his lieutenant,
with the king's standard, in a ship to transport the Spanish Ambassador
across the Channel[230]. This was a somewhat extraordinary use of the
standard, for, with the disuse of flags placed along the bulwarks, it
had ceased to be generally flown on ships-of-war. The standard was,
however, flown on special occasions by high officers other than the
Lord High Admiral when in command of fleets. Wimbledon wore it in the
Cadiz Expedition of 1625, and no less than £36 (equivalent to about
£400 to-day) was spent on "the great silke fflagg w^{th} his Ma^{ts}
Armes guilded w^{th} fyne gould and wrought w^{th} oyle Coll^{rs},"
and it was worn by the Earl of Denbigh in 1628: but when the Earl
of Lindsey, who had been appointed one of the Commissioners for the
Admiralty after the murder of Buckingham, moved heaven and earth for
permission to wear it while in command of the fleet in 1635, alleging
among other reasons that it had been flown by the Earls of Arundel and
Rutland and by Sir Robert Mansell, and that he himself had had the
honour previously, his repeated applications were in vain; and so "a
little maimed" he had to content himself with the Union flag at the

During the Civil War the Lord High Admiral's standard held a very
anomalous position. In 1642 the Parliament had appointed the Earl of
Warwick to the office in defiance of the king's wishes, and, although
in active opposition to the king, he flew the royal standard. In the
summer of 1648 the fleet he commanded lay off the Dutch coast, watching
the royalist fleet under the command of Prince Charles. When the
Prince summoned Warwick to take down his standard the Earl replied: "I
am appointed by both Houses of the Parliament of England to be Lord
High Admiral of England, by which right I bear the Standard[231]."
The fleets never came to blows or the two standards might have got a
little mixed. Warwick had, however, provided against this eventuality
just before leaving England by supplying his fleet with pendants of his
personal colours[232].

Shortly after this, the command of the royalist ships was handed over
to Prince Rupert, and in order that the Parliamentary Naval forces
might not have the monopoly of the standard he was given permission to
fly one when he thought fit.

  Sir Edward Hyde to Prince Rupert.

  Hague 27 Jan. 1649.

  Your order for wearing the Standard.... I promised the Prince to
  give your Highness advertisement of the debate concerning this
  wearing the standard; in which I learned many things, which I never
  heard before. It is agreed by all that the standard is properly
  and of right to be worn only by the Lord High Admiral of England;
  & when I enquired of the order granted for the Lord Willoughby or
  Sir William Batten's wearing it, it is said, that it was thought
  then necessary, since the Earl of Warwick wore a standard, that
  whosoever commanded the fleet that was to fight against him, should
  wear one, lest the seamen should be discouraged, and look upon the
  Earl as the greater person; so that it is the opinion of all, that,
  when you are like to engage with the Rebel's fleet, your men may
  expect you should wear that ensign. It is therefore wholly referred
  to your Highness to wear it upon any occasions you think fit[233].

At the request of the Council of State, the office of Lord High Admiral
was abolished in 1649 and its powers transferred to the Council, but
as the high authority exercised by the new "Generals at Sea" was in
many respects like that formerly exercised by the Lord High Admiral
they were empowered to wear at the main masthead the special "standard"
referred to above (p. 64) which now took the place of the standard
with the royal arms. In this "standard," which was really only a
modification of the "union" flag, the English lions were replaced by
the St George's cross, the Scottish and French arms disappeared, and
only those of Ireland remained. This upstart flag soon acquired an
honour in battle that had been sadly lacking to the old one since 1588,
for it waved over the heroic fights of the First Dutch War and the
action at Santa Cruz. In May, 1658, it was superseded at sea by the
standard that had been assigned to the Protector in 1653 (see p. 65),
but this flag saw no great deeds and disappeared early in 1659, to
be replaced by the Commonwealth standard. When Mountagu went over in
May, 1660, to fetch back Charles to the throne no royal standard was
forthcoming, so he improvised one as already related (see p. 66).

With the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660 the royal standard resumed
its place as the Lord Admiral's flag, but with the anchor flag as
a substitute when the presence of the king rendered the use of the
standard by the Lord Admiral undesirable.

When William of Orange came over in 1688 to take possession of the
throne of Great Britain for himself and his wife he flew a red standard
containing in an escutcheon his arms impaled with the Stuart royal
arms, with the legend "For the Protestant Religion and the Liberties
of England" above the escutcheon and his motto "je maintiendray"
below[234]; but when the joint sovereigns had been formally proclaimed
king and queen they adopted the Stuart standard with an inescutcheon of
Nassau already described.

The restriction in the use of the standard which had been rapidly
growing[235] since the beginning of the seventeenth century, reached
its culmination in 1702, when the anchor flag definitely superseded it
as the Lord Admiral's flag, although, curiously enough, the standard
remained in use as a signal flag (for calling a council of flag
officers) for nearly another century.

The reason of the abandonment of the royal standard in 1702 does not
appear. In February the Earl of Pembroke, recently appointed Lord High
Admiral by William III, had given instructions for his flagship, the
'Britannia,' then fitting out at Chatham in preparation for the French
War, to be supplied with a standard, but on the 20th March, just after
the accession of Queen Anne, he wrote to the Navy Board:

  Notwithstanding any former Orders from me for your preparing any
  of the Royal Standards of England, I do hereby desire and direct
  you to forbear doing thereof, but you are to cause to be prepar'd
  for me as soon as conveniently may be, so many of these flags[236]
  which particularly have been worn by the Lord high Adm^{ll} of
  England &c., by vertue of his Office, as may be necessary for my
  Shipp and Boat[237],

and with this the long-continued existence of the royal standard as a
naval flag of command came to an end.

A number of interesting examples of the use of the standard at sea by
the king and by the Lord High Admiral (the Duke of York) in 1672 are
given in the Journal of Sir John Narborough, then lieutenant in the
Lord High Admiral's flagship, among them the following:

  Tuesday being 23rd.... This day the King came on board.... At his
  coming this day we put abroad a silk Ensigne and a silk Jack and
  all silk Pendants at every yard arm and Top mast head, and at the
  Main topmasthead the silk Standard of England, and at the Fore
  topmasthead a silk Flagg Red with a yellow anchor and cable in the
  Fly: and at the mizen topmasthead a Union Flagg. These we wore all
  flying while the King was aboard: But when the King went out of the
  Ship and left the Duke aboard the Red flagg was taken in at the
  Foremasthead, which had the Anchor and Cable in it, and hoisted up
  at the Maintopmasthead. The Standard being struck there, and the
  Union Flagg at the Mizen topmasthead was struck....

  Wednesday being 5th. (June 1672).... This day the King and several
  of the noblemen came on board the Prince[238]. His Royal Highness
  caused the Standard to be struck when the King's Standard was in
  sight, and when the King was on board the Standard was hoisted at
  the Maintopmasthead, and the Red Standard with the anchor in it at
  the Foretopmasthead and the Union Flag at the Mizentopmasthead.

  Tuesday being 18.... The King had a Standard flying all night at
  y^e head of the Yacht's mast, the Queen had a Standard flying at
  the head of the Prince's Main topmasthead Flaggstaff, and his R.H.
  the anchor Flagg at the head of his Yacht's mast and Prince Rupert
  had the Union Flagg at the head of his Yacht's mast....

  Monday being 9th. (Sept. 1672).... This afternoon at 4 of the
  Clock the King came on board, and Prince Rupert and several of the
  nobility were with His Majesty. When His Majesty came within two
  miles of the Prince his R.H. commanded the Standard to be struck
  until such time as his Majesty came on board. At the striking
  of his R.H.'s Standard all the Flaggs in the Fleet were struck
  immediately and kept down until the Standard on board the Prince
  was hoisted, then they hoisted theirs.


The Admiralty Flag appears to have originated as a purely ornamental
flag displaying the official badge of the Lord High Admiral for the
decoration of his ship on ceremonial occasions. Its use for such
a purpose would be analogous with the display, in the fourteenth,
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, of the royal badges, such as the
dragon, swan, antelope, portcullis, ostrich feather or rose.

The office of "Great" or "High" Admiral of England may be dated from
the appointment of John de Beauchamp as Admiral of all the fleets, in
1360, but although the Anchor badge is found upon the seals of the Lord
Admirals of Scotland as early as 1515, no such early instance has yet
been brought to light in England[239]. It may, however, be presumed
that it was in use south of the Tweed from an earlier date, for the
anchor was certainly in use in the sixteenth century as a mark placed
upon ships or goods arrested by the Admiralty Court. The earliest
known instance of the anchor in conjunction with the English Lord High
Admiral's arms occurs at the end of Queen Mary's reign in a volume of
Acts of the High Court of Admiralty dated 11th February, 1558. Here the
arms of Lord Clinton and Saye are surrounded by four anchors without

For the earliest instance of the anchor in a flag we must turn to the
well-known engraving supposed to represent the 'Ark Royal,' Howard's
flagship in 1588, which shows an anchor in the head of a streamer flown
from the foretop[241].

The foul anchor[242] is first found in the seal of Howard after he
had become Earl of Nottingham, and may be seen in a specimen attached
to a document dated April, 1601, now in the British Museum. The badge
appears on the reverse of this seal on the trappings of the horse which
the earl bestrides. In 1623 Buckingham, who had succeeded Nottingham as
Lord High Admiral, was provided with "an Ensigne with ye L^d Admiralls
Badge & Motto." This badge was evidently the anchor and cable, for the
badge of the foul anchor appears prominently four times on the York
Water Gate (Thames Embankment) built for Buckingham in 1626, and in
1627 Buckingham was using as his official seal the anchor and cable
surrounded by the garter and surmounted by a coronet. In the badges on
the gate the end of the cable hangs down over one of the arms, but in
the seal the end is neatly flemished down in three coils upon the shank.

In 1633, when Buckingham was dead and the Admiralty in commission, the
flags surveyed at Deptford included among them a silk "red ensigne with
ye Lo. Admiralls badge." At this date the badge could not have been a
personal one, and there seems no doubt that it was the official anchor
and cable, possibly of the same design as in Buckingham's seal, for
the Commissioners had adopted this form for use in their own seal,
replacing the coronet and garter by the legend "Sig. Com. Reg. Ma. Pro.
Adm. Ang[243]." It will be observed that the field of this flag is
red, as at the present day. The anchor with coiled cable appears again
during the Commonwealth on the seals of the Generals at Sea, but the
design had begun to deteriorate even in Buckingham's time. In his seals
in 1628 some of the turns of the coil pass below the shank, and in the
later seals the coil lays round the shank instead of upon it.

When the Commission was dissolved in 1638 and the office granted to
the Earl of Northumberland (as substitute for the young Duke of York),
Northumberland adopted for his seal a design in which the cable was
draped in graceful turns as a border round the anchor, ending at the
ring on the side opposite to that at which it was made fast. This
design was used by the Committee of the Admiralty and Navy under the
Commonwealth and was adopted by James Duke of York in 1660[244], but in
the eighteenth century it in turn deteriorated, until it reached the
form used in the present flag[245], in which the cable is not made fast
to the anchor at all, but simply passes loosely through the ring and
hangs down stiffly on either side.

The anchor flag was not used during the Commonwealth, but it was
restored in 1661, when the contractor was paid £2. 10_s._ "ffor shading
the Standard and Ensigne and Jack with a ancor," £5. 10_s._ "ffor
sowing silke and cloth for the sockett and markeing the Ensigne with
the ancor and cable," and £4. 10_s._ "ffor sowing silke and cloth for
socketing & markeing the flag with a ancor and cable[246]."

The subordinate "badge" flag was now promoted to the dignity of a
"standard" and flown at the masthead as a substitute for the royal
standard when the Lord Admiral was unable to fly the latter, because of
the presence of the king in the fleet.

In 1673 the Test Act deprived the Duke of York of his office, which for
the next eleven years was placed in commission. Charles II, just before
his death, revoked the commission, and the office fell in to the crown.
When the Duke of York succeeded to the throne in 1685 as James II, he
retained the office in his own hands, and in token of this placed "a
crown over the anchor as being himself his own Admiral[247]."

In addition to the anchor flag (which when used by the sovereign
is flown at the fore, as the main is already occupied by the royal
standard) a flag of similar design, but with the St George's cross in
the upper canton, was also flown as an ensign at the stern[248]

At this period, according to Lieut. Graydon's flag-book, the Scots
Lord Admiral flew a white flag containing a blue anchor and cable.
The Admiral of Scotland, who according to Pepys[249] was "no officer
of State" and had "no precedence at all given him from his office,"
was abolished after the Union of 1707, when the three small ships
representing the navy of that country were absorbed in the English,
henceforth the British, fleet.

After the Revolution of 1688 the Office of Lord High Admiral was placed
in commission, but it was revived by William III in June, 1702, when
the Earl of Pembroke was appointed. Pembroke had intended to proceed
to sea in command of the fleet then being fitted out in anticipation
of the outbreak of the war with France and Spain, known as the War of
the Spanish Succession, and he would have flown the royal standard in
his flagship. William, however, died on 8th March, and Queen Anne,
immediately after her accession, deprived the Lord High Admiral of
the right to fly the standard, among other perquisites and _droits_.
Pembroke then gave instructions for the anchor flag to be supplied
instead. But as he was not a seaman his proposal to take command of
the fleet had naturally aroused much opposition, and in the end it
was dropped. In May he was replaced as Lord High Admiral by Prince
George of Denmark, the Queen's consort, and although Pembroke again
held the office for a short time after the Prince's death in 1708, no
opportunity arose for the anchor flag to be flown at sea in military
command during his or the Prince's tenure.

[Illustration: PLATE VIII Admirals' Flags]

In 1709 the office of Lord High Admiral was again placed in commission
and it remained in commission for over a hundred years. During this
period the anchor flag was on one occasion flown at sea in executive
command. At the end of March, 1719, Admiral the Earl of Berkeley, then
First Lord of the Admiralty, was appointed to the command of a fleet
then fitting out to repel a naval raid threatened from Cadiz in support
of the claims of the Pretender. Having been given the extraordinary
rank of "Admiral and Commander in Chief of his Majesty's Navy and
Fleets," he was authorised by the king (George I) to fly the anchor
flag at the main whilst so serving, and the flag was in fact flown
for a few weeks at the end of March and beginning of April. The next
occasion on which this flag was flown in executive command at sea
occurred in July, 1828, when the Duke of Clarence (afterwards William
IV), who had been appointed Lord High Admiral in 1827, with the express
understanding that he should exercise no military command, suddenly put
to sea from Plymouth, flying the anchor flag, in command of a squadron
of manoeuvre that it had been intended to place under Vice-Admiral Sir
Henry Blackwood. This extraordinary escapade and the friction which
had been caused by the duke's method of conducting affairs, led to
his removal, and to the office being once more placed in commission.
It is very improbable that it will ever again be conferred upon an
individual. In May, and again in August, 1869, Mr Childers, the
First Lord, accompanied by Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, the First
Sea Lord, embarked in H.M.S. 'Agincourt' and took command, first of
the reserve fleet, and then of an experimental squadron, under the
Admiralty flag. This proceeding gave rise to much comment, but since
the Letters Patent appointing a Board of Admiralty give power to "any
two or more" of the Commissioners to exercise all the functions of the
Lord High Admiral, the action of Mr Childers does not seem to have been
_ultra vires_, though it is not one that is likely to be repeated.

Since 1850 the anchor flag has been flown over the Admiralty Office in
London. At sea it is flown in the royal yacht when the sovereign is
present, in recognition of the fact that, under the Constitution, he is
the source from which the Lord High Admiral's powers are derived; the
anchor flag being flown at the fore, the royal standard at the main,
and the Union flag at the mizen. In the Admiralty yacht the anchor flag
is flown at the main when members of the Board are embarked in her. It
is the custom (a custom that was in existence in the early years of the
eighteenth century) to fly the anchor flag on men-of-war during the
ceremony of launching. A similar flag, with the lower half of the field
blue, has been recently adopted as the flag of the Australian Naval


  And so the Admiral of a Fleet or Squadron hath his flag in the
  Main-top; the Vice-Admiral in the Fore-top and the Rere Admiral in
  the Missen-top, with the Crosses or Colours of their Nation and
  Countrymen, And thus far it is usual and common even with Fleets
  of Merchant men, agreeing amongst themselves for the Admiral[250]
  ships in this kind.

In these words Boteler, writing in 1634, sums up the method of
distinguishing the flags of the principal officers of a fleet which had
been made possible by the appearance of the three-masted ship of war in
the fifteenth century, was adopted by the English in the sixteenth, and
remained in vogue until the disappearance of the sailing ship of war in
the nineteenth century.

But, it may well be asked, what was done to distinguish the admirals
before ships had three masts? It is not easy to answer this question,
for the records throw no light on it and the information vouchsafed
by contemporary chroniclers is very scanty. Perhaps the answer
nearest the truth would be: "nothing, for there were then no grades
to distinguish." Before the sixteenth century there was rarely more
than one admiral in a fleet, and on those rare occasions on which two
or more admirals appear they were usually given the command "jointly
and severally," that is, as co-equals[251]. In such cases it may be
presumed that both, if indeed they were not embarked in the same ship,
bore the St George's flag or royal standard at the masthead and were
distinguished by banners of their personal arms.

In the fleet that attempted invasion under Eustace the Monk in 1217,
only one ship (that of the Commander-in-Chief) appears to have flown a
flag at the masthead, for we are told by a contemporary chronicler[252]
that one of Hubert de Burgh's men agreed, when they engaged Eustace's
ship, "to climb up the mast and cut down the banner, that the other
vessels may be dispersed from want of a leader."

In 1346 there seems to have been still only one flag of command in
a fleet. Edward III had in that year fitted out a fleet in order to
make an incursion into Gascony, but after a false start which had been
frustrated by contrary winds, the king, on the advice of Godefroy de
Harcourt, suddenly changed his mind and set out for Normandy, taking
the flag of command from his Admiral and leading the fleet himself.

  Et il meismes prist l'ensengne[253] de l'amiral le conte de
  Warvich, et volt estre amiraus pour ce voiage, et se mist tout
  devant, comme patrons et gouvrenères de toute le Navie[254].

We have no further evidence as to the method of bearing admirals'
flags in the English fleet until we come to the "Book of Orders for the
War by Sea and Land[255]," drawn up by Thos. Audley _c._ 1530 at the
request of Henry VIII. Here provision is made for only one admiral,
who is to bear two flags; one at the main and the other at the fore,
while all the other ships are to bear one at the mizen. The orders
drawn up by Lisle fifteen years later provide for a fleet divided into
three squadrons, and in this case also each admiral had two flags,
but here the two flags were necessary to distinguish the flagships,
as the private ships had each one flag, at the fore, main, or mizen
respectively, to denote the squadrons to which they belonged.

  5. Item the lord Admiral shall beare one banner of the Kings
  mai^{ts} Armes in his mayne topp and one flag of saint George
  crosse in his fore topp, and every shipp appoynted to the battaill,
  shall beare one flag of saint Georges crosse in his mayne toppe.

  6. Item thadmirall of the vanwarde ys appoynted to beare too flaggs
  of saint George crosse, thone in his mayne topp and thother in his
  fore topp. And every shipp appoynted to the vanwarde shall weare
  one flag of sainte Georges crosse in his fore toppe.

  7. Item thadmirall of the wyng shall beare a flag of saint Georg
  crosse in either[256] of his mesyn toppes, and every Shipp
  Galliasse pynnesse and Shalupe appoynted to the wyng shall have in
  ther mesyn toppe one flag of saint George crosse[257].

The relative dignity of the mastheads, main, fore and mizen, is
seen underlying this arrangement, for the Lord Admiral places his
standard at the main masthead and his St George, as next in rank,
at the masthead next in importance; the second admiral occupies the
two foremost mastheads with his flags and the third admiral the two
aftermost, each being, of course, in a four-masted ship.

It will be observed that there is as yet no mention of "Vice" or "Rear"
Admiral, but the term Vice-Admiral, which is much the older of the two,
was in use in the English fleet in 1547 and in the French fleet at
least as early as 1338. The term Rear-Admiral is more modern. This is
pointed out by Monson[258], but indeed sufficient proof is to be seen
in the fact that the term is not used in either the French or Dutch

The Instructions drawn up in March, 1558, by Wm Wynter, Admiral of a
fleet of ships about to go to Portsmouth, contain "an order for beringe
of the flagge":

  Item that every Shippe of Warre do set up a flage of St. George
  uppon her Bonaventure myson, excepte Mr. Broke, Captaine of the
  reed Gallie, who is apointed to ware the flagge of vize Admyrall
  for this present Jorney: And the Victuellers, Hoyes and others
  for to ware there flagge bytwyne the myzon and the aftermost

Here the Vice-Admiral has but one flag, and although we are not
explicitly told where the Admiral and Vice-Admiral are to fly their
flags, it is evident that it is intended they should be at the main and
fore respectively.

We have no further definite information as to the mode in which the
junior admirals bore their flags until we reach the year 1596. For
the important expedition to Cadiz in the summer of that year a large
combined English and Dutch fleet was assembled, and was divided into
five squadrons; four English and one Dutch. The English ships were
under the command of the Earl of Essex and the Lord Admiral (Howard) as
"Joint Generalls of the Armies by sea and land." Under them were Lord
Thomas Howard as Vice-Admiral of the fleet and Sir Walter Raleigh as
Rear-Admiral. Each of these officers had command of one of the English
squadrons with a Vice- and a Rear-Admiral of that squadron under him.

A contemporary account of the expedition among the Duke of
Northumberland's MSS.[261] contains a series of coloured diagrams
showing the flags flown by the various Admirals. From these we see that
Howard, as Lord High Admiral, flew the royal standard at the main and
the St George at the fore. The Vice- and Rear-Admirals of his squadron
flew, at the fore and mizen respectively, a flag with striped field
(red, white and blue in seven horizontal stripes) and the St George in
the canton. Essex, although superior to Howard in social rank and named
before him in the joint proclamation which they issued, flew only the
St George at the main. The Vice- and Rear-Admirals of his squadron flew
at the fore the St George barred with blue horizontally.

The Vice-Admiral of the fleet flew the St George at the fore, and at
the main, as Admiral of his squadron, a flag with the St George in a
canton and a field striped horizontally green and white. The Vice- and
Rear-Admirals of this squadron flew a similar flag at their proper
mastheads. The Rear-Admiral of the fleet flew the St George at the
mizen, and he and the Vice- and Rear-Admirals of his squadron flew
plain white flags at the main, fore, and mizen respectively. The
squadronal flags of the first three squadrons as depicted in this
manuscript are unique as admirals' flags; they appear to have been
stern ensigns promoted for this special occasion.

Originally it had been intended to use plain flags of different colours
for the four squadrons, as is shown by the following entry in the Navy
Accounts to which Mr Oppenheim drew attention in his _Administration of
the Royal Navy_.

  Richerde Waters of London Upholster for iiij^{er} large fflagges
  or Ensignes made of fine Bewpers conteyning in each of them
  xx*iiij v (85) yards of the same stuffe being each of them of
  severall Cullers viz One white, one Orengtawnie, one Blew and the
  iiij^{th} Crimson Colo^r which were appointed to be so made for the
  distinguishing of the iiij^{er} squadrons of the flete ffor the
  service then intended, finding at his owne chardges all manner of
  stuffe & workmanshippe. xvi^{li} viiij^s viij^d[262].

Apart from the fact that "the unusual particularity of the item
suggests that it was thought to require some justification, which would
be natural if the flags referred to had never been used[263]," it may
be pointed out that ten squadronal flags were needed, while this item
only refers to four. There is, moreover, another entry in the same
account which gives the sizes and prices of the "Ensignes & fflagges"
provided for the expedition, at a total cost of £371. 8_s._ 4_d._
Descriptions of these flags are unfortunately not given, but it is a
significant fact that of the largest size, sixteen breadths[264], ten
were supplied.

The reason for the abandonment of the original intention to use
plain-coloured flags for the squadrons of the 1596 expedition is not
known, but when, in 1625, another expedition was sent out against Cadiz
the fleet was divided into three squadrons, each under three admirals,
with red, blue, and white flags respectively.

This expedition set sail in October, 1625, but four months earlier a
much smaller fleet, also divided into three squadrons, had been sent
to conduct the Queen from Boulogne to England. The difference in the
Admirals' flags worn on these two occasions is significant, for it
shows that there was no established practice applicable to large fleets.

The Instructions[265] issued by Buckingham in June for the Boulogne
fleet provide that the Admiral shall wear the Union flag at the main,
and each ship of his squadron a pendant at the main masthead. The
Vice- and Rear-Admirals are to have the Union at the fore and mizen
respectively, and the private ships[266] of their squadrons pendants at
those mastheads.

But when the larger fleet was set forth in October each of its three
squadrons had three flag officers. The instructions issued by the
Commander-in-Chief, Sir Edward Cecil (afterwards Lord Wimbledon) on 3rd
October, contained the following provision:

  17. The whole fleet is to be divided into three squadrons: the
  admiral's squadron is to wear red flags and red pendants on the
  main topmasthead; the vice-admiral's squadron to wear blue flags
  and blue pendants on the fore topmasthead; the rear admiral's
  squadron to wear white flags and white pendants on the mizen
  topmast heads.

The wording of this instruction is somewhat ambiguous. Owing to the
absence of a comma after "flags," it may be taken to read that every
ship was to have both a flag and a pendant in one of the three tops,
but this would leave no ready means of distinguishing the flag-ships.
Monson and Boteler, who wrote shortly after this date, say that the
squadrons of a fleet were distinguished by coloured pendants hung
from the main, fore, and mizen tops respectively[267], so that we may
conclude that the arrangement of flags on this occasion was as follows:

The Admiral commanding in chief, although he was not Lord High Admiral,
flew the royal standard at the main.

The Vice- and Rear-Admirals of his squadron flew "a redd flagg with
a little white, and St George's Crosse therein at the topp of the
flaggstaff[268]" (i.e. a red flag with St George in the upper canton
next the staff, as in the red ensign), while the private ships of this
squadron flew red pendants at the main.

The Vice-Admiral of the fleet and the Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral
of his squadron bore plain blue flags at the appropriate mastheads,
and the private ships of this squadron wore blue pendants at the fore
topmast head.

The Rear-Admiral of the fleet and the Vice- and Rear-Admirals of his
squadron had white flags[269], while the private ships of this squadron
had white pendants at the mizen topmast head.

No mention is made of the Union flag, which should normally have been
flown by the Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral of the fleet at the fore and
mizen respectively, but as "every flag officer both of the fleet and of
the squadrons was a soldier[270]" anomalies were to be expected. Sir
Francis Stewart, the original Rear-Admiral of the fleet, and the only
seaman among the flag officers, was left on shore at the last moment
because his ship, the 'Lion,' was found to be leaky. Wimbledon sent for
his flag and conferred it on Denbigh, the Vice-Admiral of his squadron.
Denbigh's former place was given to Delaware, the Rear-Admiral of
the second, or blue squadron. This naturally gave offence to the
Vice-Admirals of the second and third squadrons, and a furious squabble
arose, which only interests us in two points so far as the flags were
concerned. One is that in the course of the squabble the red flag,
which became the object of contention, is referred to repeatedly as the
"flag of St George," the other is that in a weak attempt at a solution
of the difficulty created by his action Wimbledon authorised Valentia,
the Vice-Admiral of the blue squadron to

  carrie the redd flagg with the St George's Cross in the maine topp
  as a kind of extraordinary or cheife deputy or Vice Admirall to the
  Admirall or to his Squadron, soe to distinguish him from my Lo.
  Delaware with some preferment alsoe to my Lord of Valencia.

A few days later Wimbledon requested him "to weare his flagg no longer
in the maine topp," and finally both Valentia and Delaware "for reasons
best known to themselves took downe their flagges." The whole episode
forms a truly comic opera performance that must have greatly amused, if
it did not disgust, the seamen of the fleet.

The main interest in this miserable expedition lies in the fact that it
was the first occasion of the division of the fleet into red, blue, and
white squadrons.

Two years later an expedition was fitted out under the command of
Buckingham, the Lord High Admiral, intended for the capture of the
Ile de Ré. On this occasion, in addition to the main fleet, which was
again divided into red, blue, and white squadrons under three principal
officers:--the Lord Admiral, with the standard at the main; the
Vice-Admiral, with the Union at the fore and a blue flag at the main;
and a Rear-Admiral, with the Union at the mizen and a white flag at the
main, each of these having a Vice- and Rear-Admiral under him--there
were two subsidiary squadrons, one under Lord Denbigh, who flew the
St George at the main, and the other under Sir John Pennington, who
flew the St Andrew's cross at the main, the only occasion on which the
Scots' flag has been flown by an admiral of an English fleet.

The method of bearing Admirals' flags now became regularised. If the
fleet was small and had only three flag officers, the senior flew the
Union flag at the main--unless he were the Lord Admiral, or had special
permission to fly the standard--and the other two flew the Union at
the fore and mizen respectively. If the fleet were larger the number
of flag officers, who, it must be remembered, had as yet no permanent
tenure of the rank, was increased to nine and the fleet was divided
into squadrons distinguished by the red, blue and white flags of their
Admirals and by the corresponding pendants of the ships; but this
distinction of colour did not as yet extend to the ensigns on the poop.

This arrangement persisted until the end of the reign of Charles I,
but in the first great fleet fitted out by the Commonwealth, at the
beginning of the First Dutch War, the precedence of the colours was
changed. As already related, the standard and Union flag flown by the
principal admirals had been replaced by flags containing the cross and
harp, but from the following proposals referred by the Commissioners
for the Admiralty and Navy to their subordinate Board, the Navy
Commissioners, it will be seen that it had been at first intended to
adhere to the order of colours--red, blue, white.

  The 3 Generals to weare each of them a Standard, the one to have
  a pendent under the Standard & an Ensigne of Redd, the second
  a pendant under the Standard & an Ensigne of Blew, the third a
  Pendant under ye Standard & an ensigne of White.

  One Vice Admirall of the ffleet to weare the usuall fflagg in his
  foretopp wth a pendant under his fflagg and an ensigne of Redd.

  One Rere-admirall to the ffleet to be a Vice-admirall of a grand
  Squadron, to weare the usuall fflagg in his mizon topp & a blew
  fflagg in his foretopp wth a pendant under it & an ensigne of Blew.

  One Vice admirall to the Grand Squadron to weare a white flagg in
  his foretopp & a Pendent & Ensigne of white.

  Three other Rere-admirals: one of them to weare a Redd flagg,
  another a blew flagg & ye other a White in their mizon topps, wth
  Pendents & Ensignes of their respective Colo^{rs}.

  The rest of the fleet to be devided into 9 parts & to be put under
  the 9 flags before mentioned & to weare the colo^{rs} of the
  flagg they are put under, viz^t. A pendent & Ensigne of the same
  colo^{rs} the flagg is off under w^{ch} they are put.

  All the shipps to weare Jacks as formerly.

  If any of the Generals shall goe out of their shipps then that
  shipp to take downe ye Standard & to putt upp a flagg of the
  colo^{rs} of thet pendant yt shipp weares[271].

[Illustration: PLATE IX Early Ensigns, etc.]

The arrangements here proposed merit attention, for they contain
several departures from the custom hitherto prevailing. The three
principal admirals, being of co-equal authority, are each to fly the
same standard at the main masthead, but to distinguish them they are
to have pendants and ensigns of three different colours. The Vice-
and Rear-Admiral of the fleet are retained, but they no longer have
separate squadrons, the senior becomes Vice-Admiral to the first, or
red squadron, and the junior, Vice-Admiral of the second, or blue
squadron. To these are added a squadronal or "occasional" Vice-Admiral
for the third or white squadron, and three Rear-Admirals, one for each
squadron. The private ships are to have an ensign, as well as the
customary pendant, of the squadronal colour.

The Navy Commissioners, after remarking upon rates of pay suitable to
the various grades of flag officers, confess their incompetence to
advise about the flags. "As to the distinguishment of weareing the
fflaggs, Pendants and Ensignes, wee are not capable to give our advice
therein, but must leave it to those Comand^{rs} at Sea (whoe best knowe
the causes of such kind of distinctions) to advise."

This was on the 14th January, 1653, but in the order to hasten the
supply of flags to the fleet dated 4th February these flags are named
in the order red, white, and blue. The reason for the change is not
known, but it may be remarked that the white escutcheon of England had
precedence of the blue escutcheon of Ireland in the Generals' standard,
and this may have led the Generals at Sea to change the order of
precedence of the squadronal colours.

On the 18th February the fleet came into collision with the Dutch at
the Battle of Portland. On that occasion Blake and Deane, two of the
original Generals at Sea, were embarked together in the flagship of
the Red Squadron, which flew the standard, but Monck, who had recently
been appointed as the third General in the vacancy caused by the
death of Popham, took command of the White Squadron, while Penn, the
Vice-Admiral of the fleet, commanded the Blue. The Admiral's flags,
other than the standard, were "clear" colours, in other words plain
flags, but the pendants and ensigns all had "a red cross in chief."
The Vice- and the Rear-Admiral of the Fleet, who acted as Admiral of
the Blue and Vice-Admiral of the Red respectively, probably flew, in
addition to their plain blue and red flags, the Commonwealth "Union"
flag of the cross and harp, but about this time the latter flag seems
to have lost its red and yellow border and to have been of the same
form as the "Jack." Thus in an order dated 2nd March for a further
supply of flags to be hastened to the fleet, then re-fitting for a
renewal of the conflict, these flags are described as "of ye Jack

  3 Standerds of ye usuall colo^{rs} w^{th} ye field Red
  4 fflags of ye Jack colors
  6 fflags cleare white
  6 fflags cleare blue
  40 pendants red     }
  40 pendants blue    }
  40 pendants white   } as ye last was w^{th} the red crosse in chiefe[273]
  40 Ensignes red     }
  40 Ensignes blue    }
  40 Ensignes white   }
  100 Jacks

At the Restoration the standard and jack flags reverted to the forms
in use before 1649. The existing method of displaying the admirals'
flags and the precedence of the squadronal colours remained unaltered,
but a more strict regulation of their use gradually makes itself felt,
and precise instructions as to the wearing of their flags begin to
appear in the commissions of appointment issued to the flag officers.
This was no doubt the logical outcome of the improved methods of naval
administration, and especially of such improvements in the status of
officers as the establishment of "Half-pay," of the introduction into
the fleet of suitable youths with the express purpose of training them
as officers, and the institution of qualifying tests before promotion
to the rank of lieutenant. All these reforms tended to make the navy a
regular profession for its higher officers instead of a mere haphazard
calling, but it must be remembered that as yet the only established
"Flag" ranks were those of Lord Admiral and Vice- and Rear-Admiral of
England (or "of the Fleet"). All other Admirals were only "occasional,"
and officers holding such "occasional" rank yielded up the dignity on
hauling down their flag and may frequently be found serving later as
simple "Captain."

An important step forward was made in recognising that there might
be two or more ships in company without either of them necessarily
becoming an "Admiral" ship. This led to the institution in 1674 of the
"Distinction-Pendant," which will be discussed in detail later. (See
Broad Pendant, p. 102.)

When the Revolution of 1688 put an end to Pepys' activities at the
Admiralty he was engaged in codifying the regulations relating to
flags, and had laid before the king (as Lord High Admiral) a "new
establishment" under which "no flags are to be issued but by particular
warrant, which I suppose is to express their no., colors, and
dimensions according to the occasions which they are issued for[274]."

The position at the end of Pepys' career is well summarised in the
table overleaf drawn up by him--one of the many instances of his
fondness for methodical statements.

The last entry is of especial interest. When the stricter regulation
enforced had prevented many officers from wearing flags who would,
in similar circumstances, undoubtedly have had that privilege in the
first half of the century, much importance was attached to the right
to exhibit a naked flagstaff. One striking instance of this occurs in
1687, when Sir Roger Strickland was appointed Vice-Admiral of the fleet
under the Duke of Grafton, ordered to transport the Queen of Portugal
(the king's sister) to Lisbon. Strickland, not unnaturally, wanted to
wear a flag as Vice-Admiral. Not many years earlier he would have done
this as a matter of course; now he had to obtain the king's permission,
which was granted. But he had omitted Pepys from his reckoning. The
king's sign manual warrant was accompanied by a long letter from Pepys
dissuading him from exercising the right:

  a thing so extraordinary, so irregular, and so unjustified by any
  practice past, and unlikely to be ever imitated in time to come,
  as this which you have thus contended for, of having two of the
  Top Flags of England exposed to sea, in view of the two greatest
  Rivalls of England for Sea Dominion and Glory (I mean the Dutch and
  French) with no better provision for supporting the Honour thereof,
  then Six Ships, and two of them such as carry not above 190 men and
  54 guns between them, and this too obtained through meer force of

and hinting that the king will take it well if he does not hoist the
flag, though he may bear the flagstaff. Like a wise man, he took
Mr Secretary's hint, and resigned the honour. The king thereupon
authorised Strickland to bear the naked staff only, and informed that
officer that he was pleased to find that Pepys' advice had been taken,
for it had been offered with his privity.


                |    The various Flags and Colours used
                |  in the Navy of England denoting command
  The several   |Standard |Anchor   |Union   |Red     |White
  Degrees of    |         |of the Ld|or Jack |Flag    |Flag
  Command in use|         |Admiral  |Flag    |        |
  in the Navy of|         |         |        |        |
  England       |         |         |        |        |
  Ld High Adm^l |At the   |At the   |   --   |   --   |   --
  of England    |Maintop  |Maintop  |        |        |
                |the King |the King |        |        |
                |being    |being in |        |        |
                |aboard or|the Fleet|        |        |
                |not at   |aboard   |        |        |
                |all in   |another  |        |        |
                |the Fleet|ship     |        |        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Vice Adm^l    |   --    |   --    |At the  |   --   |   --
  of England    |         |         |Foretop |        |
                |         |         |w^h a   |        |
                |         |         |distinc-|        |
                |         |         |tion    |        |
                |         |         |pendant |        |
                |         |         |under it|        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Rear Adm^l    |   --    |   --    |At the  |   --   |   --
  of England    |         |         |Mizentop|        |
                |         |         |w^h a   |        |
                |         |         |Distinc-|        |
                |         |         |tion    |        |
                |         |         |Pendant |        |
                |         |         |under it|        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Admiral of    |   --    |   --    |At the  |   --   |   --
  a Fleet of    |         |         |Maintop |        |
  3 Squadrons   |         |         |        |        |
  with nine     |         |         |        |        |
  flags         |         |         |        |        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Admiral       |   --    |   --    |   --   |   --   |At the
  of the        |         |         |        |        |Maintop
  White         |         |         |        |        |
  Squadron      |         |         |        |        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Admiral       |   --    |   --    |   --   |   --   |   --
  of the        |         |         |        |        |
  Blue          |         |         |        |        |
  Squadron      |         |         |        |        |
                |         |         |        |        |
         { Red  |   --    |   --    |   --   |At the  |   --
         {      |         |         |        |Foretop |
  Vice   {      |         |         |        |        |
  Admiral{ White|   --    |   --    |   --   |   --   |At the
  of the { or   |         |         |        |        |Foretop
         { Blue |   --    |   --    |   --   |   --   |   --
                |         |         |        |        |
         { Red  |   --    |   --    |   --   |At the  |   --
         {      |         |         |        |Mizentop|
         {      |         |         |        |        |
  Rear   {      |         |         |        |        |At the
  Admiral{ White|   --    |   --    |   --   |   --   |Mizentop
  of the { or   |         |         |        |        |
         { Blue |   --    |   --    |   --   |   --   |   --
                |         |         |        |        |
  Admiral of the|   --    |   --    |At the  |   --   |   --
  Fleet w^h     |         |         |Maintop |        |
  3 flags only  |         |         |        |        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Vice Adm^l    |   --    |   --    |At the  |   --   |   --
  of the same   |         |         |Foretop |        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Rear Adm^l    |   --    |   --    |At the  |   --   |   --
  of the same   |         |         |Mizentop|        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Adm^l or      |   --    |   --    |At the  |   --   |   --
  Commander in  |         |         |Maintop |        |
  Chief of a    |         |         |        |        |
  squadron with |         |         |        |        |
  one flag      |         |         |        |        |
                |         |         |        |        |
  Private       |   --    |   --    |   --   |   --   |   --
  Captain       |         |         |        |        |


      The various Flags and Colours used
    in the Navy of England denoting command
           |        |            |             |             |
           |        |            |             |   Pendant   |
  Blue Flag|  Jack  | Ensigne    |   Pendant   |     of      | Flag Staff
           |        | Ordinary   |   Ordinary  | Distinction |   Naked
           |        |            |             |             |
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |At the  |At the Poop |      --     |      --     |At the Fore
           |Bowsprit|with an     |             |             |and Mizen
           |        |anchor in it|             |             |tops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |At the Poop |      --     |At the Fore- |At the Main
           |        |            |             |top under the|and Mizen
           |        |            |             |Union Flag   |tops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |      Do    |      --     |At the Mizen-|At the Main
           |        |            |             |top under the|and Fore tops
           |        |            |             |Union Flag   |
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |      Do    |      --     |      --     |At the Fore
           |        |            |             |             |and Mizentops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |   Do White |      --     |      --     |At the Fore
           |        |            |             |             |and Mizentops
           |        |            |             |             |
   At the  |   Do   |   Do Blue  |      --     |      --     |At the Fore
   Maintop |        |            |             |             |and Mizentops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |   Do Red   |      --     |      --     | }
           |        |            |             |             | } At the
      --   |   Do   |   Do White |      --     |      --     | } Main and
           |        |            |             |             | } Mizentops
   At the  |   Do   |   Do Blue  |      --     |      --     | }
   Foretop |        |            |             |             |
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |   Do Red   |      --     |      --     | }
           |        |            |             |             | } At the
      --   |   Do   |   Do White |      --     |      --     | } Main and
           |        |            |             |             | } Fore tops
  At the   |   Do   |   Do Blue  |      --     |      --     | }
  Mizentop |        |            |             |             |
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   | Do Ordinary|      --     |      --     |At the Fore
           |        |            |             |             |and Mizentops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |      Do    |      --     |      --     |At the Main
           |        |            |             |             |and Mizentops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |      Do    |      --     |      --     |At the Main
           |        |            |             |             |and Fore tops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |      Do    |      --     |      --     |At the Mizen
           |        |            |             |             |and Fore tops
           |        |            |             |             |
      --   |   Do   |Do. White or|At the Main- |At the Main- |At the Main-
           |        |Blue, when  |top when     |top when eld-|top or Mizen-
           |        |of either of|alone or in  |est captain  |top according
           |        |those       |Comp^y with a|in company   |to the high-
           |        |squadrons   |Senior Capt^n|with Private |est flag he
           |        |            |and in the   |ships        |may at any
           |        |            |Colour to be |             |time before
           |        |            |answerable to|             |have had the
           |        |            |the Squadron |             |Honour of
           |        |            |             |             |wearing

Although Pepys' influence ceased at the Revolution, and his proposed
"establishment" of flags was never ratified, the work of regulation
and restriction went on through the reigns of William and Mary and
Anne, culminating in the abolition of the Lord Admiral's standard and
the confining of the Union flag at the masthead to the "Admiral of the
Fleet." Nevertheless, several curious anomalies remained until the
opening years of the eighteenth century. Officers appointed to the
chief command of squadrons sent to the Mediterranean or West Indies
were, whatever their rank, usually authorised to wear the Union flag
at the main so soon as they had left the Channel. Thus in 1690 Captain
Lawrence Wright was authorised to wear the Union flag at the main when
sent to the West Indies in command of a small squadron.

  Whereas his Ma^{tie} thinks fitting for his Service that in ye
  present Employment on which you are going of Commander in cheife
  of the Squadron of their Ma^{ts} Shipps appointed for service in
  ye West Indies you should weare a fflagg at the Maintop. These
  are in pursuance of his Ma^{ts} pleasure signified to this Board
  on that behalfe to authorize and require you that in your Voyage
  outwards bound to ye West Indies, soe soon as you shall be out of
  ye English Channell, you weare ye Union fflagg at the maintop-mast
  head of their Ma^{ts} Shipp on board w^h you shall be in person in
  your aforesaid Employment as Comand^r in cheife, and to continue
  soe to doe untill in your returne from the West Indies you shall
  againe arrive in the Channell. And for soe doing this shall be your
  Warrant. Given under our hands & ye Seale of ye Office of Ad^{ty}
  this Sixth day of ffeb^y 1689 (1690)

  To Capt^n Lawrence Wright
  Commander in cheife of their Ma^{ts} Ships
  now bound to ye West Indies[275].

The position occupied by Captain Wright was equivalent to that for
which, at a later date, the title "Commodore" was borrowed from the
Dutch. The Distinction Pendant, which it might be thought would be more
applicable to such cases, was as yet confined in its use to the Downs.
Ten months later Captain Aylmer was sent to the Mediterranean in a
similar position, but instead of being allowed the Union flag he was
only granted a special distinction pendant with the Union instead of
the St George's cross at the head. Cases in which captains were ordered
to wear the Union flag at the main are rare, but junior flag officers
in command of squadrons were, during the reigns of William III and
Anne, frequently directed to wear the Union flag as though they were
full admirals. Thus Sir George Rooke, when appointed Commander-in-Chief
in February, 1693, of a fleet destined for the Mediterranean was

  12. So soone as you shalbe out of ye English Channell in your
  voyage outwards bound, you are to wear the Union Flag at ye
  Mainetopmast head and to continue so to do untill in your returne
  you shalbe againe in the Channell[276].

At that date Rooke was Vice-Admiral of the Red, and flew, while in
the Channel, the red flag at the fore.

[Illustration: PLATE X Ensigns, etc.]

Early in 1702 an important alteration was made in the white squadronal
colours, which led to the introduction of the St George's cross in the
admiral's flag and in the fly of the ensign. It will be remembered
that hitherto the white colours consisted of: (1) a plain white flag
for the admirals; (2) a plain white ensign with a small St George's
cross in the upper canton next the staff; (3) a plain white pendant
with a St George's cross at the head. In February, 1702, the Earl of
Pembroke, then Lord High Admiral, sent the Navy Board instructions for
fitting out the fleet intended to operate against the French; these
instructions included:

  An account of what Flagg-Ships are ordered to be fitted out at
  Chatham and Portsmouth, and what Flags they are to wear.


  Britannia      Ld High Admiral           The Standard
                 Sr George Rook
  Soveraigne     Adml of ye White          Union Flagg
                 Marq^s of Carmarthen
  Prince George  Rear Adml to L^d Adml.    Redd flagg
                 Sr Dav^d Mitchell
  Boyne  Vice    Adm^l of ye White         Union fflagg
                 Sr Clo. Shovell

  Queen          Adm^l of ye Blue          Blue Flagg


  Roy^l William  Mr Aylmer
                 Vice Adm^l to ye L^d Adm  Redd fflagg
  Victory        Sr Jno. Munden
                 R^r Adm^l of ye White     Union Flagg
  St George      S^r Staff^d Fairborne
                 Rear Adml of ye Blue      Blue Flagg

  The Vice Adm^l of the Blue vacant by Mr. Benbow being in the West

  The Lord High Adm^l and the Flagg Ships of his squadron to have
  Redd Ensignes and Pendants as usual to ye Private Ships.

  The Admiral of the White to have Ensignes with the usual Cross
  in the Canton, with this distinction; that a third part of the
  said Ensignes for himself and the Flaggs and private Ships of his
  Squadron are to be White in the middle of the Flye:--and this to be
  in the whole length of the Ensigne.

  The Adm^{rll} of the Blue and the Flagg Ships of his Squadron to
  wear blue Flaggs and Blue Ensignes and Pendants to the private
  ships with the usual Cross in the Canton of each as hath been
  usually worne by ships of the Blue Squadron.

  But as for the Pendants to the Private Ships of each Squadron, and
  the Flaggs to wear in the Boats by the fflagg Officers, particular
  directions will be suddenly given therein[277].

The white admirals' flag was to be replaced by the Union, and the white
ensign by a red one with a broad white horizontal stripe through it.
The reason for some such change is obvious when we recollect that at
this date the French flag was white. Six weeks later were given the
further directions that had been promised "suddenly." After cancelling
the order for the standard, as already related[278], Pembroke instructs
the Navy Board:

  And whereas it may be necessary to distinguish the Vice and Rear
  Adm^{ll} of each squadron by some particular mark in the fflaggs
  which they carry in the heads of their Boats, I do hereby desire
  and direct you to cause the distinctions exprest in ye papers
  herewith sent you to be made in the Flaggs which the respective
  Vice and Rear Adm^{lls} shall be furnished with for the Boats as
  aforesaid: as also that what Pendents there shall now or for the
  future be wanting for the Fleet, be made somewhat broader than they
  now are, and shorter according to the draught in one of the said
  papers, that so the inconveniencys that attend the present Lengths
  of them by entangling in the Rigging or otherwise may be

This was accompanied by a diagram showing the following boat flags.

  Vice Admiral of the Red    Plain red flag[279]
  Rear Admiral of the Red    Red flag with a white ball in hoist
  Vice Admiral of the White  Union flag with a white ball in hoist
  Rear Admiral of the White  Union flag with two white balls
                               placed diagonally
  Vice Admiral of the Blue   Blue flag with a white ball in hoist
  Rear Admiral of the Blue   Blue flag with two white balls
                               placed diagonally[280]

The need for some distinction in the flags of the admirals of the same
squadronal colour, when displayed in a boat, or indeed any small craft
in which only one position was available, must, one would suppose, have
been felt often before, but this was the first attempt to solve the
difficulty. Its main interest lies in the fact that it supplied the
solution of the similar difficulty which arose, nearly three hundred
years later, when the three-masted sailing-ship had given place to the
two-masted iron ship, which often had only a single masthead available
for the Admiral's flag.

The changes promulgated by the orders of the 5th February and the 20th
March, 1702, already quoted, did not end there, for the officers of
the fleet were not satisfied with an arrangement that made over the
Union flag to the admirals of the second squadron of the fleet and
introduced a red and white ensign. Accordingly, on the 6th of May,
Pembroke issued the following further order:

  Whereas I did some time since direct in what manner the Flaggs
  and Ensignes should be made for such ships as should be appointed
  to be of the Squadron of the Adm^l of the White, and whereas upon
  consulting with the Flagg Officers of the Fleet, it is thought
  more advisable that the said Flaggs and Ensignes should be rather
  made white with a large St George's Cross, according to the sample
  herewith sent you: and I do therefore hereby desire and direct you,
  to cause all such of the said Flaggs and Ensignes as have already
  been made by your orders to be altered, and that such as are still
  to be made be conformable to what is before directed, as also
  the Flaggs necessary for the Boats of the Ships of the aforesaid

The drawing included with the order shows a very broad red cross, in
width equal to one-third of the depth of the whole flag[282].

This alteration necessitated a change in the boat flags of the Vice-
and Rear-Admirals of the White. The balls became blue and were gathered
into the upper canton instead of being placed diagonally across the
flag; the white balls in the red and blue flags also underwent the same
alteration in position.

In November, 1805, as a special compliment to the navy, the rank of
Admiral of the Red was created. As this introduced three red flags in
place of two, the boats' flags of the Vice- and Rear-Admiral of the Red
were altered so as to have the same number of balls as the other Vice-
and Rear-Admirals.

No further alteration took place in the Admirals' flags until 1864,
when the division of Flag Officers into the three categories "of
the Red," "of the White," and "of the Blue" was abolished and the
squadronal colours discontinued. The reason for this change will be
discussed in dealing with "Flags of Distinction," and it will therefore
be sufficient to note here that the white colours were retained for the
navy, red balls being substituted for blue in the "boat" flags.

The invention of the modern battleship, with only two masts (one of
which was often unfitted for the display of the Admiral's flag owing to
the presence of a masthead semaphore) had caused the general adoption
by Vice- and Rear-Admirals of the "boat" form of their flags instead
of the plain flag at the fore or mizen respectively, and this led to
the question being raised in 1898 of a suitable flag for Vice- and
Rear-Admirals, who often found the main masthead alone available for
their flag, while on the contrary an Admiral was, in other ships,
often obliged to hoist his on the foremast. In view of the fact that
many of the great maritime nations had adopted the British method
of differencing by balls (or stars) it was not thought desirable to
abandon this method, but to make the flags more easily distinguishable
the balls were increased in size to one-half of the depth of the
canton, which necessitated placing the second ball of the Rear-Admiral
in the lower canton next the staff, instead of in the upper one.

With the arrangement then adopted, which clearly distinguishes the
flags of the three grades in all conceivable circumstances, we may
assume that finality has been reached.


(_a_) _The Commodore's Broad Pendant_

Although the use of a specially large pendant to denote the presence
of the officer in command of a squadron was not unknown in early
days[283], the custom was not adopted in the English fleet until the
latter part of the seventeenth century. Introduced first in 1674
simply to denote the ship of the officer in command for the time being
of that important roadstead the Downs, the natural rendezvous of all
ships going to and from the Thames and Medway, the custom was extended
in 1690 to embrace the case in which a small squadron was sent abroad
under a captain for whom there was no room on a Flag List which had
become restricted to the nine admirals of the red, white, and blue

On 14th November, 1674, in the course of a debate by the King and the
Admiralty Board concerning the flying of pendants by foreign men-of-war
in the Downs, the question was raised as to the desirability of marking
the ship of the officer in command there, when that officer was not of
flag rank. The summary of this discussion, recorded by Pepys in the
Admiralty "Journal," contains so many points of interest that it seems
desirable to reproduce it in full.

    14 Nov^r 74
                     The King
    Prince Rupert             Mr Sec^y Coventry
    Lord Treasurer            Mr Sec^y Williamson
    Mr Vice Chamberlaine
           Navy Offrs attending

  Upon readeing another Lre from Capt Dickinson in ye Hunter,
  Command^r in Cheife in ye Downes, disireing direction how to
  demeane himselfe in reference to any forreigne Men of Warr which
  shall come into and remaine in ye Downes with ye Pendant in ye
  Mainetop, while his Ma^{ts} ship at ye same time Comanding there
  shall ride without other Marke or distinction then that of a
  Pendant in ye Maintop, viz^t whether hee shall suffer ye said
  forreigne Man of Warr to continue rideing with his Pendant up, or
  cause it to be taken downe; and it being, upon discourse thereon,
  observed first that Pendants originally were not at all designed as
  a mark or distinction, but only ornament. Next, That at this day
  ye weareing of a Pendant at ye Maintopp is yt which is everywhere
  become ye Marke of distinguishing a Man of Warr from a Merch^t man.
  Thirdly, That our Ensigns and Jacke, together with their lyeing in
  ye Adm^{ls} Birth, will sufficiently informe as well straingers
  as his Ma^{ts} Subjects which is ye Comand^r in Cheife without ye
  helpe of ye Pendants, soe as noe mistake can arise from ye want
  of it either on occasion of applications to be made or respect
  to be paid to her. Lastly, That noe difficulty has at any time
  heretofore been made of permitting Straingers Men of Warr to weare
  their Pendants in presence of ye Comand^r in Cheife in ye Downes,
  noe more than elsewhere. The respect challenged by his Mat^y lying
  not in ye lowreing of ye Pendant but ye fflagg or Topsaile which
  was now avered by Mr Vice Chamberlaine and S^r Jeremy Smith, as it
  had lately been to Mr Pepys by ye body of ye Trinity House of whom
  hee had on this occasion lately inquired after the knowledge and
  observation of ye Eldest Seamen there. Whereupon it was resolved by
  his Mat^y and their Lord_ps_, that ye loureing of ye Pendant and
  kepeing of it downe is not in this case to be exacted, and y^t Capt
  Dickinson should be accordingly directed therein, But in case upon
  further inquiry into this matter (w^{ch} Mr Pepys was ordered to
  make w^{th} ye Off^{rs} of the Navy) it should be found needfull
  (with respect either to decency or use) that some distinction be
  observed betweene his Ma^{ts} Ship Commanding in Cheife (and not
  beareing a Flagg) and others of his Ma^{ts} Ships or his Subjects
  rideing in ye Downes at ye same time, some convenient marke or
  distinction be by them Propounded to his Ma^{ty} & my Lords on that
  behalfe in order to their further determination thereon.

On the 18th Pepys sent the Navy Board a memorandum

  to put them in mind of considering how far it may be necessary for
  the ship which shall command in chief there, and which from her
  quality and the saving of charge shall not be allowed to wear a
  flag, be appointed to bear some mark of difference, and if so what
  may be proper to be established without exposing the King to the
  extraordinary charge of a flag[284].

After a week's consideration the Navy Board replied that

  in case the evills that may arise from the want of this distinction
  are such as shalbee thought necessary to bee prevented, wee
  doe humbly acquaint yo^r Lo^{pps} that in our opinion severall
  inconveniences fitt to be prevented may accrew in case severall
  of his Ma^{ties} Shipps doe at one and the same tyme ride in the
  Downes and it bee not knowne which of the said shipps doeth command
  there in cheife[285].

They therefore humbly conceived it expedient to appoint, as a mark of
distinction, a Red Pendant, somewhat larger than ordinary, on a small
flagstaff at the main topmast head. With a view to saving expense they
were careful to suggest that the

  Flaggstaff & Pendant when the shipp by whome it was worne happens
  to leave the Downes shall bee delivered to such other shipp there
  as shall bee appointed to succeed in the roome of the former, or
  if there bee noe such shipp there, then that the same bee sent
  on shore to Deale and lodged there with his Ma^{ties} Muster

until it was again wanted. Their fear that they might have to supply
every likely ship with a staff and distinction pendant is perhaps the
reason of the hesitating reluctance which their letter displays.

The Admiralty approved their proposals, and on the 12th December issued
the necessary order, being careful to add that it was done "without any
extra wages to be allowed for the same[287]."

The arrangement seems to have been viewed with some apathy by those
concerned, probably because there were no extra wages attached, for
in June, 1676, Pepys wrote to his brother-in-law, the Muster Master
at Deal, reminding him that it was his duty to see the order complied
with, and at the same time informing Captain Sir R. Robinson, then
Commander-in-Chief in the Downs:

  I am to note to you that his Majesty's last orders authorised
  you to wear the pendant of distinction which was some time since
  established ... the wearing which pendant I fear hath been for some
  time neglected, but the King's said orders will remedy it by your
  calling for it from his Agent at Deal and putting it up according
  to the establishment ... which will abundantly I hope distinguish

Pepys in his _Miscellanea_ has given us a drawing and description of
this pendant, from which it appears that it had the St George's cross
in a white field in chief and was five breadths (4 ft 7 ins.) broad at
the head, and 21 yards in length, whereas the ordinary pendants were
only three breadths (2 ft 9 ins.) at the head and varied in length
from 22 to 32 yards according to the size of the ship. Both were
"swallow-tailed" (i.e. slit at the end of the fly).

In 1683 the Navy Board had again to be reminded that this distinction
pendant was to be used, but by 1692 it had become so popular that
"some Commanders of their Ma^{ts} ships do take the liberty to wear
distinction pendants without order for the same[289]," and they were
strictly forbidden to do so.

In 1695 the use of this pendant was extended to the senior captain of
ships cruising in the "Soundings" at the entrance to the Channel.

In the meantime another form of distinction pendant was introduced, in
which the St George at the head was replaced by the Union. This form
was for use abroad, in analogy with the practice by which Admirals sent
abroad were ordered to wear the Union flag when out of the Channel,
instead of their squadronal flag. As early as 1687 Pepys had noted the
use abroad of a red ensign with the Union instead of the St George
in its canton. At this date the St George's flag was still being
flown by Genoese ships, and it was doubtless the desire to avoid any
misunderstandings on this account that led to the disuse, before 1707,
of the St George's flag by English men-of-war outside home waters. For
some unexplained reason this form of ensign had become known as the
Budgee flag, and this name was later transferred to the Union Broad
Pendant, which became known as the Budgee Pendant[290] and was no doubt
the parent of the modern word "Burgee."

The first instance of the use of the Budgee Pendant occurs in December,
1690, when Captain Aylmer, appointed Commander-in-Chief of the squadron
intended for the Mediterranean, was ordered to be supplied with a
distinction pendant "made with ye Union Crosses in place where other
Distinction Pendants have only St Georges Crosse[291]."

Three years later the Earl of Danby, Captain of the 'Royal William'
in the fleet under the three joint-admirals, was ordered to wear this
same pendant and given precedence next to the Flag Officers[292],
and in 1697 Captain J. Norris was appointed Commander-in-Chief of a
squadron bound to Newfoundland and ordered, when out of the Channel, to
"wear such a swallow tail pendant as Mr Aylmer had when he commanded a
squadron in the streights, and which was afterwards worne by the Earle
of Danby[293]."

All these officers, whether commanding-in-chief like Aylmer or in
subordinate command like Danby, were serving in a position afterwards
known as that of "Commodore." This title, derived from the Dutch
"Commandeur" (originally the senior officer of a merchant fleet)
which had been adopted in the Dutch navy from their merchant service
at the end of the sixteenth century, was introduced into the English
navy about 1695, no doubt as a consequence of the close connection
between the two navies under "Dutch William." It was, however, not yet
officially recognised; in their official orders the officers were
simply "Captain" or "Captain and Commander in chief." They received a
special allowance, usually 10_s._ a day, while so acting. Later on the
importance of some of these positions was enhanced by the introduction,
in certain cases, of a second captain into the Commodore's ship. This
practice, which was in vogue at least as early as 1720, does not seem
at first to have entailed any difference in flag or pay, but it made
an important difference in prize money, for those Commodores who had
Captains under them were treated in this respect as though they were
flag officers.

In 1731 the Admiralty attempted to establish the rank of Commodore
by providing for three posts of this rank in the _Regulations and
Instructions for his Majesty's service at sea_, then for the first time
gathered together in one book, but the Privy Council struck out all the
articles relating to this proposal before recommending the book for the
king's approval. The title was, however, formally recognised in 1734 by
an Order in Council which, in laying down the relative precedence of
Sea and Land Officers, provided "That Commodores with Broad Pendants
have the same respects as Brigadiers-General," but the rank remains to
this day a "temporary" one, carrying special pay and privileges but
giving the captain holding it no authority over captains senior to him
on the list.

Regulations governing the rank first appeared in the _King's
Regulations_ of 1806. The Broad Pendant was to be of the squadronal
colour and was to have the further distinction of a white ball if the
Commodore had no second captain in his ship.

  There shall be a temporary rank of Commodore which shall be
  distinguished by a Broad Pendant, Red, White or Blue....

  If the Commodore commands the ship himself the Pendant shall have
  a large white Ball near the staff and he shall not rank as a Rear

Prior to 1806, Commodores appear to have kept their pendants flying
in all circumstances. The new regulations, however, directed that if
the Commodore met a senior captain, that captain was also to hoist a
broad pendant, but if there were more than one senior to him then the
Commodore was to strike his broad pendant instead.

This anomalous arrangement was altered in the Regulations of 1824,
which provided that no Commodore should fly his broad pendant, or
even hold the rank, while in the presence of a senior captain; but
the difference in the two positions, dependant on the presence or
absence of a second captain in the commodore's ship, was accentuated
by dividing the commodores into two distinct classes on this basis;
the first class flying the red or white pendant and the second the blue

  A plain Red Broad Pendant, or a White Broad Pendant with a Red
  Cross in it, is to be worn by Commodores of the First Class; but
  when more than one such Commodore shall be present, the Senior only
  shall wear the Red Pendant, and the other, or others, the White

  A Blue Pendant is to be worn by Commodores of the Second Class.

With the abolition of the squadronal colours in 1864, the red and blue
broad pendants disappeared. Commodores of the first class were to wear
the white broad pendant at the main and those of the second class the
same pendant at the fore. In boats the latter were to have a red ball
in the upper canton of their pendants. From the same cause as that
which affected the admirals' flags, this form with the ball soon became
the only one in use for the second class.

Originally fourteen times as long as it was wide at the head, the broad
pendant became gradually shorter. By the time the red and blue forms
were abandoned it had reached its present proportions, in which it is
only twice as long as its greatest breadth.

In 1913 the provision that Commodores should strike their broad pendant
while in the presence of a senior captain was deleted from the _King's
Regulations_. Commodores take rank and command of each other according
to their seniority as captains and without regard to the class to which
they belong, so that a Second Class Commodore flying a Broad Pendant
with a ball might be the superior officer of a First Class Commodore
flying the pendant without the ball, normally the superior flag, and
the relative precedence of these flags would thereby become inverted
while these two Commodores were in company or in the same port.

(_b_) _The Senior Officers' Pendant_

Ten years after the institution of the Distinction Pendant to denote a
Commander-in-Chief who did not hold flag rank, Lord Dartmouth, then in
command of an expedition against Algiers, hit upon the idea of granting
a similar pendant to the senior captain of three or more ships that
might casually happen to be in company. His orders, dated 1st January,
1684[294], contain the following provisions:

  1. That every younger captain, upon his meeting with an elder
  Captain at sea or in port (though the rate of the ship which he is
  in be superior to the other) pay all fitting respect and obedience
  by taking in his Pendant....

  3. That (abroad) wheresoever more than 2 ships happen to be or
  meet together the eldest Captain shall put up and wear a Pendant
  of distinction and the other captains shall wear the Ordinary

  4. That the said Pendant of distinction in this Fleet shall be
  red with a large Cross at the head and double the breadth of the
  ordinary Pendant, two thirds the length of it, and cut with a long
  and narrow swallow tayle.

It was within the competence of Dartmouth to give such an order to the
squadron serving under him, but the practice seems to have been kept up
after he had left the Mediterranean, for Captain Sir Roger Strickland,
writing to Pepys from the Bay of Bulls in September, 1686, complained

  Had I wore a Flag in this Expedition, I might then have had a sight
  of Capt. Priestman's orders for his keeping the King's Ships under
  his command so long here, at so extra an expence, & I am no less
  surprised at his wearing a swallow-tail'd flag at his main topmast
  head much broader than his ensign, having a St Andrew's Cross in
  it as well as St George's, being indeed such a thing as I never
  saw, seeming to turn the King's flag & Pend^t into ridicule when
  at ye same time ye D. of Mortmar rides by him w^h only a small

From a "particular draft" of this pendant given to Pepys it appears
that it was very broad and short, with a red swallow-tailed fly, and a
blue saltire, surmounted by a red cross, on a white ground at the head.
Captain Priestman was brought to book and had to apologise to the king
for his action.

The practice of wearing a senior officers' pendant, although never
officially recognised, appears to have extended and to have been put
down by the following order issued in July, 1692:

  Whereas we are informed that some of the Comanders of their Ma^{ts}
  ships do take the liberty to wear Distinction Pendants without
  any order for the same, contrary to the Rules of the Navy: We do
  hereby strictly charge & require all Capt^{ns} & Comanders of
  their Ma^{ts} Ships & Vessels & others hired into their service
  That they do not presume upon any pretence whatsoever to wear any
  other Pendants in the Ships they comand, then the Ordinary Pendants
  w^h have by the constant practice of the Navy been worne in their
  Ma^{ts} Ships of Warre without particular order in writing from
  this Board for soe doeing[296].

After this we hear no more of this pendant until the great change
of 1864, when the following provision was made in the regulations
promulgated on that occasion:

  When two or more of Her Majesty's Ships are present in Ports or
  Roadsteads, a small Broad Pendant (White, with the St George's
  Cross) is to be hoisted at the mizen-top-gallant-mast-head of the
  Ship of the Senior Officer.

A slight modification was introduced in the _King's Regulations_ of
1906, which ordered that in ships with less than three masts this
pendant should be hoisted at the "starboard topsail-yard-arm." This was
again modified in 1913 when the senior captain at a port, if the senior
naval officer there present, was instructed to hoist this pendant at
the masthead while any Commodore junior to him on the list of captains
was also present in that port.


[215] The art of Heraldry was not established until the thirteenth
century, and the armorial bearings associated with the names of our
kings before Richard I are the inventions of the mediaeval heralds,
who, in their anxiety to give their art a foundation in the past, did
not hesitate to assign arms even to the psalmist David.

[216] Or leopards. See _Ency. Brit._ s.v. "Heraldry."

[217] The claim was renounced by the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360, to be
renewed again at the suggestion of Parliament in 1369: presumably the
French Arms were not used between these years.

[218] E.g. seal of the Exchequer of Ireland (Commonwealth).

[219] See p. 64 and Plate VI, fig. 5.

[220] See p. 65 and Plate VI, fig. 6.

[221] Fox-Davies, _Complete Guide to Heraldry_, 1909, p. 607.

[222] Its use was discontinued on the official adoption of Howe's
Signal Book in 1790.

[223] Froissart, I (_MS. de Rome_).

[224] eux.

[225] Froissart, I.

[226] _Hakl. Voy._ VII, 141.

[227] _S. P. Henry VIII_, CCV, 160. Instructions drawn up by Sir John
Hawkins in the latter part of Elizabeth's reign contain the same
provision. "Item the Ld. Admirall shall beare a flagg of the Armes of
England upon the Top of his Mayne-mast. And a flagg of St. George one
the foretopmast."

[228] _Rawlinson MS._ A 192.

[229] Buckingham flew the standard during the Ile de Ré expedition of

[230] _Cal. S. P. D._ 15th June, 1624.

[231] Penn, _Memorials of Penn_, I, 262.

[232] _S. P. D. Chas. I_, DXVIII, 120: "I desire you to provide and
send downe twenty Pendents of my Colours viz. Yellowe and Tawny for the
ships that accompany mee to sea. And I shall n(ee)d a newe Standard for
the St George."

[233] _Clarendon S. P._ II, 468, 9.

[234] These arms and device were also used on Proclamations issued in
January, 1689.

[235] This is especially seen in the case of the Earl of Lindsey, who
had nevertheless been granted the extraordinary privilege of pardoning
penalties inflicted by Martial Law in his fleet, a power that did not
appertain even to the Lord High Admiral.

[236] I.e. the anchor flag; this is confirmed by a sketch of the flags
ordered on 20th March, 1702, in _Rawlinson MS._ C 914.

[237] _Adm. Sec. Out Lrs._ 182.

[238] I.e. H.M.S. _Prince_.

[239] This is perhaps due to the fact that the English Lord Admirals
adopted a ship in full sail upon the obverse of their seals. We have
no specimen of the reverse or counter-seal earlier than that of
Nottingham. As the anchor is found on the reverse of this seal it is
possible that it was upon the reverse in the earlier seals.

[240] The author is indebted to Mr R. G. Marsden for this reference.

[241] Reproduced in Hakluyt Society's edition of _Hakluyt's Voyages_,
IV, 208. The engraving may be dated circa 1600.

[242] A conventional design of an anchor and cable, in which the cable
is entwined about (or, as seamen say, foul of) the stock and shank.

[243] The seal of the Royal Commissioners for the High Admiralty of

[244] A variation of it, in which the cable passes loosely through the
ring and ends in extravagant flourishes on either side, was in use by
Pepys in 1673.

[245] Plate VIII, fig. 1. On the seals the anchor was vertical, but in
the flags it was usually placed horizontally. The foul anchor in the
Admiralty seal since 1725 has, however, been of a design similar to
that on the York Water Gate.

[246] _S. P. D. Chas II._ LXVI. 74.

[247] _Pepys MSS._ Miscellanea, IX.

[248] _Pepys MSS._ Miscellanea, IX.

[249] _Ibid._ Naval Minutes.

[250] Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the term
"Admiral" was used of the ship as well as of the officer in command.
The rank, moreover, until the latter part of the seventeenth century,
was purely local and temporary, and simply denoted the senior officer
for the time being of the ships in company.

[251] See lists in Nicolas, _History of the Royal Navy_, I, 435, and
II, 524. It is a curious circumstance that in nearly all these cases
the fleet was directed against Scotland. One exception to the rule
occurs in 1315 when John of Argyle was appointed "Captain of our fleet
of ships which we are shortly about to send to the Scottish parts."
Under him were placed "William de Crey and Thomas de Hewys, Admirals
of the fleet of the King's ships," who were "commanded that they be
obedient and responsive to the same John."

[252] _Vide_ Nicolas, _History of the Royal Navy_, I, 178.

[253] Ensign, in the original sense of insignia; the modern "ensign"
does not appear to have been used in the English navy before the latter
part of Elizabeth's reign.

[254] Froissart, I, 255.

[255] _Harl. MS._ 309, fol. 4.

[256] I.e. in _both_ the main-mizen and the bonaventure (or after)
mizen tops; the large ships of this period were four-masted.

[257] _S. P. Henry VIII_, CCV, 160.

[258] "Though the use of a Rear Admiral is but a late invention in
comparison with the other two and is allowed but the ordinary pay of a
Captain" (_Naval Tracts of Sir Wm Monson_ (N. R. S.), IV, 1).

[259] The French employ the term "contre-amiral" and the Dutch the
curious locution "Schout-bij nacht," i.e. "Bailiff by night." The
offices of Lord High Admiral, Admiral, and Vice-Admiral were adopted by
England from the French.

[260] _Pepys MS._ and _Rawlinson MS._ C, 846.

[261] Edited by Sir Julian Corbett and published by the Navy Records
Society in 1902 (_Miscellany_, vol. I) with facsimiles of the diagrams.

[262] Pipe Off. Dec. Acc. 2232.

[263] Corbett, _op. cit._ Descriptions of flags are very rarely given
in the accounts; usually only the size and price appear.

[264] These flags would be about 6 yards long by 5 yards deep.

[265] _S. P. D. Chas I_, V, 31.

[266] A ship not bearing an admiral's flag was called a "private
ship"; but before 1650 the term "private man-of-war" almost invariably
denotes a merchant ship having letters of marque, afterwards called a

[267] Cf. _Boteler Dialogue_, 5: "The use of them is in Fleets to
distinguish the Squadrons, by hanging of them out in the Tops; as all
those Ships of the Admirals Squadron hang them out in the Main-top;
those of the Vice Admirals in the Fore-top; and those of the Rere
Admirals in the Missen-top; and here also they are of different
Colours." See also Monson, Book III.

[268] _A Relation Touching the Fleet and Army of the King's most
excellent majesty King Charles, set forth in the first year of his
highness's reign, and touching the order, proceedings and actions of
the same fleet and army_, by Sir John Glanville, secretary to the
Council of War (_Camden Soc._ N. S. vol. XXXII, p. 83).

[269] _Op. cit._ "The Rere Admirals place with the white flagg to be
borne in the mayne topp was assigned ... to my Lord Denbigh."

[270] Corbett, _Fighting Instructions_, 1530-1816 (N. R. S.), p. 49.

[271] _S. P. D. Inter._ XXXII, 39.

[272] _Rawlinson MS._ A 227. Cf. also the Instructions of Goodson
to Penn 21st June, 1655. "You shall wear the jack-flag upon the
maintopmasthead" (_Memorials of Penn_, II, 116).

[273] Strictly speaking, the "chief" embraced the whole of the hoist.
In the ensigns the cross occupied only the upper part of it, being
placed in a white canton in the red and blue ensigns. See Plate IX,
figs. 10, 11, and 12.

[274] _Pepys MS._ Miscellanea, IX. Pepys proposed also to restrict the
number of admirals' flags flown, according to the number of ships in a

[275] _Admiralty_ 2/5.

[276] _Admiralty_ 2/11.

[277] _Admiralty_ 2/182.

[278] See p. 80.

[279] The rank of Admiral of the Red was not created until Nov. 1805.
The Admiral of the Red Squadron was either the Lord High Admiral,
flying the anchor flag, or the Admiral of the Fleet, flying the Union.

[280] See Plate VIII, fig. 4.

[281] _Admiralty_ 2/182.

[282] See Plate X, fig. 6.

[283] A broad green pendant was used by Doria at Lepanto (see p. 112),
and Drake was noted by the Spaniards for the inordinate size of the
pendant he displayed.

[284] _Catalogue of Pepysian MSS._ (N. R. S.), II, 400.

[285] _Admiralty_ 1/3546.

[286] _Admiralty_ 1/3456.

[287] _Admiralty_ 2/1.

[288] _Catalogue of Pepysian MSS._ (N. R. S.), III, 210.

[289] _Admiralty_ 2/9.

[290] In 1710 Captain Warwick was refused permission to use the "Bugee
Pendant"; _Admiralty_ 2/453. Millan's Signal Book (1746) contains an
illustration of the "Budgee Broad Pendant."

[291] _Admiralty_ 2/171.

[292] _Admiralty_ 2/11. Orders of 31st March and 1st May, 1693.

[293] _Admiralty_ 2/23, 15th March, 1697.

[294] _Pepys MS._ 2867.

[295] _Pepys MSS._ Miscellanea, IX.

[296] _Admiralty_ 2/9.

Chapter V

_Colours of Distinction_

Boteler, in his _Dialogues_, reminds us that "Flaggs (to speake
properly) are only those which are borne out in the Topps of Shyps,
and they serve as Badges, and that as well for the distinguishing of
Nations as Commanders ... the others are named the Colours or Ensigns
and Pendants." To these was added in 1633, while he was writing these
Dialogues, the jack, or small Union flag flown at the bowsprit, which,
with the ensign and pendant, completed the "suit of colours" for a ship
of war. The differentiation by this means of the various classes of
public and private ships reached its culminating point by the middle
of the nineteenth century. At that period British ships were divided
into five categories, each with its own special flags of distinction,
according to their employment, as:

  1 Public ships of war.
  2 Private men-of-war.
  3 Public ships for uses other than war.
  4 Merchant ships.
  5 Pleasure craft.

Since that date the "colours" of the first of these five classes
(and incidentally those of the third and fourth classes) have been
simplified by the abandonment of the squadronal colours in 1864, while
the second class has disappeared in consequence of the abolition of
privateering by the Declaration of Paris in 1856.


The Distinction Colours proper to a British ship of war are the
Pendant, Ensign and Jack. Of these three flags the pendant (or
streamer, as it was originally named) is by far the most ancient,
dating back to the days when there was no rigid distinction
between public and private men-of-war, when every ship owned by an
Englishman was, in the eyes of the law, the king's ship, and might
be requisitioned for his use at a moment's notice and, with the aid
of a few planks and balks of timber, be converted into an efficient
ship-of-war, with fore and after castle and fighting-top complete.
Besides such "castles" a ship, devoted for the time being to warlike
purposes, whether in a national or semi-private quarrel, had as a
distinctive mark, from the end of the thirteenth century onwards (and
probably from an even earlier date) a huge streamer displayed from the
masthead, or hung from the fighting-top, and often reaching down to the

These colours, first the pendant, then from 1634 to 1864 the pendant
and jack, and finally all three of them together, have served to
distinguish ships "of war" from ships not fitted out for war, but
the pendant and ensign, with occasional assistance from a masthead
flag, have also served for a secondary distinction within the main
category "of war," namely, that tactical distinction of lesser groups
among a collected body of ships of war which may be termed squadronal

Squadronal distinction colours were the outcome of the development of
naval tactics. So long as a battle between two opposing fleets of any
size is to be fought pell mell, like a gigantic football scrimmage,
there is obviously no need for other flags than such as mark out the
two opposing parties, with perhaps the addition of special flags of
command to denote the ships of the two leaders. But directly the
attempt is made to bring intelligence to bear as well as courage and
brute force, to derive advantage from superior skill in manoeuvring,
and to use the ship itself as an actual weapon instead of a mere
transport to carry opposing warriors into touch with each other, it
becomes necessary to co-ordinate the movements of the various ships
under the direction of some master mind. If these ships are few in
number their movements can be readily directed from one centre; but
if they are many, experience shows that the whole fleet must be
divided into distinct parts (called squadrons) of which the principal
one will remain under the direct control of the commander of the
whole fleet, while each of the others is placed under the immediate
control of a subordinate commander, who is directly in touch with the
Commander-in-Chief and acquainted with his intentions and wishes.

It then becomes necessary to furnish the ships comprising the various
squadrons with some means whereby they may be readily distinguished
should they become separated, or should the fleet fall into temporary

Among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans this appears
occasionally to have been provided for by painting some part of
the ship in a distinctive colour[297], but this method has the
disadvantage that the ships of the various squadrons are not readily
interchangeable, and it appears to have gone out of use before the
Christian era.

With the passing of the great days of the Greek states the art of sea
warfare suffered an eclipse from which it did not recover for many
centuries, and we meet with no further indication of the existence of
fleets organised in squadrons until the thirteenth century of our era.
The proper stimulus for the development of the art of fleet tactics
can only be supplied by the collision of two maritime powers of fairly
equal intelligence and resources. This condition was first supplied by
the rivalry of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice for the sea-borne trade of the

The great fleet fitted out by Genoa in 1242 affords one of the earliest
recorded instances (perhaps the earliest) of a tactical division into
squadrons by means of flags. The circumstances have already been
related, and it will be remembered that the squadron leaders were then
distinguished by flags appropriate to the district from which they had
been selected. This method is evidently insufficient, for although it
enables the individual ships of a squadron to recognise their leader,
it does not enable that leader to distinguish his own ships in the
confusion of battle. The next step is to distinguish the individual
ships by suitable flags according to their squadrons. We do not know
when this step was taken, but it appears from the Instructions issued
by Amadeo of Savoy in 1366 to the combined fleet under his orders[298]
that each galley then carried the standard of the Commune whence
it came, so that it is possible that the galleys were at that time
organised in squadrons according to their respective Communes. At the
great Battle of Lepanto in 1571, which marked the culmination of galley
tactics, the combined fleet under the command of Don John of Austria
was divided into squadrons with distinguishing pendants.

  The first division or right wing numbered fifty-four galleys,
  and was commanded by Giovanni Andrea Doria, whose galley was
  distinguished by a broad green pennant at the peak of the mainyard,
  smaller pennants of the same colour being displayed in the same
  position by the other vessels of the division. The centre, under
  Don John of Austria, consisted of sixty-four galleys, with blue
  pennants flying at the masthead. The left wing of fifty-three
  galleys was commanded by Agostino Barbarigo, and was marked by
  yellow banderoles on the foreyard, that of the leader flying at
  the peak of the mainyard. A rearguard or reserve followed the line
  of battle, and was composed of thirty galleys under the Marquis of
  Santa Cruz. They displayed white pennants from a flagstaff over the
  stern lamp[299].

But in the stormy seas of northern Europe the galley never became
naturalised, and it was long before the teaching of the school of
tactics that had grown up in connection with it came to be applied
to the larger vessels required for the navigation of these waters.
The fleet under Hubert de Burgh, which in 1217 put an end to Lewis
the Dauphin's hopes of adding the Crown of England to that of France,
made use of only elementary tactics, though indeed these proved amply
sufficient, and very little advance had been made three centuries and
a half later, when the Spanish Armada was crushed and driven away from
the shores of England[300].

No attempt appears to have been made to divide an English fleet into
squadrons with distinctive signs until the reign of Henry VIII. After
the rather unsatisfactory battle with the French fleet off Portsmouth
in July, 1545, Henry, who was of no mean ability in naval affairs[301],
had evidently seen the need for better organisation, for when the fleet
put into the Channel to deter the French from raiding the Sussex coast
it was divided into three divisions distinguished by having the English
flag at different mastheads, as is shown by the orders issued for the

  ... every ship appoynted to the battaill shall beare one flag
  of saint George's crosse in his mayne toppe ... and every ship
  appoynted to the vanward shall beare one flag of sainte George's
  crosse in his fore toppe ... and every Shipp Galliasse pynnesse and
  Shalupe appoynted to the wyng shall have in ther mesyn toppe one
  flag of saint George's crosse[302].

This seems to have been the only occasion on which an English fleet was
divided into squadrons distinguished by means of the same flag flown at
different mastheads. In two years from that date Henry was dead, and
the organisation of the navy sustained a set-back from which it took
many years to recover. It was not until the results of the first day's
fighting against the Spanish Armada in 1588 had shown the necessity
for better organisation that any further attempt was made to divide
the fleet into squadrons. There is no indication in the State Papers
of the steps then taken to mark the squadrons, but from the fact that
the arrangement was impromptu and that there was no time available for
providing special colours it is probable that only the squadron leaders
were distinguished by their flags.

In his expedition against Lisbon in the following year Drake made an
attempt to remedy the prevailing want of method.

  The Armada campaign, as we have seen, had taught the sailors the
  danger of entirely discarding the old military methods; they had
  learnt the strength that the Spaniards gained by their squadronal
  system, and under the soldiers' influence we find an elaborate
  scheme for "squadronising" the fleet that is something entirely
  new, and obviously founded on the existing military system[303].

Here, again, we know nothing of the method adopted to distinguish the
squadrons, but it seems to have been largely a paper one.

  Such was the first attempt to remedy the vices of the radical
  revolution which the sailor-admirals had brought about. That it
  smacked too much of the camp to please the seamen is not to be
  doubted. Excellent as it looked on paper, for some reason it took
  no hold; and for a thorough and lasting fleet system the English
  navy had to wait till half a century later, when the exploits of
  the new school of soldiers had so entirely weaned the country from
  its "idolatry of Neptune" that Cromwell and his soldier-admirals
  were able to force their ideas upon the seamen[304].

It is evident that the plan took no hold upon the navy, for the
Instructions for a fleet at sea drawn up by Sir John Hawkins some time
between this date and his departure on his and Drake's last voyage in
1595 contain no provision for any such division by squadrons[305].

The first instance, after 1545, of the systematic division of the
fleet into squadrons occurs in the Cadiz Expedition of 1596. There
were four English squadrons and one Dutch. The squadronal colours of
the admirals have already been fully described, but, unfortunately, we
have no record of the colours worn by the private ships. There were in
this fleet sixteen ships belonging to the Crown: these were supplied
with 145 flags and ensigns at a cost of £371. 8_s._ 4_d._, but although
the size and price of each flag is given, the colours are never once
mentioned in the accounts[306]. From the variations in the prices of
flags of the same size, it is clear that they were of many different
patterns. Possibly each ship wore an ensign of the same colours as the
squadronal flags of the admirals; if so it was the first occasion on
which this method was used.

One thing alone is clear; the distinction was not made by the pendants,
which appear all to have been white[307] and hung only from the mizen
yards. Yet it was the pendant which was ultimately adopted as the
squadronal distinction colour. The first definite proposal to this end
occurs in the "Notes on Sea Service"[308] submitted by Captain John
Young to the Earl of Essex, probably just before the Cadiz Expedition
of 1596. Young, who commanded merchant ships in the naval operations of
1588, 1589, and 1596, writes:

  That the Lord High Admiral, or any of the Admirals having charge
  of their several squadrants or quarters, and companies unto them
  appointed, and if they would know which of all their companies or
  squadrants so appointed do come into the fight or no. Then it is
  very convenient and very necessary to know who doth or doth not
  come in, and that every Admiral and all his own company must wear
  upon their mizen yardarms pendants, and look how many Admirals you
  have--so many several colours of pendants you must have also, unto
  the full complement of your ships, barks, and pinnaces. By which
  means and being accomplished you shall easily see and perceive
  who doth come into the fight or not, which without these sundry
  colours of your pendants it cannot be otherwise perceived, for that
  divers ships being something afar off may resemble one another
  and not be known the one from the other for these sundry coloured

This proposal was not adopted in 1596, but in the Algiers Expedition
of 1620 the fleet was divided into three squadrons, the ships of which
were distinguished by pendants at the main, fore, and mizen tops

  ... the Admirall Squadron was kept sixe leagues from the shore with
  pendants in the maine toppes for their signes: the Vice Admiral's
  squadron three leagues without him, on his bowe, with pendants on
  his foretops, the Rear Admirall three leagues within him, on his
  quarter, with pendants on their mysentops.

The colours of these pendants are not stated, but from the pictures of
the homecoming of the Prince of Wales in 1623, now at Hampton Court
and Hinchinbrook, it appears that the pendant was still white, as in
1596, with the St George's cross at the head. The same arrangement of
pendants was employed for the fleet which transported the Queen from
Boulogne in June, 1625[310].

For the great expedition to Cadiz which set forth in October, 1625,
the pendants, while still displayed at the three different mastheads
according to the squadron, were further distinguished by being made of
different colours. The Admiral's Squadron had red pendants at the main;
the Vice-Admiral's, blue pendants at the fore; and the Rear-Admiral's,
white pendants at the mizen.

The field of the ensign had, since its introduction about 1574, been of
striped design[311]. In 1621 a large red ensign was manufactured at a
cost of £4. 16_s._, and a few more were made in the following years.
The suggestion for a general change to this colour emanated from Sir F.
Stewart, the Rear-Admiral of the fleet, who had been nominated Admiral
of the White Squadron for the Cadiz Expedition. Writing to Sir John
Coke from the 'Lion' on 2nd July, 1625, he says: "A red ancient would
become every one of the King's ships." Owing to the defective state
of his ship, Stewart did not accompany the expedition when it finally
sailed, but his suggestion was evidently adopted, for the surveys of
ships' rigging made in January of the following year contain several
entries of red ensigns, "serviceable" or "decayed," but as these are
accompanied by other entries for the same ships of "ancients" which are
not particularised, it is clear that the older ensigns were not all
immediately withdrawn from service. Probably, from motives of economy,
they were retained in use until worn out.

The flags flown by the Admirals of the various squadrons of the fleet
that sailed to the Ile de Ré in 1627 have already been described; no
record has, however, been preserved of the method (if any) by which
the private ships of those squadrons (which were composed largely of
merchantmen) were distinguished. The probability is that they did not
wear any special ensigns or pendants.

A survey of the stores at Deptford carried out in April, 1633, gives
the following flags:

  Standard for the maintop                           1
  Red Ensigne for y^e mainmizen                      1
  White Ensigne with y^e kings armes                 1
  Red and White Ensigne with y^e St George's crosse  1
  fflower de luce & roase                            1
  Standard for the barges head                       1
  White ensigne with y^e guilded lyon                1
  White ensigne guilded lyon & crowne                1
  White ensigne guilded unicorne                     1
  White ensigne with rose and crowne                 1
  White ensigne flower de luce & crowne              1
  White ensigne with y^e Scotch armes                1
  Red ensigne with y^e Lo. Admiralls badge           1
  Brittaine Flagge                                   1
  Pendants                                          26
         *       *       *       *       *
  fflags of 18 breadthes                             1
            16    "                                  1
            12    "                                  5
  Ensignes  18    "                                  1
            14    "                                  6
  Striped ensignes                                   4 new but unsbl.
  Red ensignes returned from sea                     2 unsbl.
  Chest to put fflaggs in                            1

As the four striped ensigns are reported "new but unserviceable" it
may be inferred that the old striped form had now been definitely
abandoned. Moreover, a similar survey carried out the month before
at Portsmouth contains entries of four new "White Ensignes" and
two new "Blew Ensignes," so that the white and blue ensigns had by
1633 made their appearance in the fleet. Unfortunately, the almost
complete disappearance of the naval records of this period prevents
us from ascertaining the precise occasion of the birth of these two
ensigns; but they do not appear to have been yet in general use for
distinguishing the private ships of squadrons, for Boteler, in his Six
Dialogues written at this date, states that pendants were employed for
that purpose.

  _Admiral._ Colours and Ensignes I take to be all one, but wher are
  they to be placed and wherefore serve they?

  _Captain._ They are placed in the Sternes or Poops of Ships; and
  very few Ships there are, whether Men of Warre or Merchantmen, that
  are without them. And their especial Service is, that when any
  strange Shypps meet one with another at Sea, or fynde one another
  in any Harbour or Rode, by the shewinge abroade thes Ensigns or
  Colours, it is knowne one to another of what country they are and
  to what place they belong.

  _Adm._ Serve thes Colours or Ensigns for noe other employments but
  only this?

  _Capt._ Yes to many other, by waye of direction[312], as shall be
  sett downe largely in our next dayes discourse.

  _Adm^l._ What are the Pendants you mentioned even now, and
  wherefore serve they?

  _Capt._ A Pendant is a long Piece of silk or other stuff, cut out
  pointed wise towards the end in form of a streamer, wher they
  are slit into two partes, and the use of them, to distinguish
  the Squadrons of great fleetes by hanging them out in the topps
  of suche shyps as carry noe flaggs. As, for example, all suche
  Shypps as are of the Admiralls Squadron are to hang them out in
  their maine topps, thoes of the Vice Admiralls Squadron in their
  Fore-tops and thoes of the Reare Admiralls in their Missen-tops.
  And here alsoe they are to be of severall Colours. But besides this
  use, in great ships and especially suche as belong to the King,
  they are often used by way of trimme and braverye, and are then
  hung out att every Yarde-arme and att the heades of the Masts. And
  thes only are their uses and employments.

It was not until the crucial period of the First Dutch War that the
practice of supplying all the ships of a squadron with ensigns of the
squadronal colour became established. The proposal to divide the fleet
into three squadrons, one under each of the three "Generals at Sea,"
with red, blue and white ensigns and pendants respectively, was first
made in January, 1653. This was apparently one of the results of the
attempt then being made to improve the fleet tactics in view of the
unsatisfactory results of the earlier actions of the war[313]. It was,
however, not until early in March that definite steps were taken for
this purpose. The Navy Commissioners then gave orders for the urgent
manufacture of a number of pendants and ensigns, forty of each colour,
all having the "red crosse in chief," the order of precedence of the
colours being at the same time changed from red, blue, white, to red,
white, blue. This new order of precedence remained unchanged until
squadronal colours were abandoned in 1864.

The circumstances in which the St George's cross was introduced into
the fly of the white ensign in May, 1702, have already been detailed.
The old form with plain fly was, however, not immediately superseded;
both forms were in use as late as 1717, but by 1744 the older form had
entirely disappeared. It is difficult to understand why the two forms
should have been allowed to continue after the short time requisite
for wearing out any ensigns of the earlier pattern that might be in
existence when the change was ordered in 1702, but the surveys of
stocks and orders for stores establish the fact that it was so, and
that the form with the cross through the fly, known as the "St George's
ensign," was at first issued only to ships which were appointed to
serve outside home waters.

On the legislative union of England and Scotland in 1707 the tiny Scots
navy came to an end as a separate force, and the "Union" colours,
invented on the union of the two crowns a hundred years before, were
inserted in all ensigns, naval and mercantile. An Order in Council of
21st July, 1707, established as naval flags the royal standard, the
Union flag and "the ensign directed by her Majesty since the said Union
of the two Kingdoms," which from the coloured draughts attached to the
order is seen to be the red ensign. The white and blue ensigns are not
mentioned in this Order; evidently the red ensign was alone regarded as
the legal ensign of Great Britain and the others as merely variations
of it for tactical purposes. In conveying this Order to the Navy Board,
the Lord High Admiral instructed that body

  to cause the several ships and vessels of the Royal Navy to be with
  all possible dispatch furnished with Colours accordingly, and for
  the speedier and cheaper doing the same ... to order St George's
  Cross to be taken out of all the ensigns and a Union Jack Flagg put
  into them in the roome thereof, or to alter the said Colours in
  such other manner as you shall judge best for the Service.

It was found that the jacks in store were not of the same shape as
the old canton, so finally all the ensigns were returned to the
contractor "to be made Union."

[Illustration: PLATE XI Modern Ensigns, etc.]

Except for the slight change caused by the insertion of the Irish
Saltire in accordance with the Royal Proclamation of 1st January, 1801,
on the legislative union of the Irish Parliament with that of Great
Britain, no further change in the design of the three ensigns has taken
place, though the shape has been gradually altered from a proportion
of roughly 5 by 4 to that of 2 to 1. By Order in Council of 9th July,
1864, the squadronal use of the ensigns in the navy was abandoned, and
the principal ensign, the red, was made the exclusive property of the
Mercantile Marine, which had shared it in common with the navy since
the time of Charles I. The second ensign, the white, was retained for
H.M. ships, and the third--the blue--assigned to the Naval Reserve,
then recently formed, and to ships belonging to the Civil Departments
of the navy and other departments of State.

The reason for this change is set forth in the Memorial of the
Admiralty Board to the Council in the following words:

  The Flag Officers of the Fleet, whether Admirals, Vice-Admirals or
  Rear-Admirals, are classed in Squadrons of the Red, White and Blue,
  and are (with the exception of the Admiral of the Fleet) authorised
  to fly their Flags of the colour of the Squadron to which they
  belong, this regulation necessitating the adoption of ensigns
  and pendants of a corresponding colour in every ship and vessel
  employed under their orders, each vessel is therefore supplied with
  three sets of colours, and the frequent alterations that have to be
  made when the Fleet is distributed as at present, under the orders
  of many Flag Officers, is attended with much inconvenience from the
  uncertainty and expense which the system entails.

  The increased number and size of merchant steamships render it a
  matter of importance to distinguish on all occasions men-of-war and
  private ships by a distinctive flag; the latter vessels bearing at
  present the same Red Ensign as Your Majesty's Ships when employed
  under an Admiral of the Red Squadron. It also appears to us to be
  desirable to grant (under such conditions as we may from time to
  time impose) the use of a distinguishing flag to such ships of the
  Merchant Service as may be employed in the public service, whose
  Commanding Officer (with a given portion of the crew) may belong
  to the Royal Naval Reserve. We therefore most humbly submit that
  Your Majesty may be pleased by Your Order in Council to prescribe
  the discontinuance of the division of Flag Officers into Red, White
  and Blue Squadrons, and to order and direct that the White Ensign
  with its broad and narrow pendant be henceforward established and
  recognised as the colours of the Royal Naval Service, reserving the
  use of the Red and Blue colours for such special occasions as may
  appear to us or to officers in command of Fleets and Squadrons to
  require their adoption.

It will be seen that the reasons for the change given in this memorial
are, first, the inconvenience and expense of keeping up the three
sets of colours, and then (apparently as an afterthought) the need
of a distinctive flag for the mercantile steamship. But in fact the
man-of-war was already clearly distinguishable from the merchantman by
its pendant and jack, a distinction that had been found sufficient for
a period of two hundred years; a period during which the merchantman
was, for the most part, much more like the man-of-war in outward
appearance than it was in 1864. The real reason undoubtedly was that
the squadronal organisation of the days when squadronal colours were
first invented had become obsolete, and changes in tactics had rendered
the squadronal colours unnecessary.

Before the change was made the opinions of a number of the leading
admirals were taken. The majority agreed that the squadronal colours
were no longer necessary and that their abandonment would be for the
good of the Service. There were one or two, however, who thought
otherwise, and it was pointed out that it had been found convenient
during the Russian war of 1854-5 to divide the fleets in the Baltic
and Black Sea by means of these colours. When Vice-Admiral Sir Charles
Napier took command of the Baltic fleet he found that he and his two
Rear-Admirals were all "of the Blue," and he therefore told one of
them to hoist the red colours and the other the white, retaining the
blue for himself, so that for this occasion the blue was the principal
colour. Similarly, both Rear-Admirals in the Black Sea being "of the
Red," one temporarily hoisted the white colours.

The fact that the division of fleets into red, white and blue squadrons
was no longer a tactical necessity had been to some extent recognised
before the end of the eighteenth century, for Howe concluded his
fighting instructions, issued in 1782, with the following article:

  In action, all the ships in the fleet are to wear red ensigns.

Probably this was inspired largely from fear of the inconvenience
that might arise from the white ensign being mistaken for the French
national flag, but the fact that Howe issued such an instruction would
seem to indicate that he did not regard the squadronal colours as
indispensable. Nevertheless, in the battle of the "Glorious First of
June" in 1794 his fleet was divided by squadronal colours, and the
'Marlborough' suffered through having her white ensign mistaken for the
French national flag, then white with a tricolour canton[314].

Shortly after this the French fleet began to fly the new tricolour flag
(as at present used) which had been adopted in February, 1794, but
was not supplied to the fleet until October. Thereafter there was no
danger of confusing it with the white ensign, and as that was now the
ensign most unlike the French flag, it was usually ordered to be flown
in action by the Admiral in command. Thus on the 10th October, 1805,
Nelson issued the following memorandum:

  When in presence of an Enemy, all the Ships under my command are to
  bear White Colours, and a Union Jack is to be suspended from the
  fore-topgallant stay[315].

And when the enemy opened fire at Trafalgar, Collingwood (who was a
Vice-Admiral of the Blue) hoisted his blue flag, but all the fleet,
including his own flagship, hoisted white ensigns. Nelson's device
of displaying an extra Union flag to ensure that no mistake should
arise as to nationality is of interest, for the same course was at
first adopted in the recent war, the British and German ensigns
being very much alike at a distance. Early in the war the red ensign
was substituted for this Union flag, and the practice of hoisting
additional red ensigns on H.M. ships was followed to the end.

By the Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1865 it became lawful for any
colony, subject to certain conditions, to provide and maintain its
own vessels of war, and these were authorised to wear the blue ensign
with the seal or badge of the colony in the fly and a blue pendant.
In 1913, as an outcome of the Imperial Conference of 1911, the ships
of the Naval Forces of the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of
Australia were further authorised to

  wear at the stern the White Ensign as the symbol of the authority
  of the Crown, a White Pendant at the masthead, and at the
  jack-staff the distinctive flag of the Dominion, viz: the Blue
  Ensign with the badge or emblem of the Dominion in the fly.

The ships of the Royal Indian Marine occupy a somewhat ambiguous
position. Some of them--the floating defences--may be regarded as a
Colonial Navy, others might more properly be included in class (3),
Public Vessels. The old Indian marine took its rise in 1613, when the
East India Company found it necessary to fit out for use only in Indian
waters small vessels, which although employed to a certain extent in
local carrying trade were sufficiently well armed to be of use in
keeping in check the numerous native pirates who sought to prey upon
the East Indiaman in those waters, and also to afford protection to the
Company's vessels and factories against the ill-will of their European
rivals, particularly the Portuguese. After the transfer of Bombay to
the Company in 1668 that town developed into the principal seat of
the Company's power, and the Indian Marine became known as the Bombay
Marine. This gradually rose to such importance locally that from 1759
to 1829 a Captain of this service was annually appointed, as a deputy
of the Company, to the post of Admiral of the Mogul Emperor, flying the
flag of the Mogul at the main-mast-head and the Company's colours at
the stern of his flagship.

From the earliest years the Company's ships were in the habit of
flying pendants, and the proclamations of 1694 and subsequent years
that forbade the use of these flags by other than H.M. ships were not
obeyed--perhaps their existence was not known--in Indian waters. From
the beginning of the eighteenth century it became customary to describe
the senior officer of the Bombay Marine as "Commodore," and for him to
fly a broad pendant. This practice had never received the sanction of
the home authorities, though Admiral Watson, who was in command of H.M.
ships in the East Indies station from 1754 to 1757, appears to have
approved of the use of a common pendant[316] by the Company's armed

In 1764, while carrying out arrangements connected with the evacuation
of Manilla, Captain Brereton arrived at Batavia in H.M.S. 'Falmouth'
and found there Commodore Watson, of the Bombay Marine, in the
Company's ship 'Revenge' flying a red broad pendant. On the approach of
the 'Falmouth' this was hauled down and a common pendant substituted.
Brereton ordered this to be struck, and Watson thereupon hoisted the
Company's colours and a broad distinguishing pendant. Brereton then
sent an officer on board to demand that this also should be struck, and
after a stormy scene it was done, but the pendant was again hoisted a
short time afterwards. A second officer was sent to the 'Revenge,' but
Watson positively refused to strike it. The next morning the 'Revenge'
was seen clearing for action, with a number of armed men in her maintop
to repel any attempt to touch the pendant. A third officer was then
sent to the 'Revenge,' and when the junior officers of that ship
realised what the result of proceeding to extremities was likely to be
they gave up the pendant to him.

This example illustrates well the anomalous position in which the
Indian navy stood; on the one hand it was recognised as a Colonial
naval force, on the other it was treated as though it were merely a
part of the British merchant service.

The position does not appear to have been regularised until 1827, when
the Admiralty issued a warrant that granted the ships of the Bombay

  the privilege of wearing in addition to the Red Ensign, which all
  ships belonging to His Majesty's subjects should legally wear, the
  Union Jack and a long pennant having St George's Cross on a white
  field in the upper part next the mast with a red fly.

The curious expression "should legally wear" seems to have reference to
the fact that the legality of the old striped ensign of the Company had
recently been called in question, and its use, except as a jack, had in
consequence been abandoned. It will be observed that the Warrant makes
no mention of a broad pendant, but the Bombay Marine (or Indian navy
as it was called after 1830) evidently still made use of it, for in
1848 the officer acting as commander-in-chief of H.M. ships on the East
Indies Station objected to the flying of the red broad pendant, and as
a result it was decided that the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian navy
should fly a broad pendant, red with a yellow cross, and the Company's
cognisance of the yellow lion rampant, holding a crown, in the upper
quarter next the staff, the Commodore of the Indian navy serving in the
Persian Gulf being allowed a similar flag with a blue field[317].

In 1858, when the Government of India was transferred to the Crown,
the military and naval forces were transferred with it, but the Indian
navy did not find favour in the eyes of its new masters, and it was
abolished. This took place in 1863, when the following ceremony was

  At noon on the 30th inst. the broad pennant of Commodore Frushard
  will be saluted by eleven guns from the battery at the Apollo
  Pier. The flag of the Indian Navy, long known as "the Company's
  Jack," will then be hoisted at the Castle flagstaff and saluted
  by twenty-one guns. At the close of the salute the Indian Jack
  will be hauled down, the broad pennant of Commodore Frushard and
  the pennants of all the Indian Naval vessels in harbour will be
  struck, and the Indian Navy will cease to exist as an effective

A new "Bombay Marine," consisting of a few small vessels engaged in the
local transport and pilotage service of that port, similar to one that
had already come into existence at Calcutta, was thereupon instituted.
The Indian Marine Service Act of 1884 made provision for placing the
vessels belonging to the Government of India under the Naval Discipline
Act in time of war, and for constituting such ships vessels of war in
the Royal navy. At the same time a warrant was issued authorising the
vessels of the Indian Marine (to which the Prefix "Royal" was added
in 1892) to fly a blue ensign with a badge of the Star of India in
the fly, and a Union jack with a blue border. These vessels were in
November, 1921, authorised to fly a red pendant when in commission.


The "private man-of-war" or "privateer[319]" was a vessel the owner
(or owners) of which had received from the Crown, or from the Lord
High Admiral, "Letters of Marque and Reprisal." The occasion for the
issue of such a licence, which was originally granted in the form of
Letters Patent--whence the name--might be either special or general.
It might be issued "specially" to some merchant who was able to prove
that he had suffered certain losses from the action of the subjects of
some foreign power, and who was thereupon authorised to make seizure
of any ships or goods belonging to subjects of that State until he
had by that means taken sufficient plunder to make good the losses
formerly sustained by him, but no more. Such licences were also issued
"generally" upon the outbreak of hostilities with a foreign state, to
any subjects who wished to make war upon enemy vessels on the chance
of making some profit by it, and who were able to give satisfactory
security that they would comply with the regulations laid down for
their conduct, particularly in the matter of the disposal of prizes
taken. During the wars of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
merchants frequently sought Letters of Marque for their vessels, not
because they wished them to take the offensive as regular privateers,
but because they were thereby freed of all danger of being classed as
"pirates" should they attempt to turn the tables upon any enemy that
attacked them. For this reason many, perhaps most, of the ships of the
East India and Guinea Companies fitted out in the seventeenth century
carried Letters of Marque and displayed the Union jack.

Indeed, despite the issue of the Proclamations of 1634 and 1674, it
seems that all privateers in the seventeenth century were in the
habit of wearing the Union jack--sometimes with the permission of the
authorities, but more often without it--with the object of making
themselves look (so far as flags were concerned) as much like the
king's ships as possible. The instructions for privateers issued toward
the end of that century indicate that there was some infirmity of
purpose on the part of the authorities in enforcing the existing law
as regards the wearing of the Union jack. Thus the Instructions for
privateers operating against Algiers[320], issued in December, 1681,

  That the merchants, captains, and others who shall have such
  letters of marque or commissions as aforesaid shall not weare in
  their said ships our Union flagg or jack (which is intended to
  distinguish our owne ships of warr from all others) at no time nor
  upon no pretence whatsoever, unless they be warranted for so doing
  by an order of leave under our hands and seal of our lord high
  Admirall or Commissioners of the Admiralty,

whereas the Instructions for Privateers fitted out against France
issued in May, 1693, merely ordered that the Union jack or pendant
(which actually were illegal without special warrant) should not be
worn in presence of H.M. ships or in circumstances in which they might
give occasion to a salute by a friendly foreign power.

  That such merchants, commanders of ships, and others, who shall
  obtain such letters of marque or commissions as aforesaid shall
  not wear our colours, commonly called the Union Jack or pendant on
  board such ship or vessell by them fitted out in pursuance of such
  our commission, in company of any our men of warr, or so near any
  other men of warr belonging to any nation in amity with us, so as
  to occasion any salute from them, or in or near any port or road

A special distinguishing flag for privateers was first provided in the
Royal Proclamation issued in July, 1694, which ordained that vessels
receiving "Commissions of Letters of Mart or Reprisals" should wear,
in addition to the St George's flag at the masthead and the red ensign
with canton of St George at the stern, "a Red Jack with the Union Jack
described in a Canton of the upper corner thereof next the staff"--the
flag that Pepys in 1687 called the Budgee jack--which was in fact of
the same design as the red ensign adopted in 1707, though apparently
the canton occupied a larger proportion of the area of the flag in the
jack than in the ensign[321].

Despite this precise direction, the privateer Instructions issued
against France and Spain in December, 1704, contain the same
instructions as those of 1693 quoted above, which presuppose that these
vessels would fly the Union jack and pendant, which the Proclamation
of 1694 had forbidden--but indeed, this muddle-headed attitude is not
uncommon in official instructions. It is clear that privateers did
carry pendants, for Woodes Rogers relates that he was ordered to strike
his pendant by the 'Arundel' in August, 1708, "which we immediately
did, all private commissioned ships being obliged by their Instructions
to pay that respect to all her Majesty's ships and fortifications." The
Distinction Jack of 1694 (subject to the necessary modification of the
Union in 1801) remained the distinguishing flag of a privateer until
privateering was abolished in 1856.


The first suggestion that public ships which were not men-of-war should
wear some distinctive flag is found in the _Sub Notes about Flags and
Colours_ drawn up by Pepys about the year 1687. He writes:

  And here above all it is to be reflected on what distinction is to
  be made (as to the wearing of the Union Flag) between the King's
  own Ships, great or small, and hired ones, either as men-of-war
  (many of which both at Home and in the Plantations have been
  made up of hired Merchant Men) or for lower uses, as little as
  Victuallers, Water Ships, Store Ships, Pressing boats, Transporters
  etc. Wherein is to be considered whether if it be wholly necessary
  even in some of these occasions, as well as those of the Custom
  House, Green Cloth &c. some kind of distinction-flag might not be
  found sufficient to answer all the ends suggested for wearing the
  Jack Flag, without prostituting that to such low uses and ready
  insults[322], which so much deference is expected to by us from the
  ships of foreign Princes and States of the greatest force and rate.

The Revolution of 1688 put an end to Pepys' reforming activities, and
no steps were taken to distinguish such ships until 1694, when a Royal
Proclamation issued 12th July provided that

  Such Ships and Vessels as shall be employed for Their Majesties'
  Service by the Principal Officers and Commissioners of Their
  Majesties' Navy, the Principal Officers of T.M. Ordnance, the
  Commissioners for Victualling T.M. Navy, the Commissioners for
  T.M. Customs, and the Commissioners for Transportation for T.M.
  Services, relating particularly to those Offices shall wear a Red
  Jack with the Union Jack in a Canton at the upper corner thereof
  next the staff, as aforesaid, and in the other part of the said
  Jack shall be described the Seal used in the respective Offices
  aforesaid by which the said ships and vessels shall be employed.

An Order in Council of 19th November in the same year provided further
that "boats imployed in the service of the Generall Post Office be
permitted to carry colours to distinguish them from other boats, and
that in the said Colours there be represented a man on horseback
blowing a Post horne," and from later papers in the same year it
appears that the intention was that this device should be placed in the
fly of the red jack, like the seals of the other government departments.

The proclamations of 1702 and 1707 confirmed the use of the red jack
with the seal of office, but the King's Regulations of 1731 introduced
a slight variation by providing that the seal might be placed in the
body of the jack _or_ ensign; the Regulations of 1806 completed the
transfer by directing that the seal should be described "in the fly
of the ensign," and the Regulations of 1844, not content with this,
provided that the seal or badges should be placed "in the centre of
both Ensign and Jack."

In July, 1864, the colour of the Ensign was altered to blue, and the
red jack became an Union jack with a white border, both with the seals
or badges as before, but the introduction of the "white bordered Jack"
into this clause of the Order in Council appears to have been a slip,
for the Addenda to the Regulations published in 1868 specified that the
jack was to be of the same design as before but blue, like the ensign,
and thus it remains; the difference between the jack and the ensign
being that the former is smaller and square[323], instead of oblong in
the proportion of two to one.

The badges of the offices referred to in the proclamation of 1694 were
as follows:

  _Navy Office._ An anchor without cable in pale, with two smaller
  anchors on each side of the shank.

  _Ordnance Office._ This badge was similar to that now used by the
  War Office (Plate XI, 7), but the colour of the shield appears to
  have been originally red with a yellow chief.

  _Victualling Office._ Two anchors with cables in saltire.

  _Customs._ A castle gate. A regal crown was substituted for this in
  1817. From that date until the Coastguard Service was transferred
  to the Admiralty in 1856 all vessels engaged in prevention of
  smuggling under the Customs, Excise and Admiralty flew red ensigns
  and pendants with this crown upon them.

  _Transport Office._ A plain anchor.

In 1701 the Admiralty complained to the King that the Governors of
the plantations--the English Colonies of North America and the West
Indies--were in the habit of authorising certain merchant ships, to
which they gave commissions, to wear the colours of the king's ships.
This the Governors claimed to do in virtue of their Vice-Admiralty
commissions and because they conceived

  it necessary for the security of ships sent out by them for H.M.
  Service, as well as for the honour of H.M. Commissions that these
  ships be authorised to bear such colours as may distinguish them
  from ordinary merchants' ships and other common trading vessels.

Presumably these ships, which certainly engaged in "common trade,"
were also employed on protection and police duties that would normally
have been performed by ships of the Royal navy, had such ships been
present there in sufficient numbers. On the 31st July of the same year
an Order in Council was issued directing such ships to wear a jack with
a white escutcheon[324] in the centre, and forbidding them to wear the
ordinary Union jack. I have not met with this special form of jack at
any later date, and it seems probable that the use of these colonial
hired ships was discontinued after Benbow arrived in these waters in
the late autumn of that year, though an Article providing for the use
of the jack appeared some years after in the Instructions issued to the
Governors of these colonies. It might seem that these vessels should be
classed as hired men-of-war or as privateers, but the memorial of the
Admiralty to the Council places them in the category of "those employed
by the Officers of the Navy, Ordnance, Victualling and others."

After the disappearance of this jack there were no special
distinguishing flags for colonial vessels until 1866, when it was laid
down that ships in the public service of a colony might fly the blue
ensign with the distinguishing badge of the colony.

Besides the Public Offices there are a number of corporate bodies
whose functions are of a public nature and who have the right to fly a
special flag upon their vessels at sea. The most ancient of these is
the Corporation of Trinity House, a body first incorporated by Henry
VIII in 1514. Its flag (Plate XII, fig. 4) may be seen flying upon the
Trinity yacht when leading the Admiralty and Royal yachts during a
review of the fleet, or when escorting the sovereign at sea; on such
occasions the Trinity yacht flies also a white ensign. The duties of
this Corporation are, however, mainly concerned with the erection and
maintenance of lighthouses, beacons and other sea marks around the
English coast. Similar duties in Scottish waters are performed by the
Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, who fly upon their vessels a
blue ensign with a white lighthouse in the fly, the Commissioners' own
flag being a form of white ensign without the St Patrick's cross in the
Union, and with a blue lighthouse but no St George's cross in the fly.
Vessels belonging to Lloyds fly a blue ensign with the badge shown in
Plate XII, fig. 10. The Port of London Authority, Thames Conservancy,
Humber Conservancy, and Mersey Docks and Harbour Board have each their
special badge, but these are of no historical interest. The modern
Cinque Ports flag (Plate XII, fig. 5) is now never flown at sea, but is
flown upon Walmer Castle, the residence of the Lord Warden.


As already remarked, the first legislative enactment providing for a
distinction between the flags of merchantmen and ships belonging to
the Crown was in the year 1634. We shall briefly review the position
of affairs in the earlier years of that century. When James I united
the crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 the English merchant ships
were in the habit of flying the St George's flag at one or more
mastheads, while those of Scotland flew the St Andrew's flag in a
similar manner. It seems that in the great majority of these ships no
other flags were flown, but some of the larger ships, especially those
engaged in voyages to foreign parts, seem to have allowed themselves
the additional luxury of a striped ensign (which appears to have
been displayed only when attacking or resisting attack from pirates
or other foreign ships, or when signalling to consorts), and also a
number of pendants or streamers, which were probably only used on like
occasion, or on occasions of special ceremony or rejoicing. Thus,
for the ships fitted out by the East India Company in January, 1601,
there was provided "for eche of the shippes 12 Streemers, 2 fflagges
and one Auncient." In an inventory of the Company's ship 'Hector' of
the preceding September there is mentioned besides "2 ancyents and 28
pendaunts," "a smale flag for the boat spirrit." This is the earliest
instance in which I have met with a jack flag for the bowsprit in an
inventory, and its use at this date must have been extremely rare and

On the union of the two crowns, disputes as to precedence of flags
appear to have broken out between the English and Scots merchant
seamen, hitherto "foreigners" to each other. James attempted to remove
the cause of these by providing in 1606 a combined flag, which was to
be borne by both parties in their maintop, the English retaining the
St George's cross at the foretop and the Scots the St Andrew's cross.
So far as the Scots were concerned this attempt at compromise appears
to have been rejected, for reasons already related in Chapter III,
but the English adopted it. Thus, in the period between 1606 and 1634
the English merchantmen were bearing aloft two flags: the "Britain"
flag, as it was then called, and the St George's flag, and although
they were warned in the Proclamation of 1606 not "to bear their flags
in any other sort" it is clear that some were also using on the poop
a striped ensign with a St George's cross in a canton. The colours of
the stripes appear to have been a matter of individual taste. Thus the
ensign illustrated in the contemporary map[325] of Baffin's voyage for
the discovery of the North-west Passage in 1615 displays red, green and
blue stripes[326].

In 1634 the inconveniences arising from the fact that the king's ships
and merchant ships wore the same flags had become so pronounced that a
Proclamation was issued withdrawing the right to use the Union flag for
the merchant ships and confining those of England to the St George's
flag and those of Scotland to the St Andrew. No mention is made of any
poop ensign, from which it may be inferred that this flag was not yet
in common use among merchantmen. By the time of the Commonwealth the
striped ensign appears to have gone out of use, and the merchantmen
seem to have gradually adopted the red ensign introduced into the fleet
in 1625. The order of 1649 requiring the ships in the service of the
State to bear the St George's flag only does not seem to have been
applied to merchant ships, and from a reference in 1656 to the flying
of the "English Collers" improperly by a merchant ship lying at the
Brill, when these colours were worn "with the Cross downewards" (i.e.
the flag being inverted in contempt) it is clear that the English
ensign at that date had the cross in a canton, and was not the plain St
George's flag. The use of the red ensign was for the first time legally
recognised as the distinctive flag of a British merchant ship in a
Proclamation of 1674[327], in which the colours are expressly laid down
as being

  those usually heretofore worn on merchants' ships, viz: the Flag
  and Jack white with a red cross (commonly called Saint George's
  Cross) passing right through the same; and the Ensign red with a
  like cross in a canton white at the upper corner thereof next the

This order definitely abolished the use of any striped ensign, if any
such still survived outside of the East India Company's ships. The
red and white striped ensign[328] of that Company, which was probably
adopted on its formation in 1600, remained, however, unchanged in spite
of the Proclamation, and in 1676 the Commander-in-Chief in the Downs
drew Pepys' attention to the fact. In his reply of the 20th November
Pepys wrote:

  For that of the different colours assumed by the East India Company
  and ordinarily worn in their ships, I am very glad you take notice
  of it, though it be not of any so near resemblance to the King's as
  to create any mistake, which some have heretofore offered at, yet
  it being contrary to the letter of the proclamation it will be fit
  that his Majesty's pleasure be known in it[329].

Pepys mentioned the matter to Sir John Bankes, one of the principal
members of the Company, urging him to get the use of this flag
regularised, and in the December of this same year he wrote to Bankes
as follows:

  I have fresh occasion of repeating what I lately mentioned to you
  about colours worn by the ships belonging to the East India Company
  different from what the merchant ships of other his Majesty's
  subjects generally do, and by his Majesty's proclamation of 18th
  Sept. 1674 ... are bound to use, without any provisional exception
  made therein on behalf of the said Company; for want thereof, not
  only his Majesty's commander-in-chief in the Downs but others of
  his captains and officers are under an obligation of interrupting
  your ships in the wearing the said colours, and have several of
  them applied themselves to me at sundry times (and now lately) for
  direction therein, with answer still given them by me in favour of
  the Company as knowing their and their predecessors' usage in that
  matter, and the moment it may be of to them that the same should
  be continued; but, forasmuch as it cannot be thought fit for me
  to remain under a constant accountableness for any behaviour of
  his Majesty's officers different from his pleasure signified by
  a proclamation, I desire you will please to take an opportunity
  of mentioning this thing to my honoured friends of your Company,
  to the end that (in case their service be indeed concerned in
  the continuance of this their usage) they may take some way of
  making their desires therein known to his Majesty, that so what
  he shall think fit to indulge to them upon it may be done by an
  order pursuant to the said proclamation, and his officers thereby
  indemnified in their obedience of it[330].

Apparently the matter was adjusted to the satisfaction of Pepys, for
the striped flag[331] continued to be used by the Company until the
year 1824, when, on the question of its legal position being again
raised, its use as an ensign was discontinued, though it remained
in existence until 1863 on the Company's ships as a jack or signal

The flags laid down for the merchant ships by the Proclamation of
1674 were confirmed by further Proclamations in July, 1694, and
December, 1702, with the additional restriction that such ships were
expressly forbidden to wear "any kind of pendant whatsoever." As
these proclamations were addressed to all "loving subjects" they were
presumably binding on the Scots as well as on the English, but the use
of the St Andrew canton certainly persisted in the ships of the Scots
navy, and therefore presumably in the merchant ships of Scotland.

On the legislative union between England and Scotland in 1707 a further
Proclamation was issued, which contained a fundamental difference.
In the Proclamation of 1674, 1694, and 1702 the merchant ships had
been forbidden to use any other colours than "those usually worn," but
they were not expressly ordered to wear any colours at all. In the
Proclamation of 1707, under which the Union replaced the St George in
the canton of the red ensign, a clause was inserted

  strictly charging and commanding the Masters of all Merchant Ships
  and vessels belonging to any of our subjects, whether employed
  in Our service or otherwise, and all other persons whom it may
  concern, to wear the said ensign on board their ships or vessels.

They were further forbidden to wear "any Flags, Jacks, Pendants or
Colours made in imitation of ours, or any kind of Pendant whatsoever,
or any other ensign than the ensign described." This did not prohibit
the use of the St George's jack on the bowsprit, which was expressly
recognised by the _King's Regulations_ for the navy[333] as being,
together with the red ensign, the appropriate colours for a British
merchant ship.

In consequence of the legislative union with Ireland, a proclamation
was issued on 1st January, 1801, substituting the new form of the Union
in the canton of the ensign, but leaving the existing regulations
unaltered. The provision for the use of the St George's jack by
merchant ships last appeared in the 1808 edition of the _Regulations
and Instructions relating to His Majesty's Service at Sea_ in the
following terms:

  Merchant Ships are to carry a Red Ensign with the Union Jack in a
  canton, at the upper corner next the staff, and a White Jack with
  a Red Cross, commonly called St. George's Cross, passing quite
  through it.

How far such regulations, which in the preamble are expressly stated
to be drawn up for the "Naval Service at Sea," can have been legally
binding on the Mercantile Marine is a matter for lawyers to decide, but
it seems probable that the merchant service did not generally observe
the regulation as to the jack, for in the next edition (that of 1824)
all reference to it is omitted. From that date the red ensign alone has
been the legal national colours of a British merchant vessel. It must
be displayed

(_a_) On a signal being made from one of H.M. ships or from a vessel
under the command of an officer of the Royal Navy on full pay.

(_b_) On entering or leaving any foreign port.

(_c_) If the vessel is of 50 tons gross tonnage or more, on entering or
leaving any British port.

Merchant ships commanded by officers on the retired list of the
Royal Navy or by officers of the Royal Naval Reserve may, on certain
conditions laid down in the _King's Regulations_, be allowed to wear a
blue ensign instead of a red one.

No British merchantman may, under penalty of £500 and confiscation of
the colours, wear any other "distinctive national colours," nor any
other flags or pendants in any way resembling those of H.M. ships,
but there is nothing in the Merchant Shipping Act to prevent any such
ship from wearing any fancy flags that it likes--even if some covert
disloyalty is intended thereby--provided that such flags are not
"distinctively" national and do not imitate the flags of the navy, and
that it displays the red ensign upon the proper occasions.

The law on the subject of the flags to be flown by British merchantmen
was, as will have been seen, sufficiently explicit, and the flags
allowed by no means inferior in dignity or traditional sentiment
to those withheld; nevertheless, the merchant skipper, until a
comparatively recent period which may be dated roughly as the beginning
of the reign of Queen Victoria, seems to have taken an especial delight
in attempting to evade the law. Attempts to fly the Union jack have
already been sufficiently illustrated. Another idiosyncracy was the
flying of the blue instead of the red ensign. St Lo dealt with this
at Jamaica in 1728 by an ingenious device, that of using the Crown's
right of impressment to deprive such ships of one of the most important
members of the crew: "rather than be troubling their Lordships with
complaints of taking them away, I have found out another expedient,
which is to get a Carpenter or Caulker from them, so that I hope in a
little time to bring them to better reason."

In 1819 the master of a ship in home waters who had persisted in flying
a blue ensign and pendant although repeatedly fired at, was prosecuted
by the Admiralty, but upon his appeal the prosecution was dropped with
the hope that "it will be understood that any future violation of the
law will be punished strictly." Two other ships were, in the following
year, prosecuted for flying pendants, and in 1821 the attention of the
Commanders-in-Chief was called to the existing regulations "relative to
Colours to be worn by private ships which it has been apprehended have
not been generally attended to."

Not long after this date the custom of flying at a masthead a "house"
flag denoting the ownership of the vessel became general, and perhaps
for this reason or because they were living in a more prosaic age the
captains of merchantmen ceased to give further trouble by attempts
to display illegal colours. There are now many hundreds of house
flags[334] in existence, but nearly all of them have come into use
since 1840. An older practice with some of the larger merchantmen,
which seems to date from the early years of the eighteenth century, was
to fly the arms of the town in which the master lived at the mizen,
and the arms of the town where the freighter resided at the fore. Some
passenger ships plying on regular lines (such as the cross-Channel
steamers) fly at the fore the national flag of the country to and from
which they sail.

The somewhat anomalous position of the ships of the East India Company,
many of which were given Letters of Marque in order to regularise
their position as combatants if they came into conflict with ships of
native states (or possibly with those of other European powers) in
Indian waters, has already been remarked. No trace can be found of
any formal grant of the Company's flag, and it seems most probable
that it was really the survivor of an early striped ensign such as
many ships, men-of-war or merchant, wore in the latter part of the
reign of Elizabeth and the early part of the reign of James. There
was, however, an early precedent of the grant of a special flag
to specified merchantmen to denote a privileged position. In 1581
Elizabeth, anxious to encourage the trade then being opened up with
Turkey, granted a Charter of Incorporation for a term of seven years
to Sir Edward Osborn and three other merchants, who might add other
Englishmen, not exceeding twelve in all, to their number. These were
allowed "to set and place in the tops of their ships and other vessels
the Arms of England with the red crosse over the same, as heretofore
they have used the red crosse, any matter or thing to the contrary
notwithstanding." On its expiry in 1588 this charter was not renewed,
but in 1593 Osborn and others were incorporated in a company to be
known as the Governor and Company of Merchants of the Levant, and they
were "to set and place in the toppes of their ships or other vessels
the Armes of England with the redde crosse in white over the same as
heretofore they have used." It would appear from these words that the
red cross in the original flag was bordered with white, although it
is not so described in the earlier charter. The Charter of 1593 was
found defective, and a new one was issued in 1601 which contained the
same clause, the name of the company being changed to the "Governor
and Company of Merchants of London trading into the Levant Seas." On
the death of Elizabeth this charter lapsed, and it was not until the
14th December, 1605, that another charter was issued. This charter,
which remained in force until 1825, omits all reference to the flag.
Possibly James already had in mind the Union flag that was established
early in the next year, and indeed the design of the Union flag is
distinctly reminiscent of the old Levant Company's flag--the banner of
Scotland taking the place of the Arms of England. The omission from
this charter of any provision for a special flag cannot have been other
than intentional, nevertheless the ships of the company seem to have
continued to use the old flag in Levant waters, for in 1625 Sir Thomas
Roe, then Ambassador to Turkey, issued a general proclamation "To all
Captaynes, Maisters, pursers and officers of any English shipps and
all other his Ma^{tie} Subjects serving or sailing in them within y^e
Levant Seas," ordering "that from hence forth they, nor none of them
presume to use or beare any other flagg or coulers than y^e usuall
flagge and Red Crosse of England, or St Andrewe of Scotland, neither
in the Levant Seas nor in any Port of the Grand Signior's Dominion,
upon what pretence soever." From this time the "usual flag and Red
Cross of England" became very prominent in those waters and gradually
replaced the French flag as protector of the lives and goods of
foreign merchants trading within the Sultan's dominions. The various
capitulations by which this was effected were consolidated in 1675 by a
Treaty of Commerce made between Mahomet IV and Charles II[335], which,
among other things, provided "that the Merchants of Spain, Portugal,
Ancona, Seville, Florence, Catalonia, and all sorts of Dutch and other
foreign Merchants ... might always come under the Flag and Protection
of the Ambassadors or Consuls of England."

[Illustration: PLATE XII Modern Ensigns, etc.]

There were other trading companies that, like the East India Company,
had or assumed the right to fly a special flag, in this case probably
only as a jack. One was the Guinea, or Africa, Company, the ships of
which from the time of Charles II onwards flew a St George's flag with
a chequered border of two rows of red and white squares. This practice
probably originated with the third company, chartered in 1662, and
of course expired on the dissolution of the fourth company in 1752.
Another was the so-called Scottish East India Company which started
its short life in 1695 and is best known from its disastrous attempt
to colonise the Isthmus of Darien. Its emblem of the rising sun (Plate
X, fig. 4) indicated the dawn of hopes that were doomed to an early

Special forms of the red ensign may be flown by merchant ships of three
of the British Dominions, viz. Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This
privilege was first granted to Canada in the year 1892, the badge of
Canada without the Crown (see Plate XII, fig. 7) being placed in the
centre of the fly.

In 1899 merchant ships registered in New Zealand were authorised to
wear a red ensign having in the fly four white stars, representing
the constellation of the Southern Cross. In this connection it may be
remarked that in 1834 the British resident in New Zealand proposed that
the New Zealanders should have a national flag. Three patterns were
sent over by the Governor of New South Wales, and by a narrow majority
the chiefs voted for the one represented in Plate XII, fig. 1. New
Zealand was then an independent country; in 1839 it was added to the
British dominions and after the grant of its Constitution in 1852 this
flag appears to have been dropped, to be subsequently revived by the
Shaw Savill and Albion Shipping Company, which now uses it as a "house

A red ensign for Australian merchant vessels was first approved in
1903. It had a six-pointed white star (indicating the six states) in
the centre of the lower canton and five smaller stars, representing
the Southern Cross, in the fly. In 1908 the large star under the Union
had the number of its points increased to seven (see the similar blue
ensign in Plate XII, fig. 3).

No other dominion or colony is at present allowed the privilege of
"defacing" the red ensign, but any colonial merchant vessel is at
liberty to carry, in addition to the red ensign, a flag containing the
badge of the colony, provided that such a flag is not "distinctive
national colours" (i.e. does not contain or imitate the Union).

A merchant ship commanded by a retired officer of the Royal Navy or by
an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve may fly the blue ensign under
Admiralty Warrant if the crew includes ten officers or men belonging to
the Reserve. The formation of a reserve among officers of the merchant
service was first authorised by Act of Parliament in 1861, and in the
following year it was decided that a merchant ship commanded by such an
officer might fly a blue ensign with a crown and the letters R.N.R. in
the fly; the abolition of the squadronal colours of the navy in 1864,
however, enabled the blue ensign undefaced by a device to be assigned
to the Reserves, and the device was thereafter omitted.


For the introduction into Great Britain of craft built solely for
pleasure and large enough to navigate the open sea or the estuaries
of large rivers we need look no further back than the restoration
of Charles II. From the earlier years of the seventeenth century
the wealthy inhabitants of the Netherlands had included among their
recreations the sailing of specially designed boats upon their numerous
waterways. With the presentation to Charles in 1660 of two of the Dutch
yachts we may, for all practical purposes, date the inauguration of
this form of recreation in England. The fashion set by the King and his
brother gradually spread among the wealthier classes.

Except those belonging to the King, all such pleasure craft would
legally form part of the mercantile marine, and in the absence
of special permission to the contrary could only wear the flags
appropriated to that service. Yet from an early date the owners
attempted to appropriate to themselves some special distinction.
The failure of the Governor of Dover in 1676 to obtain the King's
permission to fly the Union jack on his private yacht has already been
noticed. This failure did not deter others from assuming such a right.
In 1686 the question of the liberty taken by private yachts to wear
the King's jack without license came before the Navy Board, and Pepys,
who was present, has left us the note upon the motives leading to such
evasions of the law, which has been already considered in Chapter III
(page 69).

The yachts belonging to James II (who reserved the Office of Lord High
Admiral to himself throughout his reign) flew, in addition to the royal
standard at the masthead and Union jack, a special red ensign, with
St George's cross in the canton, and in the fly an anchor and cable
surmounted by the royal crown.

The first attempt to democratise yachting and to form a club to
facilitate its enjoyment came, oddly enough, from the Irish, a nation
that has never, in spite of its natural advantages, shown any marked
liking for the sea. Yet by the formation of the Cork Water Club in
1720 Ireland took a lead that was not followed in England for nearly
a hundred years. The Club adopted as their distinctive flag the Union
jack with the harp on a green escutcheon in the centre, as in the
jack of the Protectorate; this escutcheon was also placed on the
Union in the canton of their ensign. Dissolved in 1765, this Club was
resuscitated in 1806, and was the progenitor of the existing Royal Cork
Yacht Club.

The first corporate body of yachtsmen to be formed in England was the
Royal Yacht Club (now the Royal Yacht Squadron) founded at Cowes in
1815, when the close of the long war with France rendered the Channel
safe for such a form of amusement. As a distinctive flag, this Club
chose a white ensign with the Union in the canton but without the St
George's cross in the fly. For six years the Admiralty took no notice
of the breach of the law involved in flying such a flag, but in 1821
the number of yachts had so increased that the Commander-in-Chief at
Portsmouth drew attention to the fact that a large number of small
craft were flying an unauthorised flag. He received instructions to
enforce the law, and the Club had to content itself with the legal
red ensign. In 1829, however, the Admiralty granted the yachts of the
club permission to wear "a St George's or white ensign," and the club
thereupon adopted the modern white ensign which its members still fly.

This was followed in 1831 by the grant of a blue ensign to the Royal
Northern Yacht Club; a white ensign with "the Arms of Ireland" in the
lower canton next the staff to the Royal Irish Yacht Club; and a formal
grant of the red ensign with "the Union (with the harp and crown on a
green field in the centre) in the corner" to the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

In 1832 a newly formed Irish club, the "Western Yacht Club," which had
assumed a green ensign, approached the Admiralty with a view to the
confirmation of this flag on the ground that "a white ensign has been
granted to the 'Royal Yacht Club,' a red ensign to the 'Royal Cork,'
a blue ensign to the 'Royal Northern,' and as the only unoccupied
national flag we have assumed the green ensign[336]." They were
informed "You may have as the flag for this Club either a red, white
or blue ensign, with such device within as you may point out, but that
their Lordships cannot sanction the introduction of a new colour to be
worn by British ships." They then chose a white St George's ensign with
"a crown in the centre surrounded with a wreath of shamrock."

There followed other grants of the white ensign, plain or with the St
George's cross in the fly and with or without special badges.

In 1842 the Royal Yacht Squadron, moved by frequent complaints of the
improper conduct in foreign waters of British yachts, erroneously
supposed, from the fact of their having a white ensign, to belong to
that club, asked that they might have "the sole permission to carry the
white ensign," at the same time suggesting that the other clubs should
have a blue one. The Admiralty acceded to this request and issued the
following circular letter:

  22 July 1842.


  My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having, by their order
  of the 6th June 1829, granted permission to the Royal Yacht
  Squadron, as having been the first recognised club, and enjoying
  sundry privileges, to wear the White St George's ensign and other
  distinctions, that their vessels might be generally known, and
  particularly in Foreign ports, and much inconvenience having arisen
  in consequence of other Yacht Clubs having been allowed by this
  Board to wear somewhat similar colours, my Lords have cancelled the
  warrant enabling the ___________ to wear the white ensign, and have
  directed me to send you herewith a warrant, authorizing the vessels
  belonging to the club to wear the blue ensign of Her Majesty's
  fleet, with the distinguishing marks of the club, as heretofore
  worn on the white ensign; and as it is an ensign not allowed to be
  worn by merchant vessels, my Lords trust that it will be equally
  acceptable to the members of the club.

This letter was sent to the Royal Western, the Royal Thames, the Royal
Southampton, the Royal Eastern and the Gibraltar Yacht Clubs and to the
Wharncliffe Sailing Club, but from a misapprehension the Royal Western
Yacht Club of Ireland, once incorporated with its English namesake, was
overlooked. In 1853 this point was raised in Parliament, but no action
was then taken. In 1858, however, the exemption of the Irish Club was
again made a grievance by other clubs desiring the same privilege, and
the warrant of the Irish Club was then cancelled. The outcry raised led
to the papers connected with the grants of the white ensign being laid
before the House of Commons in 1859[337].

From that date the privilege of flying the white ensign has remained
the prerogative of the Royal Yacht Squadron, a privilege enhanced in
1864 by its becoming the distinctive ensign of the Royal Navy.

At the present day forty-four clubs have the privilege of flying the
blue ensign, either plain or "defaced" with some distinctive badge, and
eight are allowed to "deface" the red ensign with their special badge.
Other clubs may fly only the ordinary red ensign of the Mercantile


[297] See Maspero, _Popular Stories of Ancient Egypt_, p. 231, and
Torr, _Ancient Ships_, Cambridge, 1895, p. 60.

[298] See p. 143.

[299] Stirling Maxwell, _Don John of Austria_, 1883, I, 387.

[300] Corbett, _Fighting Instructions_ 1530-1816 (N. R. S.), 1905, p.
27: "Even Howard's great fleet of 1588 had twice been in action with
the Armada before it was so much as organised into Squadrons."

[301] It was Henry who first organised navy administration by the
institution of the Navy Board in 1546.

[302] _S. P. D. Henry VIII_, CCV, fol. 163.

[303] Corbett, _Drake and the Tudor Navy_, II, 203.

[304] _Ibid._ II, 203.

[305] Rules in Sir John Hawkins his tyme, _S. P. D. Jas I_, CLVII, 67.

[306] Chardges in equipping & setting forth xvj^{en} of her Ma^{ts}
shippes and pinnaces to the seas. Pipe Off. Dec. Acct. 2232.

[307] See Arts 16 and 31 of the Instructions (_Naval Miscellany_ (N.
R. S.), vol. I). The greenish edge in the accompanying diagrams is
apparently the artist's shading.

[308] _S. P. D. Eliz._ CCLIX, 48, printed in Oppenheim's _Naval Tracts
of Sir Wm. Monson_ (N. R. S.), IV, 202 et seq.

[309] Oppenheim, _Monson Tracts_ (N. R. S.), IV, 209.

[310] _S. P. D. Chas I_, V, 31.

[311] See Plate IX, figs. 3-6, 8 and 9. In the earlier ensigns, towards
the end of Elizabeth's reign, the stripes were sometimes diagonal, and
different designs appear to have been used to distinguish individual
ships, much as the ensigns were used to distinguish regiments ashore.

[312] I.e. as signals.

[313] Corbett, _Fighting Instructions_ (N. R. S.), p. 83.

[314] "Observed the Gibraltar and Culloden firing at us, probably by
mistaking our St George's Ensign for the national flag, on which we cut
off the fly." (Master's Log, _vide_ Sturges Jackson, _Logs of the Great
Sea Fights_ (N. R. S.), p. 130.)

[315] Nicolas, _Despatches and Letters of Lord Nelson_, VII, p. 104.
In a footnote (the volume was published in 1846) Nicolas says: "It may
be hoped that the time is not distant when the anomalous distinctions
of Blue, White and Red Admirals will be abolished, so that St George's
banner will be the only flag borne by _all_ British Admirals."

[316] I.e. a narrow pendant with striped red, white and blue fly.

[317] Low, _History of the Indian Navy_, II, 201. A similar red pendant
has recently been approved as the flag of the Director of the Royal
Indian Marine.

[318] Order of the Governor in Council quoted by Low, _History of the
Indian Navy_, II, 570.

[319] This word first appears about 1650, and soon replaced the earlier

[320] Marsden, _Law and Custom of the Sea_ (N. R. S.), II, 412.

[321] About two-thirds, instead of less than one-fourth.

[322] E.g. in 1636 the people of Calais stoned the Dover mail packet
which carried the Union flag at the stern, "rending the said Unite

[323] See Plate V, fig. 7.

[324] See p. 70.

[325] B. M. _Add. MS._ 12206.

[326] Plate IX, fig. 8.

[327] See p. 68.

[328] See Plate IX, fig. 6. The number of stripes varied from nine to
thirteen, the odd numbers being red.

[329] Tanner, _Catalogue of the Pepysian MSS._ (N. R. S.), III, 325.

[330] Tanner, _Catalogue of the Pepysian MSS._ (N. R. S.), III, 334.

[331] There are, however, instances during the eighteenth century of
these ships flying a red or blue ensign.

[332] The Union replaced the St George's cross in the canton; and the
St George's cross appears to have been introduced into the fly, by
adding a vertical bar and thickening the middle stripe, about 1820.
(See Plate X, fig. 11.)

[333] First issued in a collected form in 1731.

[334] See _Lloyds Book of House Flags and Funnels_.

[335] _A General Collection of Treatys of Peace and Commerce_ (1732),
III, 282.

[336] _Parl. Paper_ 1859, III, Sess. 2.

[337] _Parl. Paper 1859_, III, Sess. 2. Further particulars of the
various devices adopted by the clubs will be found therein.

Chapter VI

_Flag Signals_


The few scattered references to signals found in early Greek literature
are so vague in their terms that they leave us in doubt whether the
ancient Greeks or their predecessors on the waters of the Eastern
Mediterranean made any use of flags for signalling purposes. It
seems probable that the earliest signals were given by raising the
naval standard which, as we have seen, found a place at the stern of
the Phoenician ships of war at least as early as 400 B.C., and that
the Greeks adopted this method from the Phoenicians, substituting a
cruciform standard for the Phoenician Crescent and Globe.

When Thucydides tells us that the "semeion" was raised in the Greek
fleet we may, in default of some better explanation, assume that the
officer in command seized the cruciform standard and elevated it at
arms' length. Such a signal might be rendered more conspicuous by
throwing a military cloak of bright colour over the arms of the cross
before raising it and, as already remarked, it seems highly probable
that the sign known as Phoinikis (φοινικὶς [Greek: phoinikis])
originated in this manner.

The earliest recorded instance of a signal at sea is probably
that mentioned by Herodotus[338] as having been made by Xerxes in
the year 480 B.C., when on quitting Therma in his expedition to
Greece he embarked in a Sidonian ship and "gave the signal (σημήιον
[Greek: sêmêion]) to the rest of the fleet to get under way." A more
characteristic--or more frequently mentioned--use of the "semeion" was
as a signal to commence action. The fleet fitted out by the Corinthians
against the Corcyreans in the year 433 B.C. met with a joint fleet of
Corcyrean and Athenian ships. Both the opposing fleets drew up in rank
and the "semeia" were then raised on both sides (τὰ σημεῖα ἑκατέροις
ἤρθη [Greek: ta sêmeia hekaterois êrthê]) as a signal for beginning

Thucydides mentions two other instances[340] in which a fleet awaited
the signal before commencing to fight, but the only strictly tactical
signal which he has recorded was one made to the Peloponnesian fleet
in 429 B.C. The Peloponnesians had enticed the Athenian fleet into a
disadvantageous position by a feigned attack upon Naupactus. At a
given signal (ἀπὸ σημείον [Greek: apo sêmeion]) the Peloponnesians
suddenly turned their ships round and attacked the Athenians[341].

Towards the end of the Peloponnesian War (if we may suppose that
Polyaenus, writing in the second century A.D., was not guilty of
anachronism) the purple cloak signal (φοινικὶς [Greek: phoinikis])
comes into evidence. Conon, the Athenian commander, was in the year 406
B.C. off Mitylene, flying before Callicratidas the Spartan, who had
twice as many ships. Observing that the Lacedaemonian ships had, in the
ardour of pursuit, broken their ranks, Conon raised the "Phoinikis,"
which was the signal he had pre-arranged with the commanders of his
ships, and, turning together, the Athenian ships bore down on their
pursuers, then in disorder[342].

The Rhodians, in the second century B.C., made signals in the early
manner by raising the "signum" or military ensign. Livy relates that
Eudamus, when hard pressed in his action against the Syrian fleet under
Hannibal (191 B.C.) made use of such a signal to call his unengaged
ships to the rescue[343].

The earliest code of naval signals is that drawn up in the ninth
century A.D. by the Emperor Leo VI in his treatise on Tactics[344]. Leo
in the Introduction to his nineteenth chapter explains that he has been
unable to find anything on this subject among ancient Greek writers
except a few scattered references and that his knowledge is mainly
derived from the experience of his Generals.

In this nineteenth chapter, which deals with Naval Warfare (Περὶ
ναυμαχίας [Greek: Peri naumachias]) he says:

  39. Let there be some standard (σημεῖον [Greek: sêmeion]) in your
  ship, either a banner (βάνδον [Greek: bandon]) or a streamer
  (φλάμουλον [Greek: phlamoulon]) or something else in some
  conspicuous position, to the end that you may be able, thereby,
  to make known what requires to be done, and that the rest may set
  themselves to carry out the course of action decided on, whether it
  be to fight or to withdraw from fighting; to open out to surround
  the enemy, or to concentrate to the relief of an endangered portion
  of the fleet; to slow the rowing or increase speed; to make an
  ambush, or, emerging from ambush to attack the enemy; or, in
  general, whatever the signal that has its origin in your ship, that
  the others, by keeping an eye on her, may be able to execute it.

  40. For in such an emergency you will not be able to make use
  either of the voice or of the trumpet to communicate what is
  necessary, because of the uproar and the tumult, and the sound of
  the sea, and the crash of ship against ship, the noise of the oars,
  and above all the clamour of the combatants.

  41. Further, let the signal be given by setting the standard
  upright or by inclining it to the right or to the left, or by
  moving it twice to the right or left, or by shaking it, or lifting
  it up, or lowering it or altogether withdrawing it or altering its
  position, or by varying the appearance of the head by means of
  devices or colours as was the practice amongst the ancients; for
  in time of war they gave the signal for battle by raising what was
  called the Phoinikis (φοινικίδα [Greek: phoinikida]). There was
  also what was called the "cap" (μαμελαύκιον [Greek: mamelaukion])
  raised upon a pole, red in colour, and they had some other signals
  which were made known in like manner. Perhaps however it would be
  safer to make your signals by your own hand.

  42. And thus, O General, let the exercise of these signals be
  practised, so that all the officers in command of ships under you
  may have certain knowledge of all such signs; of the reason why
  each is made, and when, and how, and may not fail. So that, well
  familiarised with the signals, they may readily understand them in
  time of emergency and carry out the orders indicated.

In reading the above paragraphs one cannot fail to be impressed by the
profound grasp of the essential requirements of the subject exhibited
by the writer. Nothing like it appears again until modern times, and
the concluding words might well have been written by Kempenfelt and the
other reformers of the Signal System in the British navy at the end of
the eighteenth century.

After Leo we meet with nothing further on this subject until the
middle of the fourteenth century, and from what we then find it is
clear that the art had not only made no progress in the interval, but
on the contrary had decidedly deteriorated. Two sets of instructions
preserved in the _Black Book of the Admiralty_, to which Sir Travers
Twiss assigns a date between 1337 and 1351[345], contain each one flag
signal; one for calling a council, the other for notifying the presence
of the enemy:

  _A xviii._ Item est assavoir que a
  quel temps convenable il plest a
  ladmiral dassembler les capitaynes
  et les maistres de la flotte conseiller
  avecques eulx il prendra hault en
  mylieu du mast de sa nef une banniere
  de conseil parainsi que en
  toutes parties de la flotte, soit en
  ports ou dehors sur la mer, ce pourra
  estre congnu et apperceu &c et
  doncques tantost les capitaynes et
  maistres de nefs sont tenuz dassembler
  sans delay avec leurs bateaux
  bien eskippez de mariners
  pour nager et aler en la nef de ladmiral
  pour illecques oyr et faire ce
  que le conseil de ladmiral aura ordonne.

  _B vi._ Item en cas que aucune nef
  ou outre vessel de la flotte apperceyue
  aucun vessel ennemy sur la
  mer doncques il mettra une banere
  en hault par laquelle la nef de ladmiral
  et autres nefz de la flotte pourront
  avoir congnoissance qu'il a veu
  ung vessel ennemy ou plusieurs et
  ainsi apres ordonner le mieulx quilz
  sauront pour lencontrer, &c.

      xviii. Also it is to be noted that
      at whatever convenient time it
      pleases the admiral to call together
      the captains and masters of the fleet
      to take counsel with them he will
      carry high in the middle of the mast
      of his ship a banner of council so
      that in all parts of the fleet, whether
      in ports or out at sea, this may be
      recognised and perceived etc., and
      then immediately the captains and
      masters of ships are bound to assemble
      without delay with their
      boats well manned with seamen to
      row and go on board the ship of the
      admiral there to hear and do what
      the council of the admiral shall have

      Item in case any ship or other
      vessel of the fleet perceive any
      enemy vessel upon the sea then he
      shall put a banner aloft by which
      the ship of the admiral and other
      ships of the fleet may have knowledge
      that he has seen one or more
      enemy vessels and thus afterwards
      give the best orders they know of to
      encounter it.

The very primitive tactics in use at this period in northern waters
called for none but the most primitive signals. When at sea, the fleet
gathered each evening round the admiral to take his orders for the next
day, and if by any chance he wished to consult the captains or had
orders to communicate before that hour he took the banner, which was
normally planted on the aftercastle, and placed it halfway up the mast.
When the enemy was seen, the sighting ship displayed a banner in the
top, and thereupon all the ships met together to discuss what to do.
Nothing could be simpler; nothing, one would suppose, more inefficient
in time of emergency; certainly nothing could be farther from the
well-practised organisation inculcated by the Emperor Leo.

In the waters of the Mediterranean the tradition of a more scientific
method of warfare than simple _mêlée_ fighting had its natural
influence on the method of signalling. The orders issued by Amadeo
VI of Savoy in 1366 for the combined fleet of galleys provided by
Genoa, Venice and Marseilles and sailing under his command[346] show a
considerable advance upon those recorded in the _Black Book_. This may
be judged from the following excerpts which include all the articles
relating to flag signals.

  Ce sunt les chouses ordonnees
  pour larmee Monseigneur de Savoye
  sur le gouvernement daler sur la

  10. Item quand le dit seigneur
  voudra avoir conseil qui facet mettre
  son estendart aut et que toutes les
  gallees doivent venir vers le dit seigneur
  et oui ce quil voudra ordonner
  des autres gallees ce que le dit seigneur
  voudra ordonner.

  11. ... et que la ou ilz sont dessendu
  a terre que chascun tirat celle
  part soubz la banniere quil est.

  22. Item se ensi est que monseigneur
  vueille parler es gallees que
  monseigneur doye lever une banniere
  a ses armes a muy de la galee
  et tantost chascune des gallees se
  doit aprochier du dit seigneur sur
  la penne dicte.

  23. Item se ainsi est que monseigneur
  vueille parler a lung ou a
  deux ou au plus des gallees que
  quant monseigneur fera lever une
  bandiere a dues ou plus que le patron
  du quel seront les armes de la
  bannere ou dues bannieres que
  monseigneur fera lever se doivent
  tantost aprochier de la galee de
  monseigneur pour oir ce que leur
  voudra dire sur la penne dessus

  26. Item si ainsi fut que aucune
  des dictes galee veist aucune nef ou
  galee ou autre navile estrange que
  tantost deust lever une bandiere e
  baissier la bannere vers celle part ou
  il verra le naviles estrange sur la
  penne dicte et tienne tant la bandiere
  que la galee monseigneur li ait
  rendu enseigne et quil ait lever sa

  27. Item en cas avenoit que aucunes
  des dites galees eist aucun cas
  de necessite quil eust besoing dayde
  que elle doye fere enseigne dune
  banniere onmy de la galee et tantost
  les autres galees doivent aprochier
  celle par vers telle gallee pour ly
  aydier sur la dicte penne.

  28. Item que nulle des gallees ne
  doivent esguarder lune contre lautre
  devant que elles verront pointer une
  banniere sur la galee monseigneur
  de pope en proue et tantost chascune
  des galees sur la penne dicte regardera
  lune contre lautre.

  29. Item se ainsi estoit que une
  des galees fut esperdue des autres et
  ensi fut quelle se retornast avec les
  autres pour faire seigne de cognoissance
  de jour celle qui sera dessoubz
  vent ou celle doivent ou qui sera
  lancre doivent lever lestandart de
  son commun onmj lieu de sa galee
  et l'autre galee li doit rendre l'enseigne
  et lever lestandart de son
  commun en la proue chascune doit
  porter son estandart en lon lieu de
  la poupe adonques se feront cognostre
  qui sont amis et ce sur la
  penne dessus dict.

      These are the ordinances for the
      armed force of My Lord of Savoy
      concerning the regulation of going
      upon the sea.

      10. Item when the said Lord
      wishes to take counsel let him order
      his standard to be placed on high
      and then let all the galleys come towards
      the said Lord and hear what
      he shall wish to command of the
      other galleys what the said Lord
      shall wish to command.

      11. ... and there where they have
      landed let each one go to that place
      where is the banner under which he

      22. Item, if it happens that my
      Lord wishes to speak to the galleys
      then my Lord shall raise a banner
      of his arms amidships of the galley,
      and immediately each one of the
      galleys shall approach the said Lord
      under the penalty named.

      23. Item if it happens that my
      Lord wishes to speak to one or to
      two or to more of the galleys, then,
      when my Lord shall cause to be
      raised one banner or two or more;
      the captains whose arms are those
      of the banner or two banners that
      my Lord shall cause to be raised
      shall immediately approach the galley
      of my Lord to hear what he
      wishes to say to them, under the
      penalty aforesaid.

      26. Item if it has happened that
      any one of the said galleys has seen
      any strange ship or galley or other
      vessel then immediately it shall
      raise a banner and lower the banner
      towards that part where it sees the
      strange vessels, under the penalty
      named, and hold the banner in that
      position until the galley of my Lord
      has returned the signal and has
      raised its banner.

      27. Item in case it shall happen
      that any of the said galleys has any
      occasion of necessity that it has need
      of aid, then it shall make a signal
      with a banner amidships of the galley
      and immediately the other galleys
      shall approach that place, towards
      such galley to aid it, under
      the penalty named.

      28. Item none of the galleys shall
      face one another before they shall
      see a banner on my Lord's galley
      pointed from the poop towards the
      prow, and immediately each of the
      galleys, under the penalty named,
      shall face one another[347].

      29. Item if it has happened that
      one of the galleys has lost the others
      and then returns to them to make a
      recognition signal by day, that one
      which shall be to leeward, either
      that one or the one which is at anchor,
      shall raise the standard of its
      Commune amidships of the galley
      and the other galley shall return the
      signal and raise the standard of its
      Commune in the prow. Each one
      shall (then) carry its standard to its
      place on the poop[348]. Then they will
      know which are friends, and this
      under the penalty aforesaid.

It will be seen that both these sets of instructions give prominence
to a signal for calling a Council and both, curiously enough, betray
the same confusion of thought. From the opening sentence it would be
supposed that the captains of the ships are assembled to advise the
Admiral in Council; from the closing sentence it would appear that they
are only called to hear the result of the council's deliberations. The
"etc." in the English Instructions and the repetition at the end of
Article 10 in the Savoy Instructions seem, however, to indicate that
the texts have not reached us in their original state. In the English
fleet the "Banner of Council" signal remained in use until the close
of the eighteenth century[349]. As a rule this signal was made with
the royal standard, though in 1369 a special gonfanon was provided and
in the reign of Henry V the "Trinity Royal" had a banner of council
containing the royal arms and the cross of St George[350]. When the
fleet was large, as in the Cadiz Expedition of 1596, the royal standard
was hoisted for the "selected" or inner council while the flag of St
George called the captain and the master of every ship to the flagship
for a general council.

But while in the English fleet the Banner of Council signal
underwent no development until the end of the sixteenth century, the
Mediterranean instructions of 1366 contain three signals of this
nature: one to call the council, another to call all the ships when
some order had to be communicated, and a third to call one or more
particular vessels. These, with the addition of one signal for calling
aid, one manoeuvring signal, and a recognition signal, to which were
added signals by sails and, at night, by lanterns, contain the germ of
a complete system of signalling.

It is not until the middle of the seventeenth century that we meet
with so advanced a system in the English navy. If an explanation of
this be sought it will be found in the fact that the rowing galley was
not suited to the waters of the English Channel and North Sea. If the
Mediterranean nations had, in the Middle Ages, a comparatively advanced
system of tactics and therefore--for the one inevitably follows the
other--a comparatively complete method of signalling, it was because
they had inherited the foundations of it with the galley from the
Romans and Greeks. The sailing-ship did not assert its superiority over
the older weapon until the early part of the sixteenth century, and it
was another century before the seamen who manned it could be persuaded
that the methods of tactics invented for the despised galley could be
of use when applied to vessels whose motive power was of another order.
It was the soldier-admirals, who were well acquainted with the value of
formal tactics on shore, who taught the English navy the lesson it was
so loath to learn.

The Instructions of 1366 just quoted may be taken as representative
of the fourteenth century. For the fifteenth century we have at least
two good examples; the orders for the Venetian navy drawn up by
Mocenigo[351] in the year 1420 and the orders for the navy of Castile
drawn up by Fadrique Henriquez[352] in 1430. It will be sufficient to
extract from the Venetian orders, which are the more interesting for
our immediate purpose, the various articles relating to flag signals.

  Questi sono i ordeni et commandamenti
  dati per il magnifico
  M. Piero Mozenigo del mar Zeneral

  5. Quinto che andando à uela nulla
  Galia ardisca passar el fogo à Misser
  lo capetanio saluo quella Galia che
  sarà de guarda, ma tuttauia debia
  attendere à non spartirse da lui sotto
  pena de lire diese à zaschedun che
  contrefarà, massime quando se uorà
  raggattar. Misser lo capetano farà
  metter la bandiera al mezzo. In
  quella uolta à chi piaserà ragattar
  habbi libertà di poterlo fare non
  si luntanando da lui mia dò al più,
  sotto la detta pena.

  13. Quando messer lo capitanio
  uorà domandar da parte el farà
  meter una bandiera in la popa, in
  quella fiada tutte le Galie se debia
  accostar à lui perche el possa saper
  el sò parer.

  14. Quando misser lo capitanio
  uorà che alguna de so Galie uegna
  da lui, el farà leuare in pope la bandiera
  di qual sopracomito el uorà
  che uegna da lui. In quella fiada
  quel tal sopracomito di chi sarà la
  bandiera uegni de presente à lui sotto
  quella pena che à lui piaserà.

      These are the ordinances and
      commands given by the eminent
      M^r Piero Mocenigo, Captain General
      at Sea--1420--

      5. Fifthly, when proceeding under
      sail, no galley shall attempt to
      pass the lantern of the Captain except
      the galley which shall be on
      guard, but should always take care
      not to part company from him under
      penalty of 10 lira for each one contravening,
      especially when they are
      racing. The Captain will place the
      flag amidships. In that case anyone
      wishing to race shall have liberty to
      do so; not however outdistancing
      him more than two miles at the
      most, under the aforesaid penalty.

      13. When the Captain desires to
      call the ships to him he will put a
      flag on the poop, in which case all
      the galleys ought to approach him
      in order to learn his intentions.

      14. When the Captain desires any
      particular galley to come to him, he
      will raise on the poop the flag of
      that commander whom he wishes to
      come to him. In that case the commander
      whose flag it is shall at once
      repair to him under such penalty as
      seems fit.

Signals for the galley on guard.

  Primà sel uederà fusta over fusto
  armado, debia leuar l' Insegna di
  misier San Marco et puoi tor quela
  uia tante fiade quanti sarà i nauilij
  che l' hauerà descouerto, et se queli
  sarano da uno in suso debia uegnir
  du miser lo capitanio, et farli sauer
  de queli fusti lui hauerà descouerto.
  Se la sara coca zoe naue lieue la soa
  bandiera dal ladi sinestro, se la sarà
  barca leua un penon dal ladi destro;
  fazando segni cum quela bandiera
  in la qual uia queli nauiglij i sarà
  descouerti et se miser lo capitanio
  uorà che la Galia de guarda uada ad
  algun de quali nauiglij i quali sarà
  descouerti el farà leuar una bandiera
  quara à pope al ladi destro à la
  uia del nauilio, obseruando i ordini
  infrascritti. Et se l' occorese che la
  Galia de guarda andando ad algun
  nauilio per l' ordene dato de sopra,
  et se miser lo capitanio uolese che
  quela tornase, non andase più auanti,
  se miser lo capetanio andarà à remi
  el farà fer uela de presente, et fara
  calar, et uezudo questo segno la
  Galia de guarda debia tornar subito
  à lui.

  Item comanda misier lo capetanio
  che sel fose descouerto più fusti e
  lui terminase andare a queli jn quela
  fiada el farà leuar el sò stendardo
  d'oro cum la so arma al fanò a pope,
  et de presente tute le Galie se debia
  redure appreso lui, é andare à se soe
  poste, e faza dar arme in couerta, et
  ordene le sue pauexade à proua segondo
  uxantia, et lo resto de pauixi
  sia per imbrazar et andar per couerta,
  et per suso le pertegete sia meso
  schiauine segondo usanza et à la
  prima trombeta zascadun se debia
  armar, à la segonda leuar l' Insegna
  de San Marco et rinfrescarti i corpi.
  A la terza quando serà leuado à meza
  Galia el standardo quadro con la
  Insegna del nostro signor Jesu
  Christo all' hora ognun uada arditamente
  et come buon' ordene che una
  galia non impaci l' altra à inuestir i
  diti navilij ouer fuste e non se desparta
  dalla battaia fina 1' ultima

  Et perche molte fiade ocore che
  le Galie se separa una dall' altra, et
  squarase da misier lo capetanio, però
  lè de necesità dar ordene ò segno
  per el qual posa recognoserse dalle
  nostre Galie, una dall' altra si de
  zorno come de note come è dito qui
  de soto.

  Se alguna Galia se smarirà de
  miser lo capetanio per poterla recognoser,
  sel sarà de zorno miser lo
  capetanio farà un fumo à prua, et
  uezando questo segno la Galia che
  sarà squarada, responda per si fato
  segno et poi farà leuar una bandera
  a pope a cauo de banda destra, et per
  el simel lui debba responder, et poi
  lui farà leuare una bandiera quara à
  prua à ladi senestro, et per el simel
  quela Galia debia responder, et poi
  lui farà leuar una bandiera quara à
  prua et per el simel questa Galia debia
  responder, e farà i diti segni, miser
  lo capitanio farà leuar l' Insegna
  di Misier San Marco, et cosi debia
  responder la dita Galia e sia ben
  prouezuda à non se acostar, sel nò
  cognosese bene i deti segni.

  Item zonzandò m^r lo cap^o in algun
  liogo...non uoiando che algun sopracomito
  faci butar i sò copani in acqua
  fara butar el suo e leuerà la soa
  bandera de uento, à cao de banda.
  E in questo caso algun no dieba butar
  lo suo, fia la deta bandiera sarà
  alzada, mà mouesta sara quela cadaun
  posi butar soto quela pena à
  lui parerà.

  Item quando m^r lo capitanio uorà,
  che tuti i soracomiti uegna à lui, el
  farà meter la so bandiera da uento in
  pope à la scaza inuerso prua, alora
  debia uegnir da lui, perche altrimenti
  bisognaraue mandar per cadaun.

      First, if he shall see a light galley
      or armed galley, he ought to raise
      the Ensign of Saint Mark and then
      lower it as many times as there may
      be ships which he has discovered,
      and if there are more he should go
      to the Captain and acquaint him
      how many galleys he shall have discovered.
      If that be a boat or ship he
      shall raise his flag on the left side,
      if a bark, a pennant on the right
      side, making signals with this flag
      in the direction in which these ships
      are discovered, and if the Captain
      wishes the Guard-galley to go to
      any of these ships which shall be
      discovered, he will raise a square
      flag on the right side of the poop
      towards that ship, in conformity
      with the regulations given below.
      And if it shall come to pass that the
      guard-galley on going to any ship
      under the above order and the Captain
      should wish her to turn back
      and not to advance further, if the
      Captain shall proceed under oars, he
      shall order sail to be taken in at
      once and shall strike sail, then
      having seen this signal the guard-galley
      ought to turn at once to him.

      Likewise the Captain commands
      in case more ships are discovered
      and he is determined to go to them;
      in this case he shall order his own
      standard to be raised, the gold
      standard with his arms, at the lanthorn
      on the poop, and immediately
      all the galleys ought to repair close
      to him, and proceed each to her own
      post, and order the arms on deck
      and order their pavisades to the
      prow according to custom, the rest
      of the shields to go round the deck,
      and on the supports of the awning
      the galley slaves' clothes are to be
      put as is customary, and at the first
      trumpet each man is to arm himself;
      at the second to raise the ensign
      of Saint Mark and to take refreshments
      for their bodies. At the
      third, when the square standard
      with the ensign of Our Lord Jesus
      Christ shall be raised amidships
      each ship shall proceed boldly and
      in good order, so that one galley
      may not hinder another, to board or
      come up with the said ships or galleys
      and not to leave the battle until
      they are finally routed.

      And as it often happens that the
      galleys are separated one from the
      other and are dispersed from the
      Captain, therefore he must necessarily
      give an order or signal of
      recognition by which they may be
      recognised by our ships one from
      the other by day as well as by night,
      as is mentioned below.

      If any Galley shall stray from the
      Captain, in order to recognise it, if
      by day, the Captain makes smoke
      on the prow and seeing that signal
      the galley which had separated shall
      answer by the same signal, and then
      the Captain shall order a flag to be
      raised on the forward end of the
      poop on the right side; and with the
      same signal he is to answer and the
      Captain shall order to raise a square
      flag on the left side of the prow, and
      likewise that galley is to answer and
      make the aforesaid signal. The Captain
      will raise the Ensign of St Mark
      and this the galley ought to answer,
      and be very attentive not to go
      alongside if it does not well recognise
      the above signals.

      Item the Captain, cruising in any
      place, ... not wishing any commander
      to lower his boat into the water, will
      launch his own boat and raise his
      flag on the windward side of the
      poop forward, and in this case no
      one shall lower his boat as long as
      the said flag is hoisted, and if any
      does so it shall be under the penalty
      which he thinks fit.

      Item if the Captain wishes all the
      commanders to come to him, he will
      put his flag to windward, on the
      poop near the ladder, inclined towards
      the prow, and then they must
      go to him because otherwise he
      would have to send for them.

The Venetian orders contain no provision for calling a Council, but
they include two flag signals for calling up the galleys to take
orders. Possibly the Venetians, anticipating Drake, did not assent
to the scriptural dictum that in the multitude of councillors is
wisdom. In the Castilian Instructions there is not only provision for
calling a council by day, by hoisting the royal pendant, but also for
calling an informal council at night. In daytime the captain and a
boatswain[353] from each galley had to come in a boat on board the
Admiral, but at night each galley ranged up with the Admiral in turn,
spoke with him, and then fell off again. Another signal not found
in the Venetian Instructions is that for calling assistance; in the
Castilian Instructions this is to be done by raising the royal pendant.
There are two signals for discovery of a fleet in those instructions;
if the fleet was recognised as an enemy the sighting galley hoisted
the royal pendant and rushed off to tell the Admiral all about it,
without attempting to denote by signal the number of ships, but if it
was merely a strange fleet the sighting galley contented itself with
hoisting a flag to the masthead and raising and lowering it as many
times as there were ships. The first galley to sight land raised a
flag to the masthead, kept it there a short time, and then lowered
it. The recognition signal differs from that provided in the Venetian
orders, but it contains the same serious defect found in most of the
early recognition signals--the two ships simply copy one another. In
the Savoy Instructions of 1366 it will be seen that there is a slight
variation in the signals made by the two galleys, sufficient to betray
any stranger not acquainted with the difference. One would have thought
that the necessity for some such device would have been apparent to any
seaman, for the use of an enemy's colours was a well-known artifice and
nothing could be simpler than to copy exactly the signals of another

For the early sixteenth century we have two important sets of signal
instructions. One of these, the "Ordonnances et signes pour nauiguer
jour et nuyt en une armée royale[354]," drawn up by Antoine de Conflans
about the year 1515 for use in a fleet composed of sailing ships and
galleys, is worth translation in full:

  Ordinances and Signals for navigating by day and by night in a navy
  royal, if his most Christian Majesty, whom God preserve, or other
  prince of the realm, should set out to the conquest of the Holy
  Sepulchre or other lands of the enemies of the Holy Catholic Faith,
  and the Ordinances and Chapters written below, which are for the
  recognition by day and by night of those who are of the party and
  of the company of the said most Christian king or prince; Also if
  other ships, either strangers or enemies, whether sailing ships,
  galleys, foists or other vessels, should be found among the said
  navy by day or night, they may be easily recognised by these said
  ordinances, which must be well kept and observed by the whole fleet
  and company of the said navy.

  And First:

  The King's ship, or that of his admiral and lieutenant if the said
  lord is not himself present, shall ordinarily wear the banner in
  the top called the "gabye" in the Levant; and this shall be the
  mark by which the royal or admiral ship shall be recognised by day;
  and by night, because the aforesaid banner can not be seen, the
  said ship shall carry on its poop a lighted lantern, such as is
  called a "fanal" in the Levant waters, which shall burn all night,
  so that the whole fleet can see it; and by this means the royal or
  admiral ship shall be recognised by all the fleet.

  Item, all the ships of the fleet, whether galleys or other vessels,
  shall come each morning to salute the King's or admiral's ship and
  to ascertain the watchword (mot du guet), and in the evening to
  learn the night-cry (cry de la nuyt); and in the evening they shall
  come and salute the said lord and his ship, and enquire what route
  and course he intends to follow, in order that if, through tempest
  or for other reasons, any vessel should lose itself by night, it
  will know what route to follow; and none of the said ships or
  galleys, except the king's or admiral's, shall carry a banner in
  the top, nor any lantern or beacon, except the Captain General of
  the galleys, who usually may carry the banner at the stern, and by
  night a stern lantern. If by chance bad weather should occur (which
  God forbid) and it is feared that the vessels may become separated
  from one another, the king will carry two banners by day and two
  lanterns by night, and each of his fleet one; and in the same way
  the Captain of the galleys and his fleet one other.

  Item, no ship shall fail to change its course and go about when
  the said lord does so, and generally, each one shall perform the
  manoeuvre which the said lord shall perform.

  Item, if the said lord wishes to speak with other ships he will put
  a banner at the stern, and each ship shall be bound to approach the
  said lord. And if the said lord wishes to speak with the galleys
  only he will put the banner in the admiral's stern gallery.

  Item, let each one carry as much sail as seems good to him, and
  proceed at the same speed as the said lord and no more, so that he
  does not pass his said ship, under the penalty afore-mentioned or
  of being punished at his discretion. And also let each one take
  care to keep near the said ship.

  Item, if any of the said ships or galleys see one or more sail, the
  ships shall show, as many times as they see sails, a banner in the
  top on that side on which they see the said sails, and the galleys
  shall show it on the mast-head[355]. Each one of them, whether ship
  or galley, shall keep it there until the captain[356] has replied
  with a similar signal.

  Item, let no one, on pain of death, whether commanding a ship,
  galley or brigantine, chase any ship of any sort or condition
  without leave and licence of the said lord.

  Item, let no vessel salute another whilst it is within sight of
  the said lord, on pain of corporal punishment, except the galleys,
  which shall salute the Captain as a mark of respect.

  Item, if by day any of the said ships or galleys shall have
  suffered any damage (which God forbid) that one to which the
  accident has happened shall place in the top a pendant so as to
  be seen by the said lord. It shall fire one gun and shall keep
  the said banner flying until the other vessels have come to its
  assistance. In the case of a galley it shall fly the said banner
  at the masthead and shall fire one gun as already said, and each
  of the said ships shall approach that to which the accident has
  happened in order to render aid.

  Item, if by chance the said ships have parted company, which God
  forbid, and meet again by day, the one to windward shall lower and
  raise the topsail once and fire one gun; and the one to leeward
  shall lower and raise the said topsail once and fire two guns. In
  the case of the galleys, the one to leeward[357] shall twice draw
  up to the mast the lower end of the lateen yard and shall fire one
  gun; and the one to leeward shall peak the lateen yard (by drawing
  the upper end down to the corsia) and fire two guns, keeping the
  said yard arm to the corsia[358].

  Item, if any of the said ships is in need of aid from the galleys
  it shall fire one gun and hoist a banner on the poop twice and the
  Captain of the said galleys shall then, if possible, go or send to

  Item. [If any of] the said ships or galleys sights land [the ship]
  shall hoist a banner at the lower yard arm and the galley at the
  fore or at the after end of the lateen yard slung horizontally[359]
  on the side on which land is seen, and shall keep it out until the
  said lord has answered.

  Item, if the said lord wishes the said ships to lower their boats
  he will place two banners at the poop and fire one gun, and
  immediately the said ships shall launch their boats and put out
  towards the said lord or where he shall wish them to go.

  Item, if the said lord, being at anchor, wishes to make sail,
  he will place a banner at the edge of the top in addition to
  the ordinary banner, and will fire one gun, and everybody must
  thereupon return on board to hoist sail likewise.

  Item, if by day one or several sail are sighted, and the said lord
  wishes the galleys to chase and speak with them, he will place a
  banner at each yard-arm and fire two guns.

  Item, if the said lord wishes the whole fleet to chase he will
  place two banners at the said yard-arms, and also two more on the
  edge of the top in addition to the ordinary one, and he will fire
  four guns, and every ship shall be bound to carry the requisite
  number of sails.

  Item, if the said lord and his fleet encounter enemy fleets where
  they must fight, they shall show all the ensigns and banners they
  have, so that each one may do his duty.

  These articles will be changed every time that a fleet is set out,
  however the substance of them remains the same.

  Here follow the arrangements and chapters drawn up for night-time.

  And first

  If the said lord is at sea, and he wishes to make sail, he will
  show two lanterns and will fire one gun, and he will keep the said
  lanterns showing until the others have replied to him with two
  other lanterns, but without firing guns; and each one shall be
  bound to get under way and make sail like him.

  Item, if, being under sail, the said lord wishes to speak with the
  other ships, he will show two lanterns twice and twice conceal
  them; and the last time he will keep them showing until the others
  have replied by a similar signal, and each one shall be bound to go
  to the said lord; and if he wishes to speak with the galleys only,
  he will show a single lantern over the stern light, and if the
  brigantine is to come he will show two.

  Item, if any of the said ships or galleys sight one or several
  sails it shall show a single lantern as many times as it sees
  sails, and shall betake itself to the said lord as soon as it can,
  and all the others shall do in like manner.

  Item, if the said lord wishes to take off a bonnet, he will show
  three lanterns, one after the other, until the others have replied
  with three other lanterns, and each one shall be bound to do the

  Item, if the said lord wishes to set a bonnet and crowd on sail
  he will show three lanterns one above the other and keep them out
  until the others have answered with a similar signal, and each
  shall be bound to crowd on sail to follow the said lord.

  Item, if the said lord wishes to chase by night, he will show three
  lanterns in a row three times, and will fire three guns, and will
  keep the said lanterns showing until the others have replied by
  similar lanterns. And to enable them to recognise one another each
  ship shall carry four lanterns at the poop, and the said lord will
  carry three on each side of his stern light.

  Item, if the said lord wishes to take in sail he will show three
  lanterns one above the other three times, and will fire one gun,
  and the third time he will keep the said lanterns showing until the
  others have replied by similar lanterns without firing guns.

  Item, if the said lord wishes to come into port, he will carry two
  stern lights, one above the other, and will fire one gun, and each
  of the said ships shall be bound to follow him to the said port;
  and when they shall have followed him and anchored, the first ones
  must keep a lantern at the stern until they have all arrived in
  the said port, in order that they may not hinder one another; and
  when all the said ships have arrived they shall take in the said
  lanterns, and the stern light of the said lord alone will remain

  Item, if by night any accident shall occur to any one of the said
  ships (which God forbid) it shall show four lanterns at the stern
  and four at the bows, as it may be difficult to see all the said
  lanterns; it shall also fire two guns until the other ships shall
  come to its aid, whereupon the said ships shall be bound to come to
  its succour.

  Item, if one of the said ships should have need of galleys, it
  shall fire one gun and keep a lantern at the poop until the said
  galleys have arrived, and the Captain of the said galleys shall be
  bound to go or send to it if it is possible.

  Item, if it should happen that the ships part company by any chance
  (which God forbid) and they find their companions by night, the one
  to windward shall show six lanterns three by three and shall fire
  two guns.

  Item, the one to leeward shall show four lanterns one above the
  other and fire four guns; and the watchword for the night shall be
  cried; and thus each one will be easily recognised without having
  to come right up with one another; and the said lord wills and
  commands that when the fleet thus part company and find one another
  by night, and some distance off find another ship not belonging
  to their company, none shall dare to fire at one another without
  first having made the above signals, as well by day as by night;
  and moreover, the said lord wills and commands that they shall, in
  addition, speak with one another.

  The watchword or cry for the night, and all the other signals, as
  well for day as for night, are changed and are at the discretion
  and will of the lord and chief of the said fleet, with the council
  of master mariners and pilots, and with the aforesaid council and
  the assistance of this present collection, they can make use of as
  much as seems good to them.

The instructions just quoted are plainly an ideal set; they represent
the best experience of the age, but there is no indication that they
were ever actually employed at sea.

The other important set of instructions of the early sixteenth century
is by no means so full as that of Conflans, but it was actually used at
sea, and reappears in various guises until the middle of the century.
It seems to have been first drawn up by Philippe de Cleves, to have
been used by the Emperor Charles V in his voyage from Flanders to Spain
in 1517, and finally to have been incorporated, with slight alterations
by Jehan Bytharne, Gunner in Ordinary to the King of France, in his
_Livre de Guerre tant par mer que par terre_[360] written in 1543. The
flag signals, which Bytharne says he had himself seen made at sea,
present no improvement on those already cited, and they may, as given
by Bytharne, be summarised as follows:

  To assemble the Captains for
  Council or to speak to them. The
  Captains to bring their best pilot
  and most experienced officer.

          A square banner tied in a weft[361]
          in the main mizen.

  On sighting strange ships.

          A square banner tied in a weft[362]
          halfway up the shrouds on the side
          on which the ships are seen.

  If the strange ships are numerous,

          Two flags as above, one over the

  If the Admiral, on receiving the
  above signal from one of the scouting
  ships, desires that they should
  go forward and reconnoitre.

          A banner on the fore mast inclined

  All ships to chase.

          A square banner between the
          main top and the small banner
          flown at the main topmasthead.

  Sighting land.

          A square banner in the main top
          inclined on the side on which land
          is seen.

  Ship in danger.

          Man in main top to swing banner
          round and round. Three guns in
          quick succession.

If we now turn to the contemporary instructions of the English navy
as given by Audley in his _Orders to be used in the King's Majesties
Navy by the Sea_ (c. 1530)[363], we are at once struck by the primitive
nature of the signals contained in them. They are as follows:

  Whensoever, and at all tymes the Admyrall doth shote of a pece
  of Ordinance, and set up his Banner of Councell on Starrborde
  bottocke[364] of his Shippe, everie shipps capten shall with spede
  go aborde the Admyrall to know his will.

  When and at all tymes the Admyrall will anker or disanker, he
  must shote a pece, that thereby the rest may know to do the same;
  and that no Shippe ride in an others walke, for in that is greate

  If they saile by night the Admirall must beare a greate light
  in the stearne of his Shippe, and if his fleete be greate, the
  Admirall must carie ij lights; and the Vice Admirall one, and the
  said Admirall must make such Saile over night that all his fleet
  may kepe about him; perchanse ells in the morning a greate parte of
  his flete may be out of his sight, for everie Shippe saileth not

  If it chance any Shippe in the night fall in leake, or breake his
  maste, he may shote a pece of Ordinance, or ij to warne the flete
  he hath harme and in perall, to the entent he may have helpe, and
  the rest to tarie.

  The Admyrall ought to have a swifte pynnes abord alwaies abrod to
  askrie so farre of that he may se the flete out of his toppe, and
  if he seeth any enemyes or any other sailes, geve knowlege to the
  Admyrall if they be any enemyes let him shote ij or iij peces of;
  in the meanetyme the Flete may put them self in order and councel
  before hand. Allwaies foreseing the pynnesse prease not so nighe
  the enemve that he might be apprehended, for by that the secrets
  might be knowne to the enemye, and evrie night he to cum into the
  flete agayne.

  If in the night there chanseth any enemyes unlooked for to fall
  into the flete, he that first doth askrie the same shall shote of
  ij peces, and geve a token of ij fyers and by that token shal be
  understande that they be enemyes that be in the Flete. Yf they do
  flee, let everie man make after, and that Shippe that is nighest
  beare a light in his Stearnye that the rest may know whether[365]
  the enemye goeth, for otherwise they may lose them: and if he that
  giveth the chace, se not the fleete follow, let him shoote of a
  pece, that they may follow by his shotte, in case they should not
  see his light.

  The Admyrall ought to have this order before he joyne battell
  w^{th} the enemye that all his shipps shall beare a flagge in their
  missentoppe and himself one in the foremaste beside the Mayne mast,
  that everie man may know his owne flete by that token....

Scanty and insufficient as are these signals, and they leave everything
to "councel" beforehand, there was no marked improvement on them until
the days of the Commonwealth and the First Dutch War. The Instructions
drawn up by Wynter[366] in the last year of Queen Mary's reign contain
only one flag signal--the banner of council--one night signal for
change of course, which is of interest as showing that the primitive
cresset was, in 1558, still in use in the English fleet:

  Item, in the night we do change our Course then the Admiral will
  bear a light in his Cresset for the space of one hour, whereby
  every Man may know what he ought to do; And all the night after
  none, and then he will show out a Lanthorn with a Candle light in
  the Mizon Shrowds.

one elementary recognition signal:

  Item, if any be separated as before said, and that they descry by
  fortune one another, to the end they may be assured that they are
  of one Company the one shall strike his foresail, and a Yaw[367],
  and to howse it and strike it in that sort, until he do think that
  the same be seen unto the other, and then shall the other answer
  him by striking of his foresail, and shooting of one good piece, so
  that by the signs they shall be certain the one of the other.

and one signal for use in fog, that seems as inefficient as the others:

  Item, if there do happen any great Mists, in such sort, that one
  cannot discern another, then according to the weather, or place
  we be in, we must order ourselves, that is to wit, if there be so
  room. The Admiral will strike his Sail, and shoot one piece then,
  whereby every Man may be warned to do the same, and if the Admiral
  will anchor, then he will shoot off two pieces, one after another,
  and strike the Sail incontinent upon the same, but if it so fortune
  that he can neither drive nor ride at Anchor, then every man mark
  well at the beginning of the mist what course the Admiral keepeth,
  and to do the same. And the said Admiral will within every Glass
  running shoot one piece for acknowledge, and because one may be the
  better warned of another, ye shall make noise with trumpets, drums,
  or knocking.

If any tactical instructions were issued to the fleet that engaged
the Spanish Armada they have not been preserved to us, but there is
no reason to suppose that they were--or would have been--any less
rudimentary than those we have just considered. They may be taken to be
represented by the "Rules in Sir John Hawkins his tyme" preserved among
the State Papers of James I[368]:

  5. Item that the fleetest pynassis doe waight still on the Admirall
  and be at hand y^t he maye upon all occasions send them from shipp
  to shipp as hee shall see Cause.

  12. Item that upon the settinge up of a flagge in the quarter of
  y^e Admiralls shipp every shipp come and speak w^h the Admirall.

  13. Item that when the Admirall shall set up his flag of Counsell
  in the shrowdes That then every Captayne shall repaire to knowe his

  14. Item when the Admirall shall cause a pece of ordinance to be
  shot of and a flagge of Counsell to be put out upon the mayne
  yard then shall all the other shipp reporte to the Admirall and
  the Captaynes w^h their M^r shall come in their boats aboard the

  19. Item If it fortune a strange shipp to fall into the fleet
  by night, that you dowbt them, you shall call unto them for the
  watchword. And if he or they have not the same then you shall hange
  up two lights one above the other on the same side of the shipp w^h
  you shall perceave them of, so as the rest of y^e shipp maye have
  warninge accordingly.

There is no provision in these "Rules" for any communication by
signalling. All orders are given either by word of mouth or by sending
a message by a pinnace.

The Instructions[369] for the Cadiz Expedition of 1596, elaborate as
they are in certain directions, provide few signals. There was, of
course, the "Flag of Council," half-mast high against the mizen-mast:
the royal standard for the "selected" council, and the St George for
all captains and masters. Each squadronal admiral might call the
captains and masters of his own squadron to his flagship for orders by
removing the white pendant (with which all ships were provided) from
his mizen yard and hanging it in the main yard "two men's height." If a
strange sail was sighted the nearest ship might chase it, but not more
than one was to do so unless the admiral of the squadron signalled for
two or three to go, by hanging out two or three flags (presumably any
flags that were handy) one over the other. If the squadronal admiral
himself bore up and chased, all might follow unless the Generals
(Essex or Howard) hung out the flag of council, when all were to give
over and keep their course. As a recognition signal, a ship that had
lost company was to strike and hoist the maintopsail twice, or in bad
weather the main mizen twice or as often as they liked.

The Instructions issued on various occasions during the next fifty
years present few points that concern us. They never contain more than
two or three signals, and those only of the type with which we are
already sufficiently familiar. It may, however, be of interest to note
the various forms taken by the "Flag of Council." In the Orders drawn
up by Raleigh in 1617 for his expedition to Guiana the form of this
flag is not indicated, apparently any flag might serve the purpose:

  When the Admirall shall hang out a flagg in the main shrowdes, you
  shall knowe it to be a flagg of counsell; then come aboard him[370].

For the voyage of Prince Charles to Spain in 1623 and for the Cadiz
Expedition of 1625 the arrangement was the same as in 1596--the royal
standard for the Council of War, or select council of the principal
officers, and the St George for a general council of all captains and
masters--but in August, 1628, Buckingham substituted the Union, or,
as he called it, the "Brittish," flag for the St George in calling
the general council. In September of that year, however, the Earl
of Lindsey was using the Union flag for the Council of War and the
St George for the council of Captains and Masters. The orders drawn
up by Pennington in 1631 and in 1639 present a fresh variation, the
separation of the Captains from the Masters:

  44. Whensoever you shall see the Brittish flagg spred in my myson
  shrowds, then all the Captains are to come aboard of me. If the Red
  Antient then both the Captains and Masters.

In 1635 Lindsey used the Union flag for the General Council, or Council
of War, but the signal for captains and masters was altered to the red
ensign, and this form was adopted by the Earl of Northumberland in 1636.

Before we proceed to consider the signals of the First Dutch War, which
heralded a new era, it will be desirable to refer to those contained in
the _Dialogues_ of Nathaniel Boteler. Boteler had served as captain in
the Cadiz Expedition of 1625 and in the Rochelle Expedition of 1627,
and seems to have written the first draft of the _Dialogues_ shortly
after the latter event. Judging from the manuscripts that remain, he
re-wrote parts of them at various times until 1634, but his remarks
on signals remain practically unaltered[371], and may be taken to
represent the ideal of English seamanship of that period. On comparing
them with Conflans' suggested instructions of 1515 it will be seen that
the English ideal was by no means a high one, yet it was not surpassed
until the Commonwealth Instructions were issued in 1654.

Speaking in guise of a seaman "Captain," who is instructing a court
"Admiral" in his duties, Boteler says:

  In the first place therfore, when the Generall entends upon such a
  daye to make out to Sea with his whole Fleete; a fitt Signall to
  expresse as much to every perticuler shypp may be, by causeinge his
  Topp-sayles to lie loose upon the Capps, very early that morneinge;
  and if itt prove to be hazie and darcke weather, soe that the
  fleete being great, or lieing scattered att an Anchor, may not well
  perceive it, Hee may then, about two or three houres before he
  begin to waye his Anchors cause fire to be given to a single Piece
  of Ordinance.

  Secondly, if a fleete being att sea, and occasions require a
  generall convention of the Captaines and Masters aborde the
  Admiralls shypp: A fitt signall to lett them know itt may be, to
  hang out a yellow flagge in the uppermost part of the Admiralls
  Maine Shrowdes: But if ther be entended only the comeinge aborde of
  the Counsell of Warre, then may ther be a blewe flagge hung out in
  the same place; for I conceive that this part is more proper then
  is the Missen Shrowdes, (though that be the most received place for
  this purpose) in regard that itt is more perceptable and may better
  be discovered.

  Thirdly, if the Generall shall finde cause, to cast about in the
  night (for if by daye, this asketh noe signall) besides the Light
  or Lanthorne, which every Admirall is to carry in the Poope, the
  most evidenceinge signe that I can thincke of may be, to put
  another light in the Maine-topp: And if Hee entend to lie a-Hull,
  to shewe two lights in the same place: If a-Trie, three lights, the
  which lights are soe to be carried untill itt be founde that the
  whole Fleete hathe taken notice of itt, and answere itt accordingly.

  Fourthly, If any Squadron or parte of the fleete, by beinge too
  forwards a-heade, shall be required to shorten sayle, and to attend
  the comeinge up of the Admirall; a Signe appropriated may be, to
  heave or wave an Ensigne abroade in the Admiralls Fore-topp, and to
  give fire to a great piece withall; And on the contrary, whensoever
  any of them keepe too farre a-sterne, to wave out the same flagge
  in the Missen-topp.

  Fifthly, If upon the discoverye of any straunge fleete or Shyp,
  the Generall find itt fitt to have any of the Pinnaces, and best
  saylers of his fleete, to stand in with them, and to require them
  to come to speake with him; an apte signe may be to give fire to
  a piece of Ordinance or two out of his own chase, and withall to
  shewe a flagge in his Bolt sprites Topp.

  Sixthly, Whensoever a Fleete shall meet with the Enemies fleete,
  and after due consultation aborde the Admirall, itt shall be found
  fitt to fight, the Admirall may take in his ordinary Ensigne from
  the poope of the shyp and hang out another all redd, which is
  tearmed the bloudy Colors; that soe all the fleete may dispose
  and order themselves to fall on upon the Enemie in such forme and
  fashion as they are before hand to be instructed in.

  And thes are such necessary Causes, to require any signalls to be
  expressed by the Generall himselfe, out of his perticuler Shypp:
  It followes, to intimate in some other perticulers, wherin every
  perticuler shypp of the fleete is to doe the like; hereby as well
  to give notice to the Generall himselfe or any of the rest.

  _Admiral._ And what are thes?

  _Captain._ If any Shyp of a fleete shall discover any straunge
  fleete, or any Squadron of straunge Shypps, or any single Shyp
  whatsoever; itt being necessary that not only the Generall, but the
  whole Armadoe, should with all expedition, receive advertisement
  hereof. A convenient signall to this purpose may be, to shewe
  abroade some flagge in that part of that Shyp which pointeth most
  upon the discovered Straunger; and if it be a fleete that is soe
  discovered, then to hang out two flagges in the same manner,
  and withall to give to a great Gunne or two, that so notice may
  generally be taken of what is done.

  Likewise, whensoever a fleete comeinge out of the Sea, expecteth
  a Landfall: the first Shyp of them that maketh Land is to give
  present notice therof to all the rest of the fleete; and this she
  is to doe, if itt be by daye, by shewinge her Colors abroade,
  though itt be (for the time) in the Maine-topp itt selfe,
  inclineinge and bendinge them towards that part whence Land is
  discovered; and if this discovery happen in the night, she is
  to shoote of two pieces of Ordinance and withall shewe a light
  abroade; and instantly cast about and stand off, that the residue
  of the fleete may take notice and beware.

  If any Shyp of a fleete shall find her selfe in daunger of
  founderinge in the Sea, by springeinge of a leake, or any the
  like mischaunce; if this bee by daye shee maye shoote off three
  pieces of Ordinance, and withall cause a youncker to goe upp to the
  Maine-topp and shewe a waft: And if this happen in the night time;
  then to continue this shooteinge ever and anon of a single piece,
  and withall to shewe a light, that notice may be taken by the Gunne
  and her selfe found out by the light, and so relieved. And because
  ther may be many occasions wherby a fleete may be far dispersed,
  and yet afterwards gett togither againe, and that itt is fitt, that
  upon the first ken one of another, they may be knowne one unto
  another and soe noe mistakeinges ensue, an apt Signall to this
  purpose, may be by the puttinge out and takeinge in of a flagge soe
  many times one after another as shall formerly be agreed upon, or
  by the soe often strikeinge of a Topp-sayle or the like; the which
  they are to answer one unto another.

Boteler's suggestion of yellow and blue flags as signals for calling a
Council is of especial interest as being the earliest proposal to use
special flags for making signals. Until the year 1654, signals--at any
rate in English fleets--were with two exceptions always made with the
flags already in use for other purposes, that is, with the Flags of
Command or Colours of Distinction, whose primary uses we have already
discussed. These two exceptions are the red flag of war and the white
flag of peace.

The red flag, or "bloody colours" as it was often called, and the white
flag are not mentioned in any of the early instructions. They were, in
fact, international signals and formed part of the traditional "Custom
of the Sea" which was never completely codified and, except so far as
it was gathered into such collections as the Rooles d'Oléron and the
Consolado del Mar, can now only be recovered by the laborious process
of collecting precedents.

The red flag, could we completely trace its descent, would no doubt
be found to have sprung from the "scarlet cloak" which the ancient
Greek navy seems to have borrowed from the Phoenicians, but we first
meet with it, so far as English ships are concerned, in the document
of _circa_ 1299 referred to above[372] in which is set forth the
injuries inflicted by the Normans on the shipping of England, Ireland
and Gascony (then subject to the English crown). In April a fleet of
English, Irish and Bayonne merchantmen set out from Portsmouth bound
for Bordeaux. Off St Mathieu, on the coast of Brittany, they anchored.
According to their own story, they were becalmed. News of their
presence reached a fleet of 290 ships of Normandy, then loading wine
in the river Charente. Leaving half their cargoes, in order that their
sailing might not be impeded, the Normans fitted up fore and after
castles and fighting tops at the mastheads and hoisted streamers of
red sendal two yards broad and thirty yards long, called "baucans," as
a sign that no quarter would be given[373]. A southerly wind having
now sprung up the Normans fell upon the other fleet, only to receive
a thorough beating. In refusing to give up the spoils taken on this
occasion, the allies explained to Edward I that when the "baucan"
had been raised in an engagement of this kind no one could be held
responsible for life or property taken[374].

Although the red flag was a recognised signal for combat among all
European nations, it was not until the year 1647 that it was formally
included in the English "Instructions." It remained in them until the
year 1799.

In the West Indies, so Cleirac tells us, the Spanish flag of combat was
blue: in European waters it was red, with the arms of Castile upon it.

The flag of peace, or truce, seems to have been adopted at sea about
the end of the fifteenth century, but although it may be regarded
from one point of view as a signal it will be convenient to defer our
consideration of it until we come to deal with the flag incidents
connected with the surrender of a ship[375].


It is evident from the foregoing sketch of the early history of flag
signals that up to the middle of the seventeenth century the signals
of the English navy were of the most elementary description. The
first steps towards the introduction of a more efficient system were
taken in 1647 when the "Right Honourable the Committee of the Lords
and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque Ports" issued "Instructions"
on a more elaborate plan. The general instructions, dated 6th April,
1647, are preserved; but, unfortunately, the "Instructions for
sailing," issued at the same time, which contained the signals, have
not yet been brought to light. From the "supplementary instructions"
preserved in the Harleian MSS., and printed by Sir Julian Corbett[377],
it may be inferred that the British navy was at length drawing on a
level with the navies of France and Spain in respect to its method of
communicating orders.

In 1653 a further great improvement was made[378], and a "code" of
instructions, with the accompanying signals, now appears, issued "By
the Right Honourable the Generals and Admirals of the Fleet," and
signed by Blake, Deane, and Monk. The following were the flags to be
used for signals: A weft of the ensign or jack, a pendant, and the
three flags--red, blue, and white--already in existence as flags of

The signal to "Engage the enemy," doubtless that used by Monk in
fighting Tromp, and by Blake in his last glorious action of Santa Cruz,
was made "by shooting-off two guns and putting a red flag over the fore

This Commonwealth code was further expanded in 1665, under the guidance
of the Duke of York, afterwards King James II. In a supplementary order
of the same year, a red and white striped flag first appears as the
signal to chase. In 1672 and 1673 the instructions and signals were
further amplified and then printed, being possibly the first set of
naval fighting instructions to be put into print.

In a finely bound manuscript copy of the 1673 Instructions, now in
the Admiralty Library, which, from internal evidence, was prepared
about 1689, we have the earliest surviving example of the "signal
book" proper. Hitherto the signals had been embodied in the various
Articles of Sailing and Fighting Instructions, the appropriate flag
being merely described in the text of each article, but no diagram or
coloured representation of the flag being given. In this MS. we have
for the first time coloured drawings of flags arranged in order, with
the meaning and place where hoisted against each in parallel columns, a
convenient method of systematising the signals that was not followed in
the official printed "Instructions" for a century.

The flags of the manuscript are as follows:

  Union Flag.
  The Standard.
  Red Ensign.
  Blue Ensign.
  White Ensign.
  Dutch Ensign (red, white, and blue in three horizontal stripes).
  A flag striped red and yellow from corner to corner.
  Red flag.
  Blue flag.
  White flag.
  A "Jack coloured with colours." (This was a "Union Jack," or small
      Union flag.)
  A pendant.
  A flag striped red and white horizontally.
  A flag striped red and white from corner to corner.
  White with red diagonal cross.

In other copies of the 1673 Instructions the last four are omitted, but
a flag striped yellow and white from corner to corner is mentioned as a
signal for fireships.

The Instructions of 1673 formed the basis of the instructions for the
next hundred years. They were issued in a revised form by Admiral
Russell in 1691 when the following signal flags were added:

  Striped yellow and white horizontally.
  Red and white.
  Genoese Ensign (similar to an elongated St. George's flag).

Russell's instructions were adopted by Rooke in 1703 with but slight
modification of the articles and with no change in the flags.

The year 1714 saw the issue of the first printed "Signal Book."
This was a private venture of one Jonathan Greenwood. The author
justifiably boasts that he has "disposed matters in such a manner that
any instruction may be found out in half a minute," and that he has
"made it a pocket volume that it may be at hand upon all occasions."
No doubt this duodecimo book was much more convenient than the folio
size Instructions. Each signal is represented by a drawing of a ship
flying the flag or flags of the signal at the proper place, the purport
being added underneath, a method which appears to have been in use in
the French navy at least 20 years earlier, for a Signal Book of 1693,
containing De Tourville's signals arranged on this plan, was exhibited
at the Franco-British Exhibition in 1908. Although the instructions
were regarded as confidential the signals apparently were not, as the
work is described as "designed to supply the Inferior Officers who
cannot have recourse to the Printed Instructions."

The next "Signal Book" proper was again a private venture and was
published by John Millan in 1746, "price 2_s._ 6_d._ plain and 4_s._
coloured." In this book the flags are set out along the tops of the
pages, and the signals made with them are classified below, according
to the different positions of the flags, with references to the numbers
of the articles of the various Instructions--"Sailing," "Fighting," and
"Additional"--in which the signals are laid down. The only new flags
appearing here are the following:

  White cross on red ground.
  Red cross on blue ground.
  Blue and white in two horizontal stripes.
  Red and white in two horizontal stripes.

In a manuscript signal book of ten years later, in the Library of the
Royal United Service Institution, we have the earliest representation
of a "chequered" flag. This book is interesting. It contains Hawke's
autograph, and is possibly the one in use by him when he "came sweeping
from the West" at Quiberon. The following are the flags then first

  Red, white, and blue in six horizontal stripes.
  Spanish flag.
  Blue and white in five horizontal stripes.
  Red and white chequered.
  Blue with six white balls[379].
  Yellow and blue chequered.
  Blue and white chequered pendant.

During the course of this--the "Seven Years'"--war a number of
"additional" sailing and fighting instructions were issued by the
Admiralty, to which the Admirals in command of fleets made some
additions of their own. The advance made by the end of the war is
indicated by a manuscript signal book dated 1762 containing the
"General Printed and Additional Signals delivered out by Sir Edward
Hawke." It illustrates the following flags:

  Red Ensign (called the "English Ensign").
  Red     }
  White   } plain flags.
  Blue    }
  Yellow  }
  Red and white, two          }
  Red and white, seven        }
  Blue and white, two         }
  Blue and white, seven       } horizontal stripes.
  Yellow and white, five      }
  Red, white and blue, three  }
  Red, white and blue, six    }
  Red and blue     }
  Red and white    } chequered.
  Blue and yellow  }
  Red with blue cross.
  Red with white cross.
  Blue with red cross.
  White with red cross.
  White with blue cross.
  Blue pierced with white square.
  Spanish flag.
  Red pendant.
  Red and white striped pendant.

To which, though they are not illustrated, were added a blue pendant
and a white pendant.

Development of signals henceforth became very rapid, and new flags had
to be invented to keep up with them. This is well seen in the signal
book used by Rodney in his memorable fight with De Grasse in 1782. Here
we have, in addition to flags already mentioned, the following new ones:

  Red and white, quarterly.
  Blue and white, quarterly.
  Red and blue, quarterly.
  *Red and blue, two horizontal stripes.
  *Blue and yellow, two horizontal stripes.
  Blue, red, and white, three horizontal stripes.
  Red, white, red, three horizontal stripes.
  *Blue, white, red, three horizontal stripes (inverted Dutch Ensign).
  Red pierced with white[380].
  White pierced with red.
  Yellow and blue, two vertical stripes.
  White and red, two vertical stripes.
  White with blue saltire.
  Yellow with blue cross.
  Blue and yellow in six horizontal stripes.
  Eight pendants.

In addition to these the white and blue ensigns were also to be used
for signalling purposes.

The flags marked * were also used inverted, as were also the
two-striped red and white and blue and white flags already in use.

The signal to "Prepare for battle" was the red flag at the main
topgallant masthead under the Admiral's flag.

To "Engage the enemy"; the same flag at the fore top masthead, just as
in 1653.

"To come to a closer engagement"; the blue and white flag (two
horizontal stripes) at the fore topgallant masthead under the signal
for engaging.

In this code we reach the culmination of the old system of signalling
by means of a large number of different flags each having a different
meaning according to the position in which it was shown.


The development of tactics and fleet organisation and the consequent
increase of the signals had been so rapid during the latter half of
the eighteenth century that the old methods had become inadequate. In
1746 there were 16 flags in use to express 144 signals, by 1780 there
were about 50 flags, each hoisted on an average in seven different
positions, providing for about 330 signals. Twenty-five years later the
Trafalgar signal book contained upwards of 400, not including those in
Popham's Code.

So long as the signals were few in number, so that the flags could be
made in a few strongly contrasted designs, and only the most prominent
positions need be used for them, the old system had the advantage of
simplicity, but when the signals multiplied, less conspicuous positions
and less strikingly differentiated flags had also to be made use of,
and simplicity gave place to complexity.

It must be remembered that flags at sea have to be distinguished not
only when a fair breeze is unfurling them plainly to the view; they
have also to be distinguished in a dead calm when they hang down along
the halyards, and when distance and haze lend enchantment to the view
but not to the signalman.

In order that the differences in the flags may be readily
distinguishable at sea in any circumstances two conditions are

(1) The colours must be quite unlike, so that they do not "merge" at a

(2) The designs of the flags must be simple and not complicated.

In practice this limits the colours to the following: Red, blue, and
yellow, with black and white. Moreover, it is found that when two of
these colours are to be shown in one flag they should be of one of the
following combinations: red and white, yellow and blue, blue and white,
or black and white. But with so many as 40 flags it was impossible to
adhere to these two rules.

The fact that no further development on old lines was possible was,
no doubt, widely comprehended; for Admiral Sir Chas Knowles tells us
that it was the Marquis of Hastings, an officer in the Army, then
in America, who first advised him to "strike out something new." The
first steps in the new direction were taken about 1778 by Kempenfelt,
Howe, and Sir Chas Knowles, each acting more or less independently.
There is no need to waste time in discussing the rival claims of
these admirals to be the inventor of the numerary method, because as
a matter of fact this method of denoting signals had been invented by
Mahé de la Bourdonnais, 40 years before, for use in the struggle he
was preparing to wage with us for the mastery of India and the East
Indies. La Bourdonnais was one of the most brilliant and versatile
officers that France has produced; but he was of somewhat obscure birth
when compared with the high nobility who at that period officered the
French navy, and he had been admitted to their ranks by a back door,
having first served in the French East India Company. Fortunately for
Great Britain, the jealousy of Dupleix and of La Bourdonnais' high-born
brother officers thwarted his plans, and finally resulted in his
recall to France. His signals seem never to have been adopted[381],
but the system is described by Bourdé de Villehuet in his book, _Le
Manœuvrier_, published in 1769, one of the classic works on tactics of
the eighteenth century. It is evident from an extract in one of his
letters to Lord Barham that it was from this source that Kempenfelt
became acquainted with the system.

The claim of Admiral Sir Chas Knowles to have "discovered the signals
by numbers" in 1778, which numeral signals he gave to Lord Howe on his
arrival at Newport, Rhode Island, may therefore be dismissed, so far as
discovery is concerned, but his claims to have "discovered the tabular
flags (suggested by a chessboard)" may possibly hold good.

Sir Chas Knowles's signals were not adopted in the navy, but as we
shall find "tabular flags" used in the Signal Books of Howe, it will be
well to explain the two methods.

When a signal code has been drawn up and the signals have been numbered
consecutively, the numbers may be represented by flags in two different

The simple numerary method, that invented by La Bourdonnais and finally
adopted by Howe for his principal signals, is to assign one flag to
each of the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0; so that by combining
the flags any desired signal number may be rendered.

The other, the tabular method, for which Sir Chas Knowles claims the
credit of invention, is more complicated. A chequered table like a
chessboard is ruled out, each side having a convenient number of
squares, 8, 9, 10, or more. Then, choosing the same number of flags,
these are laid out in order along the top, commencing at the left-hand
corner, and also down the left side. The signal numbers are then placed
in the squares of this table.

There will then obviously be two flags corresponding to each of the
numbers, the top flag being that at the head of the vertical column in
which the particular number is found, and the lower one that at the
left of the corresponding horizontal column. For example, supposing we
have three flags, red, white, and blue, they might be arranged as below:

          Red   White   Blue
  Red       1 |   4   |  7
  White     2 |   5   |  8
  Blue      3 |   6   |  9

The signal corresponding to 6 will then be a white flag over a blue one.

If the signals to be thus denoted number considerably more than 100,
it is convenient to form the table of 10 squares to a side, giving 100
squares in all. The first 100 numbers will then be written in, and by
the addition of suitable pendants to represent 100, 200, 300, etc., it
will be possible to denote any signal number from 1 upwards.

The disadvantage of this method is that the individual flags have no
fixed numerical value, and a reference to the table is necessary before
the number represented by the combined flags can be ascertained, and
_vice versâ_.

In spite of this drawback, this was the method first chosen by Howe for
all his signals[382], and it was used by him in his second numerary
code for those of his signals which were intended for the use of
private ships when communicating with the flagships, the numeral
signals of the La Bourdonnais method being in this code only used for
the Admiral's orders to his fleet. In the 1799 Signal Book the tabular
method was discontinued.

Some time before June, 1776, probably on being appointed to command
the North America Squadron in February of that year, Howe had compiled
a signal book on the old plan of single flags in particular positions,
condensed from the "general signal book," and containing all the
signals "likely to be needful on the present occasion."

The flags he employed were as follows, those marked * being also used

  St George.
  Red    }
  Yellow } plain flags.
  Blue   }
  White  }
  *Red and white    }
  *Red and blue     }
  *Blue and white   } in two horizontal stripes.
  *Red and yellow   }
  *Blue and yellow  }
  *Red, blue, white }
  *White, red, blue } in three horizontal stripes.
  Blue, white, red  }

A year or two later, probably in consultation with Kempenfelt, he drew
up the first of his codes on the numerary system. The signals were
divided into those for the Admiral and those for private ships. For
the former a "table" of 16 squares on each side was employed with the
following flags:

   1. Yellow cross on blue ground.
   2. Blue and yellow quarterly.
   3. Blue cross on yellow.
   4. Yellow.
   5. Blue and yellow chequered.
   6. White and red in two vertical stripes.
   7. Red, white, and red in three vertical stripes.
   8. Yellow and blue in two vertical stripes.
   9. White cross on red.
  10. Red and white chequered.
  11. Red and white in two horizontal stripes.
  12. Red and white quarterly.
  13. Blue and yellow in two horizontal stripes.
  14. Red.
  15. Blue, yellow, blue, in three vertical stripes.
  16. Yellow, blue, yellow, in three horizontal stripes.

The signals for "private" ships were mostly on the old plan of single
flags in particular positions.

To express numbers, as in the number of ships seen, depth of water,
latitude and longitude, a "table" of 10 squares each side was employed.
The flags of this were as follows:

  1. Union.
  2. Red.
  3. White.
  4. Blue.
  5. Red and white.
  6. Blue and yellow.
  7. Red, white, and blue.
  8. Red pendant.
  9. Yellow pendant.
  10. Red, white, and blue pendant,
  and a blue pendant to represent 100 for use in numbers from 101 upwards.

It will be noted that three of the most unsuitable of Rodney's flags,
the quarterly red and blue, striped red and blue, and the red with
blue cross, each of which would look like purple at a distance, had

About the same date Kempenfelt produced his own numerary code. He tells
Lord Barham, in a letter dated March, 1781[383], that the plan he
followed was not that he most approved of.

  That which I would have adopted--though most evidently the best--I
  could not get any of the Admirals or Officers of note to approve
  and countenance. I therefore followed in a great measure Lord
  Howe's mode, he being a popular character.

In this code the transition from the old to the new method is well
seen, for each signal has, besides a signal number for use after the
new method, a flag and position for use after the old, e.g.:

"Engage the enemy" could be signalled as No. 224 or by means of a red
flag at the fore topmast head.

"Prepare for battle" by the same flag at the fore topmast shrouds, or
as No. 226.

"Come to closer engagement" by a red and white flag (two horizontal
stripes) at the main topmast head, or as No. 171.

A special signal was provided to denote that the numerary signals
were going to be used for practice, when every ship was to note down
the significations. Kempenfelt improved upon Howe in that he did not
separate out the "Private ship" signals, but included all in one series
of more than 400 numbers. The flags for signalling by the old method
were mostly the same as those already in use. His "table" for the new
method was of 10 squares a side, as follows:

   1. Union.
   2. Yellow.
   3. Blue and yellow, chequered.
   4. Red pierced with white.
   5. White cross on red ground.
   6. Blue cross on yellow ground.
   7. Red and white, quarterly.
   8. White and red in two vertical stripes.
   9. Yellow and blue in two vertical stripes.
  10. Red and white in four horizontal stripes.
      With pendants for 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500.

Further development of this code ceased in 1782 on Kempenfelt's tragic
end in the 'Royal George.'

[Illustration: PLATE XIII Numerary Signal Flags, (1790-1810)]

From 1783 to 1788 Howe held office as First Lord of the Admiralty,
and seems to have devoted part of his time to the improvement of the
tactics of the Fighting Instructions and of their accompanying signals.
He elaborated a new signal book, which he introduced into the navy on
taking command of the Channel fleet. In this new book he abandoned
the "tabular" method so far as the bulk of the signals--the Admiral's
signals--were concerned, employing instead the simple numerary method,
and for these numerals he chose the flags that were afterwards, in
their transposed meanings, used at Trafalgar. For this reason, and
because it was the code used on the "glorious First of June," and at
Camperdown, and was the basis of those used at St Vincent, the Nile,
Copenhagen, and Trafalgar, it is important to consider it in some

This second numerary code of Howe, the _Signal Book for the Ships of
War_ of 1790, is a quarto[384] volume of 85 pages.

After three pages of explanatory instructions relative to the method of
making the signals, distinctness, destruction of signal books in danger
of falling into the hands of the enemy, etc., follow two pages relative
to the triangular distinguishing flags of squadrons. We then come to
the Admiral's signals--nearly 200 in number, commencing at 10. These
were, as already stated, in the "simple numerary" system invented by La
Bourdonnais, in which each signal number is represented by the numeral
flags corresponding to the figures composing it.

The numeral flags, five of which--Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7--are new to
us, are shown in the accompanying plate. Each of these numeral flags
had, however, another signification when hoisted singly, as follows:

  1. Enemy in sight.
  2. Form in order of sailing by divisions.
  3. Form established order of sailing.
  4. Take and keep stations.
  5. Engage the enemy.
  6. Signal not understood.
  7. To chase.
  8. To anchor.
  9. Leave off chase.
  0. Negative answer.

In addition to these, the following flags were to be used:

  White cross on red ground.--Affirmative answer.
  White with red border.--Annul.
  Union.--To call officers.
  Blue and yellow chequered.--Rendezvous.
  Yellow.--To distinguish signals made to the fireships.
  White with red border and pierced with blue.--Transpose the numeral
  Red and white, yellow and blue, and their inversions.--For the four
      quarters of the compass.
  Blue cornet[385].--First signal to be carried out in the manner
      denoted by the remainder.
  Red and white striped.--Substitute. To repeat the flag next above it.
  Blue and white striped.--Preparative.
  White flag:--
    (1) Truce.
    (2) Open secret instructions.
    (3) Signal made herewith is to take effect after the close of day.

To illustrate the use of the two latter flags we may take Nelson's
signal at Trafalgar, "Prepare to anchor after the close of day."

This signal consisted of four flags in one hoist:

  No. 6 }
  No. 3 } Anchor as soon as convenient.
  White flag.

When a "Preparative" flag was hoisted with a signal it denoted that the
order was not to be immediately obeyed[386]. If hauled down together
with the signal, preparation was to be made to obey the latter directly
the Admiral hoisted it again. If hauled down and the signal left
flying, the latter was then to be carried into execution. Nelson had
intended to hoist the signal to anchor (63) as soon as the fighting
was over, with a view to securing his battered ships and their prizes
against the bad weather he saw coming on, but Collingwood could not
carry out the intention.

The white flag had, in the Admiralty copy of the 1790 book, four
meanings. Alone, in battle, it denoted truce; hoisted at the fore
topmast head it could be used to call in distant ships; when hoisted
with other flags it signified that the signal denoted by them was
not to be carried into effect until the day closed; and, finally, it
denoted an order to open secret instructions. In the Signal Book of
1793 the two latter significations were denoted by a black and white
flag, the former when black was uppermost and the latter when white
was uppermost. In 1805 the white flag had the first and third of these
meanings, besides denoting numeral 8.

The Admiral's flags and signals of Howe's second code, as used on 1st
June, 1794, are reproduced in vol. 1 of _Logs of the Great Sea Fights_
(Navy Records Society).

These Admiral's, or "Numeral signals," as they are called by Howe
in contradistinction to his tabular "Signals by private ships," are
grouped under various headings, beginning with "Battle," "Bear-up,"
"Bring-to," and going on to "Enemy," "Engage," "Line," "Order," "Sail,"
"Tack," etc.

We then have certain subsidiary pendant signals, of which the most
important are: a chequered blue and yellow pendant to denote that
accompanying numeral flags represented figures only, and a quartered
red and white pendant to serve the purpose of a note of interrogation.

Now follow nine signals made with sails and guns, a quaint survival
that disappears in 1799 [Except No. 1. This was No. 174 of the '99
Code, but could be made by the fore topsail if desired.] The following
are their purports:

  1. "To prepare for sailing," denoted by loosing the fore topsail,
  just as in Rooke's Instructions of 1703. 2. Every one to repair to
  his respective ship. 3. Recalling ships. 4. Unmoor. 5. Weigh. 6.
  Moor (denoted by "Main topsail loose in top"). 8. Cut or slip. 9.
  Fast on shoal.

We next have 14 signals for calling officers to take orders, made with
the Union flag in different positions; a few signals to fireships,
made with the yellow flag; 20 fog signals made with guns; and then the
tabular signals for private ships. The "table" provided for these shows
a slight variation on the usual form. It is not quite square, being 8
wide and 9 deep, as the first flag space on the left side is blank, so
that the first row 1 to 8 is made by single flags. The flags used are:

  1. Red.
  2. Blue.
  3. White over red, two horizontal stripes.
  4. The same inverted.
  5. Blue over yellow, two horizontal stripes.
  6. The same inverted.
  7. Union.
  8. Blue, white, red, horizontally.

Stars are placed in the four squares whose flags would be one of the
invertible flags over its own inversion, probably because there was
only one flag supplied of each design, and the other squares are
numbered 1 to 68. Sixty-one signals are given. We then have half a
dozen signals with Jacks, Pendants, and Wefts, Signals for each point
of the compass, ending with 11 pages of Night signals.

Perhaps the best testimony of the value of this book is given in the
letter from Nelson to Howe in acknowledgment of his congratulations on
the victory of the Nile:

  8th January 1799.

  It was only this moment that I had the invaluable approbation of
  the great, the immortal Earl Howe, an honour the most flattering a
  Sea-Officer could receive, as it comes from the first and greatest
  Sea-Officer the world has ever produced. I had the happiness to
  command a Band of Brothers; therefore night was to my advantage.
  Each knew his duty, and I was sure each would feel for a French
  ship. By attacking the enemy's van and centre, the wind blowing
  directly along their Line, I was enabled to throw what force I
  pleased on a few Ships. This plan my friends conceived by the
  signals (for which we are principally if not entirely indebted
  to your Lordship) and we always kept a superior force to the

Meanwhile, John McArthur, a purser in the navy, who had during the war
of American Independence been frequently stationed to observe signals
in the fleet and had therefore practical experience of the delays,
difficulties and misunderstandings that occurred with the older methods
of signalling by flags in particular positions, had been for many years
at work on a new code which he submitted to the Admiralty in 1790. The
basis of this plan was the old tabular system with two flags hoisted
together or separately at the most conspicuous parts of the ship. The
code contained upwards of 550 signals, with provision for an indefinite
increase, and incorporated an ingenious device for continuously
altering the numerical value of the flags. It was an advance upon
any of the codes hitherto in use, but "some scruples of delicacy
intervened in the adoption of any new plan of signals which would
supersede that of Earl Howe's numerary code," and it was not adopted.
Nevertheless, it attracted the attention of Hood, then the Senior Sea
Lord, and on his appointment to command the Russian armament in 1791
he made McArthur his secretary. McArthur then turned his attention to
re-arranging Howe's signals "by simplifying the form with Indices for
facilitating their being made and understood, and engrafting in the
body and instructions many new ideas and instructions of his own." Howe
approved of the alterations, and the revised code was then printed and
issued to Hood's fleet. This "new arrangement" was introduced by Hood
in 1793 into the Mediterranean and continued to be used there until
1799. It was the signal book in use at the Battles of St Vincent and
the Nile. In it the values of Howe's numeral flags, as shown in Col. 1
of Plate XIII, were transposed as follows: 1 became 4; 2, 9; 3, 7; 4,
2; 5, 6; 6, 0; 7, 8; 8, 5; 9, 3; and 0, 1. The tabular flags were also
transposed, 1 becoming 8; 2, 7; 3, 5; 5, 3; 6, 2; 7, 1; 8, 6; while 4
remained of the same value.


With the compilation, in 1790, of Howe's second signal book, we
have the end of that system, or want of system, which is especially
noticeable during the American War of Independence, under which the
signals used in each fleet or squadron varied with the idiosyncrasies
of each individual commander-in-chief. Henceforth, although it was
usual for the admiral commanding each fleet to add a few of his own
devising, the bulk of the signals were, so to speak, stereotyped in
form, and were in general use throughout the British navy.

In 1799 the _Signal Book for the Ships of War_ was increased in size to
167 pages by the addition of an index to the signals and the inclusion
of the printed instructions. The "Private ship" signals were placed at
the end of the "Admiral's signals" and numbered consecutively after
them, so that the "tabular" flags disappear, and all signals are
henceforth made by the simple numerary code, the total number being
increased from about 260 to 340.

It will be seen from the plate of numeral flags that Howe's numerals
were continued in the 1799 book with only two slight modifications: No.
1, instead of being a plain red flag, became yellow, red, yellow, in
three equal horizontal stripes, and the substitute became plain white.
But his arrangement was simplified. The half black and white flags were
done away with as unnecessary, since their meanings could equally well
be expressed by those remaining.

In addition to the signal book, each commander-in-chief compiled for
his own fleet a tabular "pendant board," on which two pendants were
assigned to the name of each ship of his fleet. By this means he was
enabled to address any of the signals to a particular ship, without
making the command general to the whole squadron. For example, Nelson,
at Trafalgar, before making general his favourite signal, "Engage the
enemy more closely," addressed it particularly to the 'Africa,' which,
having become separated over night, found herself at a distance from
the two columns, and, just before the commencement of the action, was
sailing near to the enemy's van, on an opposite and parallel course.
This he did by hoisting flags Nos. 1 and 6, together with the pendants
appropriated to the 'Africa's' name on the "pendant board."

But a code for signalling or other purposes is like a language; if the
language is what we call "dead," i.e. if words have ceased to be added
to it, it is of little use for expressing every-day needs. Similarly,
if the navy is not stagnating, continual amplification of tactics or of
every-day details necessitates an increase in the range of conversation
between the Admiral and his fleet. Although at the time of the battle
of Trafalgar the signal book was only six years old, it had already
had its range of signals increased by upwards of 80 additions, made in
manuscript, on such varied matters as:

  412. "The ships or vessels chased have separated on different courses."
  280. "Send for fresh beef immediately."
  291. "Engage the enemy as close as possible."

This last is the third signal provided for close engagement, the others
being "Engage the enemy more closely," expressed either by No. 16 (the
signal Nelson favoured), or by the red pendant over the quarter-red and
white flag.

The need for a more flexible method of communication than that of
set sentences had long been felt. Rodney and Howe had both found it
impossible, in face of the enemy, to make their instructions clear to
their captains, and even without this distraction, in bad weather, when
ships could not get near enough for the voice to carry from one to
another even with the assistance of the speaking trumpet, or when the
roar of the gale rendered speech of no avail except within a range of a
very few feet, while the launching of a boat was out of the question,
much inconvenience had often been felt. Even when verbal communication
was possible, much time was lost in closing near enough to make it.

The steps to remedy this impediment--to make, as it were, the
flag-language more civilised, so that it might express refinements of
thought in one direction and little every-day wants in another, to
increase, that is, its scope of expression from that of a child to that
of a grown man--were first taken by Sir Home Popham.

It may be that in this matter, as in so many other inventions, the
first to make some practical use of an idea got that idea at second
hand[388]. However this may be in Popham's case, it is clear that
the labour of perfecting the invention and what is perhaps equally
important, of persuading others that it was really worth a trial,
was undertaken by Popham alone. For twelve years the books which he
produced were privately printed by him, and from the free-handed way
in which he gave them to his brother officers when urging them to try
this code, it is probable that he carried out his propaganda at some
pecuniary expense to himself. The idea that dominated it was to provide
parts of speech and let the users make their own sentences whenever
those in the signal book did not suffice. It was the step from a
"Traveller's Manual of Conversation" to a dictionary of the language.

Popham tells us that his _Telegraphic Signals, or Marine Vocabulary_
("telegraphic" being, of course, used thirty years before the invention
of the electric telegraph, in its primary sense of writing at a
distance) was originally compiled in 1800, to facilitate the conveyance
of messages from Popham's ship, the 'Romney,' off Copenhagen, to
Admiral Dickson, off Elsinore, when that officer, with a squadron of
ships, was giving additional weight to the British Ministers' arguments
with the Danish Court. "Its utility was in that instance so obvious and
so generally allowed by the Captains of the North Sea Squadron that Sir
Home Popham conceived it might be brought into more extensive practice."

The first edition of this code consisted of nearly 1000 words chosen by
Popham from the dictionary as most useful for naval purposes. In 1803 a
second part, consisting of nearly 1000 less useful words, and a third
part, consisting of nearly 1000 "sentences most applicable to military
or general conversation" were added. To prevent the signal numbers from
becoming unduly high, derivations were grouped with their root-word,
e.g. expedite, expedited, expediting, expedition, and expeditious were
each expressed by No. 270, it being left for the receiver to determine
the exact word by the context. Further, "In verbs, the number, person,
tense and mood" had to "be applied to the sense of the sentence."
When the exact word was not in the vocabulary, the one most nearly
synonymous was to be adopted, but "should it be of any consequence to
use a word not in the vocabulary," it could be spelt by the numerical
alphabet, which was known by the numbers 1 to 25. It may be noted, as
the solution of the conundrum that has puzzled many in spelling out
"duty" in Nelson's celebrated signal that in this alphabet, not only
are I and J treated as one letter, but V precedes U.

Thus, in the preparation for that signal, when Pasco told Nelson that
"confides" was not in the vocabulary, he suggested the "one nearest
synonymous," namely, "expects," as this latter could be expressed by
three flags in one hoist, while "confides" required 11 flags in eight
hoists. "Duty," however, had to be spelt[389]. The sentiment of the
signal had been sufficiently spoilt by the substitution of "expects"
for "confides"; the further substitution of "best" or "utmost" would
have hopelessly ruined it.

When the words of the message had been chosen from the vocabulary and
their corresponding numbers written down for the signalman's guidance,
it remained to translate them into flags. To do this required nine
flags to represent the figures 1 to 9, and one flag to represent the
cipher. It was convenient to add one or two substitute flags to say
"ditto," in case not more than one flag of each numeral was available,
with two flags for "yes" and "no."

Popham found all these flags already provided in the 1799 _Signal Book
for the Ships of War_, but the thousands he expressed thus: numbers
between 1000 and 2000 by a ball or pendant placed above the "hoist,"
or group of three flags representing the hundreds, tens, and units;
and numbers above 2000 by a similar ball or pendant placed below the
"hoist." This was done to avoid unduly increasing the "substitute"
flags, as one set of numeral flags was often all that was available,
and for the same reason such numbers as 333, 888, 2222 were omitted
from the code.

All that was now wanted was a flag to denote whether the signal hoisted
was to be deciphered by the Signal Book or by the Vocabulary Code. For
this purpose Popham designed a flag divided diagonally into white and
red to be used as a "preparative" or "telegraph" flag, with all signals
made in his code. This was hoisted before the message started, and
hauled down when it finished.

Such were the signal books in use at Trafalgar, and in the hands of a
man like Nelson, who did not keep his tactical ideas to himself, but
discussed them freely with his captains during the months of watching
and preparation, they proved amply sufficient for the purpose.

But suppose the books were captured by the enemy; how then? In such
an event, which all captains were told to guard against by throwing
the books overboard if there was any probability of their ship being
captured, the most effective precaution was to change the whole of the
signal numbers, both in the general signals and in the vocabulary, but
this was a heavy task.

A less effective method was to transpose all the flags. It was less
effective since, _ex hypothesi_, the enemy had the signal books, they
had therefore only to note the colours of the flags which preceded
some easily recognised manoeuvre, such as "Make more sail," "Bear up
and sail large," to discover what flags were now being used to indicate
the signal numbers which they saw against that signal. A little
patience and ingenuity would then supply the key to the changes in the
flags, whereas if all the signal numbers were irregularly transposed,
each signal would have to be re-constituted separately by the enemy.

About fifteen months before Trafalgar the 12-gun schooner, 'Redbridge,'
commanded by a Lieut. Lemprière, who, to judge by Nelson's remarks
about him, was not particularly efficient, was captured by some French
frigates off Toulon. Such a small ship, commanded by an officer of
such subordinate rank, was not allowed the confidential signal books,
but Lemprière had, in common with many other junior officers, obtained
a surreptitious copy for himself--one of those little manuscript and
hand-painted signal books one sees in museums, or occasionally picks up
in second-hand book shops.

This book Lieut. Lemprière had neglected to throw overboard, and when,
later on, one of Nelson's scouts, looking into Toulon harbour to see if
the French were getting on comfortably, found the captured 'Redbridge'
just outside, the latter made the signal for the scout ship to anchor;
but fortunately the officer in command was a little sharper than the
'Redbridge's' late commander had been, and the net was spread in vain.

Directly Nelson learned this he changed the flags and reported the
matter to the Admiralty. On the 4th November, the Admiralty, despite
the objection of Lord Keith that a change of signal numbers would be
better, issued a circular letter to all commanders-in-chief telling
them to alter their numeral flags in accordance with a painted copy
enclosed with the letter. These are the flags shown in the third column
of the plate. Further, as their Lordships had reason to apprehend that
Lieut. Lemprière was not the only officer under commander's rank who
had obtained a copy of the signal book, the strictest injunctions were
to be given that such improper proceedings were not to take place in
future, and existing irregular copies were to be impounded.

The flags in use in the Mediterranean were changed in numerical value
in accordance with the Admiralty order on the 16th January, 1804, and
these new numeral flags were the ones used at Trafalgar, and, in fact,
until the end of 1810[390].

We have seen that Howe's second code, first in its original form, next
as re-arranged by McArthur, and finally as simplified and expanded for
the 1799 Signal Book, in each case with practically the same numeral
flags, sufficed, when supplemented by Popham's Vocabulary, for the
navy's needs throughout the most sustained and strenuous struggle that
until the recent war had ever fallen to its lot[391].

Towards the close of this period, however, Popham, who seems to have
devoted all the time not required for his professional duties, or for
defence against the attacks made upon him, to the improvement of his
code[392], brought out a greatly enlarged and improved vocabulary,
which is best described in his own words:

  The present edition is wholly new cast and composed; very
  considerably enlarged by additional materials; and, as I trust,
  improved by a distribution of those materials which was intended to
  increase the facility of reference.

  It consists of nearly 6,000 primitive words, exclusive of the
  inflexions of verbs, &c., making in all upwards of 30,000 real
  words; the sentences have also been extended to about 6,000, with
  1,500 syllables, a Geographical Table, a Table of Technical Terms,
  a Table of Stores and Provisions, and a Spare Table for Local

With so large a number of signals the limitation in the number of
flags that can be conveniently hoisted at a time made itself at once
felt, and Popham found himself compelled to abandon the "simple
numerary" method. Taking the limit of convenience at three flags,
the ten numeral flags of the Admiralty Signal Book would suffice for
only 999 signals. Popham, therefore, after calculating the number of
combinations available with various sets of flags, chose 23. These,
which were mostly of his own design, he denoted by the numbers 1 to 9
and the letters A to O. With these 23 flags the number of available
combinations is as follows:

  Singly                        23
  Two at a time                506
  Three at a time           10,626
                  Total     11,155

So that upwards of 11,000 signals could be made using no more than
three flags in one hoist.

Hoisting four flags at a time, the number of possible signals with 23
flags is increased by 212,520, making 223,675 in all, sufficient for
the most exhaustive vocabulary. If this code had been invented seven
years earlier, Nelson could have made his signal in precisely his own
words, the first three of which would have been as follows: England,
69B; confides, 5I3; that, B67. Curiously enough, Popham, in 1812, seems
to have preferred "confides" to "expects," for the former was one of
"most needed" words and could be made by three flags, whereas "expects"
was No. 6138 and required four.

In demonstrating the extensive use to which his code could be put,
Popham gives one or two amusing illustrations, apparently in all
seriousness. Thus:

  FA1  Have you an idea
  G647 a change of ministers is about to take place

  52A  Certainly
  8BF  not
  G643 ministers are gaining strength

  BOE  Your
  AC8  sister
  852  married
  85F  to
  C87  a Lord of the Admiralty

This vocabulary, published in 1812, was such an evident improvement
that it was issued to the fleet in 1813.

In 1816 it was revised by Popham and re-issued by the Admiralty as an
official Vocabulary Signal Book. Eleven years later the signal books
were again revised and re-cast in three volumes:--

1. The General Signal Book, containing evolutionary and battle signals,
to which the numeral flags were henceforth appropriated.

2. The Vocabulary Signal Book, containing words and general sentences,
to which were appropriated the alphabetical flags, now increased to 21
by the addition of P, Q, R, S, T, V, and Y.

3. Night and fog signals.

In 1882, W was substituted for V and slight alterations were made in
some of the flags, and in 1889, when the signal books underwent a
more extensive revision, the alphabetical series was completed by the
inclusion of all the letters, and a series of numeral pendants was
added. The flags thus finally established in 1889 remain in use to this
day. It may be observed that they contain a number of survivals from
Howe's Code of 1790, four indeed with their original significance. They
are as follows:

  (1) An alphabetical series, in which many of the flags are of the
  same design as those in the International Code (see p. 184) but
  with different significations, as follows:

  A flag, diagonally striped yellow & red        = Y of Internat^l Code

  B flag, white, bordered with blue & pierced
  with red                                       = W    "    "    "

  C flag, divided diagonally yellow, blue, red
  & black                                        = Z    "    "    "

  D Pilot Jack (Union Jack with white border[393])

  E flag, divided horizontally blue, white, blue = J    "    "    "

  F flag quarterly yellow & black                = L of Internat^l Code

  G flag divided vertically white, black, white

  H flag, yellow with black ball                 = I    "    "    "

  I flag, blue with yellow saltire               = Numeral 7 of 1790

  J pendant, divided vertically white & red

  K flag, divided horizontally yellow & blue

  L flag, white with red saltire                 = V of Intern^l Code

  M pendant, divided horizontally red, yellow,

  N pendant, divided horizontally yellow, blue,

  O flag, divided diagonally red & yellow        = O    "    "    "

  P pendant, blue with white cross

  Q pendant, red

  R pendant, yellow with red cross

  S pendant, divided vertically blue & yellow

  T pendant, blue with white ball                = D    "    "    "

  U burgee, divided vertically white & blue      = A    "    "    "

  V flag, white pierced blue                     = S    "    "    "

  W flag, yellow                                 = Q    "    "    "

  X pendant, striped vertically black & yellow

  Y pendant, white with red border

  Z flag, chequered blue & white                 = N    "    "    "

  Affirmative }
  Preparative } as in 1790 (see Plate XIII)
  Negative      flag, white with 5 black crosses

  (2) A series of numeral flags:--

  1 as No. 5 in 1790
  2   "    2   "
  3 flag, chequered yellow & blue
  4 as No. 9 in 1790
  5 flag, divided horizontally red & white
  6 as No. 8 in 1790
  7      "    "
  8 flag divided vertically red, white, blue
  9 as "Dissent" in 1790
  0 as No. 0 in 1790

  (3) A series of numbered and special pendants:--

  1 divided vertically red, white, blue
  2    "    horizontally     "     "
  3 white with red cross
  4 striped vertically white & red (16 stripes)

  6 white with 2 black crosses
  7 divided quarterly white, black, yellow, red
  8 red
  9 white with red ball
  0 divided vertically yellow & blue
  Interrogative divided quarterly red & white
  Answering       "     vertically  "    "
  Guard, red with white cross
  Numeral, chequered blue & yellow
  Church, as No. 2 but with St. George's Cross in chief.

These pendants are all of a different shape from those employed in
the alphabetical series, being more narrow and elongated, and cut off
square at the end, whereas the former are almost equilateral and might
perhaps be more correctly designated as "triangular flags."

The "substitutes" used are as follows:

  1st. (repeating the 1st. flag or pendant of a "series") the Affirmative
  2nd. (      "       2nd.       "       "       "      ) Answering
  3rd. (      "       3rd.       "       "       "      ) No. 2 pendant
  4th. (      "       4th.       "       "       "      ) No. 0   "
  1st. (when using the numbered pendants) Interrogative pendant
  2nd. (      "         "       "       ) Answering        "

With these we have probably reached the final development of form so
far as flag signals are concerned, for wireless has taken the place
of visual signalling to such an extent that it is not likely that
circumstances can now arise that will necessitate any radical recasting
of the flag signal system.


Some elementary flag signals, notably that for a pilot, were in use
among merchantmen at least as early as the fifteenth century, but the
first attempt to supply a code of signals suitable for merchant ships
appears to have been that made by Sir Home Popham in 1804, when, at the
request of the East India Company, he compiled a book of "Commercial
and Military Signals" for the use of the ships in their service. In
this book the "military" element preponderates, as might be expected
from the circumstances of the time at which it was drawn up. The
signals relate almost exclusively to the fighting and manoeuvring of
ships sailing in convoy. After the peace, in 1817, Captain Frederick
Marryat drew up what may be regarded as the precurser of modern
commercial codes. It was in six parts, each in the simple numerary
system, with a distinguishing flag to indicate the part to which the
signal related. The parts were as follows: 1. Names of men-of-war. 2.
Names of merchantmen. 3. Ports, headlands, etc. 4. Sentences on various
subjects. 5 and 6. A vocabulary adapted from Popham. This signal book
went through ten editions before the author's death in 1848.

In 1855, owing to the enormous increase in communication by sea, and
the adoption of an official number for every merchant ship imposed by
the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, the need for a much more ample
code had become urgent, and the Board of Trade appointed a Committee
to draw up a new one. This committee reported that an efficient code
"ought to provide for not less than 20,000 distinct signals and should,
besides, be capable of designating not less than 50,000 ships, with
power of extension if required." They further stated that "a signal
should not consist of more than four flags or symbols at one hoist,"
and pointed out that under this condition the ten numerals without
repeaters would make only 5860 signals, or 9999 signals with three
repeaters. They therefore abandoned the numeral system and chose 18
flags which, by using two, three, or four flags together, allowed of
78,642 permutations. These 18 flags, which embodied most of those
already in use in Marryat's Code unchanged, or with slight alteration,
were designated by the letters of the alphabet except a, e, i, o, u,
x, y, z, the vowels being omitted because "by introducing them every
objectionable word composed of four letters or less, not only in our
own but in foreign languages, would appear in the code in the course of
the permutation of the letters of the alphabet."

The flags adopted were as follows:

  B  red burgee (flag with swallow-tailed fly)
  C  pendant white with red ball
  D    "     blue with white ball
  F    "     red   "     "     "
  G    "     divided vertically yellow and blue
  H  flag divided vertically white and red
  J    "    "     horizontally blue, white, blue
  K    "    "     vertically yellow and blue
  L    "    "     quarterly blue and yellow
  M    "  blue with white saltire
  N    "  chequered blue and white
  P    "  blue pierced with white square (the blue Peter)
  Q    "  yellow
  R    "  red with yellow cross
  S    "  white pierced with blue square
  T    "  divided vertically red, white, blue
  V    "  white with red saltire
  W    "  blue bordered white pierced with red square,

and an "Answering Signal" or Code Pendant divided vertically red and
white in five stripes. In 1857 this "Commercial Code of Signals for
use of all Nations" was issued by the Board of Trade, and it sufficed
for the needs of the next thirty years, the name being changed to
International Code about 1880. At the end of that period the Board of
Trade appointed a Committee to bring it up to date and to consider
whether a system of night signals should be added to it. In 1899 this
Committee submitted a revision of the Code "which differed from that
then current only in the omission of certain signals which had become
obsolete and the substitution of certain other signals for which modern
developments had created a demand." The criticisms of the foreign
maritime powers upon this book led, however, to a complete revision and
recasting of the old code for reasons which the Committee summarise in
their final report[394] in 1896 in the following words:

  Since the old Code of signals was first issued there has been
  a very considerable increase in the average speed of vessels
  belonging to the Mercantile Marine, owing both to the larger
  percentage of steamers as compared with sailing vessels and to the
  greater speed to which steamers now attain. Vessels consequently
  remain within signalling distance of one another and of signal
  stations for a much shorter time than was the case 40 years ago,
  and it is necessary that an efficient Code of signals should
  provide the means of rapid communication. In a Code, such as the
  International Code, in which signals are made chiefly by means of
  flags, rapidity of communication can best be secured by reducing
  to a minimum the number of flags required to make the signals,
  since every additional flag in a hoist involves delay in bending
  on the flags on the part of the person making the signals and
  delay in making out the flags on the part of the person taking in
  the signals, and to enable this to be done without the number of
  signals in the Code being reduced, it was necessary to provide an
  increased number of two or three flag signals by adding additional
  flags to the Code.

  The number of signals which can be made by permutations of 18
  flags, no flag being used more than once in the same hoist, is as

  One-flag signals                                18
  Two-flag signals                               306
  Three-flag signals                           4,896
  Four-flag signals                           73,440
                  Total                       78,660

  The number of signals actually provided in the old Code which can
  be made by the Code flags is:--

  One-flag signals                                 4
  Two-flag signals                               215
  Three-flag signals about                     4,500
    (_a_) Four-flag signals, excluding those  }
        representing the names of places    }
        and ships, about              8,700 }
    (_b_) Four-flag signals representing the  } 29,600
        names of places, about        3,400 }
    (_c_) Four-flag signals representing the  }
        names of ships, about        17,500 }
                  Total about                 34,319

  The following is the number of signals which can be made by means of
  the 26 flags which we have adopted, no flag being used more than
  once in the same hoist:--

  One-flag signals                                26
  Two-flag signals                               650
  Three-flag signals                          15,600
  Four-flag signals                          358,800
                  Total                      375,076

  Moreover, by using the Code pennant over and under one or two flags
  of the Code, the following additional signals made by not more than
  three flags are obtainable:--

  Code Pennant over one flag                      26
  Code Pennant under one flag                     26
  Code Pennant over two flags                    650
  Code Pennant under two flags                   650
                  Total                        1,352

  It will therefore be seen that by the adoption of the eight
  additional flags, many of the more important signals which have
  at present to be made by three-flag hoists can be converted into
  two-flag signals, and that all the four-flag signals (excluding
  those representing the names of places and of ships) in the old
  Code can be made by three-flag signals, while between 3,000 and
  4,000 new signals to be made by hoists of not more than three flags
  can be added.

  The abolition of all four-flag hoists for general signals will very
  greatly increase the _Rapidity_ with which communication can be
  held by means of the International Code of Signals.

  It will also tend to secure another essential in efficient
  signalling, viz., _Accuracy_, for every flag added to a hoist
  affords an extra risk of mistake, both in bending on a wrong flag
  and in reading off the flags in the hoist incorrectly.

  In addition to the gain of rapidity and accuracy of signalling, the
  inclusion of the eight new flags has, as we have already stated,
  afforded the means of providing a large number of signals which do
  not appear in the current Code, and we have availed ourselves of
  this possibility to the extent of adding some 4,000 new signals.

  Moreover, the fact that under the proposed scheme there is a flag
  to represent every letter of the alphabet has enabled us to arrange
  for a system of spelling proper names and words not appearing
  in the Signal Book, which we regard as less cumbersome than the
  Alphabetical Spelling Table which is at present in force.

  These advantages appear to us to be so important that we have not
  hesitated to increase the number of flags to be used, although the
  step involved the abandonment of the Code suggested by us in 1889
  and the preparation of an entirely new Signal Book.

The letters omitted from the alphabet in 1855 were now added, the
objection which had led to their omission on the former occasion being
regarded as a "sentimental rather than practical objection," though
the Committee took care to eliminate objectionable words as far as

The flags now added were:

  A  Burgee divided vertically white and blue
  E  Pendant   "        "      red, white, blue
  I  Flag yellow with blue ball
  O  Flag divided diagonally yellow and red
  U    "     "    quarterly red and white
  X    "  white with blue cross
  Y    "  striped diagonally yellow and red in ten stripes
  Z    "  divided diagonally in 4 triangular parts, yellow, blue, red,
            and black.

At the same time the F and L flags were slightly altered.

  We have altered the flag F from a red pennant with a white ball on
  it to a red pennant with a white cross, as the flag at present in
  use is liable to be mistaken for Flag D (blue pennant with a white
  ball on it), and we have altered flag L from a flag of yellow and
  blue quarterly (the blue squares being at the top left-hand and
  bottom right-hand corners) to a flag of yellow and black quarterly,
  the black squares being at the top right-hand and bottom left-hand
  corners. Our chief reason for making this alteration is that in a
  calm it is difficult to distinguish the present flag L from flag K.

Certain of the above flags are used singly with special significations,
viz. A by H.M. ships on full speed trial, B to signify that explosives
are being landed or discharged, C as affirmative, D as negative, P to
denote that the ship is about to sail and S as signal for a pilot,
while L is used in the United Kingdom to indicate infection from
cholera, Yellow fever or plague, and Q is generally used aboard to
denote liability to quarantine.

Signals made with two flags are urgent and important. Of the three-flag
signals those from ABC to AST relate to the compass; from ASU to AVJ to
money; from AVK to BCN to weights and measures; BCO to BOZ to decimals
and fractions; from BEA to CWT to auxiliary verbs and phrases; while
the general vocabulary occupies the permutations from CXA to ZNV. The
Code flag over two flags serves for Latitude and Longitude, Divisions
of time, and the Barometer and Thermometer, and the Code flag under two
flags from UA to ZY provides a numeral table. The geographical names
of places are signalled by four flags from ABCD to BFAU, while the
permutations from CBDF to CZYX are used for an alphabetical spelling
table. This completes the flag signals of the Code, but it contains in
addition a number of Distant Signals, Semaphore Signals and Morse Code

Combinations from GQBC onwards are used for the names of ships, which
will be found in separate publications.

This new Code was published in 1899 and brought into force on 1st
January, 1901, the old Code being used concurrently with it until
the 31st December of that year. It has now reached the seventeenth
edition, and a complete revision of it, which will probably entail
the alteration of many of the flags, is occupying the attention of an
International Commission, but it will be several years before this is
brought into use.

In making a signal, a ship first hoists her ensign with the code flag
under it, and if necessary the distinguishing signal of the vessel or
station with which she desires to communicate. On seeing this signal
the ship (or station) addressed then hoists the "Answering Pendant"
(i.e. the Code flag) at the "Dip," that is, some little distance below
its position when hoisted "close up" to the block at the masthead or
yardarm through which the signal halliards are rove. The first ship
then hoists her own distinguishing signal, consisting of the four
letters appropriated to her name, and then proceeds with the signal she
wishes to make. When the first hoist is noted down and translated in
the ship receiving the signal, this ship hauls the answering pendant
"close up" to show that the signal is understood and keeps it there
until the signalling ship has hauled that hoist down; the answering
pendant is then again lowered to the "Dip" until the next hoist is
disposed of, and when the ship signalling has finished, she hauls down
her ensign to indicate that the message is at an end.

Among signals of distress by means of flags--which from their nature
are of international use and common to both men-of-war and merchant
ships--the earliest appears to have been made by tying the ensign in a
knot in the middle, or making a weft as it was called. Another, which
appears to have been in use in the seventeenth century, was to invert
the ensign; this, of course, could not be done with those ensigns (such
as the modern French) which are symmetrical in design. The signal
appears sometimes to have been given by placing the ensign in an
unusual position, such as at the main topmast-head or in the shrouds.
An instance in which the ensign was placed inverted in the shrouds will
be found on page 199.


[338] Herodotus, VII, 128.

[339] Thucydides, I, 49.

[340] _Ibid._ II, 84; VII, 34.

[341] Thucydides, III, 90.

[342] Polyaenus, _Strategemata_, I, 48 (2).

[343] Livy, XXXVII, 24: "Eudamum in alto multitudine navium maxime
Hannibal, ceteris omnibus longe praestantem, urgebat; et circumvenisset
ni signo sublato ex praetoria nave, quo dispersam classem in unum
colligi mos erat, omnes quae in dextro cornu vicerant naves ad opem
ferendam suis concurrissent."

[344] This work Λέοντος ἐν Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ αὐτοκράτος τῶν ἐν Πολέμοις
τακτικῶν σύντομος παράδοσις [Greek: Leontos en Christô tô Theô
autokratos tôn en Polemois taktikôn syntomos paradosis] is usually
assigned to Leo VI (the philosopher), but it is possible that it may
have been written by Leo III (the Isaurian) and dates therefore from
the eighth century. It has not been translated into English.

[345] Probably 1338, _vide Monumenta Juridica_; _The Black Book of the
Admiralty_, ed. by Sir Travers Twiss (Rolls Series), Introduction, p.

[346] _Due Ordinanze Militari Marittime del Conte Verde_, Anno 1366, by
Capitano di Corvetta Prasca in _Rivista Marittima_, June 1891. I have
supplied as literal a translation as the state of the text admits.

[347] The object of this manoeuvre is not clear, but since the ram and
the guns pointing forward were the only weapons of the galley it can be
readily understood that friendly galleys would only face one another in
exceptional circumstances.

[348] Commander Prasca suggests that _lon_ should be read as _bon_ and
that the meaning is: to a place on the poop where the banner can be
well seen. I suggest that it should be read as _son_.

[349] It was omitted from Howe's signal-book of 1790.

[350] _Exchequer Accounts_, 49/29 (7-10 Hen. V): "j banner de consilio
de Armis Regis et Sancti Georgii."

[351] Transcribed from a Vatican MS. in Jal's _Archéologie Navale_, II,
107 et seq.

[352] Fernandez de Navarrete, _Coleccion de los Viages y
Descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los Espanoles_, I, 410 et seq.

[353] Cada patron con un cómitre.

[354] Published with notes by Jal in the _Annales Maritimes et
Coloniales 1842_, Part II, pp. 54 et seq.

[355] Calcet.

[356] Cappitaine. He is thinking only of the galleys.

[357] Soubz le vent, probably an error for "to windward."

[358] The gangway running along the galley amidships.

[359] La gallère ou care ou à la penne à demy pendant.

[360] See _Book of War by Sea and Land_, edited by Sir J. K. Laughton
in vol. I of _The Naval Miscellany_ (Navy Records Society).

[361] "À demy clouée."

[362] "à moitie pendant." Presumably there was some difference in these
two methods of tying a flag in a weft, but it is not known in what this
difference consisted. Perhaps "a demy clouée" meant that the fly was
gathered into the hoist, while the other expression denoted that the
flag was gathered up horizontally in the middle, the normal method of
making a weft.

[363] _Harl. MS._ 309.

[364] quarter.

[365] whither.

[366] _Pepys MS._ 1266.

[367] _Sic_; apparently the ship is to yaw, i.e. deviate from her

[368] _S. P. D. James I_, CLVII, 67.

[369] _The Naval Miscellany_ (Navy Records Soc.), vol. I.

[370] _S. P. D. James I_, XCII, 9.

[371] The latest MS. appears to be Sloane MS. 2427; the earliest that
the author has seen is in the Bodleian. It was from a MS. almost
identical with the latter that the printed edition was published in

[372] See p. 42.

[373] "lesqueles banères sount appelés baucans et la gent d'Engleterre
les appelent stremers et celes banères signefient mort sans remède et
mortele guerre en tous les lious où mariners sont."

[374] "nous ne sums tenus faire restitution ne amende si nulle chose
eit esté fait ou prise par nous en ladite guerre; quar il est usage et
ley de meer que de choses faites ou prises sur meer en guerre meisement
ou ledit baukan soit levée ne doit estre fait restitution n'amende
d'une partie ne d'autre." 'Baucan,' cognate with 'beacon,' must not be
confused with 'bauçan.'

[375] See p. 192.

[376] This and the two following sections are in substance a revision
of a pamphlet _Nelson's Signals, The Evolution of the Signal Flags_,
written by me in 1908 and published for the Admiralty by H.M.
Stationery Office. I am indebted to the Controller of that Department
for permission to make use of it in this work.

[377] Corbett, _Fighting Instructions_ (N. R. S.), p. 99.

[378] Possibly as a result of the first collision with the Dutch, Tromp
appears to have been ahead of the English in the matter of signals.

[379] Shortly after 1756 the white balls disappear, and a white square
takes their place, the flag thus becoming what is now familiarly called
the Blue Peter. By Rodney's time this flag at the mainmast head had
become the signal to recall everyone to his ship, whence its present
use to denote that the ship is about to sail.

[380] A flag is said to be "pierced" when it has a small square of
another colour in the centre.

[381] In his memoirs it is stated that in 1746 he had written a book on
Signals and Naval Evolutions.

[382] Possibly because with a "table" of 16 squares a side he was
enabled to make 256 signals, with two flags only to each "hoist,"
whereas by the simple numerary method he could of course only make 99
with less than three flags.

[383] J. K. Laughton, _Letters and Papers of Lord Barham_ (N. R. S.),
I, 340.

[384] Hitherto the official books of Instructions and Signals had been
of folio size.

[385] A "cornet" is a swallow-tailed flag.

[386] According to present practice no signal made with more than one
flag is obeyed until the officer making it hauls it down.

[387] Nicholas, _Letters and Dispatches of Lord Nelson_, III, 230.

[388] Richard Hall Gower, an officer of the East India Company's fleet,
suggested in the 2nd edition of his _Treatise on Seamanship_, 1796,
the use of a dictionary with the words numbered consecutively from 1
upwards under each letter of the alphabet. The letter and number were
to be shown on a large board.

[389] The hoists were: Telegraph flag; 253 (England); 269 (expects);
863 (that); 261 (every); 471 (man); 958 (will); 220 (do); 370 (his);
4, 21, 19, 24 (duty). In the hoist for 220 the second flag was the
"substitute," duplicating the numeral "2."

[390] See the last column of Plate XIII.

[391] In 1808 the 1799 book was reprinted, and the manuscript additions
incorporated, but its form was not changed.

[392] He produced in 1804 a signal code for the East India Company's

[393] During the war this flag was altered to one divided vertically
yellow, red yellow, in order to obviate the use of the Pilot Jack as an
ordinary signal flag.

[394] _Parl. Paper_ C 8354 of 1897.

Chapter VII

_Ceremonial and other Usages_

The student who has wandered along the by-paths of early military and
naval history may perhaps have been struck by the fact that although he
met not infrequently with instances of the devotion and respect with
which the soldier regarded his military ensigns he met with no similar
examples in naval affairs. He might at first be disposed to attribute
this to the fact that the histories he had read were not the work of
professed seamen, but upon reflexion he would more probably be disposed
to infer that, except in the ship of the Commander-in-Chief, there was
at sea nothing to correspond to the military insignia. The examination
into the early history of the flag which we have endeavoured to carry
out in the first chapter of this book leads us to the conclusion that
until the thirteenth century there was no equivalent of the military
ensign in use at sea, and the early history of the salute at sea tends
to confirm this view.

The Ordinance[395] drawn up by King John in 1201, which required all
ships and vessels to strike and lower their sails at the command
of the King's ships, makes no mention of a flag, and although the
striking of the sails was perhaps primarily intended not so much as
a mark of respect as a practical means of ensuring that the ships in
question should render an effective submission to the will of the
king's officers, the omission is at any rate of some significance. An
instructive commentary upon the relative significance of the acts of
striking sails or flags is afforded by the account of the taking of two
Spanish ships by the 'Amity' of London in 1592[396]. These merchantmen
had fallen in with each other off the south-west coast of Spain, and
apparently each side had determined to make prize of the other. The
Spaniards were displaying a flag with the arms of the King of Spain,
which caused the English to "judge them rather ships of warre then
laden with marchandise." After a long fight the English ship gained the

  willing them to yeeld, or els we should sinke them: wherupon the
  one would have yeelded, which was shot betweene winde and water;
  but the other called him traiter. Unto whom we made answere, that
  if he would not yeeld presently also, we would sinke him first. And
  thereupon he understanding our determination, presently put out
  a white flag, and yeelded, and yet refused to strike their own
  sailes, for that they were sworne never to strike to any Englishmen.

Evidently the striking of the sails was an act of greater submission
than the display of the flag of truce, and its persistent survival
until the year 1806 as part of the ceremony required when the salute
was exacted by H.M. ships is a clear indication that it must have been
originally the most essential part of that ceremony. When Pennington
was given his instructions as Admiral of the Narrow Seas in May, 1631,
he was told:

  If in this yo^r imployment you shall chance to meete in the Narrowe
  Seas anie ffleete belonging to anie forraine Prince or State you
  are to expect that the Admirall and cheefe of them in acknowledgmt
  of his Ma^{ts} Soveraignty there shall strike their Top-sayle
  in passing by, or if they refuse to do it you are to force them

but no instruction was given him in regard to their flag, and the
Treaty made between Cromwell and the Dutch at the close of the First
Dutch War in 1654 required the latter not only to haul down their flag
when rendering the salute, but also to lower the topsail (_vexillum
suum e mali vertice detrahent et supremum velum demittent_).

After Trafalgar the British Naval Power stood at such a height that it
was felt that no loss of prestige could then arise from the abandonment
of the claim so tenaciously insisted on for many centuries, and the
instructions to naval officers to exact the salute were quietly dropped
out of the _King's Regulations_ where they had, for many years,
appeared in the following terms:

  When any of His Majesty's Ships shall meet with any Ship or Ships
  belonging to any Foreign Prince or State, within His Majesty's
  Seas, (which extend to Cape _Finisterre_) it is expected that the
  said Foreign Ships do strike their Topsail, and take in their Flag,
  in Acknowledgement of His Majesty's Sovereignty in those Seas;
  and if any shall refuse or offer to resist, it is enjoined to all
  Flag Officers and Commanders to use their utmost Endeavours to
  compel them thereto, and not suffer any Dishonour to be done to His
  Majesty. And if any of His Majesty's Subjects shall so much forget
  their Duty, as to omit striking their Topsail in passing by His
  Majesty's Ships, the Name of the Ship and Master, and from whence,
  and whither bound, together with Affidavits of the Fact, are to be
  sent up to the Secretary of the Admiralty, in order to their being
  proceeded against in the Admiralty Court. And it is to be observed,
  That in His Majesty's Seas, His Majesty's Ships are in no wise to
  strike to any; and that in other Parts, no Ship of His Majesty's is
  to strike her Flag or Topsail to any Foreigner, unless such Foreign
  Ship shall have first struck, or at the same time strike her Flag
  or Top-sail to His Majesty's Ship.

An adequate presentment of the history of the salute at sea would claim
a volume to itself, and is indeed rather outside the scope of the
present work, but it may be remarked that in the sixteenth century
(and probably at an earlier date, though evidence of this is lacking)
the requirement of the salute--in itself a mere passing ceremony--was
expanded into a demand that no foreign ship or English merchantman
should fly any flag at all when in the presence of any of H.M. ships
of war. This point of view, as understood by the seamen of the late
Elizabethan and early Stuart period, is set forth in the _Observations_
of Sir Richard Hawkins published just after his death in 1622:

  One thing the French suffered (upon what occasion or ground I know
  not) that the English always carried their flag displayed: which
  in other partes and Kingdomes is not permitted; at least in our
  seas, if a Stranger Fleete meete with any of his Majesties ships,
  the forraigners are bound to take in their flags, or his Majesties
  ships to force them to it though thereof follow the breach of
  peace, or whatsoever discommodity. And whosoever should not be
  jealous in this point, hee is not worthy to have the commaund of
  a Cock-boat committed unto him: yea no stranger ought to open his
  flag in any Port of England, where there is any Shipp or Fort of
  his Majesties; upon penaltie to loose his flagg and to pay for the
  powder and shott spend upon him. Yea, such is the respect to his
  Majesties Shippes in all places of his Dominions, that no English
  ship displayeth the Flagge in their presence, but runneth the like
  danger, except they be in his Majesties service: and then they are
  in predicament of the Kings Ships.

       *       *       *       *       *

  In Queene Maries Raigne, King Philip of Spaine comming to marry
  with the Queene, and meeting with the Royall Navie of England, the
  Lord William Howard, High Admirall of England, would not consent
  that the King in the Narrow Seas should carrie his Flagge displayed
  until he came into the Harbour of Plimouth.

  I being of tender yeares, there came a Fleete of Spaniards of above
  fiftie sayle of Shippes bound for Flaunders to fetch the Queene
  Dona Anna de Austria, last wife to Philip the second of Spaine,
  which entered betwixt the Iland and the Maine, without vayling
  their Top-sayles or taking in of their Flags, which my father, Sir
  John Hawkins (Admirall of a Fleete of her Majesties Shippes then
  ryding in Catt-water) perceiving, commanded his Gunner to shoot at
  the flagge of the Admirall, that they might thereby see their error.

The instances in which this point of view was impressed upon foreign
ships and English merchant ships are numerous.

The following example of the ceremonious manner in which the salute was
sometimes voluntarily rendered outside the "Narrow Seas" is of special
interest. It occurred during the expedition to Algiers in 1620, under
Sir Robert Mansell:

  The one and thirtieth of October, in the morning wee turned into
  the Road of Gibraltar, where were riding at anchor two of the King
  of Spaines ships of warre, the Vice Admirall of a Squadron with
  the Kings Armes in his fore-top and another, who so soone as they
  perceived us weighed their Anchors, set sayle, and comming Lee-ward
  of our Admirall, strooke his flag, saluting him with their small
  shot and great Ordnance, after haled him with voyces; our Admirall
  striking his flag, answered them with voyces, gave them his
  Ordnance and small shot, all the Fleet following in order.

Before the legislative union of the two kingdoms, the salute was
exacted by English men-of-war of ships of the Scottish navy. In June,
1706, the 'Royal William,' one of the three small ships that then
comprised the Scots navy, put into Tynemouth, whereupon the commanding
officer of H.M.S. 'Dunwich' fired "a sharp great shot" at her and
complained that her commanding officer was displaying a broad pendant
in English waters. In his letter reporting the incident to the Lord
High Admiral of Scotland, Commodore Gordon adds that the commander of
H.M.S. 'Bonaventure' had told him "that he should be sorry of meeting
me without the Island of May, since he had orders from the Board of
England to make our frigates strike and salute[398]."

Closely connected in idea with the lowering of the flag in salute and
as a mark of respect to a stronger power is the lowering of it as a
sign of submission and surrender in action. Its application to this
purpose seems comparatively modern and to have been really an extension
of the salute. In naval warfare among the ancients and during the
middle ages submission was often of little use; the only safe thing to
be done by those who saw that they would be beaten and cared to save
their lives was to take to flight. Prisoners, except a few likely to be
of value for ransom, were usually disposed of summarily by being thrown
overboard, for there was little room for them in the early ships and
none at all in the galleys. It will be remembered that Chaucer says of
his "Schipman": "If that he foughte and hadde the heigher hand By water
he sente hem hoom to everyland." When Hubert de Burgh's men in 1217
agreed that so soon as they had boarded Eustace the Monk's ship one of
their number should climb the mast and cut down the flag, they did not
imagine that this would indicate surrender; the object they had in view
was to confuse the remaining enemy ships by depriving them of the mark
by which they could recognise their leader's ship.

Until the use of great ordnance had been sufficiently developed at
sea to enable an enemy ship to be overcome at a distance, it is
obvious that the dispute for the mastery could only be settled by
hand-to-hand encounter. In these circumstances there would be no
need of any method of indicating surrender other than by a personal
appeal for quarter on the part of the vanquished crew, and indeed, the
vanquished would hardly have the time or opportunity of removing the
various flags placed along the bulwarks or flown from the masthead as
a preliminary to such an appeal. But when it became possible for the
ship to be destroyed from a distance, some method of indicating a wish
to surrender on terms became necessary. This appears to have first
been provided by displaying a flag of truce, a practice that was no
doubt adopted about the beginning of the sixteenth century from the
usages of land warfare where it had been current for many centuries.
The following instance of its employment at sea occurred during Sir
Richard Hawkins' voyage into the South Sea in 1593-4. In April, 1594,
Hawkins' ship was caught at a disadvantage in the Bay of San Mateo.
The crew were not over-anxious to fight, and talked of surrendering.
Hawkins harangued them: "Came we into the South Sea," he asked, "to
put out flagges of truce? And left we our pleasant England, with all
her contentments with intention and purpose to avayle ourselves of
white ragges?" After some fighting, which their neglect of proper
preparations rendered useless, the captain of the ship "presently
caused a flagge of truce to be put in place of our Ensigne, and began
to parley of our surrendering[399]." It will be noted that the colours
were hauled down and the white flag then hoisted on the ensign staff.

This method of indicating a wish to surrender was evidently the general
practice at this period, for in the same year, during an attack upon a
carrack by the Earl of Cumberland at Terceira, some of the crew of the
carrack who had had enough fighting waved a flag of truce and called
out to the English to save their lives, but the captain ordered them
to take in the flag of truce, for he had determined never to yield
while he lived. In the time of the First Dutch War the striking of the
colours formed part of the outward symbolism of surrender, but not the
whole. According to Captain Joseph Cubitt's account of the Battle off
the Texel on 31st August, 1653, some of the Dutch ships "that had lost
all their masts struck their colours and put out a white handkerchief
on a staff, and hauled in all their guns[400]." It may be concluded
from this that the mere hauling down of the colours was not in itself
considered sufficient to indicate that the ship desired to take no
further part in the fight, nevertheless it is clear that as great
importance was attached to the capture of the flags as to the capture
of a regiment's colours on land, for the States General published a
list of rewards[401] offered to their "soldiers at sea" which included
an offer of 1000 guilders to him who should "fetch off and deliver up"
the flag of the chief admiral, 500 guilders for a subordinate admiral's
flag, 250 guilders for a jack, 150 guilders for a flag from the mizen,
and 50 guilders for a stern ensign.

The process of surrender is illustrated by Captain John Smith in his
_Accidence for Young Seamen_[402] in the following words:

  They hang out a flag of truce ... hale him amaine, abase or take in
  his flag, strike their sailes and come aboard with their Captaine,
  Purser and Gunner, with their commission, coket, or bils of lading.

By the time of the Second Dutch War (1666) the mediation of a flag of
truce appears to have become unnecessary, for Van de Velde's picture of
the surrender of the 'Royal Prince,' Admiral Ayscue's flagship which
ran aground on the Galloper during the Four Days' Fight, clearly shows
the lowered ensign and a man at the main masthead in act of lowering
the admiral's flag. Van de Velde was present at the action, so that
there can be little doubt but that the details are correct. From this
date the lowering of the colours appears to have been sufficient.

But perhaps the principal reason for the disuse of the white flag at
sea lay in its ambiguity. On the occasion above referred to, Ayscue was
Admiral of the White Squadron, and the 'Royal Prince' was displaying
a large white flag at the masthead and an ensign which was almost
entirely white save for a small St George's cross in its upper corner.
In such circumstances the display of another white flag would have been
liable to misunderstanding. A like ambiguity would have arisen in the
French navy, where from 1661 until the Revolution the ensign was plain
white, and it may be noted that in 1794 during the attack on Martinique
the French fired on a flag of truce sent by the English, and explained
their action later as being due to a mistaken supposition that it was
intended for the colours of their late rulers the Bourbons; whereupon
it was agreed that in future ships bearing flags of truce should have
the enemy's flag at the bow and their own national colours at the stern.

The plainest and most unmistakable method of indicating surrender is
to hoist the enemy colours above one's own, and this was the course
adopted by some of the Spanish ships which surrendered at Trafalgar,
although others appear to have hoisted the white flag after hauling
down their own colours[403]. Modern practice, however, recognises the
hauling down of the colours accompanied by the cessation of fire as
sufficient; the victors on taking possession then hoist their own flag
above the enemy flag as a sign of capture.

It is evident from an incident that occurred during the capture of
the Island of Goree by Commodore Keppel in 1758 that the precise
significance of hauling down the flag was in doubt even at that
comparatively late date. The fire of the British Squadron was so
overpowering that the enemy's flag was hauled down and the fire
thereupon ceased.

  A lieutenant being ordered ashore, attended by the Commodore's
  Secretary ... was surprised on being asked before they quitted the
  boat on what terms the surrender was "expected." The lieutenant
  astonished at this question asked if they had not struck their
  flag, intimating an unconditional submission resting merely on the
  clemency of the victor? He was answered "No: lowering of the flag
  was intended only as a signal for a parley."

The action was thereupon renewed and finally the Governor ordered
the regimental colours to be dropped over the walls as a signal of
surrender at discretion[404].

The captor's flag is not hoisted above the colours of a neutral vessel
seized for breach of blockade or similar reasons; in such a case the
captor's flag (if hoisted) should be hoisted in another part of the

The custom of "half-masting" the flag, that is, of lowering it to a
position halfway or more down the flagstaff as a sign of mourning,
does not seem to be very ancient, but it is probably older than the
seventeenth century. The earliest instance in which I have met it
occurred in July, 1612, on the occasion of the murder of James Hall by
the Esquimoes during the first expedition in search of the North-West
Passage in which Baffin took part, when the 'Heart's Ease' rejoined
the 'Patience' with "her flag hanging down and her ancient hanging
over the poop, which was a sign of death." On entering the Thames two
months later the 'Heart's Ease' again lowered her flag and ensign "in
token and sign of the death of Mr Hall," so that it was at that date
well understood to signify the death of the commanding officer of a
ship. It was the custom in the navy after the Restoration to observe
the anniversary of the execution of Charles I in a similar manner, for
Teonge twice records the fact in his Diary:

  30 Jan. 1675. This day being the day of our King's marterdome wee
  shew all the signs of morning as possible wee can, viz. our jacks
  and flaggs only halfe staff high;

and again:

  30 Jan. 1678. A solemn day, and wee keep it accordingly with jacks
  and pendents loared halfeway.

Evidently the practice of half-masting the flags was well understood
both in the English navy and in the merchant service, but it is
doubtful if it became a universal custom until comparatively modern
times. The 'Black Pinnace,' which brought the body of Sir Philip
Sydney from Holland in 1586, had black sails, but the illustration in
the contemporary account of his funeral[405] shows the flags at the
masthead, and the Danish ship which brought over the Duke of Richmond's
body in 1673 had a "black Flagg at his Main Top Masthead and black
colours[406]." Black as a sign of mourning is of great antiquity, and
a black sail was used for this purpose among the ancient Greeks, but a
black flag was used by Drake at Cartagena in 1585 as a sign of war to
the death, and was commonly adopted by pirates with a like meaning. It
was never used in the navy in the sinister connection in which it is
used ashore; an execution in one of H.M. ships was signalised by the
display of a yellow flag at the masthead.

We may conjecture that the original signification of the lowered flag
was the passing away of the authority which that flag connoted.

  After the battle of Lepanto in 1571 the fleet of Don John entered
  Messina "the galleys gay with all their flags and streamers and
  towing their prizes with lowered colours."

There were several ways of treating the flag of a captured ship during
the seventeenth century. It might be hung below the ensign of the
captor on his ensign staff, hung over his stern spread upon a spar or
trailing in the water, hung over the stern of the captured ship in like
manner[407], or kept to "dress ship" with. When Captain Heaton was in
command of H.M.S. 'Sapphire' during the First Dutch War,

  he took so many prizes that on a festival day the Yards, Stays,
  backstays and shrouds being hung with Dutch, French, Spanish and
  Burgundian colours and pendants variously intermixed, made a
  beautiful show, and raised the courage of all belonged to her[408].

The practice of hoisting numerous flags in token of rejoicing is so
ancient and so widespread that it may be regarded rather as the result
of a primitive instinct than the outcome of any formal symbolism, but
it may be noted that, although the display of numerous flags by ships
in harbour on holy days and days of national rejoicing was allowed,
and in some cases even enjoined by authority, the display at sea of
"ostentatious bravery" was usually interpreted to indicate some
warlike or provocative action on the part of the ship indulging in it.
This was certainly the case until the end of the seventeenth century,
but with the dawn of the eighteenth a more law-abiding, or perhaps we
should say more civilised, spirit began to prevail upon the sea, and
these primitive methods of displaying the red rag to the bull began
to go into disuse. The practice of displaying flags upon occasions of
rejoicing, however, gave rise from time to time to unpleasant incidents
between ships of different nations from the indiscriminate use of all
the flags in a ship, including national flags of other nations, in the
desire to make a fair show; for until the nineteenth century was well
advanced both men-of-war and merchantmen carried very few signal flags,
which are the only flags over whose relative precedence when hoisted in
"dressing ship" no offence can be given.

Prior to 1889 it was usual in the Royal navy for one of the junior
officers to draw up a scheme for "dressing ship" on ceremonial
occasions for the approval of the captain, but since that date the
order of the signal flags, some 60 in number, has been laid down in the
Signal Manual so that uniformity is secured, the national ensign (or
ensign of a foreign power if the occasion warrants the use of this)
being exhibited only at a masthead.

The modern practice, for all ordinary occasions, is to hoist the
national colours in the morning and to keep them up until sunset,
but innumerable references to hoisting or "heaving out" the colours
indicate that in earlier days this was not the custom, and that they
were only hoisted at sea when there was some special reason for so
doing. There was a routine for hoisting the flag in harbour in the
time of Elizabeth, for the orders for Drake's fleet in 1589 and the
"Brief Noates" of John Young _circa_ 1596 both contain an article to
this effect, those absent without leave at the time being deprived of
their "aftermeal," but the hour at which the ceremony took place is not
stated. The practice at the end of the eighteenth century, as related
by Wm Spavens[409], Pensioner on the Naval Chest at Chatham, was as

  At sunrise every ship in the fleet hoists her colours viz the
  ensign and jack, unless it blows hard and the yards and top masts
  are struck, in which case the colours are not hoisted but when some
  vessel is coming in or passing; and at sunset they are again struck
  or hauled down; at half past 7 o'clock the drums begin to beat and
  continue till 8, when the ship on board of which the Commander in
  Chief hoists his flag, fires a gun.

We do not know when this practice of hoisting the colours at sunrise
was first instituted, but it is not older than the seventeenth
century. In 1844 the time was altered to 8 A.M. from 25th March to
20th September and 9 A.M. from 21st September to 24th March. If there
is sufficient light for the ensign to be seen, it is hoisted earlier
or later than these hours, if the ship is coming to an anchor, getting
under way, passing or meeting another ship, approaching a fort or town,

The use of false flags as a means to deceive or entrap an enemy is
probably as old as the flag itself. We have already had an example
of the application of a similar ruse in the case of the Greek and
barbarian standards in the year 480 B.C., but perhaps the earliest
instance upon record of the use of flags at sea for this purpose
occurred about the end of the twelfth century when Frederick of Sicily
was a little boy (_dum ... Fredericus Sicilae Rex esset puerulus_).
The Pisans had fitted out twelve ships and galleys and set out to
attack Messina, which they tried to blockade. One night the citizens
discovered that four of the galleys were off the Pharos, or lighthouse.
They fitted out two galleys under Walter of Ferrara with picked crews,
and hoisting Pisan flags (which presumably would be visible near the
lighthouse) they fell upon the Pisans and took two of the galleys.
Many instances of the use of false flags, either to avoid scaring an
unsuspecting prey or to escape the notice of a stronger enemy, might
be culled from the sea literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, one of the most interesting being the following, taken from
Captain Wyatt's account of Dudley's voyage in 1594-5:

  But this before mentioned Spaniarde perceavinge the imminent
  dainger ensewinge and seinge noe way to avoyde it ... made triall
  of a thirde, which was to worke theire safetie by desaitefull
  pollecie, a fitt subject for base objects to worke strainge
  strategems, yett the usuall occupation of Spanish practises. Being
  in this dilemma, and driven withall to this forced conclusion by
  necessite, they bore up with us puttinge forth an English flagg,
  keeping his men soe close that they might not soe much as seeme
  to bee Spaniards. But wee seinge her to be a flibote standinge
  with us, bearinge in her top the English collers, supposed them
  at the least to be some Irishmen bounde for Lisborne.... But
  beinge noe soener past us, and perceavinge that if wee should
  cast aboute after them, wee might hasarde the bouldginge of our
  selves, beinge a shipp of soe great a burden, and withall soe neare
  the Rock, they then begin to disclose themselves, abusinge that
  most contemptuouslie which before they had most safelie, although
  craftelie, used for their safegarde, by takinge their English
  flagg, by whom they had theire safe pass, from their top and
  hanging it at theire sterne most disdainefullie[410].

Among more modern instances, one that is almost classic occurred in
January, 1797, when five large East Indiamen under the orders of
Lennox, master of the 'Woodford,' met a French squadron of six frigates
off Java. Lennox immediately hoisted the flag of a British admiral and
made imaginary signals, and by this means deceived the French into
thinking that they were in presence of a number of British men-of-war;
with the result that they withdrew and the East Indiamen escaped

There is no clear pronouncement of International Law as to what is and
what is not lawful in the use of false colours, and publicists are by
no means unanimous upon the subject, but the following instance is
given by Halleck[411] as an example of what should not be allowable:

  In that year (1783) the 'Sybille,' a French frigate of thirty-eight
  guns, Captain le Comte de Krergaron de Soemaria, enticed the
  British ship 'Hussar,' twenty guns, Captain J. M. Russell, by
  displaying an English ensign reversed in the main shrouds, and
  English colours over French at the ensign staff. She was also under
  jury-masts, had some shot holes, and in every way intimated herself
  to be a distressed prize to some of the British ships. Captain
  Russell at once approached to succour her, but she immediately,
  by a preconcerted and rapid movement, aimed at carrying away the
  bowsprit of the 'Hussar,' raking and then boarding her. This _ruse
  de guerre_, of so black a tint, was only prevented taking full
  effect by the promptitude of Captain Russell, who managed to turn
  his ship in such a way as only to receive half the raking fire. He
  then engaged with the 'Sybille,' and, on eventually capturing her,
  publicly broke the sword of the French captain, who he considered
  had sullied his reputation by descending to fight the 'Hussar'
  for above thirty minutes under false colours, and with signals of
  distress flying. "She" (the 'Hussar'), said Captain Russell, "had
  not had fair play, but Almighty God had saved her from the most
  foul snare of the most perfidious enemy." He confined the captain
  of the 'Sybille' as a State prisoner. It appears that the latter
  was subsequently brought to trial by his own Government, but was

It is, however, now generally agreed that ships of war may hoist false
colours for the purpose of deceiving the enemy, provided that their
proper national colours are substituted for them before any hostile
act is committed. As regards the use of neutral colours by merchantmen
seeking to escape capture, it will be remembered that during the late
war the Germans claimed this as a violation of the law, but the British
Government contended that it was a legitimate _ruse de guerre_, and had
been recognised in the past as not entailing a breach of international

A few remarks may be offered upon the various methods of fastening
the flag to its support. In the earliest times it seems to have been
nailed to its staff, and while it was small and easily portable this
entailed no inconvenience. Afterwards it became customary to form a
socket of canvas, buckram, or other stout material to which the hoist
was sewn, and which was slipped over the staff from the top. This
method was only convenient for the smaller flags, and with larger ones
it appears to have been usual to sew a band of canvas down the hoist
and attach a number of ribands to this by which the flag was tied to
the staff. Finally, the flag was sewn to a piece of rope which could be
made fast at the ends to halliards running through a block or sheave
in the cap at the top of the staff, but at first these halliards were,
in the case of masthead flags, taken only down to the top, not to the
deck, so that a sailor had to ascend the mast whenever the flag was
taken down or put up, or when any signal had to be made aloft. Thus,
during the battle with the Dutch off Lowestoft on 3rd June, 1665, the
Duke of York

  ordered the signal to be given for the whole fleet to tack, but the
  sailor who had got up the mast to give the signal was so long about
  it that before he could let the flag fly Opdam had with his van
  bore up round.... This little accident lost above six hours.

No doubt it was "accidents" of this nature that led, at a later date,
to the introduction of longer halliards reaching down to the deck[412].
After the introduction of the driver or spanker boom about 1790 the
ensign staff on the poop had to be removed in three-masted ships when
the ship was under sail, and the ensign was then hoisted at the "peak"
or outer end of the gaff by which this spanker sail was supported, the
halliards passing from the poop through a small block made fast at
the extremity of this spar. This continued to be the position for the
ensign when the ship was at sea until the abolition of sails brought it
again to its original position.

It remains to say a few words about the sizes of flags. The "baucan"
streamer of _circa_ 1293 was 30 yards long and 2 yards wide at the
head. In 1337 the streamers range from 14 to 32 yards in length and
were from 3 to 5 "cloths" wide. It is not known what the width of a
"cloth" was, but it was certainly not the full width in which the
cloth was made in the loom, which would have been 54 inches or more.
Probably it was about one yard, for the banners were 1¾ yards long
and 2 "cloths" wide, and we know that these were rectangular and
rather deeper in the hoist than they were long in the fly. In the time
of Elizabeth the streamers were from 12 to 28 yards long and 2 to 3
yards broad at the head, rather less in size than those of 1337, but
the banners had increased in size and some were 5 yards long and 4½
yards deep. In 1623 ensigns were of 9 to 18 "breadths," flags 5 to 24
"breadths" and pendants 8 to 24 yards long. This "breadth" was probably
11 inches, for in 1664 the material was being woven in widths of 23
inches and then cut in half. Pepys, at a somewhat later date, tells us

  it is in general to be noted that the Bewper of which Colors are
  made being 22 inches in breadth, and the half of that breadth or
  11 inches going in ordinary discourse by the name of a Breadth
  when wrought into Colours, every such breadth is allowed about
  half-a-yard for its Fly.

By this rule the largest ensigns in 1623 were 27 feet long and 16 feet
6 inches deep, and the largest "flags" (i.e. masthead flags) 36 feet
long and 22 feet deep. In Pepys' time the ensign or flag of a first
rate was 26 breadths and 14 yards in the fly, while the jack was of
14 breadths and 7 yards fly, and the pendant 3 breadths at the head
and 32 yards fly. The "distinction" pendant as used in the Downs was
broader and shorter, being of 5 breadths and 21 yards fly. The Lord
High Admiral's flag was 24 or 22 breadths and 12 or 11 yards fly. In
1708 the ensigns had slightly increased in size and varied from 10 to
30 breadths, but the "breadth" was then nearer 10 inches than 11. An
ensign of 26 breadths in 1709 was 14 yards long and the Union canton
was 189 inches by 117 inches. In 1742 ensigns were from 16 to 34
breadths and 9 to 17 yards long, and jacks were from 6 to 16 breadths
and 3 to 8 yards long.

These were truly enormous flags, and towards the end of the eighteenth
century the sizes seem to have suffered a gradual reduction. In modern
times the "breadth" has been reduced to 9 inches, and the largest
ensigns are not more than 22 breadths, but the relative length of the
flag has been slightly increased. Thus the largest ensign of 1742 was
51 feet long and 28 feet deep; the largest modern ensign is 33 feet
long and 16½ feet deep. The largest Union flag is now 18 breadths,
i.e. 27 feet by 13 feet 6 inches, while pendants vary from 3 to 20
yards in length. The proportions of the crosses in a modern Union flag
are as follows:

                      { red           1/5 of width of flag
  St George's Cross   {
                      { white border  1/15     "       "

  St Andrew's Cross   { white         1/10     "       "

                      { red           1/15     "       "
  St Patrick's Cross  {
                      { white border  1/30     "       "

It may be observed that the white "fimbriation" of the St Patrick's
cross, required by the rules of heraldry to prevent the colour red from
touching the colour blue (white being a "metal": silver) is now taken
from the width of the red, reducing that from 1/10 to 1/15. The two
crosses, St Andrew's and St Patrick's ought, however, to be of equal
width, and the fimbriation of the latter should therefore be taken from
the blue ground.

In the white ensign the St George's cross in the fly is 2/15 of the
width of the flag. In the red and blue ensigns the Union canton now
occupies one-fourth of the flag; in the white it is, of course,
slightly smaller owing to the space occupied by the large St George's

The pendant at the masthead of one of H.M. ships is a sign that the
ship is in "commission"; that is, in active service under the command
of an officer of the Royal Navy holding a commission from the Crown or
the Lord High Admiral or the Commissioners for executing that office.
It is not flown in ships in reserve. In ships flying the flag of an
Admiral, or a Commodore's broad pendant, the Admiral's or Commodore's
flag is in itself sufficient indication that the ship is in commission,
and the pendant is not flown in those ships. It is, however, not struck
when a captain hoists a Senior Officer's pendant.

It is difficult to say when the custom of hoisting a pendant on
commissioning the ship became established. Mainwaring, writing about
1623, speaks of the pendants as serving solely "for a show to beautify
the ship," and Boteler, ten years later, knew them only as used for
this purpose or as a means of distinguishing the squadrons of a
fleet[413]; but from 1661 onwards there was, in addition to the three
squadronal pendants with red, white or blue fly, a fourth with the fly
striped red, white and blue. This was the distinctive pendant of all
H.M. ships in commission which did not form part of a fleet divided
into squadrons by the red, white and blue squadronal colours.

The first step towards the recognition of the pendant as the
distinctive sign of a man-of-war was taken by the Proclamation of 1661,
which assigned the Union pendant to H.M. ships only, and the next by
the Proclamation of 1674, which forbade merchantmen to fly any pendant
whatsoever; but although the use of a pendant was thereby confined to
men-of-war, it does not seem to have been the custom at that time to
fly it continuously. It is clear from the Diary which Teonge, the naval
chaplain, kept during his service in the Navy from 1675 to 1679, that
the pendant was only hoisted--with the jack and ensign--when the ship
wished to make her nationality known; or was preparing to fight; or on
days of rejoicing, when pendants were hung from every yardarm; but the
significance of the pendant seems to have been generally recognised
at that date, for in the account which he gives of the launching in
1676 of a brigantine by the Knights of Malta, he says that after the
religious ceremony, "they hoysted a pendent to signify shee was a man
of warre, and then at once thrust her into the water."

Although it was not until 1824 that the King's Regulations for the
Navy contained any instruction that ships in commission were to fly
a pendant, it is probable that the practice of flying a pendant
continuously in H.M. ships in commission was established about the end
of the seventeenth century, for the first edition of the Regulations
(1731) contained a direction to Captains "to husband the Ship's
Colours, and not to keep them abroad in windy weather, the Pendant
being a sufficient mark of distinction," from which it is clear that
the latter was then flown continuously. The practice in the Navy at the
beginning of the nineteenth century is given by Captain Basil Hall[414]
in the following words:

  In the mean time I must proceed to put my ship in commission. The
  first thing to do is to get hold of one of the warrant-officers to
  "hoist the pendant," which is a long slender streamer, having a St
  George's cross on a white field in the upper part next the mast,
  with a fly, or tail, either Red, White, and Blue, or entirely of
  the colour of the particular ensign worn by the ship; which, again,
  is determined by the colour of the Admiral's flag under whose
  orders she is placed. The pendant being hoisted shows that the ship
  is in commission, and this part of the colours is never hauled down
  day or night. At sunset, when the ensign is hauled down, a smaller
  pendant three or four yards in length, is substituted for the long
  one, which, in dandified ships, waves far over the stern. Ships in
  ordinary[415] hoist merely an ensign.

According to modern practice the pendant is hoisted at 9 a.m. on the
day on which the ship is "commissioned" and is kept flying night and
day (unless an Admiral's flag is hoisted in her) until she is "paid
off." At the present day the regulation size is strictly adhered to,
even in "dandified ships"; but it is a common practice for ships
abroad, when ordered to return home to pay off, to hoist a very long
narrow pendant, apparently as a sign of rejoicing. This pendant, which
is of course not officially recognised, is made by the signal staff
out of white bunting which they have "acquired" in the course of the
commission, and is usually of such length (150-250 feet) as to reach
from the masthead to the water, even when inclined at a considerable
angle from the perpendicular, but in some instances it is much longer
and it has been known to reach 1400 feet. A bladder filled with air is
fastened at the end to keep it buoyant when trailing on the water.

It was at one time the custom to fly the Union flag at the masthead
of any of H.M. ships in which a foreign personage of importance was
embarked. The two following examples are typical of this usage, which
is now obsolete. When William Prince of Orange came to England in 1677
to marry the Princess Mary, the royal yacht which brought him over
carried this flag at the masthead while he was on board; and in 1689
Admiral Russell, who had embarked the Queen of Spain in his ship at
Flushing and conveyed her to the Downs and thence to Corunna, flew the
Union flag at the main topmast-head during the time the Queen was on
board his ship. In modern times the personal standard of the Prince
or the Queen would have been flown, but it is clear from these and
similar examples that the wearing of a foreign flag at the masthead of
one of H.M. ships would at an earlier period have been regarded as an
intolerable act of humiliation.

Analogous to this usage was the flying of the Union flag at the
main when the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Governors of Colonies, or
Ambassadors were embarked, but this mark of honour was not permitted in
the waters of the English Channel or in the presence of an Admiral's
flag. In 1821 the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was granted the use of a
special form of the Union flag bearing in the centre a harp on a blue
escutcheon, and in modern times the Governors General or Governors of
Colonies or Dominions may, when afloat, fly a Union flag bearing the
badge of the Colony in the centre.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this account of the history of British flags I have not dwelt
upon the immaterial or emotional aspects of these important national
emblems; partly because this seemed somewhat foreign to the aim I had
in view; partly because this side has been sufficiently illustrated
in other works. There is, however, one aspect which may receive an
illustration here. Among the privileges and duties of which a British
flag has for so many centuries been an outward emblem, not the least
in value has been that of freedom. Towards the end of 1769 Lord St
Vincent, then plain Captain Jervis, was in the Port of Genoa in
H.M.S. 'Alarm.' Two Turkish galley slaves temporarily released from
their chains were walking on the mole near their galley when they
caught sight of one of the 'Alarm's' boats. They jumped into her and
wrapped themselves in the British colours, claiming their freedom. The
Genoese guard removed them by force, part of the boat's pendant being
torn away in the struggle. Jervis demanded of the Doge and Senate of
Genoa that the officer of the guard should bring the slaves with the
fragment of the colours and make a formal apology on the quarter deck
of the 'Alarm.' When this had been done, Jervis "asked the slave who
had wrapped the pendent round his body what were his sensations when
the guard tore him from the pendent staff. His reply was that he felt
no dread for he knew that the touch of the royal colours gave him
freedom." And upon this note I must make an end.


[395] Twiss, _Black Book of the Admiralty_, I, 129.

[396] Hakluyt, _Voyages_, VII, 103.

[397] _S. P. D. Chas I_, CXCII, 3.

[398] Grant, _The Old Scots Navy_ (N.R.S.), p. 337.

[399] _The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins, Knight, in his Voiage
into the South Sea_, p. 155.

[400] _S. P. D. Inter._, XXIX, 11.

[401] _First Dutch War_ (N. R. S.), V, 319.

[402] 1626, reprinted with additions as _A Sea Grammar_ in 1627 and

[403] The 'Bahama' (Sp.), the 'Argonauta' (Sp.) and the 'Achille' (Fr.)
indicated their surrender by displaying Union jacks from the deck.

[404] Charnock, _Biographia Navalis_, V, 318.

[405] Reproduced in Corbett, _Drake and the Tudor Navy_, I, 363.

[406] _Pepys MSS._ Narborough's Journal, 9th September, 1673. This ship
was actually fired at for not striking the flag on coming near the

[407] The practice of towing captured galleys stern foremost with their
flags trailing in the water was in vogue as early as the end of the
thirteenth century.

[408] Gardiner, _First Dutch War_ (N. R. S.), I, 23.

[409] _The Seaman's Narrative_, 1796, p. 127.

[410] _The Voyage of Robert Dudley to the West Indies_ (Hakluyt Soc.),
II, 3.

[411] _International Law_, I, 568.

[412] The date is not known, but it was after 1672. Cf. Narborough's
Journal, 29th May, 1672: "A seaman set at the Foretopmasthead with the
Flagg of Defiance loose in his arms ready to hoist."

[413] See p. 117.

[414] _Fragments of Voyages and Travels_, 3rd Series, vol. III, p. 6.

[415] I.e. in reserve.


  Admiral, flags of, 63-5, 85;
    in boats, 100;
    rank distinguished by balls, 101

  ---- Lord High, use of standard 77, 80, 87, 88, 91;
    anchor flag, 80-4, 201;
    of Scotland, 84, 192

  Admiralty flag, 81

  Æthelstan, 32

  Agrippa, blue flag, 11

  Alexander the Great, 7

  Amadeo of Savoy, 112, 143

  Anchor, as badge of Lord High Admiral, 82

  Anne, Queen, 84

  Anthony, A., 45

  Antioch, 22

  Aradus, 7

  Artemisia, 8

  Athens, 7

  Audley, Thomas, 87, 155

  Australia, flags of, 85, 121, 135, 136

  Baldwin, 19

  banner, early, 2;
    of Richard I, 4, 21;
    of Edward I, 34;
    Tudor, 45

  baucan, 42, 161

  Bauçan, 21

  Bayeux Tapestry, 13

  Bayonne, 42

  Bohemond, 18

  Boteler, Sir Nathaniel, 61, 86, 117, 158

  Bristol, 46

  Bruges, 42

  Brutus, 11

  Buckingham, Duke of, 78, 82, 89, 91, 157

  Bytharne, Jehan, 154

  Cabot, John, 77

  Cadiz, expeditions to, 88, 89, 114, 157

  Calais, 45

  Canada, flags of, 121, 135

  carroccio, 27

  Charlemagne, flag of, 12, 17, 32

  Charles II, flag flown at homecoming, 66

  Childers, H. C. E., 85

  Cinque Ports, flag of, 42, 43, 128

  Clarence, Duke of (William IV), 85

  colonial flags, 128, 135

  colours of distinction, 110;
    _see also_ Ensign

  comitus, 25

  commodore, pendant of, 102, 105;
    of Bombay Marine, 122

  Conflans, Antoine de, 150

  Constantine, 12

  Constantinople, 26

  council, banner of, 77, 142, 143, 145, 149, 155, 157

  crescent, in early standards, 7

  Cromwell, Oliver, 65

  cross, as standard, 7;
    in flags, 19;
    coloured for, at Crusades, 33, 37;
    of St George, 37

  crusades, 17

  Danes, 30, 50

  Dartmouth, Lord, 107

  Dover, 43

  dragon standard, form of, 10;
    in Bayeux Tapestry, 16;
    in England, 32;
    of Richard I, 33;
    at Westminster, 33;
    in army, 34;
    in Scotland, 49

  Drake, Sir Francis, 45, 60, 113

  East India Co., flag of, 130;
    signals, 183

  Edward I, 37;
    cross of St George, 39;
    convention with Count of Flanders, 42

  Edward III, founds chapel of St George, 40;
    adopts arms of France, 74;
    at Sluys, 77;
    flag at sea, 86

  Egypt, 6

  ensign, called 'colours,' 6;
    commonwealth, 62;
    red for merchant ships, 68;
    union replaces St George's cross, 71, 118;
    of three colours, 92;
    change in white, 99;
    striped, 115;
    introduction of red, 115;
    of white and blue, 117;
    squadronal colours, 117, 119

  Essex, Earl of, 88

  Eustace the monk, 86

  Faversham, 42

  flag, definition of, 1;
    origin and development, 1;
    unknown to the Greeks, 9;
    early Chinese, 9;
    early Athenian, 9;
    laterally-attached, 12;
    protection, 12, 19;
    Arab, 13;
    unusual form in Bayeux Tapestry, 15;
    triangular, 16;
    Crusaders', 18;
    introduction of heraldic devices, 21;
    consecrated, 14, 21, 23;
    authority conveyed by, 22, 27;
    of Pisa, 23;
    of Genoa, 24;
    of Venice, 25;
    division of fleet by, 25, 91;
    origin of national, 27, 28;
    early English, 30;
    Saxon, 30;
    Danish, raven, 30;
    of St George (_vide s.v._);
    baucan, 42;
    early English ships, 42-6;
    Union (_vide s.v._);
    alterations under the Commonwealth, 62;
    of command, 74;
    squadronal colours, 111, 117;
    privateers, 124;
    public offices, 126;
    for signals (_vide s.v._);
    ceremonials, 189; striking, 189;
    salute, 190;
    lowered as sign of surrender, 192-5;
    white flag of truce, 193;
    half-masted, 195;
    black for mourning, 196;
    black indicating no quarter, 196;
    yellow at executions, 196;
    of captured ship, 195-6;
    as indication of rejoicing, 196;
    dressing ship, 197;
    time for hoisting at sea, 197;
    false colours, 198;
    methods of attachment, 199;
    sizes of, 200.
    (_See also_ Banner, Ensign, Gonfanon, Standard.)

  flagstaff, naked, use of, 95

  flammula, 11

  Flanders, 42

  Florence, 27, 28

  Garter, Order of, 44

  Gaston de Bearn, 18

  Genoa, rise of, 23;
    flag of St George, 24

  geton, 6, 44

  Godfrey of Bouillon, 18

  gonfanon, early form, 2, 5, 13;
    in Bayeux Tapestry, 14;
    _chansons de geste_, 20;
    Genoese, 24;
    of St Mark, 26;
    of council, 44

  Greece, 7, 9

  Greenwood, Jonathan, 163

  guidon, 6

  Hamburg, 29

  Harold, standard of, 16, 32

  Hastings, 42, 46

  Hawke, Sir Edward, 164

  Hawkins, Sir John, 45, 114, 156, 191

  ---- Sir Richard, 191, 193

  Henry II, 37, 38

  ---- IV, 74

  ---- V, ordinances of war, 41

  ---- VIII, flags on ships, 45, 113;
    adopts harp for Ireland, 52

  Histiaea, 8

  Holy Trinity, 44

  Hood, Lord, 174

  Hospitallers, flag of knights, 21

  Howard of Effingham, 78, 82, 88

  Howe, Earl, 120, 167, 168, 171

  Indian Marine (Royal), flags of, 121

  Innocent III, 22

  insignia, 2;
    mentioned by Vegetius, 10

  Ireland, early flags, 50;
    red saltire, 51;
    great standard of, 52;
    arms of, 52, 75;
    harp, 52, 64, 65, 75

  Jack, definition of, 6;
    introduction of, 60;
    during Commonwealth, 64, 94;
    on merchant ships, 68;
    on yachts, 69;
    budgee jack, 69, 124;
    special form for use in America, 70, 127;
    disuse of, at sea, 71;
    misuse of term, 73

  Jaffa, 19

  James I, 54, 75

  ---- II (Duke of York), 67, 81, 83, 162

  Jerusalem, 18

  John (Don) of Austria, 112

  Kempenfelt, Richard, 167, 169, 170

  Knowles, Sir Charles, 166

  La Bourdonnais, Mahé de, 167

  Lateran, mosaic, 12

  Leo, Emperor, tactical signals, 141

  Lloyds, flag, 128

  Lubeck, 29

  Lyme Regis, 41, 46

  McArthur, John, 174

  Marryat, Frederick, 183

  Mary, Queen, impales arms of Spain in Standard, 74

  Milan, early national ensign of, 27

  Millan, John, 163

  Mocenigo, Piero, 146

  Nelson, Lord, 121, 172, 174, 175, 178

  New Zealand, flags of, 135

  Northumberland, Earl of, 83

  Octavian, 11

  Padua, 27

  Papal flags, 19, 21, 22, 23

  Parma, 27

  Pembroke, Earl of, 80, 84, 99

  pendant, 6, 114;
    Union, 73;
    to distinguish squadrons, 90;
    of command, 102;
    of distinction, 98, 102;
    budgee, 105;
    of Commodore, 102, 105;
    of senior officer, 107;
    of ships of war, 110;
    of Bombay Marine, 122;
    sizes of, 201, 203;
    hoisted on commissioning, 202

  Pennington, Sir John, 61, 158

  pennon, 6

  pennoncel, 6, 38, 43

  Pepys, Samuel, 57, 66, 95, 102, 104, 108, 126, 130

  Pergamum, 8

  Philip Augustus, 21

  Philip of Flanders, 21

  ---- of Spain, 191

  phoinikis, 9, 10, 141

  pinnae, 11

  Pisa, flags of, 22

  Polyaenus, 8

  Pompey, 11

  Popham, Sir Home, 176, 180, 183

  private ship, definition of, 90

  privateer, flags of, 124;
    red jack, 70, 125

  protentinus, 25

  Raymond of Toulouse, 18

  Richard I, banner and standard, 4, 21, 33, 74

  ---- II, orders army to bear St George's cross, 40;
    impales arms of Edward the Confessor in Standard, 74

  Riga, 29

  Robert of Normandy, 19

  Rooke, Sir George, 98, 163

  royal arms, flags of, 42, 43, 44, 74;
    of Scotland, 48

  Rupen, 22

  Rupert, Prince, 79

  Russell, Edward, 163

  Rye, 46

  St Andrew, becomes patron saint of Scotland, 47;
    cross placed upon clothing of Scots army, 41, 47;
    flag, 55, 59, 64, 65, 92, 131

  St Columba, 47

  St Cuthbert, 34

  St Edmund, 34, 39, 40, 43

  St Edward, 34, 39, 40, 43, 44

  St George, cross of, 20;
    flag of, 24, 34, 36, 42, 44, 51, 55, 57, 59, 91, 113;
    cult of 35;
    early representations in England, 36;
    origin of cross of, 37;
    introduction into England, 38;
    becomes patron saint, 40;
    cross placed on clothing of army, 40;
    flag on early ships, 42-6;
    in use during Commonwealth, 62;
    jack, 68;
    as admiral's flag, 87, 99;
    introduced into white ensign, 101, 118;
    replaced by Union in ensign, 118

  St John, 33, 34, 43;
    flag of Knights of, 21

  St Katherine, 44

  St Margaret, 50

  St Mark, 25, 26, 149

  St Mary, flag of, 23, 27, 43, 44

  St Maurice, 12, 32

  St Nicholas, 44

  St Patrick, 50, 52

  St Peter, 22, 33, 47

  St Wilfred, 33

  Sandwich, 42

  Saracens, 18

  Scotland, early flags of, 46;
    discontent with the Union Flag, 56;
    flag during Commonwealth, 63, 64;
    Northern lighthouses, 128;
    salute to English men-of-war, 192

  semeion, 2, 8, 9, 140

  ships, early flags of English, 41-6, 76;
    Scottish, 48, 63;
    Irish, 52;
    distinction between royal and merchant, 59;
    flags during Commonwealth, 63;
    public ships of war, 110;
    private men-of-war, 124;
    public ships, 126;
    method of signalling, 188

  ---- merchant, flags of, 46, 129;
    abuse of Union flag, 66;
    to fly St George's jack, 68, 70, 132;
    forbidden to fly Union flag, 130;
    red ensign, 130;
    East India Co., 130;
    irregular colours, 133;
    Levant Co., 134;
    Guinea Co., 135;
    Scottish East India Co., 135;
    of British Dominions, 135;
    blue ensign, 136

  Sidon, 7

  signals, vexillum, 10;
    early flag signals, 140;
    of 14th cent., 142;
    of 15th cent., 146;
    of 16th cent., 150;
    of 17th cent., 157;
    special flags first proposed, 160;
    red flag, 160;
    first English codes, 161;
    Commonwealth, 162;
    late Stuart, 162;
    of Russell, 163;
    of Rooke, 163;
    of Hawke, 164;
    numerary codes, 166;
    of Sir Chas. Knowles, 166;
    of la Bourdonnais, 167;
    tabular system, 167;
    of Howe, 169, 171;
    of McArthur, 174;
    vocabulary, 175;
    of Popham, 176, 180;
    at Trafalgar, 178;
    modern codes, 181;
    commercial codes, 183;
    of Marryat, 183;
    International Code, 184

  signum, 2, 9, 10, 141

  standard, early forms, 3;
    at crusades, 4, 21;
    Egyptian, 6;
    Phoenician, 7;
    Greek, 7;
    Roman, 9;
    of Brutus, 11;
    position of, 11;
    lowered, 11, 12;
    of Harold, 16;
    Battle of the, 33, 34, 49;
    of the Generals at Sea, 64;
    of Charles II, 66;
    Royal, history of, 74;
    of Commonwealth and Protectorate, 75, 79;
    early use at sea, 76;
    flown by Lord High Admiral, 77, 80;
    by commanders of fleets, 78;
    of William III, 80

  streamers, 6;
    lengths of, 45, 200

  Strickland, Sir Roger, 95

  Tancred, 18

  Templars, flag of, 21

  Tenterden, 46

  Trafalgar, 178

  Trinity House, 67, 103, 128

  tufa, 11

  Union Flag, origin of, 54;
    proclamation of 1606, 55;
    objection of Scots, 56;
    quarterly form, 57;
    first called 'Britain or British flag,' 58;
    confined to ships of the R.N., 59;
    introduction of the jack, 60;
    form during Commonwealth, 63-5, 93;
    at Restoration, 66;
    usurped by merchant shipping, 66;
    imitations of, 68;
    proclamations against use by merchant ships, 67, 68;
    union of 1707, 71;
    of 1801, 71; modern patterns, 72;
    flown by admirals, 89, 100;
    use by captains in command, 98;
    flown by privateers, 124;
    white bordered, 127;
    as signal, 158;
    proportions of crosses in, 201;
    for persons of distinction, 203

  Venice, flag of, 25, 26, 149

  Verona, 27

  vexillum, 2, 9, 10, 30

  William the Conqueror, gonfanon of, 12, 14

  William III, 80

  Wynter, William, 88, 155

  Xerxes, 8

  Yachts, flying union flag, 69;
    flags of, 136

  Yarmouth, 46

  Young, Captain John, 60, 114, 197

  BY J. B. PEACE, M.A.


  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.
  Bold text is denoted by =equal signs=.
  Superscripts are denoted by ^ and have not been expanded;
    for example 'I am informed y^t the Ma^{rs} of'.

  Obvious typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected
  after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and
  consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, inconsistent or archaic spelling
  of a word or word-pair within the text has been retained. For example:
  anchor-flag, anchor flag; city-states, city states; footsoldiers,
  foot-soldiers, foot soldiers; engrafting; warre; yeeld.

  p 28.  'Ghibbellines' changed to 'Ghibellines'.
  Chap I  Footnote [54].  'coiore' changed to 'colore'.
  Chap II Footnote [99].  xx above xj has been changed to xx*xj;
      this represents 20x11 (220).
  Chap II Footnote [99] and [118].  Italicized letters in the Latin
      quotation have been made plaintext for clarity.
  p 59. 'his Mats Shippes' changed to 'his Ma^{ts} Shippes'.
  p 68. 'His Matys' changed to 'His Ma^{tys}'.
  p 89. xx above iiij has been changed to xx*iiij; this
      represents 20x4 (80).
  p 89. [85] changed to (85) to avoid confusion with Footnote numbering.
  p 100. Reference to Footnote [277] is made twice in the original text.
  p 135. 'British Dominons' changed to 'British Dominions'.
  p 138.  A mid-line blank space has been replaced by '_________'.
  p 162. 'coloumns' changed to 'columns'.
  p 183. 'fifthteenth' changed to 'fifteenth'.
  p 200. 'robands' changed to 'ribands'.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "British Flags - Their Early History, and their Development at Sea; with - an Account of the Origin of the Flag as a National Device" ***

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