Royal Coat of Arms
The royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, or the Royal Arms for short, is the official coat of arms of the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. These arms are used by the Queen in her official capacity as monarch of the United Kingdom. Variants of the Royal Arms are used by other members of the British royal family; and by the British government in connection with the administration and government of the country. In Scotland, there exists a separate version of the Royal Arms, a variant of which is used by the Scotland Office. The arms in banner form serve as basis for the monarch's official flag, known as the Royal Standard.
In the standard variant used outside of Scotland, the shield is quartered, depicting in the first and fourth quarters the three passant guardant lions of England; in the second, the rampant lion and double tressure flory-counterflory of Scotland; and in the third, a harp for Ireland. The crest is a statant guardant lion wearing the St Edward's Crown, himself on another representation of that crown. The dexter supporter is a likewise crowned English lion; the sinister, a Scottish unicorn. According to legend a free unicorn was considered a very dangerous beast; therefore the heraldic unicorn is chained, as were both supporting unicorns in the royal coat of arms of Scotland.
In the greenery below, a thistle, Tudor rose and shamrock are depicted, representing Scotland, England and Ireland respectively. This armorial achievement comprises the motto, in French, of English monarchs, Dieu et mon Droit (God and my Right), which has descended to the present royal family as well as the Garter circlet which surrounds the shield, inscribed with the Order's motto, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks evil).
The official blazon (a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem) of the Royal Arms is:
Quarterly, first and fourth Gules three Lions passant gardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure (for England), second quarter Or a Lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland), third quarter Azure a Harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland), the whole surrounded by the Garter; for a Crest, upon the Royal helm the Imperial Crown Proper, thereon a Lion statant gardant Or imperially crowned Proper; Mantling Or and Ermine; for Supporters, dexter a Lion rampant gardant Or crowned as the Crest, sinister a Unicorn Argent armed, crined and unguled Proper, gorged with a Coronet Or composed of Crosses patées and Fleurs-de-lis a Chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexed over the back also Or. Motto "Dieu et mon Droit" in the compartment below the shield, with the Union Rose, Shamrock and Thistle engrafted on the same stem.
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland as used by Queen Elizabeth II from 1953 is pictured below.
Flags of Queen Elizabeth II
Upon the death of her father in 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II & therefore adopted the Royal Standard. This flag is used to represent the queen not only in the United Kingdom but also overseas when she makes state visits. It is the royal arms in banner form undifferentiated.
The Royal Standard
The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom refers to either one of two similar flags used by Queen Elizabeth II in her capacity as Sovereign of the United Kingdom & its overseas territories.
Two versions of the flag exist (pictured below), one for general use in England, Northern Ireland, Wales & overseas; & the other for use in Scotland.
Although almost universally called a standard, such flags when used in the United Kingdom are banners of arms, as they comprise the shield of the Royal Arms.
Since the 1960s, Queen Elizabeth II has had several personal flags designed for her use as sovereign of certain Commonwealth realms.
These heraldic flags are similar to those of the British "Royal Standard" in being banners of the nation's arms but feature a device found in the Queen's general personal flag (a blue disc containing a wreath of gold roses encircling a crowned letter 'E')
The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is flown when the Queen is in residence in one of the royal palaces & on her car, ship or aeroplane. It may be flown on any building, official or private, during a visit by the Queen, if the owner or proprietor so requests.
It famously replaces the Union Flag over the Palace of Westminster when the Queen visits during the State Opening of Parliament. The Royal Standard was flown aboard the royal yacht when it was in service & the Queen was on board. The only church that may fly a Royal Standard, even without the presence of the Sovereign, is Westminster Abbey, a Royal Peculiar.
When the Queen visited the United States in 1992, she was provided with a Cadillac limousine that flew both her standard & the Stars & Stripes, an acknowledgement of the "special relationship" that exists between the two nations.
The Royal Standard is flown at royal residences only when the sovereign is present. If the Union Flag flies above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or Sandringham House, it signals that the Queen is not in residence. In 1934, King George V permitted his subjects in Scotland to display the ancient Royal Standard of Scotland as part of his silver jubilee. Today, it flies above Holyrood Palace & Balmoral Castle when the Queen is not in residence.
When the Queen attends Parliament at the Palace of Westminster, the Royal Standard flies from Victoria Tower.
Unlike the Union Flag, the Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast, even after the demise of the Crown, as there is always a sovereign on the throne.
Controversy arose regarding the lack of a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. The Queen was then in summer residence at Balmoral; & according to established custom, no flag was displayed over Buckingham Palace, as the monarch was not present. The Queen proposed a compromise whereby the Union Flag would be flown at half-mast on the day of Diana's funeral.
Since then, the Union Flag has flown regularly in the Queen's absence & has been lowered to half-mast to mark several occasions such as the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the September 11 attacks & the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
The Union Flag was also flown at half-mast over Buckingham Palace as a mark of respect on the first anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on Bank Holiday, Monday, 31 August 1998.
Personal Flag of Queen Elizabeth II
The Royal Household may display Queen Elizabeth II's personal flag on any building, ship, car, or aircraft in which she is staying or travelling.
It often represents Her Majesty in her role as Head of the Commonwealth or as monarch of a Commonwealth realm in which she does not possess a unique flag. This flag, designed in the College of Arms in 1960, was first used in 1961 for the Queen's visit to India.
The flag bears the crowned letter E in gold, surrounded by a garland of gold roses on a blue background, with a golden fringe. The crown is a symbol of the Queen's rank & dignity, whilst the roses symbolise the countries of the Commonwealth. (The "crowned 'E'" emblem also appears in the Queen's personal flags for Australia, Barbados, Jamaica, Canada, & New Zealand.)
The flag was created at the Queen's request in December 1960 to symbolise her as an individual, not associated with her role as sovereign of any particular Commonwealth realm.
Over time, the flag started to be used in place of the British royal standard when the Queen visits Commonwealth countries where she is not head of state & for Commonwealth occasions in the United Kingdom; it came to symbolise the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth.
Eventually, the practice evolved wherein the flag is raised at Marlborough House (the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat) in London when the Queen visits, rather than the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom.