Thursday, 18 December 2014

Coat of arms of Santa Claus

A little seasonal last post of the year, dedicated to the magic man who travels around the world in one night, comes down chimneys and leaves presents under Christmas trees. I have designed a coat of arms for Mr Claus because if anyone deserves an armorial achievement it is Santa. This quick clip about the history of Santa will help explain some of the components:
So here is my proposal for Santa's coat of arms:
The shield is Per Pall inverted, The bottom third features Christmas bell, ensigned with a Bishop's Mitre. This part symbolises the meaning of Christmas. The bell symbolises the church bells that ring with joy all over the world on December 25, that announce the birth of the Savior. The Mitre is reflective of the headdress worn by St Nick, as is the red and white colour scheme.  The compass rose pointing north is a reference to Santa's grotto in the North Pole. It could also reflect the star of Bethlehem that told the Magi of  the birth of Christ. The green is reflective of the colours of Father Christmas. The Christmas tree is reflective of the current tradition that although probably has pagan origins, is undoubtedly one of the universal symbols of Christmas. The supporters feature reindeer with jingle bells colors, who pull Santa's sleigh. The helm design features the modified Old Ducal Hat of England, to one that reflects the traditional Santa hat, the sprig of holly a reference to the traditional wreath worn by Father Christmas. The crest features an angel, like the one who appeared to Mary or the Shepherds. The compartment is an iceberg another reference to the North Pole. The motto is latin for Merry Christmas.  I hope you enjoyed this design as much I did.

Blythe Yule an a Haud Hogmanay!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Development & History of Irish flags Pt8: Military flags of the 18th & 19th Centuries

Colour party of 18th Regiment of Foot battle of Amoy 1841
Compared with the 16th and 17th Centuries the 18th century was a relatively stable period in the Kingdom of Ireland, despite various external and internal threats. This is the period known as the Protestant Ascendancy (although speaking as a Presbyterian, Anglican Ascendancy would be more appropriate), secure after the Williamite-Jacobite conflict of 1688-92. As such many of the flags used would reflect this, and symbolise a different idea of what it means to be Irish, than what most people would think today. Of course towards the end of the century we saw the end of the Kingdom of Ireland when it was fully incorporated into the United Kingdom, and the birth of modern Irish Nationalism, their many and interesting flags will be covered in a separate post. The military forces of this period can be divided into three categories:

  • The regular Army
  • Independant Volunteers
  • Militia & Yeomanry

Regular Army

After the 1690s the Kingdom of Ireland was not allowed an army, it was feared that a deposed monarch would use it to oppose or threaten parliamentary democracy in mainland Great Britain, like what James II had done in the previous decade. So many of the Irish units of the former Williamite forces were either disbanded or transferred to the new British Army. (in Great Britain the monarchy was forbidden by law from having a standing army, which is why unlike the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the British Army has no royal title.) Later new Irish regiments were raised. 


The foot soldiers followed the standard patter of Infantry colours. Like the UK Army today these consisted of two flags for each battalion, A King's Colour (or Queen's Colour if the monarch was of the fairer sex) and a Battalion or Regimental Colour. Since 1743 these followed a strict uniformed pattern, the regulations stated that colonels could not display their coat of arms or any personal heraldic device on their regiments colours. The King's Colour was established as a Union Flag, normally with the St George Cross defaced with a royal cypher and crown. The regimental colour was the same colour as the facings of the units uniform (for example the 18th Foot would be blue). It had a (representation) of the Union Flag in the canton, The Regiment's number (often in roman numerals) appeared in the center of this flag inside a wreath of roses, thistles and shamrocks. Although there were certain exceptions where a regimental insignia or badge was used instead. Most of the Irish units appear to have been part of this exception. 
At the beginning of the 1700s there were only two Irish regiments, the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot raised in 1684, and sided with the Williamites in 1688, and the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot,one of those raised in 1688 defend Enniskillen from James II.  
The18th Foot, had a blue colour with a crowned harp and the motto "Virtutis Namurcensis Praemium" (The reward of virtue at Namur). This was awarded when the regiment distinguished itself at the Siege of Namur 1695, and one of the earliest examples of a battle honour, on British regimental colours. In the second, third and fourth corners was a representation of the Lion of Nassau. This was taken from the arms of William III, who awarded it as a badge to the regiment. The crowned harp also appeared on the King's Colour. Both flags had the regiment's number in the canton. 
The 27th Foot had a buff colour, on which was a blue disk, depicting Enniskillen Castle flying the Cross of St George, with the word "Inniskilling" above it. This was the same regiment as Colonel Tiffin's Regiment, who's Williamite colours can be seen in Part 6. The badge of the castle was also awarded to the regiment by William III. The use of this badge was reauthorized in 1751. Like the standard colours it had a Union Flag in the canton, with the regimental number. The castle was also depicted on the King's Colour. In this period regiments did not display battle honours on their colours. 
For most of the century these were the only Irish Infantry regiments in the Army, These were primarily protestant units as the state feared giving Catholics weapons and teaching them how to use them effectively. However  following the threat from revolutionary France in 1793, the British government increased the size of the army and relaxed these regulations. Five new Irish regiments were formed the 83rd (County Dublin), 86th (Royal County Down), 87th (Prince of Wales Own Irish), 88th (Connaught Rangers) and 89th (Princess Victoria's). .
The colours issued to these regiments followed the pattern described earlier, although the 88th Foot colours are interesting as it follows the pattern but has some distinct differences. It had the number in arabic numerals, rather than roman ones. It also had a regimental device of a crowned harp and motto "Quis Separabit" (who shall separate us, same motto as the order of St Patrick).The colours of the 89th are particularly interesting as having a black field with a red cross. A history of the regiment's colours can be seen here.
 In 1810 the 86th (Leinster) Regiment of Foot, were the first British troops to storm the walls of Bourbon, they did not have a flag to replace the French one over the garrison. So the Leinsters took their colour off their pole and ran it up the flagpole. As far as I know this is the only time British Army colours have been used like this. In 1837 the 87th Regiment of Foot charged the French at the battle of Barrosa and became the first British Army unit to capture an French Imperial Eagle standard. The eagle became incorporated in their badge and the badge of their successor the Royal Irish Fusiliers and is still worn in the ceremonial uniform of the Royal Irish Regiment, and the eagle is still possessed by the regiment.
Following the Napoleonic Wars, the colours started to become more elaborate, with more and more regiments displaying their battle honours on their regimental colours. Initially these were special badges with scrolls, however this system was soon replaced with scrolls only.
However they remained a practical piece of equipment for identifying regiments and as rallying points. After the 1860s regiments were known by name only, and so the practice of displaying the regimental number on the colour was phased out, and replaced with a regimental badge. By the end of the 1800s colours had become very flamboyant, however following changes in how battles were fought during the Boer Wars, they were no longer carried into battle and were/are only symbolic and ceremonial.


King's Guidon 5th Dragoons 1751
There were only two mounted Irish raised regiments the 18th Century army, the 5th and 6th Dragoons raised for the Williamite cause between 1688-90. These became the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers and the celebrated 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons (immortalized in the ballad "fare ye well Enniskillen", a regiment that saw service throughout the 1700s, served with Wellington in Spain and at Waterloo and campaigns in the Crimea, and who's descendant regiment (5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards) would see service in both world wars and distinguish itself in Korea.) There were various other Cavalry regiments that were originally raised in England, however after spending most of the eighteenth Century garrisoned in Ireland, they took on many Irish recruits. Some of the longest serving in Ireland from the periods of 1698 -1793 were 1st (Irish/Blue) Regiment of Horse and the 2nd (Green) Regiment of Horse. 
Regulations on the flags of mounted units were introduced in 1743 (and amended in 1751) stated that calvary standards should be of damask, embroidered and fringed with gold or silver, those of dragoon regiments were made of silk.  
2nd guidon of 2nd Regiment of Horse 1750
Each regiment bore three standards (called guidons) the 1st the King's (or Colonels) standard was carried by the right flank squadron. This was crimson with a floral representation of the Union of Great Britain an entwined thistle and rose (a shamrock was also on some and on all after 1800) in the centre; beneath which was the royal motto "Dieu et mon Droit" (God and my right). on the first and fourth corners was the white horse of the Hanoverians, the arms of the royal dynasty ruling Great Britain & Ireland at the time. The number of the regiment in gold or silver numerals on the colour of the regiment's uniform facings were on the second and third.
1840 3rd Guidon of  5th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Enniskillen Castle
the second or Lieut-Colonels guidon and third or majors guidons were the colour of the regiments facings (blue for the 1st horse and 5th Dragoons, Green for 2nd Horse and yellow for 6th Dragoons). The second guidon was carried by the left flank squadron and the third by the centre squadron. In the centre often (but not always) on a crimson disc surrounded by thistles, roses and shamrocks was either the regiment badge or its number. the white horse emblem was on the first and fourth corners and the entwined flowers on the second and third. The third guidon was distinguished from the second by a number "3" below the central emblem. This style of guidon has changed little and is still used by regiments with a cavalry history or culture today. Dragoon Guidons were often swallow tailed or notched in the fly, where those of standard cavalry were often square.
2nd Guidon 5th Dragoons 1751
There were various short lived Irish regiments in these two centuries, including but not limited to; 100th Regiment of Foot (Prince Regent's County of Dublin Regiment) 1804-1814) 102nd Regiment of Foot (Irish Rangers) 1793-1795. 134th (Loyal Limerick) Regiment of Foot 1794 -1796. 135th (Limerick) Regiment of Foot which was raised and disbanded in 1796 and the Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) 1881-1922. Their colours followed the patterns described above. Other Irishmen served in other military units, whose flags (if any at all) are outside the scope of this series. In fact up to a third of soldiers in the British Army of the nineteenth century is thought to have been Irish. 
Detail from the artwork "the Volunteer Furniture"

Independant Volunteers 

There were numerous Volunteers Companies in Ireland throughout the eighteenth Century, The Volunteers were not a formal part of the army or the state authorities. They were organised by the gentry and influential citizens, and their ranks were mostly made up of the middle classes. They're role was to defend their homes and property from foreign raiders (their were examples of French raids on Irish soil throughout the century as well as planned and attempted raids by the fledgling US Navy) and domestic rebels. They were mostly however political and social organisations offering men look brave and patriotic uniforms which the ladies liked, as well as positions of respect and authority, Their flags like their uniforms, unit sizes and equipment varied. There were however some common themes. The largest battalions and brigades copied the styles of the colours of the regular army. A Union Flag, and a flag with a badge or insignia, with an interpretation of the union flag in the canton. However those of smaller corps and companies were often completely different and varied, with almost no uniformity at all. Some were painted silk, others rather elaborate embroidered flags. We are fortunate that many volunteer flags have survived hanging in the halls of private estates or carefully kept by family members, and are now carefully cared for by museums. The symbolism on them varied greatly, one of the best pictures of Volunteers, is the painting by  Francis Wheatley. which depicts the Volunteers parading on College Green in Dublin. It shows two flags being carried side by side, on red the other blue. The detail is not recorded but one appears to show a shield with a red saltire on white field. A possible St Patrick's Cross or more likely the Fitzgerald arms, The Lord Fitzgerald was a colonel of a Dublin Volunteer regiment.
There were far too many volunteer units who's flags have survived to list and show them all, like the army colours and standards, I will list the common patterns and display some of the more unusual ones.
Most flags had a red, blue or green field. The most common symbol being a crowned harp, although there were two notable versions of this badge. One was the harp with the imperial state crown, the other replaced the state crown with an interpretation of a more ancient celtic type crown. This could reflect some units might have seen their primary loyalty to their country rather than King, or maybe they wanted to show their loyalty but not being an official state body, refrained from using the state crown, perhaps it was nothing more than artistic? The badge was usually on a central panel in a wreath of shamrocks or bay leafs or both. This is demonstrated on the flag of the Pason Volunteers, preserved in Bir Castle Co Offlay.
Human figures were also popular. Of these the most common was the personifications of Hibernia and Britannia. The similarities of these figures (in the flags at least) is interesting. Both show a seated female figure generally in armour. She is seated with the national symbol. Britannia has a Union Jack shield, Hibernia a harp. They both have a shafted weapon over their shoulder, Britannia has a trident, symbolising her rule of the sea, Hibernia a spear with a liberty cap, symbolising freedom. They are often offering something with their other had, for Britannia its an olive sprig of peace, Hibernia is varied from shamrocks and olive branches, the one below has the staff of Moses which along with the ship represents prosperity  
The other common Human figure was that of a volunteer, these appeared on many flags such examples include the Royal Glin Hussars, Tullamore True Blue Rangers (you don't get unit names like that anymore) and seen here the Braid Volunteers, the central panel of who's flag had a volunteer loading a musket it was flanked by a wreath of bay and shamrocks, itself flaked by trophies of flags guns and shaft weapons, and muskets above these around the wreath was the motto or slogan "Liberty is here in My country" and below the panel was the unit name:
The Killeavy Volunteers of Co Down had a picture of what is presumed to be William III. Many of these units would have been exclusively Protestant, and at this stage the memory of "King Billy" was already becoming the Personification of Protestant Ireland. As such many flags had references to him. the Ballymena Volunteers of Co Antrim had a harp on their flag but it was flanked by the letters and Numerals of "W" and "III." It is also thought that the Killeavy flag might have had a version of the Union Flag in the canton although this is no longer the case:
Many of these flags were also double sided, often with a crowned harp on one side and a local or unit badge on the other. For example the guidon of the mounted branch of the Tullamore True Blue Rangers:

Other Volunteer flags of interest is that of the Ennis Volunteers, it had the local coat of arms surrounded by some trophies as their badge. A harp on green field is in the canton, rather than a Union Flag, less than a handful of flags (that we know of) did this:
The motto around the harp translates to "For King often, For Country always." Another most fascinating flag is that of the County Sligo Light Horse. This colorful double sided flag has a crowned harp on a black and red saltire field with the letters "CSLH" on a one side. The other side is pale blue with a Sun coming out from behind clouds with a rainbow. This is fascinating as it is before the foundation of modern Nationalism, and could possibly be an origin of the Sunburst used in many nationalist flags historic and modern, which will be covered later in this series. The motto translating as "After the clouds Sun" suggest it has the same symbolism of a new day.

Militia & Yeomanry 


The formation of the Irish Militia by 1793 effectively ended the reign of the Volunteers (who's numbers were already dwindling due to political divisions and government restriction like the Gunpowder Act ans Convention Act). The Militia and Yeomanry effectively took over the role of the Volunteers and Unlike the Volunteers was an official branch of the military, The Militia was an organised Division of infantry battalions all over the country, who's members trained and drilled in their spare time (forerunners of today's Army Reserve & Reserve Defence Forces) they would be called up to serve alongside their regular army colleges in a time of crisis like an invasion or rebellion. Like the regular army each battalion followed a standard practice for colours. Each had a king's Colour that was a Union Flag, and a battalion colour which was the colour of their uniform facings with a Union Jack in the canton. However unlike the regulars their does not seem to have been a standard practice for the devices and insignia displayed on them or of the material they were made of or how they were made. Most seem to have displayed a royal cypher or battalion name rather than a number. We are fortunate in that the National Museum of Ireland has in its possession remnants of some Militia colours. These are mostly second generation flags presented after the 1801 Act of Union. We know they were not the first because their is a newspaper article that describes a Militia battalion being presented with new colours in Armagh:
"The regiment was drawn up in funeral procession before Major Cope's lodgings, commanding at Ennis at present. The ancient banners were given out, with which  they proceed, the band playing solemn dirges, to the exercise ground. Here they formed a hollow square, in the centre of which the colours were burned and the ashes interred, over which the regiment fired three rounds. This ceremony concluded, the regiment again formed a hollow square and were presented with the new standards."
 Some colours that survie are:
  • The County Clare Militia Battalion
The King's Colour is a union flag with an imperial crown in the centre, below this is a scroll with inscription "Clare Militia."
 The battalion colour is yellow with a representation of the union flag in the canton, The centre peice is embroided, with a red disc, inside which is the royal cypher and the inscription "Clare Militia." Around this is a union wreath of thistles, roses and shamrocks topped with a crown.

  • Kildare Militia
The King's Colour has the wreath ensigned with a crown. Inside this is a shield which has the legend "Kildare or IV Battalion Militia." The Battalion colour is black with defaced with a red cross, and union jack in the canton. within an arrangement of scrolls is "Kildare Militia IV" above a large shamrock. This is surrounded by a wreath symbolising the union. Similar to the 89th Regiment of Foot.

  • North Mayo Militia
The colour of this battalion is a St George Cross with union flag in the canton. Within a wreath of thistles, roses and shamrocks is the legend "North Mayo Militia." This design of colour was common with units that had white facings. The red cross breaking up the white. The King's Colour doesn't seem to have survived so we are unsure what (if any) devices the Union Flag had.

  • Galway Militia
the colours of the 11th Battalion of Militia, are about five feet square. The King's Colour has an embroidered centrepiece. This is a shield with the Royal Cypher on a shield. This is surrounded with the union wreath, ensigned with a crown. beneath the shield is the battalion number XI and a scroll inscribed "Galway Militia." The battalion colour is yellow with a union flag in the canton, this has a shield with the royal cypher surrounded by the union wreath ensigned with the crown. Above this is a scroll with "Gallway Militia." The number below XI is below.
The Wicklow Militia is almost exactly the same as Galway's but are painted rather than embroided, it appears the some units were prepared to spend more on their colours than others.

Yeomanry Cavalry

The Yeomanry Corps was a sort of military police force, who's primary role was to maintain law and order, although like the Militia they would be expected to fight beside the regular army during a rebellion or invasion. The Yeomanry was made up of both mounted and infantry units.  There seems to be a standard design that was loosely followed. Some of these flags survive in both the Ulster Museum and National Museum of Ireland. These flags were double sided, with a royal badge of some description on one side, a royal cypher, coat of arms or crowned harp, and unit badge on the other. Like the regular cavalry most seem to have had a horse of Hanover in the corners.  The Londonderry Cavalry for example had the royal cypher on the red side, and rather unusually had a pre 1801 union flag in the canton (clearly presented before the Act of Union.). On the blue side within a wreath of bay leafs and shamrocks is the Derry coat of arms. On a scroll above is the inscription "L:Derry(short for Londonderry) - Cavalry between this is a latin motto translating as "for hearths and homes." Beneath the arms is the city motto "Vita Veritas Victoria" (Life, Truth, Victory). The cavalry of neighbouring Coleraine had a similar flag, except there is no union flag, and it bears the Coleraine coat of arms. These two are the only flags without a Hannover badge. 
The Lower Iveagh Cavalry, seems to have had troops guidons as two first and second troop guidons survive. These flags are blue on both sides. One side has a wreath of oak leafs, in which is inscribed "Lower Iveagh Yeoman-Cavalry and the troop number.  In wreaths on the 1st and 4th corner is the badge of hannover, the Royal cypher on the others. The reverse has a belt inscribed "For our King, Laws and Constitution." within this is a crowned harp. The troop number is in the 2nd and 3rd coroners and royal badge in the 1st and 4th. 
the Rathfarnham Calvary from Co Dublin, is a standard rather than guidon. It is not clear if there was any significance between a standard and guidon like in the regular cavalry. On the blue side was the complete achievement of the Royal Coat of Arms of the 1714-1800 version (it is worth noting that the Irish quarter is the only quarter of the arms that has remained unchanged since 1603). In each quarter is the royal cypher. The red side has a crowned harp, (the inside of which is blue for heraldic reasons) above and below which were two scrolls, reading "For King and Constitution" and "Rathfarnham Calvary." In the 1st and 4th coroner is the badge of the Royal House and a St Patrick's Star in the 2nd and 3rd. 

Yeomanry Infantry

There are at least four Yeoman Infantry colour that have survived these are the colours of the Belfast Battalion and the King's Colours of the Templepatrick battalion and South Circular Road Battalion form Dublin.
The Belfast King's Colours has the Royal arms (of 1801) in the centre, Below which is the King's cypher GRIII. The battalion colour is blue with a Union Flag in the canton. The centre is a shield inscribed "Belfast Yeomanry Formed October 1796" This is surrounded by a union wreath ensigned with a crowned harp.
The Templepatrick battalion's King's Colours have a royal coat of arms surrounded by the Union wreath, above this is a scroll with "Templepatrick In." The reverse of this flag feature the coat of arms of the unit captain, the Earl of templetown, and the motto "Virtutis avorum preamium" (The reward of ancestral valour) it appears the restrictions of displaying personal arms on colours did not apply to the Yeomanry as it did the army.
The South Circular Road Yeomanry King's Colours has a shield with the royal cypher, surronded by the union wreath ensigned with the crown. Below this is the unit name.
Another unidentified set of colours feature a pre-1801 Union Flag with no markings, and as the unit flag a yellow flag, with a union flag in the canton. The centrepiece is an image of William III on horseback as often depicted. Above and below are two scrolls one reading "In HoHonorf his virtues" the other "Glorious Boyne 1690" in reference to the great battle of the Glorious Revolution. This unidentified set of colours is thought to belong to either the Cork Yeoman Infantry, Bandon Boyne Yeoman Infantry or possibly a Volunteer Company.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Federal UK - Devolution to English Regions.

I think its a good time to post this, giving that yesterday the Prime Minister announced that his proposals for English devolution (or English votes on English laws as he put it) will be published by Christmas. This is an interesting topic with most English people from what I can see, agreeing with the concept. However there are certainly implications:
The main ideas being put out there are:

  • No real devolution, but rather excluding non English (and by extension Greater London) MPs from voting on English matters. 
  • A separate English Parliament running internal English affairs, like the devolved government of the other UK countries.
  • Greater powers to the councils of county and city regions
  • Federalising England, with each region having its own Assembly. 
Of course there are advantages and disadvantages to all these but its not for me to debate, (although I personally  think one of the latter two might work better both for the UK as a whole and for addressing things like the English North-South divide.) this is a flag blog. I did a post about this a couple of months ago with some ideas. On the flags there I focused more on preserving a sense of Englishness in the flags rather than any sort of regional identity.  As a result I wasn't too happy with them. However in this post I tried to redress that:

Unlike last time I divided England into seven provinces. These are

  • Wessex & Cornwall
  • Cantia
  • Anglia
  • Mercia
  • Northumbria
  • Rheged
  • Londinium
Most reviving the names of the Ancient Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. I tried to base the flags on Heraldic standards and give them a kind of medieval feel. As such the standard design has St George's Cross in the hoist. The idea of this is that it reflects the individuality of the region but at the same time maintains the collective English identity.

Wessex & Cornwall

I think one county is too small for a whole region, however the Cornish have their own unique culture and identity, Cornish is now officially an ethnic group and some see themselves as a separate group from the English. This is why the regions official name is Wessex & Cornwall, rather than just Wessex, preserving Cornwall as a unique entity. There are two designs the first one:
Reflecting the Anglo-Saxon name, it has a gold wyvern, Reflecting the dragon standard said to have been born in battle by the West Saxons, against Britons, Mercians, Vikings etc and even Anglo Saxons at the battle of Hastings in 1066. These standards could be the forerunners of English flags, and is reflected by the Wyvern. It has the Cornish cross in the hoist rather than St George's reflecting Cornwall's unique identity. Or alternatively A design suggested by Paul James, where the coins of the Duchy of Cornwall's coat of arms are used:


The name taking from the Ancient Kingdom of the Kentish. Comprising primarily of Kent and Sussex:
as such the flag is quartered with the arms of kent and the flag of the "historic" county of Sussex, versions of which have been used by both East & West Sussex.


Anglia consists of the regions of East Anglia, Essex and Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire. The Anglia flag is this:
Its quartered with the arms of Essex and the three saxon crowns from the East Anglia flag. The waves in the centre feature on both the flags of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire


The central province of England, many symbols are associated with Mercia. My first flag is this:

The Cross of St Alban rather than St George is in the hoist. This is the attributed arms of the Kingdom of Mercia. The double headed eagle has been used by various Army units as a heraldic device for Mercia, Again these are from attributed arms of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. A double headed eagle and saxon crown is the current badge of the Mercian Regiment. The black field could represent The Black Country?Alternatively this flag could be adopted:  
It keeps the Cross of St George in the hoist, and the symbols from the other flag. It also has a white wyvern. This represents a standard the Ancient Mercians bore in battle with the Welsh although it is disputed. However the crest of the old Midland Railway was also a wyvern.


One of the most powerful Saxon Kingdoms of Ancient Britain Northumbria covers the Northeast. My Northumbrian flag is:
The alternating red and yellow stripes come from the modern flag of the County of Northumberland. However they predate the county and are attributed to the King of Northumbria. It also has the rose and soleil design in the centre. The white rose being the badge of the old royal house of york, and today associated with Yorkshire and North West England. The Soleil is a representation on the Sun and was used by Richard III, 


Using the name of an ancient Northern Kingdom, Rheged is a province in the North West of England. The flag of Rheged is:
It features the red rose of Lancashire, The waves of Merseyside, Corn bails of Cheshire, chevrons of Cumbria, and towers of Greater Manchester


The Province of Londinium covers Greater London and the surrounding area. Londinium was the name of the Roman settlement sited where the City of London is. I decided to revive  this name as it sounds cooler than Greater London Region/Area, and it would probably include some areas outside London itself. The Province flag is this:
Its a cross between a previous Greater London flag design of mine and the arms of the former Greater London Council. The main elements are the Saxon Crown and Portcullis. The Portcullis is a traditional symbol of English nobility, and historically associated with Westminster and parliament. It is also a symbol of the wider London area and a perfect symbol for the capital province.
These are my suggestion, feel free to comment and tell me yours.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Skyrim Banners (game flags)

This is something I have wanted to write about for quite a long time. I am not an Elder Scrolls fan, but I do have the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and rather enjoy it. One thing that I noticed almost straight away was the use of banners in the game, some good, some not so good. Banners are often found hanging from the walls of capital cities, and forts, and the Jarl's (a hold king) residencies. They are also used as 'flags' over forts or beside the command tent in an Imperial or Stormcloak military camps, and often as indoor decorations of palaces, ships, castles & forts, ruins and even some caves.
Banner of Haafingar, hanging above the entrance too Castle Dauer in Solitude 
So here are some of my redesigns and proposals for the banners and flags of Skyrim. I tried to retain their historic feel but at the same time make them better from a vexillology view point.


The province of Skyrim is divided up into nine sub-regions known as holds, each governed by its own local king or queen called a Jarl. In the backdrop of the game the province is in a civil war between the Stormcloack rebels who want independence from the Empire and the Empire's Imperial Legion, with the out come depending on which side the player chooses. At the start each side has four holds with the central Whiterun hold being neutral (although it will later side with the Imperials regardless of which side the player joins).

 Each Hold has its own insignia which is displayed on the hold banner, and born on the shields of the hold guard:
Hold Banners in the Game
Hold Guard Shields
First of is the Hold of Eastmarch, the capital of which is Windhelm, and its Jarl (at the start of the Game at least) is Ulfric Stormcloack claimant of the High Kingship of Skyrim and leader of the rebellion. He has adopted his father's emblem of the bear, as such both the banner Stormcloak soldiers and his hold "fight under his banner" of the bear although the are slightly different. The hold banner isn't that bad, but here is my redesign, which keeps the blue and white colour scheme:

Next up is Falkreath Hold the capital of which is also called Falkreath. Its symbol is the stag:

Its really a simplified design of the game's flag with the exception of the white chevron, which adds a little bit of complexity to the design.
Haafingar, with its capital of Solitude is the imperial capital of Skyrim. It is the headquarters of the Imperial Legion in the province (IV Legion) and home to the provinces military governor, General Tullius. Its Jarl Elisif who is also a claimant to the tittle of High Queen. Her husband was High King, but was challenged and killed in "the Nord tradition" by Ullfrick Stormcloak, both now claim the High King title. Elisif wants Skyrim to remain part of the Empire and as such is recognised as High Queen by the Emperor, despite Nord tration giving Ulfric the title, hence the civil war. I made little changes to the banner hear but simplified the wolf symbol:

I personally didn't like the dark green, grey & black colour scheme in the banner of Hjaamarch. I though a green, grey and gold colours scheme was better with green being the primary colour, and grey and gold stripes in the centre and boarder of the design:

I also didn't like the banner of the Pale for the same reason, although I didn't really change the colours in this one, but rather made the star symbol (at least I think its a star) more prominent by placing it in a black diamond, also adding white and black stripes for a little complexity: 

The long and narrow banner of the Reach I didn't like at all, although the colours are okay. I got really creative here and actually based the design on a saltire. A green saltire on green field with silver and gold frimbation. The Ramskull design in the middle and in the corners. I kept the original colours but added silver to represent the rich silver mining in the area.

I really don't like the crossed swords symbol for the Rift, I think the writers were really scraping the bottom of the barrel for symbols, when it came to the rift. However I haven't changed any of the symbols for the other Holds so I kept the swords.  The Rift's banner on the other hand is rather good. The only change I made was to put the swords higher up, and give the a solid colour, I also added a purple rather than gold boarder but kept the gold bars:

The only thing I did to Winterhold's banner was simplify it:


Whiterun's banner wouldn't be that bad if it didn't have that pattern at the bottom of it, and perhaps a darker shade of gold. I used a gold field with a white diamond and simpler horse's head:


Imperial flags & banners

The banner used by the Imperial Legion in Skyrim is a black field displaying the imperial insignia in red. The Imperial insignia is a dragon with its wings spread to give the impression of a diamond shape.
This is the banner displayed on forts and in military camps. The legion also seems to have a different decorative banner thats only hung indoors:
As the Imperial Legion is modeled on the ancient Roman Legions, I decided to adopt a Roman styled theme. First is the decorative indoor flag:
Its a crimson field as is portrayed as the colour of Roman standards in popular media and culture. The Imperial insignia is in the middle of a laurel wreath an imperial symbol of Rome. At the bottom are two crossed swords a common feature on all my decorative indoor banners of the Imperial military. At the top of the wreath is the Roman numerals IV for 4. The 4th legion is the division of the Imperial Legion that is in Skyrim during the game. The numerals are also present in the corners.
Next is the fort flag, I think its silly that flags are not used over forts, as banners were generally carried by the troops, and flags used over buildings and structures. So here is my garrison flag:
It keeps the imperial insignia in the centre but without the decorative features like the wreath, the division's numerals are still in the corners though. While the indoor banner is decorative this flag is functional. It identifies the fort as belonging to the Empire, and identifies the division which is garrisoning it. The banner often found in military camps is really an elongated version of the garrison flag:
I kept this as a banner as I think when used in this role it is reflecting the banners carried by soldiers. As this piece of game artwork shows. See Here.
Next is the Imperial Navy; although there is no direct reference to this service being active in the Skyrim Civil War (or even in existence at the time), there are references to it in the past which are found when reading some of the books in the game. There are also a couple of what do seem to be military vessels in and around Solitude harbour, that have the black imperial banner (which seems to be a generic imperial military flag) hanging inside, infact there is even a minor quest where by extinguishing the light of Solitude light house, you guide a ship onto rocks, where by joining with the bandits you pillage the ship, this ship has imperial troops among the crew. Of course these might be vessels of the East Empire Company (modeled on the British East India Company) that has military backing. Anyway here is the Imperial Navy ensign (with the exception of the Emperor's ship) none of the ships display flags outside which seems odd, and probably should be corrected:
Similar to the Legion flag, but instead of the division numerals it has anchors identifying it as a naval flag. Likewise the decorative indoor banner follows the Legion pattern:
Next are the banners of the Penitus Oculatus, the Empires Security Service and the Emperor's bodyguard. This unit isn't in the Civil War quest line but the dark brotherhood (a guild of assassins) quest line, who are hired to kill the emperor. They have an outpost in Dragon's Bridge, which remains there regardless of the outcome of the civil war. Their outdoor banner is:
It still has the Imperial insignia in the centre, but inside a black diamond shape. In the coroners is the units insignia,(found on their armour) an eye, and a red diamond, reflective of the Amulet of the King's the Empire's Crown jewel (although this technically no longer exists as apparently it was destroyed in the last Elder Scrolls game). The decorative indoor banner inside the outpost again follows the pattern:
Last but not least is the Emperor's banner. These could be hung inside the Emperor's Tower of Castle Dauer in Solitude (where the Emperor is supposed to stay when he visits) and inside his personal ship, where he stays instead:
Purple was the colour of Roman Emperors and so the Imperial insignia is inside a purple diamond, the actual design is based on the pattern of the Emperors clothes. Likewise the ensign of his ship could be:

 Other Civil War related flags & banners

Of course for there to be a civil war there needs to be another side. The banner of the Stormcloak militia in the game is:
Like that of Eastmarch it has the Bear insigna of Ullfrick Stormcloak, however it is a plain blue banner rather than a blue and white design. it is simplified as much as possible.I decided to add a little bit of Complexity to this design by adding two white stripes and colouring the bear:

garrison flag
The other Civil War faction allied with the Empire is the Thalmor a race of elves who 30 years prior to the beginning of the game launched a surprise attack on the Empire, and won. In exchange for retaining its sovereignty the Empire singed a peace treaty outlawing the worship of Talos. This is another reason why many of the citizens of Skyrim want independance, as Talos is "Skyrim personified." the Thalmor carry out inquisitions in Imperial held holds and have an embassy in the province, a HQ in Castle Dauer and their own fort/prison. However despite this they don't appear to use their own banners but rather Imperial ones. I decided to correct this:
garrison flag

 These are the all round bad guys disliked by everyone (even the imperials) and possibly orchestrated the civil war to further weaken the Empire. They are often compared to the Nazis, due to their religious persecution, and ideology of racial superiority. This is why I used an eagle as their symbol (stopping short of placing a swastika below its claws). The gold colour comes from the colour of the Elvish armour, black is also an appropriate colour for the all round bad guys, with some white just to break up the colours. 

Joinable Factions

Most of these factions unlike the military or hold units don't display their emblems on forts or castles, however they do have decorative indoor banners hanging on their walls in their building or hide out.
One of the first factions the player can join is "The Companions" a well known and respected group of mercenaries. (sort of like the A-Team of Skyrim) Inside their mead hall and living quarters their banners decorate the walls. It is a long and narrow red banner with a depiction of Wuuthrad, the weapon of the unit's founder Ysgramor. I changed the banner slightly, I made it shorter and broader, and simplified it by removing the decoration and making the Wuuthrad a solid colour:
The other joinable faction you meet early on is the Blades. The Blades have their origins as dragon hunters but eventually became the personal bodyguards of the Emperor, until the Empire's defeat by the Thalmor when the Emperor was forced to disband and outlaw them. They since resorted to their original role of dragon hunting and guiding the dragonborn. I don't think I remember the blades having banners, but they could have ones inside their hide out. My design for a blades banner is:
It is reflective of their past as the Emperor's bodyguard. and as such has Imperial symbolism. It is purple the Roman colour of Emperors, and has the Imperial insignia in the corners. The central insignia is an interpretation of the Amulet of the Kings (a design copied by their successors). with the blades insignia in the centre.
The other more prominent faction is the magic College of Winterhold, as sort of Skyrim Hogwarts, It also has some decorative banners with the college's eye insignia.  My design moves away from this rather uncreative design, with two counterchanged colours of black and silver:
Another college that the player can join is the Bard's College. Again it has no banner of its own, however it does have Imperial Legion banners hanging from its walls. The college clearly has strong military connections and many of its students appear to provide the musical branch of the Imperial Legion. One trainee bard even says that he wishes he could hurry up and graduate so he could enroll in the Legion and that "my drums will lead us to victory." Still it is not part of the Legion though it has links to it so I think a separate banner is appropriate:
The central emblem is the harp symbolising that most of the college's work is in teaching and reciting music. The Imperial insignia in the corners symbolising its links with the Legion.
Next up is the Thieves Guild, I think their banner is actually OK and I wouldn't really change it, however if I was pushed then I would suggest this:
Through the Thieves Guild you join the Nightingales which is made up of the Guild's top membership but technically a separate religious organisation. Their banner I think leaves a lot to be desired, so this is my suggestion:
And of course last but not least for joinable factions is the Dark Brotherhood, a group of assassins. I actually like their banner, but the small changes I would suggest is changing the white/tan to black, and making the black hand, white, the changes are small but the results are big:
The red and the black compliment each other excellently, and a white hand looks more ghostly, all these together give the banner a darker and more sinister look.

Non Joinable Factions

As well as joinable groups there are also non joinable groups in the game that act as antagonists and enemies or are just there in the background that might offer one off jobs. The first I am going to mention is the East Empire Company. They are backed by the Imperial military and even have their own military arm, although this is for fighting pirates and bandits, and are not involved in the civil war or politics of the province. Their officers at least and many of their soldiers wear imperial legion armour (however their guards in the Solitude warehouse don't). There is a chance that the large ships seen in and around solitude (and wrecked and raided by the player) are company ships not navy. There is at least one company ship the player joins to fight some pirates that are terrorising local shipping and seem to be targetting East Empire Company ships. Alternatively the banner can also hang inside their offices and warehouse in Solitude and Windhelm. Anyway here are my designs:

indoor banner
Similar to the Navy flags but in black to distinguish them as they are not official military vessels. Next up is the above mentioned pirates, the Blood Horkers. Although you don't come across any of their ships, you do raid an island fort they occupy, it has plain neglected banners, I feel they should atleast have some pirate symbolism, I suggest the jolly roger, yes I know it probably wouldn't be accurate but this is fiction and the jolly roger is the undisputed pirate flag in popular culture:
The Silver Hand is a group of bandits/werewolf hunters and enemies of The Companions. They occupy a handful of neglected or abandoned forts. I designed their fort flag and indoor banners, it might look a little to grand for this group but I like it:
indoor banner

fort flag
The reference in the hand being obvious. 
Next is the Vigilant of Stendarr, a non hostile religious group who hunt dedra, witches, vampires etc. They have a local HQ calle the Hall of the Vigilant where this banner could hang:
  The horn is based on the design of the Amulet of Stendarr and the colours come from the order's robes. 
The "Natives of the Reach" the Forsworn who want to return to the "old religion" of dark magic and human sacrifice and take over and gain independence of their hold have no banner, despite their insurgency occupying several camps and forts. I designed a simple banner for them:
green field with some sort of native symbol I designed, not sure what it is just thought it looked cool.
Last but by no means least I noticed banners inside the Hall of Valor in Sovngarde (based on Valhalla from Norse mythology) the Skyrim Heaven. I personally don't like them and designed a more appropriate banner for the hall that looks after the souls of honored dead heros.