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Royal Standard, Henry VII

Last modified: 2002-06-28 by rob raeside
Keywords: royal standard | england | henry vii | dragon | banneret | murrey |
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[standard of Henry VII] by Dave Martucci

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Explanation of the royal standard

I have always been fascinated by the elaborate standards of the middle ages and later. I came across a line drawing of the Standard of King Henry VII (Tudor) as sketched about 150 years later. The colors were indicated by abbreviations. The border is "murry" and blue. Murry is supposed to be between red and purple but I'm not sure of it exactly. Also the color of the motto was not indicated, so I am using gold, but who knows? Corrections, comments appreciated.
Source: the Special Flag Bulletin, "British Flags", where it is referenced as a 16th century drawing.

Dave Martucci, 13 July 1998

This looks like a standard for Wales: the normal standard of the Tudors was quarterly 1&4 France modern 2&3 England.
Murrey is the colour of (dried?) blood as I recall.

Andrew Yong, 14 July 1998

No, it was a Tudor standard, at least before they got the throne. Standards of such patterns, often richly endowed with heraldic badges, were quite common among noble families in the period. What we call the "Royal Standard" is really an armorial banner. Originally banners and standards were separate classes of flag. I believe the modern Welsh flag is directly derived from the Tudor standard though.

Roy Stilling, 14 July 1998

The TV programme "War Walks" traces the history of warfare in Britain and Ireland. It is presented from the battlefield by a history professor and each episode looks at a particular battle in detail. He explains the political and strategic situation leading to the battle, shows the use of some of the principal weapons, and the course of the battle is explained with a re-enactment by a society of enthusiasts dedicated to such re-enactments. I can't vouch for the programme's absolute accuracy except to say that these people are fanatics for accuracy.

One programme was about the 1485 Battle of Bosworth, when Henry Tudor won the crown. Henry's banner was shown much as shown here except that it had a large St George cross in the hoist. Unfortunately I can't recall the field, but I do have my doubts about the scattering of red and white roses. Both the roses as emblems and the name "Wars of the Roses" where later inventions, and the idea that the Tudors united the red and white roses, as suggested by the banner, was Tudor propaganda intended to strengthen their position after they came to the throne.

Interestingly, Richard's banner was not the royal England/France quarterly (to which he would have been entitled), but one very similar to Henry's with the red dragon replaced by Richard's white boar.

Paul Adams, 15 July 1998

At the time, a Standard was a long tapering flag bearing the crest and/or badge(s) and motto of the owner. The "normal standard" described above was then properly a "Banner." Of course, today it is called a "Standard" and the medieval "Standard" is no longer used.

The dragon was used on standards well before this banner. There is a great book on the subject, "A History of the Red Dragon" by Carl Lofmark/Edited by G.A. Wells

Dave Martucci, 14 July 1998

In "A History of the Red Dragon" are the following quotes:

... one of his three battle standards [at Bosworth] showed " a red firye drago' beaten vpo' white and grene sarcenet."

... described thus in the "Chronicle of London," referring to 27th August, 1485: oon was of the Armys of Seynt George, the secund a Red ffyry dragon peyntid upon white and Grene Sarcenet, and the third was a Baner of Tarteron bett wyth a dun cowe.

Another chronicler tells of Henry's standard showing a Red Dragon passant, breathing flames, upon a field divided horizontally green and white, with a background of flames, white and red roses and golden fleurs-de-lis.

Dave Martucci, 15 July 1998

It's not accurate to say, as Dave Martucci does, that the medieval "Standard" is no longer used. It certainly is not in common use, but its usage has been revived by the heralds of both the College of Arms and the Lyon Court.

In the Middle Ages, the standard did not reflect the contents of the knight's shield. As Paul Adams points out, an English knight's standard would have had St George's cross at the hoist (or at the lance end, since it was fixed to the lance, not hoisted). A Scottish knight would have had St Andrew's cross, and other crosses were used elsewhere in Europe. The rest of the standard (which had the shape of the standard shown above) was a field of the knight's livery colours: two or three colours in horizontal or tapered bands, crossed diagonally by bands bearing a motto (as in the drawing), and sprinkled with badges - devices not necessarily drawn from the arms, but used on their own as symbols of that particular knight's possessions. The livery colours might be taken from the knight's own arms, but were often other colours. The knight's men-at-arms and other retainers would often wear uniforms in these colours. The king would, in recognition of a particular knight's bravery and leadership in battle, sometimes conclude a successful battle with a ceremony promoting the knight in rank by cutting off the tails of his standard, so converting it into a small banner, or banneret. The knight (who would have to be quite wealthy to meet the obligations of his new rank) would then be called a knight banneret. King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) wanted to revive the rank of banneret, but got it confused with "baron" and so came up with a new rank, that of baronet.

In the 20th century (and perhaps as long ago as the 19th century) standards were revived, but in a new form. The shape of the flag is the same - roughly triangular, but with two rounded points, and featuring livery colours, a motto (mottoes) and badges in the same pattern. But in the contemporary standard, the St George's (or St Andrew's) cross is replaced with the contents of the individual's shield of arms. It is not granted to every person obtaining a grant of arms. But a number of 20th-century grantees have arranged (subject to the payment of an additional fee to the heralds) to be granted a standard in addition to a simple coat of arms. All the standard 20th-century works on heraldry give examples of this kind of standard.

Mike Oettle, 23 April 2002

The Colour Murrey

The colour murrey is one of the so-called stains of heraldry, the others being sanguine (blood colour) and tenné, which is traditionally a light tan but which often appears nowadays as orange. Murrey is supposedly based on the colour of mulberries, but it is apparently a dark shade of red. It's not altogether clear what the difference is between murrey and sanguine - in fact, some authors confuse the two.

These colours were classified as stains, probably originally because of the colourants used. But in later writing they were associated with stains on a knight's character, and the set of abatements of honour, or negatively distinguishing marks, that was concocted to indicate shame on a knight's escutcheon (literally and figuratively) were prescribed in these colours.

They were never actually used in former times, and there is apparently only a single use of such a mark in the 20th century. It is mentioned here:

Mike Oettle, 23 April 2002