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Saint Helena and Dependencies

British Overseas Territory of St. Helena and Dependencies

Last modified: 2004-12-29 by zeljko heimer
Keywords: saint helena | atlantic ocean | ascension | tristan da cunha |
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[Flag of St. Helena] [Civil and State Flag] 1:2
by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 11 September 2000
Flag adopted 4 October 1984, coat of arms adopted 4 October 1984.

[Civile Ensign of St. Helena] [Civil Ensign] 1:2
by Graham Bartram


See also:

Flag of St. Helena

Saint Helena is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. It has two dependencies; Ascension Island 700 miles to the north, and a group of islands 1300 miles to the south, of which Tristan da Cunha is the only one with a settled population. Gough Island has a meteorological station maintained by the government of South African. Inaccessible Island and the three Nightingale Islands are uninhabited.

St Helena was discovered in 1502 by the Portuguese navigator Juan da Nova Castella, probably on St Helena's Day. It was settled by the English East India Company in 1659, and used by its ships as a port of call, mainly on the return journey from India to England. Between 1815 and 1821 the island was lent to the British Government as a place of exile for the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who died there on 5th May 1821. It was ceded to the British Crown in 1834.

The first flags associated with the island would have been the Union Jack, the Red Ensign, and the East India Company's red and white striped ensign. This striped ensign could be used by company ships until 1824, but only when south of St Helena.

In the early 1870s defacements for the Union Jack and Blue Ensign were introduced into British colonies. The defaced Union Jack was hoisted on any vessel carrying the governor within the waters of the colony, and the defaced Blue Ensign was for vessels operated by the government of the colony. The undefaced Union Jack flew over Government House.

The badge for St Helena was derived from the Public Seal of the colony; the Royal Arms above an ornamental frame surrounding a picture of a three-masted ship near the base of steep cliffs. Its sails are furled and a flag flies at the stern. As originally drawn, when the badge was introduced in 1874, the flag was a White Ensign, but in later copies the canton was often left blank so that it appeared to be the English flag. It is often assumed that the ship is an East Indiaman, but this was obviously not intended.

When constructing a badge from the colonial seal, the usual procedure was to extract the scene from the frame and refashion it into circular form, as in the contemporary badges of Barbados and St Vincent. In the case of St Helena the scene was taken from the seal without any modification and included the decorative frame and also a pink ribbon draped across the top. In the seal, the ribbon was actually the lower part of the Royal Arms, being the scroll which bore the motto "Dieu et Mon Droit"

Some drawings show the badge in a white circle on the Blue Ensign, but this is wrong. In flag books colonial badges were usually drawn as separate items, not as part of the flag on which they would be placed. For convenience they were framed within a circle, which, surrounded by a green garland, was how they appeared on the Union Jack of the Governor. It did not necessarily mean that the badge appeared in a white circle on the Blue Ensign. A note added to the 1916 edition of the Admiralty Flag Book explained that, "The white circles are not to appear on the Red and Blue Ensigns except where they are necessary to display the design; e.g. where the badge itself has a border of the same colour as the ensign." In a letter dated 3rd April 1919 the Governor of St Helena wrote that, "the badge has a light coloured background and there is no white circle".

After 1944, in common with other colonies, the defaced Union Jack replaced the plain Union Jack as the governor's flag on land.

Arms were granted by Royal Warrant published in the St Helena Government Gazette on 30th January 1984. The shield of the arms, with no white disc, was approved as a defacement for the Blue Ensign soon after this. A plover, charadrius sanctaehelenae, known locally as the wirebird, is in the upper part of the shield, above a revised drawing of the coastal scene that formed the original badge. The defacement on the Union Jack of the governor has the same shield, but also the scroll from the arms bearing the motto LOYAL AND UNSHAKEABLE, set on a white disc surrounded by a laurel-leaf garland.

There is no authorised Red Ensign defacement, so pure undefaced Red Ensign is the proper ensign for merchant vessles registered in St. Helena.

All text above thanks to David Prothero, revised 13 January 2002

By the way, the French flag has been flying over St. Helena since the Longwood Estate, where Napoléon died, has been allocated to France by the Brits. I have more details on the story, which I hope to submit to the list one of these days.

Ivan Sache9 January 2003

Coat of arms of St. Helena

[Coat of Arms of St. Helena] by Mike Oettle, 2 January 2002
See larger image here (~120 KB)

Flag of Governor of St. Helena

[Governor of St. Helena]
by Zeljko Heimer, Antonio Martins and Mike Oettle, 7 February 2002

Historical Flags of Saint Helena

Badge of 1939

[Badge of St. Helena (1939)]
by Jaume Olle

Flag 1939-1984

[St. Helena Flag (1939-1984)]
by Zeljko Heimer, after a scan from British Admirality book provided by David Prothero, 8 January 2003

Wrong flag of 1939-1984

[Wrong St. Helena (1939-1984)]
by Ivan Sache, based on the previous image
This is wrong, such is shown in many references. There should be no white disk, see text above.

Governor's Flag 1939-1984

[St. Helena Governor (1939-1984)]
by Zeljko Heimer, after a scan from British Admirality book provided by David Prothero, 8 January 2003