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Dictionary of Vexillology: S (Southern Cross - Stars and Stripes)

Last modified: 2006-09-30 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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1) A stylized representation of the constellation Crux Australis, and used as a symbol on flags in the Southern Hemisphere – as on those of, for example, Australia, New Zealand and Samoa.
2) A colloquial name for the saltire as used by the Confederate States of America on its battle flag, naval jack and later national flags (see also ‘battle flag 1)’).

[Southern Crosses]
From left: National Flag of Samoa (fotw); Second Naval Jack, CSA (fotw)

A diagonal stripe that runs from the lower hoist to the upper fly whose corners touch the corners of the flag but whose width is entirely contained within the length of the flag – an enhanced bend sinister. See ‘bend’ in Appendix VI (also ‘ascending diagonal’, ‘descending diagonal’, 'east-west diagonal', ‘north-south diagonal’ and ‘west-east diagonal’).

[South-North diagonal]
Flag of the FNLA, Angola (fotw)

See ‘colours 2)’.

In British military usage, that flag carried as a special mark of distinction by the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals - the Household Cavalry (see also ‘union standard’ and ‘standard 2)’).

[Sovereign standard]
Sovereign’s Standard of the Blues and Royals, UK (Graham Bartram)

1) The detailed description, either by diagram or in writing, of how the design of a flag is constructed (see also ‘type flag’).
2) (v) The act of drawing up such design details.

The official name for the Danish state flag and naval ensign (see also ‘dannebrog’ and ‘double-pointed’).

See ‘banner 4)’.

1) A flag – often the appropriate national or provincial flag – bearing (or defaced with) the name of a sporting club or related slogan (see also ‘deface’).
2) A flag, usually in the club or school colours, and bearing an emblem that represents a sporting club or school team.
3) One of a varied number of flags that are used to regulate or to assist in running a sporting activity – for example, the chequered flag in motor racing.

See ‘star 2)’.

See ‘command pennant’.

See ‘cross’.

(adj) A term used to describe a flag, now increasingly (but not entirely) obsolete, whose fly is cut into two or more square-ended tails (see also ‘gonfalon’, ‘gonfanon’, 'multi-tailed', ‘pallia’, ‘schwenkel’, ‘swallow-tail(ed)’, ‘swallowtail and tongue’ and 'tongue(s)).

[Squared tongue flag]
Venice, Italy (fotw)

1) At sea, the short mast upon which the jack and ensign are hoisted – see ‘ensign staff’ and ‘jack staff’.
2) The wooden shaft, often with a spear point finial, to which indoor flags; military colours and parade flags are affixed – the pike (see also ‘indoor flag’, ‘colour 2)’, ‘finial’, ‘parade flag’ and ‘pike’).
3) See ‘flag pole’.

See ‘finial’.

1) A term used to describe all the colours carried by an infantry regiment - formerly up to nine in English service - now generally (but not exclusively) limited to two per regiment/battalion (see also ‘colour 2)’, ‘colours 2)’, ‘company colours’ and ‘postures’).
2) In US Civil War usage, a term sometimes employed (often in newspaper reporting) to describe a flag or flags, particularly those captured in battle.

[sand of colors]
A Stand of Six Colours, Colonel to the Third Captain, English c1644

Please note that the above illustrations are loosely based on a surviving colour from the English Civil War - that of a sixth captain in Sir John Gell’s Regiment of Foot (Parliamentarian) 1643-44 - and upon a system of differencing such colours known to have been in use at that time.

Also please note, that some Continental armies (most notably those of France and Austria) often had a larger establishment of men per battalion than was customary in the English service, so the number of colours carried could be commensurately greater.

1) The flag of a head of state - see ‘presidential standard’ and ‘royal standard 1)’ - and its following note.
2) A rectangular flag used as a ceremonial unit flag by some cavalry and certain other military units (see also ‘sovereign’s standard’). See supplemental note:
3) A flag of heraldic design, long and tapering, possibly with a rounded or double-rounded (lanceolate or double-tailed descate) fly carrying the owner’s badge and motto (sometimes also a national symbol or personal arms), and bordered in his livery colours. Originally used as an identifying symbol by medieval noblemen, and still occasionally flown by those entitled to it – a heraldic standard (see also ‘badge in heraldry’, ‘double-tailed descate’, ‘lanceolate’ and ‘motto’).
4) The headquarters flag of a Scottish nobleman or clan chief (and a standard as defined in 3) above), it is between 3.5 and 7.5m long (dependent upon rank) and tapers from 120cm to 80cm. The hoist carries either the national flag or owner’s arms, whilst the tail is in the main livery colours and has the motto (usually on diagonal bands) separated by the owner’s crest and other badges. The tail is generally split into two rounded (double-tailed descate) ends (except for those chiefs who do not hold a title of nobility, baronetcy or knighthood whose standards have a simple rounded or lanceolate end), and the whole is edged or fringed with alternating livery colours (see also ‘battle standard’, ‘double-tailed descate’, ‘great standard’, ‘lanceolate’, and ‘pageant standard’).
5) In obsolete usage, a pole with an emblem on the top around which soldiers could rally (see also ‘eagle 2)’ and ‘vexilloid 2)’).
As 4) above but fixed in place (rather than carried by a soldier), or alternatively transported in a large vehicle of its own (see also ‘carrocium’ and ‘gajardus’).
6) A figurative or poetic term for the symbol around which people rally.

Please note that in English heraldry the entitlement to a heraldic standard is consequent upon the granting or possession of a badge, but is not dependent upon rank (see also ‘badge in heraldry’). In Scottish heraldry, however, the entitlement to a standard (and to heraldic flags other than a banner of arms) is consequent upon a separate grant by the Lord Lyon King of Arms (see also ‘pinsel’ and ‘guidon 3)’.

Please note also that in UK usage the standard of the Royal Horse Artillery comes within definition 3) – and is illustrated beneath ‘heraldic standard’– but is also a ceremonial unit flag (as outlined in 2), above,) under certain circumstances.

1) One who bears the regimental, unit, or national standard (see also balcanifer’, ‘colour 2)’, ‘colour bearer’, ‘cornet 3)’, ‘enceniator’, ‘ensign 4)’, ‘gonfalnier’, ‘standard 1 - 5)’ and ‘vexillary’).
2) See ‘colour bearer’.

A medieval term, now obsolete, for a standard.

Please note that standardum and standale are, respectively, the Latin and Italian words for standard, and that these and the derivations thereof were used more or less indiscriminately by medieval scribes.

1) On flags, a charge – either in solid colour or outline only - in the form of a geometric shape with radiating points. Stars with five points are the most common, but any number is possible, for example: Aruba - four, Israel - six, Australia - seven, Azerbaijan - eight and Malaysia – sixteen (see also ‘active’, ‘inactive’ and ‘Magen David’).
2) In heraldry a charge of this type may have wavy edges, and is variously known as a mullet, estoile, (or if having a hole in the centre) a spur rowel or rowel depending on the number of points. For complete details, however, a glossary or dictionary of heraldry should be consulted.

[flags featuring stars]
From left: National Flag of Aruba (fotw); National Flag of Azerbaijan (fotw); National Flag of Malaysia (fotw)

Please note that in vexillology the difference between a multi-pointed star and a sun is usually only a matter of official symbolism, however, a sun may sometimes be distinguished by having a ring around its central disk (Taiwan), a face (Argentina) or wavy points (British Columbia) – see also ‘active’, ‘inactive’ and ‘ring 1)’.

1) Generally a poetic nickname for the US national flag – the Stars and Stripes (see also ‘old glory’ and ‘stars and stripes’ below).
2) The US national flag with 15 stripes and 15 stars in use between 1795 and 1818.
3) Specifically the flag, as defined in 2) above, but which flew over Fort McHenry, Baltimore in 1814.
4) The national anthem of the US – but see note below.

flag disc
National Flag of the US, 1785 – 1818 (fotw)

Please note that the US national anthem – from a poem by Francis Scott Key - specifically refers to the flag as defined in 3) above, and which is preserved in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington.

See ‘senior officer afloat pennant’.

A popular name for the US national flag (see also ‘old glory’ and ‘star spangled banner’ above).