The British Monarchists Society

Symbols of Monarchy

Symbols of the Monarchy can be found almost everywhere in the United Kingdom. From the money we use, to the flags we fly, to the stamps we adhere to our letters, the symbols of our Monarchy are everywhere. There are many more symbols of Monarchy which you may or may not know of, some of which are attached to the very every day products that we purchase, use and eat. Our Crown is seen in many different ways, whilst many of these symbols are found in places you would least expect them. This section will help you identify the great symbols of our Monarchy.

The National Anthem : God Save the Queen

The British National Anthem dates back to the eighteenth century. ‘God Save The King’ was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745, which came to be known as the National Anthem at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The words and tune are anonymous, and may date back to the seventeenth century. In September 1745 the ‘Young Pretender’ to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh. In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged ‘God Save The King’ for performance after a play. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly.

This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting monarchs with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established. There is no authorised version of the National Anthem as the words are a matter of tradition. Additional verses have been added down the years, but these are rarely used. The words used today are those sung in 1745, substituting ‘Queen’ for ‘King’ where appropriate. On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung.

The words of the National Anthem:
God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen! Send her victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us; God save the Queen!

2. O Lord our God arise, Scatter her enemies And make them fall; Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On Thee our hopes we fix, God save us all!

3. Thy choicest gifts in store On her be pleased to pour; Long may she reign; May she defend our laws, And ever give us cause To sing with heart and voice, God save the Queen!

4. Not in this land alone, But be God’s mercies known, From shore to shore! Lord make the nations see, That men should brothers be, And form one family, The wide world over.

5. From every latent foe, From the assassins blow, God save the Queen! O’er her thine arm extend, For Britain’s sake defend, Our mother, prince, and friend, God save the Queen!

This British tune has been used in other countries. European visitors to Britain in the eighteenth century noticed the advantage of a country possessing such a recognised musical symbol. In total, around 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions. In America the words have been changed, but the tune remains the same. However “God Save The Queen” is known by our American cousins by the new versus and words of “My Country T’is Of Thee”.

The Royal Standard

The Royal Standard represents the Sovereign and the United Kingdom. The Royal Standard is flown when The Queen is in residence in one of the Royal Palaces, on The Queen’s car on official journeys and on aircraft (when on the ground). It may also be flown on any building, official or private (but not ecclesiastical buildings), during a visit by The Queen, if the owner or proprietor so requests. The Royal Standard also used to be flown on board the Royal Yacht, when it was in service and The Queen was on board. The Royal Standard is only flown when the Sovereign is present. If the Union Jack is flying above Buckingham Palace instead of the Standard, The Queen is not in residence.


The present-day postal service in the UK has Royal origins, beginning in the system used to send Court documents in previous centuries. For centuries letters on affairs of State to and from the Sovereign’s court, and dispatches in time of war, were carried by messengers of the Court and couriers employed for particular occasions. Symbols of the Royal origins of the UK’s postal system remain. A miniature silhouette of the monarch’s head is depicted on all stamps; the personal ciphers of The Queen and her predecessors (going back to Victoria) appear on most letterboxes; and the main postal delivery service is known as the Royal Mail. The image of The Queen which appears on UK postage stamps was designed by Arnold Machin, who originally created it as a sculpture. Issued on 5 June 1967, it has remained unchanged for four decades. It is thought that this design is the most reproduced work of art in history, with over 200 billion examples produced so far.

The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels are the ceremonial treasures which have been acquired by English kings and queens, mostly since 1660. The collection includes not only the regalia used at coronations, but also crowns acquired by various monarchs, church and banqueting plate, orders, insignia, robes, a unique collection of medals and Royal christening fonts. Britain is the only European monarchy still using its regalia for the consecration ceremony of crowning the Sovereign. At Westminster Abbey, where William I was the first monarch to be crowned, the Sovereign is escorted to the Coronation Chair (used at every coronation since 1300) by individuals carrying the processional regalia. The most famous attempt at theft was in 1671 by Colonel Thomas Blood. He was caught at the East Gate of the Tower with the crown, one sceptre and the orb. During the Second World War the jewels were hidden in a secret location which has never been disclosed.

The function of the Royal coat of arms is to identify the person who is Head of State. In respect of the United Kingdom, the Royal arms are borne only by the Sovereign. The arms are used in the administration and government of the country, appearing on coins, in churches and on public buildings. They also appear on the products and goods of Royal warrant holders. The Sovereign’s coat of arms has evolved over many years and reflects the history of the Monarchy and of the country. In the design the shield shows the various Royal emblems of different parts of the United Kingdom: the three lions of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second and the harp of Ireland in the third. It is surrounded by a garter bearing the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (‘Evil to him who evil thinks’), which symbolises the Order of the Garter, an ancient order of knighthood of which the Queen is Sovereign. The shield is supported by the English lion and Scottish unicorn and is surmounted by the Royal crown. Below it appears the motto of the Sovereign, Dieu et mon droit (‘God and my right’). The plant badges of the United Kingdom – rose, thistle and shamrock – are often displayed beneath the shield.

The Scottish version of the Royal coat of arms shows the lion of Scotland in the first and fourth quarters, with that of England being in the second. The harp of Ireland is in the third quarter. The mottoes read ‘In defence’ and ‘No one will attack me with impunity’. From the times of the Stuart kings, the Scottish quarterings have been used for official purposes in Scotland (for example, on official buildings and official publications).

The special position of Wales as a Principality was recognised by the creation of the Prince of Wales long before the incorporation of the quarterings for Scotland and Ireland in the Royal Arms. The arms of the Prince of Wales show the arms of the ancient Principality in the centre as well as these quarterings. Coats of arms of members of the Royal Family are broadly similar to The Queen’s with small differences to identify them. A crest is not the same as a coat of arms. A crest is only one part of the full coat of arms: the three-dimensional object placed on top of the helm.

Bank Notes and Coinage

There are close ties between the Monarchy and the UK monetary system.These can be seen, for example, in the title of the ‘Royal Mint’ and the representation of the monarch on all circulating British coinage. During The Queen’s reign there have been four representations of Her Majesty on circulating coinage. The original coin portrait of Her Majesty was by Mary Gillick and was adopted at the beginning of the reign in 1952. The following effigy was by Arnold Machin OBE, RA, approved by the Queen in 1964. That portrait was used on all the decimal coins from 1968. The next effigy was by Raphael Maklouf FRSA and was adopted in 1985. From the time of Charles II onwards, a tradition developed of monarchs being represented on the coinage facing in the opposite direction to their immediate predecessor.

Royal warrants are granted to people or companies who have regularly supplied goods or services for a minimum of five consecutive years to The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales. A Royal warrant is initially granted for five years, after which time it comes up for review by the Royal Household Tradesmen’s Warrants Committee. Warrants may not be renewed if the quality or supply for the product or service is insufficient, as far as the relevant Royal Household is concerned. The warrants are a mark of recognition that tradesmen are regular suppliers of goods and services to the Royal households. Strict regulations govern the warrant, which allows the grantee or company to use the legend ‘By Appointment’ and display the Royal coat of arms on his products, such as stationery, advertisements and other printed material, in his or her premises and on delivery vehicles. There are currently approximately 800 Royal warrant holders, holding over 1,100 Royal warrants between them (some have more than one Royal warrant).

In 1960, The Queen adopted a personal flag to be flown on any building, ship, car or aircraft in which she was staying or travelling. The Royal Standard represents not only the Sovereign but also the United Kingdom, whereas The Queen’s own flag is personal to her alone and can be flown by no one other than The Queen. The Queen’s personal flag consists of the initial ‘E’ ensigned with the Royal crown, surrounded by a chaplet of roses. The design is in gold (or yellow) on a blue field and the flag is fringed with gold (or yellow).

Since its introduction, the flag’s use has been altered. Although it is not a ‘Head of Commonwealth’ flag, it has in effect become The Queen’s personal Commonwealth flag. It is flown to mark her presence in non-monarchical Commonwealth countries and in realms that have not adopted a personal flag specifically for The Queen. Some realms have adopted their own versions of the flag to be flown as a personal flag when The Queen is in their country, each one incorporating the country’s arms with The Queen’s personal design. The Queen’s personal flag is also flown on a number of Commonwealth occasions in the United Kingdom.

In addition to his standard as Prince of Wales, the Prince has a personal flag exclusively for use in Wales. The flag is based on the Arms of the Principality of Wales, also known as the Arms of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Prince of Wales.

The flag was flown for the first time on June 11, 1969 – three weeks before The Prince’s Investiture – at Castle Green, Cardiff, for the inauguration of the Royal Regiment of Wales, of which The Prince is Colonel-in-Chief. During the Investiture ceremony on 1 July 1969, the Standard for Wales was flown from Caernarfon Castle’s Eagle Tower. The Prince of Wales also has a personal banner for his use in Scotland, based on his Scottish titles – Duke of Rothesay, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland. It consists of four quarterings. The first and third feature a blue and white chequered band across a gold background, representing the Great Steward of Scotland, whilst the second and fourth quarterings show a black galley on a white background, representing the Lord of the Isles. A small shield in the centre shows the lions rampant, representing the dukedom of Rothesay.

Other children of the Sovereign have flags which feature the Scottish version of the Royal Standard, bearing heraldic ‘labels’ or differences to distinguish each Royal individual.

The Great Seal of the Realm is the chief seal of the Crown, used to show the Monarch’s approval of important State documents. In today’s constitutional monarchy, the Sovereign acts on the advice of the Government of the day, but the seal remains an important symbol of the Sovereign’s role as Head of State. The practice of using this seal began in the reign of Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, when a double-sided metal matrix with an image of the Sovereign was used to make an impression in wax for attachment by ribbon or cord to Royal documents. The seal meant that the monarch did not need to sign every official document in person; authorisation could be carried out instead by an appointed officer.

In centuries when few people could read or write, the seal provided a pictorial expression of Royal approval which all could understand. The uniqueness of the official seal – only one matrix was in existence at any one time – also meant it was difficult to forge or tamper with official documents. The Great Seal matrix has changed many times throughout the centuries. A new matrix is engraved at the beginning of each reign on the order of the Sovereign. It is traditional that on the death of the Sovereign the old seal is used until the new Sovereign orders otherwise. For many monarchs, a single seal has sufficed. In the case of some long-reigning monarchs, such as Queen Victoria, the original seal simply wore out and a series of replacements was required.

The Queen has had two Great Seals during her reign. The first was designed by Gilbert Ledward and came into service in 1953. Through long usage and the heat involved in the sealing process, the matrix lost definition. In 2001 a new Great Seal, designed by sculptor James Butler and produced by the Royal Mint, came in use. The Great Seal matrix is used to create seals for a range of documents requiring Royal approval, including letters patent, Royal proclamations, commissions, some writs (such as writs for the election of Members of Parliament), and the documents which give power to sign and ratify treaties. Each year more than 100 documents pass under the Great Seal. Separate seals exist for Scotland – the Great Seal of Scotland – and for Northern Ireland.The process of sealing takes place nowadays at the House of Lords in the office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery.

A system of ‘colour coding’ is used for the seal impression, depending on the type of document to which it is being affixed. Different coloured sealing material is used for different types of document. Dark green seals are affixed to letters patent which elevate individuals to the peerage. Blue seals are used for documents relating to the close members of the Royal Family. Scarlet red is used for documents appointing a bishop and for most other patents.