To mark the day on which Her Majesty The Queen becomes the longest-reigning sovereign in British history, instructions have been issued by the office of the Prime Minister that all buildings of Her Majesty's Government should fly the Union Flag at full mast on Wednesday 9 September 2015.

Local authorities and others are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary.

Battle of Vittoria A4 compressedThis design for a ceremonial collar for the Duke of Wellington was prepared under the direction of Garter King of Arms, Sir George Nayler, at the request of King George IV. It was first commissioned when the King was Prince Regent, according to Nayler's later account, in 1814. Ten battles in which he led the army were commemorated on ten 'Union Badges' as they were termed, although as one is Waterloo the design must only have been completed after June 1815. The names of four more battles are engraved on the cross pendant from the collar. A letter written by Nayler some time after 1820 (when the Prince Regent had inherited the throne and reigned as King George IV) describes how, having had the collar made, the King could not decide how best to present it to Wellington without offending other commanders who might feel slighted at not having also received a similar honour, and still at the time of writing had not actually given it to the Duke. It was presented in around 1825 and is now on display at Apsley House, formerly 'No. 1, London'.

For more examples of College of Arms records relating to Waterloo and to Wellington, see our online exhibition here.

As a mark of respect for those that died in Tunisia last week, the Prime Minister has asked that all Departments of Her Majesty's Government lower their Union Flag to half-mast for an official day of mourning on Friday 3 July 2015.

Flags should be lowered to half mast at 6 a.m. on Friday and raised to full mast again at 6 a.m. on Saturday 4 July.

Any other UK national flags flown alongside the Union Flag when it is at half-mast should also be at half-mast. If a flag of a foreign nation is normally flown on the same stand as the Union Flag, it should be removed.

Local authorities are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary.

A national silence of one minute will also be held at 12 p.m. on Friday 3 July.


Armed Forces Week

22 June 2015

To mark Armed Forces Week, the Prime Minister has encouraged all those Departments of Her Majesty's Government in Whitehall that can do so to fly the Armed Forces Flag this week from Monday 22 June 2015. Government buildings in Whitehall are also encouraged to fly a Rainbow Flag on Saturday 27 June to mark Pride.

Other Departments of Her Majesty's Government may follow these requests. Local authorities and others are not bound by these requests but may wish to follow them for guidance. Devolved administrations are responsible for issuing instructions for the flying of the Union Flag on buildings in their estate and others as necessary.

The Battle of Waterloo, which took place on 18 June 1815, was the last major battle of the Napoleonic Wars and saw the final defeat of the Emperor Napoleon by the combined forces of the armies of the Seventh Coalition, led by the Duke of Wellington, and the Prussian Army, commanded by Gebhard von Blücher. The victory was hard won, with both sides suffering losses of over 20,000 men. In later years, it was not uncommon for men who had distinguished themselves at Waterloo to request an allusion to their service there to be made on their coats of arms. Original records held here at the College of Arms are shown below and include some examples of this practice. Also illustrated is the evolution of the arms of the Duke of Wellington, and documents which highlight the role the Heralds played at the State Funeral which he was accorded.

Arms of Sir Richard Hussey Vivian

Lt. Gen. Sir Richard Hussey Vivian was granted arms in December 1827, at the time of the announcement that he was to be made a Baronet. The grant of supporters (the horses and cavalrymen) was made in 1837. This painting illustrates the record of the grant of supporters entered into the College records. Vivian’s arms include (at the top of the shield) the gold medal and gold clasp of distinction awarded to him for services at the Battles of Sahagún, Benevente and Orthes [Orthez] and the silver medal awarded for services at the Battle of Waterloo. The crest shows an Hussar of the 18th Regiment of Hussars holding a sword and a pennon bearing the words ‘Croix d’Orade’, in commemoration, as the grant of arms states, ‘of the gallant and successful attack made by him in Command of the 18th Regiment of Hussars on a superior body of cavalry at the village of Croix d’Orade near Toulouse on 8 April 1814’. Vivian was severely wounded at Croix d’Orade but a year later was appointed to command the 6th Brigade of Henry Paget, the Earl of Uxbridge’s Cavalry Division. At Waterloo the Brigade was posted to Wellington’s left flank, then later moved to support the centre line. It made the final, highly successful, cavalry charge of the day. 

College of Arms reference: Grants 37/10 and Grants 42/197

During the period 8-10 May 2015 there will be three days of commemorations to mark 70 years since Victory in Europe (VE 70). The occasion is being commemorated with events across the UK.

As part of these commemorations, Her Majesty's Government buildings are being asked to fly the Union Flag at full mast from Friday 8 May to Sunday 10 May to mark the VE 70 celebrations.

During the VE 70 period Europe Day will fall on Saturday 9 May 15 which is already a designated day for flying the Union Flag. The guidance for Europe Day is as follows:

The Union Flag should be flown as full mast on all Government buildings on this day. Where the European flag is flown on this day, the Union Flag should fly alongside the European flag and, on UK government buildings that only have one flagpole, the Union Flag should take precedence. It is not advisable to fly two flags on one pole.

Further to the flying of flags for VE Day we are encouraged to observe a two minute silence on Friday 8 May. The Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph is timed to coincide with the moment Winston Churchill broadcast to the nation on VE Day in 1945. The service will start at 3pm with a two minute silence observed nationally.

In celebration of the birth of the second child of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Duchess of Cambridge, it is requested that Union Flags should be flown at full mast from all Government Buildings as follows:

Flag to be flown on Monday 4th May from 0800 hours until 2000 hours.

Local authorities are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance.

Richard III epitaph I 3 f.4 cropped compressedOn 26 March 2015 King Richard III was reinterred in a specially-constructed tomb in Leicester Cathedral, in a service in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Countess of Wessex and the Duke of Gloucester, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor and other distinguished guests. The College of Arms, founded by Richard III in 1484, was represented in the procession and service by Thomas Woodcock, Garter King of Arms, and Peter O'Donoghue, York Herald. Some information about the reburial service can be had here and here.

Illustrated left is an image from a College of Arms manuscript, showing an epitaph for Richard III. It is in the hand of Thomas Hawley, Clarenceux King of Arms, a herald between 1509 and his death in 1557. The epitaph would seem to come from the original tomb of Richard in the Franciscan Priory in Leicester, erected by Henry VII. It makes reference to the latter's piety and generosity, whilst hoping that the reader will pray for Richard on account of his offences and thus lessen his punishment.

The year 2015 sees the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., C.H.

Churchill received many great honours both domestically and internationally. Arguably one of the greatest followed his death on 24 January 1965: the grant of a State Funeral. This took place at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 30 January 1965.

The ceremony was arranged by the Earl Marshal with the Officers of Arms, the heralds, staffing his office and making the detailed plans. They also took part in the funeral itself. Volumes of papers relating to the ceremonial for the funeral are held at the College of Arms; a small selection are displayed here.


WSC Funeral Order Serv cover compressedCover of the Order of Service, showing Churchill's Arms within the Garter.

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