Trooping the Colour 2017

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The Queen’s Birthday Parade in London on Saturday 17 June is the 65th of her reign. Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Sapphire Jubilee and this year it’s the 1st Battalion Irish Guards which troops its Queen’s Colour in the prestigious Trooping the Colour parade. 

Each battalion of infantry regiments in the British Army has two standards: the Regimental Colour and the Queen’s Colour.

A colour is a flag for military and ceremonial use mounted and fixed to a pike, usually with nails, and adorned with different kinds of embroidery, fringes and tassels, often with gold cords, and usually has a guilded ornament at the top of the pike. A colour is proportioned so it can be carried by one man.

The tradition of military units carrying large, colourful and elaborately decorated standards stems from the time when communication on the battlefield couldn’t be done any other way. “Trooping the colour” originally meant to parade the commander’s standard through the ranks of soldiers to let them know what to look for in the heat of battle.

In the UK there are five Foot Guards regiments: the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards and the Welsh Guards. The battalions of these five regiments take turns leading the Queen’s Birthday Parade which always takes place on Horse Guards Parade at St. James’s Park in London on a Saturday in June.

At the centre of this year’s Trooping the Colour is the Queen’s Colour of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. On the crimson silk standard there are 21 woven battle honours. These are the names of battles and campaigns where the regiment has fought with distinction:

Retreat from Mons. Marne 1914. Aisne 1914. Ypres 1914:17. Festubert 1915. Loos. Somme 1916:18. Cambrai 1917-18. Hazebrouck. Hindenberg Line. Norway 1940. Boulogne 1940. Mont Pincon. Neerpelt. Nijmegen. Rhineland. NW Europe 1944-45. Djebel bou Aoukaz 1945. North Africa 1943. Anzio. Iraq 2003.

The Irish Guards was established in 1900 by Queen Victoria and the regiment has fought in both World Wars and other military conflicts. Guardsmen of the Irish Guard carry out guard duty at the royal palaces but also serve as ordinary infantry soldiers, in the UK and abroad.

The central element on the Queen’s Colour of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards is the crowned royal cypher of Queen Elizabeth II, E II R, surrounded by the collar of the Order of Saint Patrick with Irish harps, gold knots and red-white Tudor roses. The order’s badge, suspended from the collar, has a green shamrock on a Saint Patrick’s Cross i.e. a red saltire on white.

The Order of Saint Patrick was established in 1783 for the Kingdom of Ireland as an equivalent to the Order of the Garter in England and the Order of the Thistle in Scotland. The order still exists, but no knights of the order have been created for more than eighty years. Since the partition of Ireland the Order of Saint Patrick has been dormant and there are no plans to revive it.

The Irish Guard keeps the symbols of this order alive, however. Not only on its Queen’s Colour, but also the regimental badge of the Irish Guards is the star of the Order of Saint Patrick and the regimental motto is the same as that of the order: Quis Separabit? Who shall separate us?

Scottish Isle of Barra Mourns Teenage Terror Victim with Island Flag

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The Barra flag is not yet officially registered, but it enjoys a great deal of local support on the small island in the Outer Hebrides. The tragic death of a teenage girl from Barra in the Manchester Arena bombing has made the island’s green and white Nordic Cross flag more widely known.

A 14-year-old schoolgirl, Eilidh MacLeod, from the island of Barra in the Western Isles of Scotland was one of the 22 adults and children who were killed in the Manchester bombing on 22 May 2017. Her friend, 15-year-old Laura MacIntyre, also from Barra, was critically injured in the Islamist terrorist attack and is still fighting for her life.

A week ago today, on Monday 5 June, Eilidh MacLeod’s funeral service was held in the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Castlebay, the main village on Barra. Hundreds of mourners, many of them her relatives and childhood friends, participated in the funeral procession to Vatersay, a small island adjacent to Barra, where she was laid to rest.

Barra has a population of around 1,000. Vatersay, connected to Barra by a short causeway, is the southernmost inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides. The islands have a large percentage of Gaelic speakers and the Outer Hebrides, or Western Isles, comprise the only Scottish local government area with a Gaelic-only name: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

For some time now a Nordic Cross flag has been in widespread but unofficial use on Barra. It is green with a white cross. Like other islands and traditional counties in the northern and western parts of Scotland the isle of Barra has found flag inspiration in its Norse heritage and cultural ties to Scandinavia.

The exact design of the island’s flag has not yet been decided. Hence the shade of the green colour and the shape of the cross still vary. In order to be official the Barra flag must be registered with the highest heraldic and vexillological authority in Scotland: the Court of the Lord Lyon.

A formal registration is to be expected at some point in the future. The effort to get the flag of Barra officially recognized is supported by Alasdair Allan, a minister in the SNP government and the member of the Scottish Parliament for the Western Isles since 2007. In 2016 he commented:

“The feeling at the initial meeting was that recognition of the flag would help boost the island’s marketing efforts as well as celebrate its unique identity. There is already widespread use of Barra’s flag which can already be seen flying from fishing boats, on local produce and on car stickers.”

When a chartered plane with Eilidh MacLeod’s coffin landed on the beach runway of Barra Airport on Saturday 3 June the coffin was covered in the Barra flag. The green and white flag of Barra was flying at half mast when the young girl’s funeral procession passed her local school two days later.

 

Read also The Flag That Could Have Been Greenland’s. Sven Tito Achen’s design for a Greenlandic flag in 1985 was also green with a white Nordic Cross.

Copenhagen 1892: Flags at the Royal Golden Wedding Anniversary

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The last time there was a royal golden wedding anniversary in Denmark was in 1892. A flag decorated Copenhagen celebrated the happy marriage of King Christian IX and Queen Louise. Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, their daughter, may have inspired a peculiar Saint Andrew’s cross flag: a merger of a Nordic swallow-tailed flag and a Russian naval ensign.

This photograph from 1892 shows a festively decorated building on the corner of Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Allé, two streets in Vesterbro close to the centre of Copenhagen. A number of different flags can be detected, some of them quite out of the ordinary.

Most of the flags are Danish flags, a number of them swallow-tailed. These are not naval or state flags, though. Since the 19th Century the swallow-tailed Dannebrog (the so-called splitflag) has been in wide-spread unofficial use at wedding parties, birthday celebrations etc.

There are also Norwegian and Swedish swallow-tailed flags in the black and white photo (Sweden’s blue and yellow appear a little lighter than Denmark’s red and white). Erroneously, the Norwegian and Swedish flags have two swallow tails like the Danish flag. In Norway and Sweden three tails is the norm.

The white flags with a Saint Andrew’s cross appear to be some sort of Russian flags. A white flag with a blue saltire is the naval ensign of Russia. On the building in the picture, these unofficial Russian flags are swallow-tailed like the Nordic flags.

On 26 May 1892, Christian IX and Louise had been happily married for 50 years and had been King and Queen of Denmark for more than half that time. The golden wedding celebrations in Copenhagen lasted for days. Photos and paintings from the time show that streets and houses and ships were decorated with literally thousands of flags, put up by the authorities and by private citizens.

King Christian IX and Queen Louise were known as “Europe’s parents-in-law” because their children married into prominent royal families all around the continent.

Their eldest sons became King Frederik VIII of Denmark and King George I of Greece. Their youngest son, Prince Valdemar, was suggested as a possible king of Bulgaria in 1887 and of Norway in 1905. Among their three daughters, Alexandra was married to Britain’s King Edward VII and Dagmar was married to Russia’s Emperor Alexander III. She was known as Maria Feodorovna in Russia and was the mother of the last tsar, Nicholas II.

A large number of King Christian’s and Queen Louise’s children, grandchildren, relatives and in-laws as well as foreign dignitaries gathered in Copenhagen for the celebrations. The Russian imperial yacht, the Polar Star (in Russian, Полярная звезда), lay at anchor in the harbour. The vessel was in Copenhagen not only at this occation, but rather often in fact, as the Empress loved to visit her parents and always travelled from Saint Petersburg to Denmark by ship.

Manned and commanded by the Russian Navy the imperial yacht of course flew the Russian naval ensign. This fact may explain why the Saint Andrew’s cross would have been known and used by Copenhageners to represent Russia in flag decorations in 1892.

125 years later, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, a great-great granddaughter of King Christian IX and Queen Louise, celebrates her royal golden wedding anniversary. It was on 10 June 1967 that Princess Margrethe, then heir to the Danish throne, married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, today known as Prince Henrik of Denmark.

Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik have decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary in private with their family away from rolling TV cameras. So, there will be no public festivities in Copenhagen today and, it’s safe to say, far fewer flags than in 1892.

Saint George’s Day

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April 23 is Saint George’s Day. The legendary Roman officer who was killed for his Christian faith became a popular saint at the time of the Crusades. Saint George, knight and dragon slayer, is the patron saint of many countries, towns and cities around the world. A red cross on white is Saint George’s flag.

Top left: England

The flag of England is the Saint George’s cross, red on white. It has been connected to England since the Middle Ages. Saint George is the patron saint of England and of the most prestigious order of knighthood in the United Kingdom, the Order of the Garter.

The City of London combines the cross of Saint George and the sword of Saint Paul in its arms and flag; the Apostle Paul is the patron saint of London. In the Midlands, the city of Lincoln has a fleur-de-lys, a heraldic lily symbolizing the Virgin Mary, on its Saint George’s flag. In the North, the city of York has five lions on its Saint George’s cross; they derive from the royal arms of England.

Top right: The Channel Islands, Germany

The Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy have been dependencies of the English Crown since medieval times. The flag of Guernsey combines the Saint George’s cross of England with a so-called Norman cross. The flag of Alderney has the island’s arms in the middle of the cross.

In southwestern Germany, the city of Freiburg im Breisgau has a red cross on a white background both on its arms and its flag. The city of Koblenz, in the Rhineland, has a similar flag, but here a golden crown rests on the cross.

The red cross on white in the arms of Koblenz derives from the arms of the Archbishopric-Electorate of Trier, one of the more important states in medieval Germany. The much smaller Prince-Bishoprics of Constance, on the border of Switzerland, and Paderborn, in Westphalia, also used a red cross on white.

Bottom left: Liguria, Sardinia, Veneto, Piedmont

For centuries the Saint George’s cross was the sign of the Republic of Genoa, one of the major maritime powers in medieval Europe. The red cross on white is still in the flag of the city of Genoa, regional capital of Liguria.

The flag of Sardinia has a Saint George’s cross and four so-called Moor’s heads. This flag also goes back to medieval times and is a reminder of the Aragonese victory over the Muslim Moors in the battle of El Puig in 1237. In Spain, the Saint George’s cross with Moor’s heads is called the Cruz de Alcoraz in memory of another Aragonese victory against the Moors in 1096. According to legend, Saint George appeared on the battlefield in both battles.

Sardinia was once one of the countries of the Crown of Aragon. Saint George’s cross also plays an important role in flags and heraldry of the Spanish regions which were under the Aragonese Crown. Saint George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia and Majorca.

Saint George’s cross is in the arms and flags of numerous cities and towns in Northern Italy. In Veneto: Padua, for example. In Piedmont: Alba, Alessandria, Ivrea, Vercelli and many others. Alba spells out its name in the four corners of the cross.

Bottom right: Canada, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna

The English Saint George’s flag travelled across the seas with English settlers. In Canada, the city flag of Montreal, capital of Quebec, has a Saint George’s cross surrounded by four symbols of the city’s heritage: a fleur-de-lys for France, a rose for England, a thistle for Scotland and a shamrock for Ireland.

Back across the Atlantic in Italy, the red cross on white features in the flags of two cities that are also regional capitals: Milan in Lombardy and Bologna in Emilia-Romagna. The Duchy of Milan which dominated Northern Italy in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance flew Saint George’s cross. In Milan, the red cross may go back as far as the 10th Century.

The city of Reggio nell’Emilia, also in the Emilia-Romagna region, surrounds the Saint George’s cross with the letters SPQR. This is a Latin abbreviation for Senate and People of Regium (Reggio, in Latin).

In both Lombardy and Liguria, the red cross on a white background is seen, at least by some, as an alternative to the official regional flags. The argument is that the Saint George’s cross link these regions more closely to their history and cultural traditions.

Bavarian – A New Flag Family?

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You already know these flag families: Nordic Cross, Pan-Slavic, Pan-Arab, Pan-African. Also, flags around the world have been inspired by the Stars & Stripes, the Communist red flag, the Dutch and French tricolours, and the UN flag. I ask: Will Bavaria’s flag design with the iconic lozenges spread and become a new flag family?

The German state of Bavaria has two official flags which are both white and blue, the Bavarian state colours, or Landesfarben: One with two horizontal stripes called the Streifenflagge and another with a lozengy pattern called the Rautenflagge.

A lozenge (in German: Raute) is a rhombus, a geometric shape with four equally long sides, with acute angles of less than 90°. Lozenges or lozengy patterns is a well known feature in heraldry. The lozengy flag of Bavaria is derived from the arms of the Bavarian Royal Family, the Wittelsbachs, who have used the white and blue lozenges (in strict heraldic terms: fusilly in bend argent and azure) since the 13th Century.

Both the striped and the lozengy flag are in use in Bavaria and represent the state in the rest of Germany and abroad. But the flag with lozenges, being graphically more distinct and original than the one with stripes, has become the most widespread and is seen in a wide range of versions: with or without the officially prescribed number of lozenges (at least 21), with or without the Bavarian coat of arms, etc.

The lozengy design has for a long time been a symbol of Bavaria, one might even call it an iconic brand. The white and blue lozenges can be seen on all kinds of Bavarian produce. Maybe this is the reason why the lozengy flag design has spread in resent years.

Flags with black and yellow lozenges are being used in the Bavarian capital of Munich. The city’s colours are black and yellow and come from the city’s arms: a monk dressed in black and yellow. The official flag of Munich has two horizontal stripes, but the lozengy version is popular, too.

A Bavarian style version of the Gay Pride Flag with rainbow coloured lozenges is also in use.

It is perhaps most remarkable that the lozengy flag design has spread to a region of Bavaria which is not really Bavarian. Franconia (in German: Franken) covers the northern third of the state of Bavaria and is culturally and linguistically distinct from Bavaria proper in the south. Most of historical Franconia was incorporated into Bavaria in the beginning of the 19th Century, but there are also areas in the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia where people speak the Franconian dialect.

Franconia has its own regional flag (die Frankenflagge) with horizontal stripes, red and white, and the regional arms, the so-called Franconian Rake (der fränkische Rechen). This flag is common in the region. A version of the Franconian flag with a red-white lozengy pattern is also commercially available. Will the Bavarian lozenges spread further?

Moroccan and Sahrawi flags side by side for the first time

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The African Union (AU) recently admitted Morocco as its 55th member. This was a controversial decision because of the Western Sahara issue. This conflict is still unresolved, but from now on the Moroccan and the Sahrawi flags will fly together at AU meetings.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a disputed state claiming the territory of the former Spanish Sahara, a sparsely populated area on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Today, the area is known internationally as Western Sahara. The Sahrawi Republic was established in 1976 by the Polisario Front. However, the Polisario government only controls a small portion of Western Sahara.

Spanish Sahara was claimed by Morocco and Mauritania, too. During the “Green March” in November 1975 hundreds of thousands of unarmed Moroccan civilians and Moroccan Army units entered the territory and a treaty was signed with Spain. The Kingdom of Morocco now controls most of Western Sahara and governs the area as its Southern Provinces.

The Polisario Front, then a Communist liberation force backed by Eastern Bloc states, protested the agreement between Spain and Morocco. In the summer of 1975 the International Court of Justice, in a so-called advisory opinion, recognised the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination.

Since 1991 a UN peacekeeping mission oversees the cease-fire between Morocco and the Polisario Front. But a definate end to the conflict is nowhere in sight. A referendum on the future of Western Sahara is blocked by the difficult question of voter rights for settlers and refugees. Morocco has established a 2,700 km line of sand walls and fences between the Moroccan and Polisario controlled territories.

Use of the Sahrawi flag is prohibited in Moroccan controlled territories. The flag of both the Sahrawi Republic and the Polisario Front is a horisontal tricolour of black, white and green with a red triangle and a red crescent and star. This design resembles those of other pan-arab flags.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is neither a member of the Arab League which backs the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara, nor is it a member of the UN. But the UN officially accepts the Polisario Front as a legitimate representative of the Sahrawis and around 40 UN member states have diplomatic relations with the Polisario government. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a member of the African Union (AU).

The decision to admit the Sahrawi Republic as a member of the AU predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), led Morocco to leave the OAU in 1984. However, on 30 January 2017, at the 28th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Kingdom of Morocco was welcomed back as a full member of the AU. African leaders were deeply divided before the vote in the AU Assembly which ended 39-9 in favour of Morocco.

The Polisario Front is traditionally supported by Algeria and South Africa. Other African leaders have expressed satisfaction with the fact that the Sahrawi Republic remains a member of the AU at the same time as the economically strong Morocco, the last remaining non-AU member on the African continent, rejoins the union.

“It is better to have Morocco inside the house, inside the family, and to try to reach African solutions to African problems,” one diplomat explained.

A Busy Flag Day

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In Denmark, April 9 is an official flag day. It was on this date in 1940 that Denmark was invaded by Nazi Germany. To commemorate the beginning of the German occupation and mourn the Danes who died in World War II, Dannebrog is flown at half mast – but only until 12 o’clock. After noon the flag is flown at full mast to symbolize that Denmark became free again.

In Denmark, flags are fown from 8:00 a.m. but no earlier than sunrise. Flags may not be flown after sunset. For at little over two months in the winter, the sun rises later than 8 o’clock in the morning. Anyone in charge of hoisting a flag will have to check the astronomical data in an almanac or calendar.

In Copenhagen on April 9, the sun rises at 6:20 a.m. and sets 13 hours and 45 minutes later. The person in charge of hoisting the Dannebrog on April 9 should to do so at 8:00 a.m. The flag must be taken down no later than 08:05 p.m.

Whenever the flag is flown at half mast it should first be hoisted to the top of the flagstaff for an instant before being lowered. At half mast the distance between the upper edge of the flag and the top of the flagstaff is about one third of the total height of the flagstaff.

On April 9, the day of commeration of the Wehrmacht invasion of Denmark, the rule is to first fly the flag at half mast, then to hoist the flag to full mast at noon. This is done to celebrate the eventual liberation of Denmark from German rule in 1945 and to honour the heroes of the Danish Resistance. If a two-minute silence is observed at noon, the flag is hoisted to full mast at 12:02 p.m.

In 2017, April 9 is Palm Sunday. Unlike Easter Sunday, Palm Sunday is not an official flag day in Denmark. In 2023 Easter Sunday will fall on April 9. Therefore, in six years time something unusual will occur on April 9 in that the flag will be flown at full mast all day. The reason for this is that official ecclesiastical flag days supersede other flag days.

In the Church of Denmark it is customary for the Dannebrog to be flown outside churches during services. The flag is flown at full mast unless their is a funeral service in which case the flag is flown at half mast. So, if a service is conducted on Palm Sunday between 10:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. (for example) the flag needs to be hoisted to full mast during that time. For the person in charge of flags outside a Danish church April 9 will be quite a busy day!

 

IN DANISH: I Danmark hejses flaget kl. 8.00, dog ikke tidligere end solopgang. Flaget nedhales senest ved solnedgang. Når der flages på halv stang, hejses Dannebrog først helt til tops, hvorefter det nedhales til halv stang. 9. april er en officiel flagdag i Danmark til minde om den tyske besættelse i 1940 og de faldne under krigen. Der flages på halv stang til middag, hvorefter der flages på hel stang resten af dagen. Palmesøndag er ikke en officiel flagdag. I folkekirken er det kutyme i forbindelse med gudstjenester at flage på fuld stang foran kirken.  

The future for New Zealand’s flag: 4 scenarios

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New Zealand voted to keep its existing flag one year ago. The flag of New Zealand is still the one that looks very similar to the Australian flag and has the British Union Flag in the upper hoist and the Southern Cross in the lower fly. Now, the flag referendum last year doesn’t mean the debate is over.

The existing NZ flag, adopted in 1902, won the referendum. But it wasn’t because it has no critics or because everyone agrees to never change it. Rather, a sizable portion of the electorate wasn’t happy with the alternative flag designs and voted for status quo in the hope for better options ahead. So, what are the possible scenarios for the NZ flag in years to come?

1. New Zealand keeps the existing flag forever

Despite years of debate and widespread political support for a new flag, the existing flag won the second round of the referendum in March 2016 with 57 % of the votes. The voter turnout was 68 %. However, the whole process and the cost of it all was heavily criticized. Also, public enthusiasm about the issue could have been much higher.

In this scenario, the debate will slowly die out, if nothing else, out of sheer fatigue. For the time being, no-one has the political guts to reopen the debate and spend more money on changing the flag. Those who don’t like the existing flag won’t be able to present a clear alternative. And so, the result is that New Zealand never changes its flag.

2. A less democratic process

The flag debate and the referendums of 2015 and 2016 was a very democratic process. New Zealanders wouldn’t want it any other way. Or would they? The problem with a lengthy, bottom-up process is that it results in hundreds of flag designs, most of which are very far off the mark. Designers have pointed out that inviting people to participate who hasn’t the faintest idea about design, might not lead to the best possible result.

In this scenario, New Zealand has a go at changing the flag once more. But this time the process is much more top-down. Parliament appoints a committee of flag specialists and designers and let them come up with one single alternative flag for people to vote on in a third referendum. Also, Parliament could make the final decision without a referendum.

3. Kyle Lockwood revisited

In the first round of the referendum in November-December 2015, two flag designs made by the same designer got almost the same amount of votes. Kyle Lockwood’s red-white-blue Silver Fern Flag got 42 % of the first preference votes, his black-white-blue Silver Fern Flag got 40 %. In the end Lockwood’s black, white and blue design got 51 % of the two-flag preferred vote and went to the second referendum. It was this design which lost against the existing flag with 43 % of the votes.

Kyle Lockwood combined elements of the existing flag with the Silver Fern, already a popular symbol of New Zealand. With two successful designs in the first round, it’s reasonable to suggest that any viable alternative to the existing flag must be a Lockwood flag. In this scenario Kyle Lockwood is asked to rethink his two top scoring designs and come up with the perfect Silver Fern and Southern Cross flag for New Zealand.

4. Total chaos

None of the five proposed designs which got to the first round of the referendum was able to beat the existing flag in the second round, but each of them was liked by a group of people. Supporters started using these flag designs in front of their houses, on stickers and online leading up to the referendum. Some still do. The risk of letting people campaign for six different national flags for years is that it becomes very difficult to unite around just one flag in the end. The most important purpose of a national flag is that it unites people.

In this scenario, two or three of the flag designs from 2015 are in unofficial use for years to come, causing lots of devisive arguments among New Zealanders and confusion abroad.

The Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg dies at 82

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Prince Richard, brother-in-law of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and head of the Sayn-Wittgenstein family, passed away on Monday 13 March 2017. His funeral service will be held on Tuesday 21 March, in the Evangelische Stadtkirche Bad Berleburg. 

Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg was the third son-in-law of King Frederik IX of Denmark. He married Princess Benedikte in 1968 at Fredensborg Palace, Denmark. Her younger sister Anne-Marie had married Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, in 1964 in Athens, Greece. In 1967, the older sister Margrethe, heiress to the Danish throne, married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat who became Prince Henrik of Denmark.

Richard was a man of humour, and of temper, totally devoid of the stiff upper lip and the jetset lifestyle so often associated with royalty. He met his future wife at the wedding of Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus in the Netherlands in 1966. “In the royal corner,” as he once explained. From birth, Prince Richard belonged to that inner circle of closely related princely houses of Europe, but he never liked the pomp and circumstance and would rather wake up early to a day of hard work in the forest.

His main occupation in life was the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg inheritance: one of the largest private estates in Germany. Prince Richard took that responsibility seriously. “One would hate to be the weakest link in a long chain,” he said. The Prince has been praised for his work in wildlife conservation. He was an accomplished hunter and angler. And he was a central figure in local life in the town of Bad Berleburg. His family’s presence in the area goes back 800 years.

Prince Richard was a male line descendant of the medieval Counts of Sponheim. The chequered arms of the House of Sponheim were not used by that branch which inherited the County of Sayn in the 13th Century. In stead, the arms of Sayn (Gules, a lion guardant Or) became the central element of the family’s heraldic achievements.

The County of Wittgenstein, where Bad Berleburg is located, was added in the 14th Century. Its arms (Argent, two pallets Sable) are the same as those of the medieval Counts of Battenberg and, in modern times, the Mountbatten family: the Marquesses of Milford Haven, the Marquess of Carisbrooke, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1792, the reigning count in Berleburg was raised to princely rank by the Holy Roman Emperor. The Principality of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in the Rothaar Mountains on the border between Westphalia and Hesse was one of the many tiny German states that didn’t survive the Napoleonic Wars. Until the fall of the monarchy in 1918, the head of the family sat in the Prussian House of Lords.

The arms of Sayn and Wittgenstein can be seen together with the arms of the lordships of Homburg (Gules, a castle twice towered Argent, windows and port Sable) and Freusburg (Sable, on a bend sinister Argent three boar’s heads Sable) on the family’s armorial banner which was lowered to half mast on Berleburg Castle at the news of the Prince’s death.

Prince Richard’s only son, Gustav, is the new Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. Prince Gustav is named after his paternal grandfather Prince Gustav Albrecht who was reported missing in action in Russia in 1944 during World War II. In the 1960s the prospect of the Danish king getting a German son-in-law was disliked by many Danes. It was decided that any children of Prince Richard and Princess Benedikte would only succeed to the throne on the condition that they were raised in Denmark and became Danish citizens.

It is one of Prince Richard’s achievements that his nationality soon became a non-issue. As a young child he had lived in Sweden with his widowed mother who was a member of the Fouché d’Otrante family, Swedish nobles descended from Napoleon’s Minister of Police. So, Prince Richard had learned Swedish. Later in life he also spoke Danish, albeit in his own charming, “mixed Scandinavian” version. He was the German prince who put a friendly face on Germany at a time when it was needed.

100 years ago: The last day of the Russian Empire

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The Imperial Russian State Colour is a splendid flag symbolizing that which came to an end on 15 March 1917 when Nicholas II abdicated: More than twenty million square kilometres of empire and a thousand years of monarchy.

The State Colour of the Russian Empire was the principal and most prestigious military flag in pre-revolution Russia, treated always with full military honours. The latest version of the State Colour, from 1896, is kept in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow. The image above shows the State Colour as depicted in Герб и Флаг России: X-XX века (1997).

On it are the full heraldic achievements of Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias: the arms of all the realms and territories that made up the Russian Empire and, at the lower edge of the flag, the combined arms of his Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov dynasty. These armorial bearings were the same as in the Greater State Arms of the Russian Empire.

The central element of the flag is the crowned, double-headed Imperial Eagle carrying the sceptre and orb of the Empire and, on its breast, the arms with Saint George slaying the dragon, surrounded by the collar of the Order of Saint Andrew, the highest Russian order. On its wings the arms corresponding to a list of the Emperor’s titles:

Tsar of Kazan (a zilant), Tsar of Astrakhan (an oriental sword), Tsar of Poland (an eagle), Tsar of Siberia (two sables), Tsar of the Tauric Chersonesus (a double-headed eagle), Tsar of Georgia (Saint George and the dragon, among others), Tsar of Kiev, Vladimir and Novgorod (Saint Michael, a lion and a throne, combined) and Grand Duke of Finland (a lion and roses).

At the edges of the flag, six shields surround the Imperial Eagle with arms of principalities, provinces and territories of the Empire. On an oak branch, from top to bottom: Great Russia (present-day Central Russia), Belarus and Lithuania, and the North-East (present-day Northern Russia). On a palm branch, from top to bottom: the South-West (Ukraine), the Baltic lands (e.g. Estonia, Livonia, Karelia) and Turkestan (Central Asia).

The State Colour was made of silk and adorned with different kinds of passementarie i.e. elaborate embroidery, edgings and braids, with gold and silver cords, and applications of coloured silk and gold leaf. Fringes and tassels were black, gold and silver. These are the colours of the Russian “heraldic flag”, a black-yellow-white tricolour introduced in 1858 and still used by Russian monarchists and nationalists today.

Two silk scrolls were embroidered with four important years. 862: The founding of the first Russian state by the viking Rurik. 988: The baptism of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great and the acceptance of Christianity by Kievan Rus. 1497: The introduction of a nationwide code of law by Grand Prince Ivan III; he was also the first Russian ruler to use the title Tsar and Autocrat. 1721: The founding of the Russian Empire by Peter the Great.

The year 1917 was as important as any in Russian history. The terrible World War brought about the fall of a deeply troubled monarchy. But in no way did the February Revolution and the abdication mean the end of hardship for Russia. The October Revolution, terror and civil war, decades of Communism and another World War followed. The last Tsar was killed, the legacy of the Empire and a millennium of Rurikid and Romanov rulers survived and is stronger in Russia today than for a long time.