Maybe Oldest Surviving Naval Flag/Standard

Discussion in 'History' started by Bunter, Sep 29, 2012.

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  1. GaS Standard.jpg
    The above is an image of a Standard presently kept in storage at the National Maritime Museum. It is the only known survivor from the Navy of Cromwell's time (The State's Navy, not the Royal Navy) and is thought to be the Standard used by Generals at Sea (senior admirals), the most well known of whom were Blake, Monck and Mountagu. The escutcheons which have within them the St. Georges Cross and the Irish Harp seem to be upside down: the harp 'looks' to the right rather than the left as in nearly all other flags; and the wreath is asymmetrical (thought to be palm for Victory on the left and laurel for Peace on the right).
    One theory is that it was run up as a prototype and rejected because of the abnormalities, put in a chest and forgotten, thus surviving the wholesale destruction of Commonwealth and Protectorate images at the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. Opinions on whether it was ever flown (based on fibre analysis) are varied.

    I have been collecting information and theories about this standard and I would welcome any from this forum. I was lucky enough to be allowed to see it last year, and I have some close up photos which anyone is welcome to see if they PM me.
  2. How do you know the ensign is not upside down as shown. What denotes the top and bottom as the harp look like it would be happy the other way up.
  3. A nice point. I suggest the the wreath is a clue, the knot is at the bottom, usually. Also the harp has a little head at the top right which in later forms evolved into an angel with wings.
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  4. Thanks for that Bunter. Very interesting read, and I'm not quite ready for my Horlicks yet - usually about eight o'clock.

  5. A couple of updates. I have been alerted to a surviving depiction (as far as I know the only one in colour) of the Arms of the State at this time, they are in Saint Nicholas Church in North Walsham, Norfolk. If you go to and Harp (2).pdf

    you will find a comparison of the Standard in the National Maritime Museum and what it was attempting to copy, the depiction in St. Nicholas church. As well as this, I have been given a high enough resolution picture of Reinier Noom's painting of a battle during the First Dutch War which shows among other things the English flag ship which has flying the General at Sea's standard. It is just about clear enough to show that the surviving standard is in fact wrongly made - probably why it survived, forgotten. Here is a link to the painting: full sized, close up on standard and details about the painting itself. Nooms.pdf
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  6. I note you say that the knot is usually at the bottom, and no doubt your knowledge on this matter is greater than mine...but focussing again on the knot...if you imagine it as the bow on a square rig cap then it is clearly upside down, in this case the tails are hanging downwards whereas on the cap the point upwards.

    But I guess that means that the head on the harp would then be the wrong way round...hmmm
  7. I've visited the National Maritime Museum website and looked up the Standard there, and they are now saying without any doubt that it was made in error.
    I was not very clear when I made my reply about the knot in the wreath in the message further up. In all the other representations of the State Arms of the Commonwealth that I have seen (coins and printed matter) the knot is at the bottom. I completely take your point about the knot in a square rig cap, but I am guessing (and very open to correction) that this was introduced later than 1649. The image in St. Nicholas Church has the wreaths crossing over at the top (as far as I can see - I am trying to get a better resolution image) but I can't quite make out the detail at the bottom.

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