In anticipation of the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Canada, the government of that dominion unveiled new Canadian personal flags for the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge. The British Empire started out as a group of states and colonies united in the British crown, but as the Empire evolved into the Commonwealth, dominions were gradually recognised as sovereign entities of their own. Thus when, for example, Elizabeth II visits, say, Vancouver, it is not the ‘Queen of England’ who is visiting but the Queen of Canada exercising her functions in her own country. (This is a point frequently lost upon ideological republicans). Even when Elizabeth remains in London she puts on different ‘hats’ for different occasions. The only time I ever saw the Queen was at a Service for Australia at Westminster Abbey, thus it was the Queen’s Personal Flag for Australia which flew from the tower of the Abbey, not the British Royal Standard.
The Queen’s Personal Flag for Canada (above, top), often informally known as the Canadian Royal Standard, was devised in 1962 (the same year similar banners were created for Australia and New Zealand). Until 2011, the Queen was the only member of the Canadian Royal Family to have a personal flag for Canada, but now she is joined by her son and grandson, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge respectively.
The Prince of Wales’s flag features a blue roundel within a wreath of maple leaves (in contrast to the wreath of roses on the Queen’s standard). Upon the blue roundel is the badge of the Prince of Wales: three feathers, a diadem, and the German motto Ich Dien (‘I Serve’). The three-pointed white label is the traditional heraldic mark of an eldest son.
The Duke of Cambridge’s personal flag also features the white label of an eldest son, defaced with an escallop (seashell) to indicate differentiation from his father. The escallop hails from the Spencer arms, indicating Prince William’s matrilineal descent. The wreath is of maple leaves and seashells, and the roundel features a ‘W’ monogram surmounted by a coronet.