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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK


UK

Palace in flap over flags

The Royal Standard: England, Scotland, Ireland but no Wales

Buckingham Palace has rejected plans to break with protocol and fly the Prince of Wales's flag alongside that of the Queen's at the official opening of the new Welsh Assembly.

The decision means that the Royal Standard - the Queen's own flag which carries symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland, but not Wales - will fly alone at the ceremony next Wednesday.

The news will come as a blow to many Welsh people who see the assembly as a milestone in affirming a more distinct identity within the United Kingdom.

Dr John Davies, author of the Penguin History of Wales, said raising the prince's flag was a matter of gesture.


[ image: The Prince of Wales's flag will not be seen at the opening]
The Prince of Wales's flag will not be seen at the opening
"I don't think most people would know what the prince's flag even looks like, but there is a principle at stake," said Dr Davies.

It may also be seen as a setback in the drive to project a more sensitive and flexible monarch, in the wake of Diana, Princess of Wales's death.

There was a groundswell of public discontent in the days following the princess's death over Buckingham Palace's refusal to fly a Union Flag at half-mast. The Palace eventually backed down.

Royal convention

Each member of the Royal Family has an official flag, which is flown to denote their presence. By convention only the most senior member's flag can be hoisted.

But with both the Queen and Prince Charles due to attend the opening of the new Welsh assembly in Cardiff, efforts had been made to break with protocol and raise the flags of both side by side.

The idea was first mooted by Robin Ashburner, one of the UK's foremost vexillologists (flag experts), who was consulted on the arrangements for the display above the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, where an official lunch is being held.

Poles apart

He had envisaged the Royal Standard and the Prince's flag of four "Llewelyn lions" flying together in an effort to smooth over Welsh sensibilities.

The revised arrangement will see the Royal Standard fly from one of the two central flag poles, flanked by the Union Flag and the Welsh Dragon on two lesser poles.

Although historically the two royal standards used to fly together, Mr Ashburner says it probably hasn't happened for at least 400 years. There is no record of the two flags being raised at the investiture of the current Prince of Wales in 1969, he said.


[ image: Buckingham Palace backed down over the Union Flag after Diana's death]
Buckingham Palace backed down over the Union Flag after Diana's death
However, the Monarchy has sought to become more responsive to public sentiment in the wake of Diana's death, almost two years ago. Criticism about its failure to fly the Union Flag at half-mast was taken on board and the flag now flies from the palace roof whenever the Queen is away.

But the Lord Chamberlain's office has turned down the request to break protocol at the assembly opening, having consulted widely before seeking the Queen's consent.

Dr Davies said he hoped the issue would spark a wider debate on redrawing the Royal Standard and the Union Jack - neither of which include Wales.

"They could get rid of one of the English corners of the Queen's flag and make way for Wales."

Mr Ashburner, who is himself Welsh, said he was unhappy with the Palace's decision.

"I think that it's a disappointment as far as Wales is concerned," he said.

"I think it must be remembered that Wales is an entity in its own right and it's particularly important because Wales does not appear on the 'English' Royal Standard."



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12 May 99 | UK Politics
Devolution becomes reality

23 Jul 98 | UK
Flags at half-mast for Diana

06 Mar 98 | UK
Union Flag flies at Palace





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