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Royal Southern Yacht Club (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2015-01-17 by rob raeside
Keywords: royal southern yacht club | blue ensign |
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[Royal Southern Yacht Club] image by Clay Moss, 1 March 2008

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Flag of Royal Southern Yacht Club

Whilst conducting some historical research I note that apparently the Royal Yacht Squadron is the only UK yacht club entitled to fly a White ensign. However it would appear that the Royal Southern Yacht Club was  granted a warrant in 1840 under Queen Victoria to fly the White Ensign defaced by the City of Southampton Arms.
Lis Robinson, 16 October 2007

That is correct, but some details are wrong.

  1. The club was formed in 1837 as the Southampton Yacht Club, and the warrant for "a white ensign, with the crown and Southampton arms in the centre" was awarded to that club.
  2. However the warrant, dated the 15th day of July 1840, was incorrectly made out to the 'Royal Southampton Yacht Club'.
  3. The club appears to have assumed, not unreasonably, that the title 'royal' went with the white ensign and adopted the title.
  4. The mistake was not discovered until 1909 when the Home Office checked yacht clubs that used the title 'royal' against the list of titles actually granted. It was found that nine yacht clubs were using the title 'royal' without authorisation. The clubs were allowed to retain the title as all had been assumed due, either to Admiralty errors, or genuine misunderstandings over the meaning of 'royal patronage'.

David Prothero, 18 August 2007

I cannot find anything which would indicate that the club is longer entitled to fly this or any blanket rule removing its right to use the same so why is the Royal Yacht Squadron always referred to as the only yacht club entitled to fly a white ensign and why does the Royal Southern use a Blue Ensign – perhaps there are some archives not on the web that I cannot find?
Lis Robinson, 16 October 2007

Warrants for a white ensign had been issued to six clubs other than the Royal Yacht Squadron. All six were cancelled on 22 July 1842 and replaced by a warrant for "the blue ensign of Her Majesty's fleet, with the distinctive marks of the club". On 5 August 1843 the warrant for the Royal Southampton Yacht Club was withdrawn, and replaced by a warrant in the name of the Royal Southern Yacht Club. At some time in either 1844 or 1847 the defaced Blue Ensign warrant of the Royal Southern was withdrawn and replaced by one for the plain Blue Ensign.
David Prothero
, 18 August 2007

Royal Southern Yacht Club; plain blue. Blue Ensign granted 1847.
David Prothero, 7 June 2014

Founded 1837 as the Southampton Yacht Club.

15 July 1840. Admiralty Warrant for White Ensign defaced with a crown above the Arms of Southampton. (White over red shield, two red roses on the white panel, one white rose on the red panel.) The warrant was mistakenly made out to the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, but he club presumed that it was correct and assumed the title ‘royal’. The mistake was noticed by the Home Office in 1909, when the club was allowed to retain the title.

22 July 1842. Admiralty Warrant for Blue Ensign defaced with a crown and the Arms of Southampton; 1840 warrant withdrawn.

1843. Club changed its name to Royal Southern Yacht Club.
5 August 1843. Previous Admiralty Warrant re-issued in club’s new name.

1847 New Admiralty Warrant for plain Blue Ensign.
Blue burgee: crown on centre of red cross.

David Prothero, 14 November 2014


[Royal Southern Yacht Club burgee]image by Clay Moss, 27 May 2007

The burgee of the Royal Southern Yacht Club. The Royal Southern Yacht Club dates its origins back to 1837. The burgee illustrated on the Royal Southern Yacht Club site has a Tudor crown.
Clay Moss, 27 May 2007

Rules and Privileges

Entries concerning flags in 1909 Rule Book of the Royal Southern Y.C. included the following:

  • When the owner is not on station, only the ensign to be hoisted.
  • The burgee is never dipped under any circumstances.
  • The ensign is dipped only when passing the royal yacht, men-of-war and the yachts of flag officers.
  • When dressed, masthead flags are to be dipped as the royal yacht passes.
  • Foreign ensigns not to be used in dressing ship unless ordered.
  • When dressing ship in a foreign country, the national ensign of that country to be flown at the main.
  • Only the ensign is ever half-masted, except that when the owner dies on board, the burgee and ensign will be half-masted until sundown and then lowered for good.
  • When the yacht is let or lent it is not entitled to fly the Blue Ensign or club burgee unless the person to whom it is let or lent is a member of Royal Southern Y.C.
  • Should a member hire a yacht, not belonging to another member, he is entitled to fly the club burgee.
  • The R.S.Y.C. burgee is flown only on yachts which members own or have chartered, or have had lent to them.
  • Fly the ensign at the foremast, on returning to a British port from a foreign port or the Channel Islands, until boarded by Customs. Use the Red Ensign for this purpose.

David Prothero, 24 January 2008