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Dictionary of Vexillology: H (Head - Historical Flag)

Last modified: 2022-08-27 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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See ‘hoist 1)’ (also ‘heading’ and ‘masthead’).

The topmost point of a flagstaff from which a flag can be flown, and which lies below the cap or finial - see ‘finial’.

A piece of heavy material, usually canvas or double-ply bunting, along the hoist edge of a flag, into which a rope is sewn as the hoistline, or into which grommets are inserted to facilitate the hoisting of a flag - a hoist strip (see also ‘sleeve 2)’, ‘hoistline’, ‘grommet 1)’ and ‘hoist 1)’).

header example

Please note that the increasingly (but by no means entirely) obsolete practice of fixing a flag to its pole or staff by a series of attached loops is almost certainly based on the earlier use of ties – see ‘loops’ (also ‘ring 4)’ and ‘ties’).

1) See ‘camp flag’.
2) In US military, naval and some other usage, the rank flag of a commanding officer when flown from their headquarters ashore – a designating (of headquarters) flag (see also ‘rank flag 1)’ and ‘flag of command’).

headquaters flag example headquaters flag example
Headquarters/Camp Flag, Royal Marine Commandos, UK (fotw); Rank/Headquarters Flag, Vice Admiral USN (fotw)

In largely naval usage a short piece of wood sewn into the top of a flag’s heading to allow the Inglefield clip to be attached about five cm from the top, thus permitting the flag to be hoisted right up to the truck, while enabling the top hoist corner of the flag to remain straight and upright  – but see ‘frame 2)’ (also ‘Appendix I’, ‘Inglefield clip’ and ‘truck’).

headstick example

That flag presented to a military formation by a country’s ruler – see ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2)’.

Kenyan presidential colour  Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry colour  Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry colour
Presidential Colour of Kenya (fotw); Queen’s Colour of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (fotw); King’s Colour RAF 1947 – 1952, UK (fotw)

A Royal, Imperial or Presidential standard (or flag) – see ‘royal standard 1)’, ‘imperial standard 1)’ and ‘presidential standard’.

Dutch royal standard  Sri Lankan President flag German imperial standard
Royal Standard of The Netherlands (fotw); Presidential Flag 1994 – 2005 of Sri Lanka; Imperial Standard of Germany 1871 – 1918 (fotw)

1) See ‘Renaissance shield’.
2) See ‘triangular heart-shaped shield’.

heart-shaped shield example heart-shaped shield example heart-shaped shield example
Arms of Ilok, Croatia (fotw); Flag and Arms of Tinjan, Croatia (fotw)

Please note that several of the terms describing a specific type of shield are still in the process of standardization, and that no consistent approach has thus far been identified.

The term, and a translation of the German herzschild, sometimes used in heraldic blazoning instead of the correct (English) term inescutcheon – see ‘inescutcheon’.

heart shield example heart shield example
Arms and Flag of Kamienna Gσra, Poland (fotw)

1) The vertical measurement of an emblem, shield, charge or badge when detailing the dimensions - but see ‘width 3)’ (also ‘dimensions’ and ‘width across’)
2) see ‘width 1)

headstick example

The metal headpiece from a suit of armour usually ensigned above the shield in a coat of arms or set of armorial bearings, but sometimes seen as a separate charge – a helmet or casque (see also ‘Appendix IV’, ‘armorial bearings’, ‘coat of arms’, ‘crest 1)’, ‘ensigned’, ‘shield’ and ‘wreath 2)’).

helmet helmet helmet
Flag of Rantzau, Germany (fotw); Flag of Josipdol, Croatia (fotw); Flag of Helmond, The Netherlands (fotw)

Please note that in English heraldry the style and positioning of a helm varies according to the rank of the bearer, and it is suggested that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted for full details.

Helmet of a Knight in English Heraldry (Wikipedia)

See ‘armorial banner 2)’ and ‘livery colours’.

[Heraldically based] [Heraldically based] [Heraldically based] [Heraldically based]
Flag and Arms of Lanškroun, Czechia (fotw); Flag and Arms of Galanta, Slovakia (fotw)

A banner of arms - see ‘banner of arms’ (also ‘armorial banner 2)’).

[Banner of Drahelčice] [Arms of Drahelčice]
Heraldic Banner and Arms of Drahelčice, Czechia (fotw)

See ‘badge in heraldry’ under ‘badge’.

[heraldic badge]
Badge of the Royal House of Tudor 1486 – 1603, England (Wikipedia)

The animals, birds, fish and mythological creatures used as supporters and/or charges in a set of armorial bearings, or on a banner of arms or a flag - but see note below (also ‘armorial bearings’, ‘banner of arms’, ‘dragon’, ‘griffin’, ‘mermaid’, ‘phoenix’, ‘sea-lion’ and ‘supporters’).

[heraldic beast] [heraldic beast] [heraldic beast]
Flag of Varaždinske Toplice, Croatia (fotw); Flag of the Governor General of Canada; Flag of Udbina, Croatia (fotw)

Please note that the basic attitudes of heraldic beasts are listed/briefly described herein, and may be found at ‘couchant’, ‘erect’, ‘forcene’, ‘guardant’, ‘haurient’, ‘naiant’, ‘passant’, ‘rampant’, ‘regardant’, ‘salient’, ‘segreant’ and ‘urinant’.

See ‘tinctures’.

tincture tincture tincture tincture tincture

See ‘fountain 1)’.

[heraldic fountain] [heraldic fountain]
Arms and Flag of Sanguinheira, Portugal (fotw)

See ‘fleur-de-lis’.

[heraldic lily] [heraldic lily]
Arms and Flag of Domaniewice, Poland (fotw )

1) In English usage, a flag of heraldic design, long and tapering, possibly with a rounded or double-rounded (lanceolate or double-tailed descate) fly carrying the owner’s badge and motto (sometimes also a national symbol or personal arms), and bordered in his livery colours. Originally used as an identifying symbol by medieval noblemen, and still occasionally flown by those entitled to it (see also ‘badge in heraldry’, ‘banner of arms’, ‘double-tailed descate’, ‘lance pennon 1)’, ‘lanceolate’ and ‘motto’).
2) The headquarters flag of a Scottish nobleman or clan chief (and a standard as defined above), it is between 3.5 and 7.5m long (dependent upon rank) and tapers from 120 cm to 80 cm. The hoist carries either the national flag or owner’s arms, whilst the tail is in the main livery colours and has the motto (usually on diagonal bands) separated by the owner’s crest and other badges. The tail is generally split into two rounded (double-tailed descate) ends (except for those chiefs who do not hold a title of nobility, baronetcy or knighthood whose standards have a simple rounded or lanceolate end), and the whole is edged or fringed with alternating livery colours (see also ‘battle standard’, ‘double-tailed descate’, ‘great standard’, ‘lanceolate’, and ‘pageant standard’).

[Heraldic standard example] [Heraldic standard example]
Heraldic standard of the Master Gunner St James’ Park UK (Graham Bartram); Heraldic Standard of King Henry VI c1450, England (fotw)

With regard to 1), in English heraldry the entitlement to a heraldic standard is consequent upon the granting or possession of a badge, but is not dependent upon rank (see also ‘badge in heraldry’).
Regarding 2) in Scottish heraldry the entitlement to a standard (and to heraldic flags other than a banner of arms) is consequent upon a separate grant by the Lord Lyon King of Arms (see also ‘pinsel’ and ‘guidon 3)’).

The science concerned with the designing, interpretation, recording and blazoning of those armorial bearings and/or heraldic insignia that pertain to an individual, an institution or to a corporate entity (see also ‘anti-heraldry’, ‘armorial bearings’, ‘blazon’, ‘coat of arms 2)’, ‘insignia’ and ‘pre-heraldic’).

armorial bearings armorial bearings armorial bearings armorial bearings
Armorial Bearings for the counties of Hampshire, Lancashire; Staffordshire and Somerset, UK (fotw)

The German term for an inescutcheon - see ‘inescutcheon’.

herzschild example
Flag of Ippesheim, Germany (fotw)

In British and US usage, now obsolete, see ‘colonial flags/ensigns’.

[High Commissioner's flag] [High Commissioner's flag]
Flag of the Western Pacific High Commissioner 1905 –1976, UK (fotw); Flag of the Philippines High Commissioner 1935 - 1946, US (fotw)

Please note that in UK usage the title is not obsolete, but that its role has changed, and no longer (as far as is known) carries the entitlement to a special flag – see ‘diplomatic flags’.

The alternative heraldic terms used when the grip, pommel and cross/hand guard of a sword or dagger are of a different tincture to its blade – but see note below and ‘hafted’ (also ‘barbed’, ‘garnished’, ‘pommeled’, ‘shafted’ and ‘tincture’).

hilted hilted hilted 
Flag of St. Anne's College, Oxford University, UK (fotw); Flag of Villars-sous-Mont, Switzerland (fotw); Flag of Haarlem, The Netherlands (fotw)

Please note that heraldic writers will sometimes blazon the hilt and the pommel (of a sword or dagger) separately when describing the charges on a coat of arms – hilted and pommeled.

Literally “sun-disk” and the civil ensign/national flag of Japan since 1870 – the hi-no-maru or nisshoki (see also ‘daimyo flags’ ‘disc’, and ‘mon’).

National Flag of Japan (fotw)

Please note that, whilst acting in that role for many years, the Hinomaru/nisshoki was only formally adopted as the National Flag in 1999.

In English RN usage now obsolete, an official term for the 1606 pattern union flag when flown as a naval jack, and in use from c1640 – c1690 – the king’s jack or the jack – but see ‘British flag’ (also ‘interlaced’, ‘naval jack’ under ‘jack’, ‘James Union’ and ‘union jack 2)’).

Union Flag 1601
Union Flag 1601 - 1801, England/UK (fotw)

See ‘hoisted flag’.
hissflagge hissflagge
Hissflagge and Banner of Bernburg, Germany (fotw)

1) A historical flag of special significance.
2) In Canadian sailing club usage the official title for those defaced ensigns granted to local yacht clubs by the British Admiralty (for use as an ensign) before 1964, but now flown as a club flag (see also ‘blue ensign 1)’ with its following note and ‘historical flag’).

historic flag historic flag
National Flag of the US 1777-1795 (fotw): Defaced Ensign/Historic Flag of the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, Canada (fotw)

A flag that has been in use in the past, but has now been superseded by another - but see ‘historic flag’) (also ‘reconstruction’).

historical flag historical flag
Blue Ensign, UK, 1707-1801 (fotw); Defaced Blue Ensign of Newfoundland 1870-1904 (fotw)

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