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The Court of the Lord Lyon

Further Guidance on Flags



The size of a flag depends on the site where it is flown, from very small flags for table decorations to enormous flags for the top of a tower. The size should be suitable to make the design clearly visible. Sizes are only below for special flags, where the sizes are fixed by regulation.


The proportions of a flag, the relation of its width to its height, remain constant regardless of its size.


The 'hoist' is the part of the flag nearest to the pole.


The 'fly' is the part of the flag furthest from the pole. In long flags such as Standards the devices are described in order reading from the hoist to the fly.


All heraldic flags are designed with the convention that the pole is on the left of the flag, from the spectator's point of view. It is on this convention that the flag and its contents are described. A lion rampant, for example, will face or 'respect' the pole. Heraldic devices are sewn right through the flag's material, so on its reverse side all the devices will be reversed left to right, and the lion will still respect the pole. Lettering on flags such as Standards is the only exception to this rule, otherwise the words would read backwards on the reverse side. Such exceptions have to be of double thickness.


Any material suitable to the context and the owner's pocket may be used for flags, from nylon or nylon-and-wool bunting for flags flown out of doors to silk, satin and rich brocades for flags used for internal display. Metallic nylon 'Lurex' material gives good and economic results when used for gold and silver.


Except in a few cases such as Standards, fringes are regarded as mere decoration to be added or omitted at the owner's choice. Where used, they should be either plain and of the same metal (gold or silver) that is predominant in the flag, or they may be of alternate portions of the main colour and the main metal of the flag itself.


There are no fixed 'heraldic colours' for flags. Any red that is clearly 'red' and not orange or purple is correct. In general it is found that the brightest possible colours give the best effect.


Gold and silver occur in almost all heraldic flags, and can be shown either as yellow and white or as metallic gold and silver. Whichever is chosen, its use should be consistent within the flag. A flag should not contain both yellow AND gold, and nor should it contain both white AND silver.


The correct position for a flag flown at half mast is that the distance between the top of the flag and the top of the pole should be the same as the width of the flag. Half mast does not mean that the flag should be half way up the pole.



This is often wrongly called a 'Standard' (see below). It is the personal flag of the owner of a coat of arms (an 'armiger'). It shows his personal coat of arms granted by the Lord Lyon or inherited in right of an ancestor, and protected by the Law of Scotland. The coat of arms fills the banner right to its edges, as though it were a rectangular shield. It is quite wrong to use a banner of a plain colour with the owner's arms on a shield in the middle. This would mean that the owner's arms were of that colour with a little inescutcheon in the centre. Nor should the external 'additaments' be shown, ie helmet, mantling, crest, motto and supporters. Its purpose is the location and identification of its owner, and it is the visual equivalent of name. No one else may use it. Flown over the house it denotes that the armiger is there, and as a house flag its proportions are 5:4. The size of a house flag depends on the height of the building and the pole, and it should be large enough to be intelligible at the height at which it is flown.

For personal use, the size and shape varies according to rank, as follows, excluding any fringes:-

The Sovereign : 1.50 metres square

Dukes : 1.25 metres square

Earls : 1.10 metres square

Viscounts and Barons : 1.00 metres square

Baronets and Feudal Barons : 0.90 metres square

Other Armigers : 70 centimetres wide x 85 centimetres high


These are personal banners for carrying in processions, either by their owners or their appointed followers, for example at Highland Games. They are made of silk or satin or bunting at their owner's choice and may be fringed or not. When so used, there are regulation sizes according to rank, not including any fringes, as follows:-

Peers : 120 centimetres wide x 150 centimetres high

Feudal Barons : 90 centimetres wide x 115 centimetres high

Other Chiefs : 85 centimetres wide x 110 centimetres high

Chieftains : 80 centimetres wide x 90 centimetres high

Other sizes may occasionally be laid down by the Lord Lyon for special occasions.


These are the equivalent of personal banners for companies or other corporate bodies, trusts and local authorities which have been granted arms by the Lord Lyon. The flag shows the coat of arms filling its whole rectangular shape, as for personal banners. The extent of its usage depends upon the corporate body, whether it is only flown over the headquarters building or at all the corporate body's sites. Its use as a car flag is restricted to the head of the corporate body when acting as such. Its proportions are 5:4.


These are banners of personal arms but cut slanted at the top to fit against the big drone and hang down the piper's back. They are used by most Chiefs and Lairds who have personal pipers, and by the Highland regiments whose company commanders' pipe banners are displayed on the regiment's pipes. The correct usage is for the arms to fill the entire banner to its edges, but some regiments have different customs, such as showing the whole achievement including supporters, or the crest alone. Such traditions are now hallowed by the centuries and are permitted. The Pipe Majors of local government or works pipe bands may display their appropriate pipe banner of the corporation or company's arms. A pipe banner should be 30 centimetres wide and the short side should be 45 centimetres long.

Where the pipe banner is for a Clan Chief who is a Peer or a Scottish feudal baron, the pipe banner should have a rounded end extending beyond the 45 centimetre length. Where the banner is for a Clan Chief who is not a Peer or a Scottish feudal baron it should have a split rounded end.

Some regimental pipe banners have traditionally adopted a rounded end and where that has been done in the past it should continue. If there is no such tradition, and for pipe banners in all other cases, the end should be straight rather than rounded.



This is a long, narrow tapering flag, granted by the Lord Lyon only to those who have a ¿following¿, such as Clan Chiefs, because it is a 'Headquarters' flag. It is used to mark the assembly point or Headquarters of the Clan or following, and does not necessarily denote the presence of the Standard's owner as the personal banner does. Ancient Standards usually showed the national Saltire in the hoist, next to the pole, but nowadays often show the owner's personal arms. The remainder of the flag is horizontally divided into two tracts of the ¿livery colours¿ for Chiefs of Clans or families, three tracts for very major branch-Chieftains, and four for others. Those of peers and barons have the ends split into two and rounded. The Standards of non-baronial Chiefs, or others who for special reasons get Standards, have round unsplit ends. Upon this background are usually displayed the owner's crest and heraldic badges, separated by transverse bands bearing the owner's motto or slogan. The Standard is fringed with the alternating livery colours. The height of the Standard is not fixed, but it is usually about 120 centimetres at the pole tapering to about 60 centimetres at the end. The length of the Standard varies according to the rank of its owner, as follows:-

The Sovereign : 7 metres

Dukes : 6½ metres

Marquises : 6 metres

Earls : 5½ metres

Viscounts : 5 metres

Barons : 4½ metres

Baronets : 4 metres

Knights and, where a Standard has been granted, Feudal Barons: 3½ metres

The height of the flagpole should take account of the length of the Standard when hanging slack.

On rare occasions a uniform length of Standard for a decorative display may be laid down by the Lord Lyon.

Where it is desired to display other matter along with the National Flag, the Standard is the appropriate form of flag. It should show the Saltire Flag or the Union Jack in the hoist, and the remainder of the flag may contain lettering appropriate to the user's purpose, for example the name of an exhibition or site of a gathering.


This is a similar shape to the Standard and is 2.40 metres long. A Guidon is assigned by the Lord Lyon to those individuals who qualify for a grant of supporters to their Arms and to other individuals who have a following such as individuals who occupy a position of leadership or a long-term official position commanding the loyalty of more than a handful of people. The Guidon tapers to a round, unsplit end at the fly, has a fringe of the livery colours, and has a background of the livery colours of its owner's arms. The owner's Crest or Badge are shown in the hoist, with the motto or slogan in the fly.


This is similar in design to the Guidon but half its length, ie 120 centimetres. It tapers either to a point or to a rounded end as the owner chooses. It is assigned by the Lord Lyon to any armiger who wishes to apply for it.


This is the flag denoting a person to whom a Clan Chief has delegated authority for a particular occasion, such as a Clan Gathering when the Chief is absent, in a word, the flag of the Chief's representative. It is triangular in shape, 60 centimetres high at the hoist and 135 centimetres in width tapering to a point, with a background of the main livery colour of the Chief's arms. On it is shown the Chief's crest, within a strap of the second livery colour and buckle (gold for full Chiefs), bearing the motto, and outside the strap and buckle a gold circlet (outlined in green if the background is not a contrasting colour to gold) inscribed with the Chief's title. On top of this circlet is set the owner's coronet of rank or his baronial cap. In the fly is shown the owner's plant badge and a scroll inscribed with his slogan or motto. This flag is allotted only to Chiefs or very special Chieftain-Barons for practical use, and only upon the specific authority of the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

For further information or advice please contact:

The Court of the Lord Lyon,
HM New Register House,
Edinburgh EH1 3YT
Tel: 0131 556 7255
Fax: 0131 557 2148

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