Parading the Colors


HMS Britannia, the Royal Yacht, was commissioned in 1953 and served for forty-five years before being retired in 1998. In this photograph she is shown dressed overall with signal flags. The flag at the mainmast is the standard of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. This standard is a banner of his arms: Quarterly, First Or, semée of hearts Gules, three lions passant in pale Azure (for Denmark), Second Azure, a cross Argent (for Greece), Third Argent, two pallets Sable (for Battenberg or Mountbatten), Fourth Argent, upon a rock Proper a castle triple towered Sable, masoned Argent, windows, port, turret-caps and vanes Gules (for Edinburgh). The standard recalls that he was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, his father being Prince Alexander of Greece and Denmark, the fourth son of King George I of Greece. Philip, however, grew up in France and Britain and eventually renounced his Greek and Danish princely titles. He was created Duke of Edinburgh at the time of his marriage to the then Princess Elizabeth and was again titled as a prince when the Queen issued Letters Patent to that effect in 1957. He also holds the naval rank of Admiral of the Fleet and this is indicated by the Union Jack, the rank flag of an Admiral of the Fleet, at the foremast. The flag at the mizzen is generally the "courtesy ensign"—the flag of the nation in whose waters the ship is docked or moored. In this photograph the flag at the mizzenmast is indistinct but appears to be the former government flag of Northern Ireland: the Cross of St. George defaced with a six-pointed white star bearing the red hand of Ulster and surmounted by a royal crown. Otherwise Britannia flies the usual flags of the Royal Navy: the Union Jack from the jack staff at the bow and the White Ensign (not visible in this photo) from the ensign staff at the stern. When the Queen was aboard, the flag of the Lord High Admiral was hoisted at the foremast and her Royal Standard was hoisted at the mainmast.

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