The flag of Norfolk was registered on September 11th 2014 as a traditional county flag, following a campaign by Norfolk native Dominic Victor Maverick Smith
to secure recognition of the historic emblem of the county. The design is a banner of the arms
attributed to Ralph (Ranulp) de Gael (de Guader), first Earl of Norfolk (1071-1075)
The simple, bold design was widely known throughout the county, owing to its inclusion in the arms borne by the local county council,
and consequent appearance across the territory on council vehicles, sites and projects.
The council arms were awarded in 1904, as celebrated on this postcard
from the time, depicting the official grant of this specific design, to the “County Council of Norfolk” by the College Of Arms, on behalf of the then King, Edward VII. The arms were intended solely for use by and to represent only, the council as an administrative body and have never been available for general public use. Deployment of the De Gael arms, which were no longer borne by an extant armiger or arms-holder, as the basis for the council arms, highlighted their status as the traditional Norfolk symbol, the design being the obvious foundation on which to form the council’s own arms. It is thought that the ermine bend (the diagonal stripe from top left to bottom right) found in the design may well have been a reference to Brittany, where Ralph was Lord of Gael and ermine is a common local emblem, which also features on the Breton flag. This ermine pattern has had differing realisations but for the campaign a precise form was perfected by Dominic Smith in consultation with the Flag Institute and a flag bearing this design was commissioned by the Association of British Counties to fly on Historic County Flags Day July 23rd, 2014. This pattern was duly registered.
A further consideration is that the council arms include a golden lion, in a pose heraldically termed ‘passant guardant’. This specific gold lion is a ‘Royal Lion’, a charge found on the royal banner of England, whose use is much restricted by the Crown. Use of this specific charge, without specific permission from the Queen, in itself, is actually unlawful and the grant of arms to the council, includes no such provision for its usage beyond the County Council.
The De Gael arms have been linked with Norfolk across the centuries. They were included for example on the map of Norfolk produced by John Speed in 1610 (in a variant ermine representation) as part of his renowned atlas of Great Britain ;
and appeared again on John Blaeu’s map of 1650
And were further depicted in two illustrations elsewhere in the novel
The county emblem further appears as a decorative feature, on this souvenir
from the village of South Creake, alongside an image of the local church.
The De Gael/De Gauder Arms have also been adapted for its own arms, by the Norfolk Heraldry Society
but above all, are actually used as a flag by the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club
both as a pennant or burgee,
and in a “swallow tail” form,
Examples of both versions flying follow
Such usage of the De Gael design by so prominent a county organisation further demonstrated the long established association with and recognition of the design as the county emblem. Along with the express support received by a number of local groups and companies, this facilitated its registration as the county flag of Norfolk.
Registration of the design was supported by the following Norfolk bodies;
- Norfolk Broads Authority
- Norfolk Family History Society
- Sutton Parish Council
- Royalls Boatyard, Hoveton, Norwich
- Broads Holiday Adventures (Herbert Woods)
- A. Plant Supplies Ltd
- Sutton Pottery Sutton, Norwich
The De Gael / De Guader banner, the then proposed flag of Norfolk, flying on Historic County Flags Day July 23rd, 2014.
The first commercial outlet to fly the newly registered flag was Munchies cafe at Great Yarmouth.
Since registration the county flag has been flown across the county at homes and businesses
It flies here
over St. Helen’s church, Ranworth; “the Cathedral of the Broads” and is raised here
by the county scouts. The flag appears on this local product
alongside a similarly coloured bee (!) and has also been incorporated into the logo of the county team competing in the recently developed sport of footgolf
In 2018, in the build up to the county’s inaugural county day, July 27th, the Norfolk flag was seen on local television,
heralding a report on the forthcoming celebration and in anticipation of the day the staff at Whitelodge Care Home Norwich, created this fabulous Norfolk Flag cake!
The flag was much in evidence on the day, at the showground of the Royal Norfolk Show;
over the John Lewis store in Norwich
and a vessel on the Broads;
at a caravan park in Great Yarmouth;
and at a picturesque spot in the county.
A splendid evocation of arguably Norfolk’s most famous son, Horatio Nelson, alongside the county flag was also presented!
The flag was raised by the Breckland Town Council;
and fluttered over the church tower in South Reps;
it flew at Norwich City Hall;
in a Swaffham High Street;
and in splendid abundance at Potter Heigham!
The flag was also flying in Australia!
Prior to the registration of Norfolk’s flag, a banner formed from Norfolk County Council’s coat of arms
had been commercially available, erroneously described as the county flag of Norfolk. Whilst incorporating the De Gael design, as detailed, these council arms represent that body alone. They include a specific ornamentation from King Edward VII in recognition of the royal residence at Sandringham in the county – a red bar, heraldically termed a “chief”, placed across the De Gael arms and featuring elements typically borne by the Prince of Wales, a title which the king had previously borne for many decades. This very specific design, accordingly, very clearly represents only the council rather than the county as an entity in its own right – the banner of these arms, was not and is not, the county flag of Norfolk.
The county flag is promoted here.