A Flag For Hampshire


The flag retains the rose and crown pattern used in the county for several centuries. In the Great Hall in Winchester


a round mediaeval table


is positioned on a wall


, at its centre is a double, Tudor rose, with inner white petals and outer red ones. The table is a presentation of the famous round table of Arthurian legend, where all the knights of the court sat and is believed to date from around the fourteenth century. There is no firm evidence but it is supposed that originally, the rose would have been gold, an often used royal motif in this era, under King Henry III, who was born in Winchester Castle and often known as Henry of Winchester and his successor Edward I. The symbolism of the legendary round table and the Arthurian age was powerful, perhaps the association between Hampshire and its floral emblem arose from its presence on this revered artefact? People in that era may well have believed that this actually was King Arthur’s round table, allowing for the development of a mystique around the emblem of the rose at its centre and firmly embedding it in popular culture. In the reign of Henry VIII, the bi-colour Tudor rose had become established, the table was repainted to depict the Tudor version, often seen in Hampshire emblems.

Although the rose on the table is bi-coloured, it is mainly red and this is the basic colour of rose with which the county has been associated for several centuries, suggesting a connection with the Lancastrian rose and predating the Tudor variety of course. One plausible theory places the origin with Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, brother of King Edward I, who held estates in Hampshire. In 1283 Edmund brought Somborne Hundred in the county, into the Earldom of Lancaster, establishing a connection between Lancashire and Hampshire. He is believed to have changed his father, Henry III’s, golden rose to a red one. Another account holds that the rose was granted by King Henry V for bravery at the battle of Agincourt, to a contingent of Hampshire archers and soldiers, There was no such “Hampshire” group however, as fighting men were retained by a noble and deployed by him in obligation to the crown not drawn en masse, from any county. A sketchy alternative idea is that it was awarded to the county by John of Gaunt.

The “Hampshire Rose” is widely used in the arms of Hampshire people and places; appearing on the civic arms of Southampton,


which, incidentally, appear on a heraldic roll from the time of Edward IV, 1461 – 1483, denoted as the arms of ‘Hampton’;






and although in a somewhat unorthodox shade of blue (!) a specifically described ‘Hampshire rose’ is also present on the civic arms of Bournemouth,

in the grasp of a lion


(also blue!) to emphasise its status as a Hampshire town.

Additionally, the rose bearing arms of “Winchester College”


and ”New College”


, Oxford derive from the arms of William of Wykeham, a celebrated Hampshire bishop.

Whatever their precise origins, it is evident that the red rose per se and the rose and crown combination, are devices of some antiquity, reflected in the widespread use of the name “Hampshire Rose” throughout the county. The rose symbol adapted by Henry III’s son Edmund, subsequently passed down through descent and marriage, to Henry of Bolingbroke, who took the crown as Henry IV and converted the Duchy of Lancaster into an appendage of the Crown, as the personal fief of the reigning monarch in 1399. The theory holds that this act, symbolised by the adding of the crown to the rose emblem, is the origin of the distinct Hampshire combination. Notably, the combined device of rose and crown features as a decorative element on the cannon


of the Henry VIII warship, the “Mary Rose”, constructed in Portsmouth. Hampshire history website refers to the combination of rose and crown on the fourteenth century staple seal (Statute of the Staple) in Southampton (see below) and its appearance on the seal of the Custos Rotulorum(Keeper Of The Records) for Hampshire, in the period 1625 – 1649, the reign of Charles I. Perhaps the use of this ostensibly royal insignia in such contexts inspired the local take up of the combination. The oldest reference of a crown and rose combination as a Hampshire emblem appears to date from 1681 in Stockbridge. The 1686 mace used in the Borough of Petersfield


also features a crowned rose


In the following centuries, the combination was included on locally issued currency


Untitled.pngand in 1842 a device comprising the rose surmounted by a crown, with a cap, surrounded by a wreath of laurel leaves,


appeared on official documents. In 1889 Hampshire County Council (HCC) was established and in 1895 it adopted this recognised county badge of combined rose and crown symbol as a heraldic badge (similar to a company logo)


although without legal sanction. Another notable county organisation to adopt the crown and rose motif, as a seal, was the Hampshire Field Club And Archaeological Society, in 1906, 


The take up of this device was described at some length in the organisation’s magazine which reads “The rose and crown, with sprays of laurel,


appear in some old books and records belonging to the county, deposited at Winchester and these have furnished authority for the badge of the County Council who have adopted this form…”. The description further states “The rose and crown is freely used throughout The Great Hall of Winchester Castle as an architectural ornament…” Pointedly the journal also states “…the rose and crown has been accepted for a considerable period as the County Badge…”

With regard to the precise form of rose featured in the seal adopted by the society, the publication also gives some consideration to the “variety” of roses deployed in Hampshire. “In the Cathedral of Winchester…” it reads, “…we have a variety of forms. In the roof of the choir…we have the double rose, also the single rose, whether of York or Lancaster cannot always be determined. The roof of the nave…is also decorated with double roses on the intersections of the vaulting ribs.”. The magazine continues, “The double rose assigned to the Tudors is found in a much earlier period, and the examples above referred to show that the combination dates back more than four hundred years” The society’s magazine then states that the specific inspiration for their choice of a double rose on its insignia, was a seal


used in Winchester, to seal bonds, under the Statute of the Staple, the city being a “staple” site for wool. This device appears to have become obsolete in the eighteenth century. Referring to the “Statute of Staple” seal, the magazine states that the society thus “…adopted the double rose which was certainly found in Winchester and elsewhere before Tudor times, and has been handed down to a more recent period. The full account of the society’s emblem and its derivation can be read here.

The combined rose and crown emblem subsequently featured on the cover and spine of the 1926 work ‘Unknown Hampshire’

, demonstrating the recognition of the combination as the definitive Hampshire emblem.

Hampshire County Council received a formal grant of arms in 1992


from the College of Arms, featuring a golden crown and a double rose which clearly includes inner white petals, reflective of the rose on the table in the Great Hall in Winchester and the other early depictions. Subsequent to the 1992 award of the council’s coat of arms, a number of business and other organisations in the county asked to use these arms but of course were declined for potential breach of copyright. Naturally, they were entitled to use their own versions of the insignia, resulting in a variety of depictions that included single red roses, double red roses and Tudor roses, thus continuing the “tradition” of varying forms of rose present in the county. Bearing out this point, while a Tudor rose is found, for example, on the civic arms of Rushmoor, the Bournemouth rose, as noted, is blue and the rose used by the county cricket team is all white!

This appears to be a legacy of the “variation” which the above archaeological magazine refers to, whilst the device adopted from 1842 as the county badge, included a red rose, white depictions, set against a red shield of distinctive shape, also exist


Furthermore, whilst a basic red “Lancastrian” rose is present on the badge of the county’s branch of the Air Training Corps


and on the insignia of this local brewery, with a brew significantly named “Hampshire Rose”


some organisations, such as the Hampshire yeomanry


and Hampshire constabulary


have actually deployed a reversed Tudor rose, with red inner and white outer petals.

The rose on the proposed Hampshire flag is a double, bi-coloured one, inspired by the double rose on the “Arthurian” table in Winchester hall

Winch rose

, the description in the Hampshire Field Club And Archaeological Society journal that such a design had been used in the county even before Tudor times, that body’s own adoption of a double rose for its insignia and the example of the “Statute of the Staple” seal. Such a rose of course also features on the council’s arms

Hants CC Rose.png

A Tudor rose has been further deployed by the Hampshire Regiment


and appears on this World War Two cloth badge


Notably, the bottom sepal of the rose on the proposed flag points down to represent “SOUTHamptonshire” in contrast to the rose on the flag of Northamptonshire


which points up, to signify NORTHamptonshire. This is the form of rose which appeared on the aforementioned “Staple Seal” and also found for example on the badge of the Hampshire Regiment royal-hampshire-regimentHampshire Volleyball Association


North Hants Golf Club (inner, white rose)


Hampshire Ruby Union

Hampshire Womens Institute


and of course the rose on the arms of Hampshire Council itself, as seen.
Hants CC

Hampshire Scouts


and Hampshire County Pool Association


both also display a Tudor rose but without the distinct downwards sepal.

The 1992 award of arms to the Hampshire County Council included a gold royal crown, on a red field. Use of the “Royal Crown” requires a special warrant, obtained for the council’s arms with a specific remit for this deployment. Such a warrant does not extend to its hoisting by the public, the Royal Crown may only be used with permission, as highlighted in this incident. The proposed flag thus replaces the “Royal Crown” with a specifically Saxon crown as a reference to the county’s association with the era of Alfred the Great and his capital of Winchester. Such a crown also appears in the full achievement of arms used by the council,

Hampshire Crown

as part of the crest, symbolising exactly the same Alfredian legacy as intended in the proposed flag. The precise form of this heraldic charge was first deployed on the arms awarded to Middlesex County Council in 1910 on the advice of an author on military badges, Colonel Otley Parry, who identified the “Saxon Crown”, appearing on a silver penny, SAXON COIN

from the time of the Wessex king, Athelstan, 924-939. The earliest form of crown associated with the English monarchy, “Saxon” crowns had been used previously, for example on the arms ascribed to the kingdom of East Anglia but the 1910 depiction was based on a contemporary image rather than generic heraldic artistry as seems to be the case with the latter example.

A “flag”, which exists in several depictions,

Hants CC banner

that is often sold and frequently described as the Hampshire flag or county flag of Hampshire, is in fact the council’s coat of arms in cloth form, its armorial banner and as such represents just the council, which is in fact the only body allowed to use it. The council has itself stated this clearly on its own website

Hants CC

and has included the following question and answer exchanges regarding use of its armorial banner;

“Q: Can individuals or organisations fly the County Council flag?

A: Unfortunately, we cannot allow others to fly our flag because it represents Hampshire County Council and not the county of Hampshire.”

“Q: Can individual elements of the County Council’s coat of arms be used to make up the design of other organisation’s logos and flags?

A: Organisations can only include elements of our coat of arms in their logos and flags if they have been sufficiently redesigned so as not to infringe copyright. For example, the Hampshire rose is used by several organisations in Hampshire, but all look different.”

Not only is it generally unlawful for anyone other than the arms holder (armiger) to make use of such arms, as explicitly stated by the College of Arms, which advises ” The regulations are not intended to permit the flying of armorial flags or flags bearing coats of arms; …. It is unlawful to fly or use a flag of the arms of any local authority save on sites or premises occupied by that authority.” but also, as described, the specific charge of the royal crown is itself highly restricted, as highlighted in this case. This is NOT the Hampshire county flag. The alternative design described on this page, has accordingly been specifically created to overcome these issues, whilst retaining the basic traditional county theme of rose and crown with which Hampshire has been associated since at least the seventeenth century and simultaneously, recalling the county’s legacy as the heart of Alfred the Great’s Wessex and that kingdom’s resistance to Danish invasion.


The flag is seen flying below, by HMS Victory, in Portsmouth.



The flag is promoted here and can be purchased here.


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