On November 2nd 2019, the date when the Herefordshire flag was revealed and registered, by the Flag Institute, the county of Leicestershire became the last in England without a registered flag. After a protracted series of events the county finally acquired its flag on July 16th 2021, following a request from county MPs.
The Leicestershire flag was created by vexillographer Jason Saber in 2011, drawing upon some elements, the red and white colour scheme and serrated division or zigzag, present in the shield
from the coat of arms.
used by Leicestershire County Council, which ultimately derived from the arms of local noble, Simon De Montfort
Also included on the design is the locally ubiquitous five petalled flower termed a cinquefoil, common amongst the civic arms of Leicestershire but rare elsewhere and perhaps the outstanding Leicestershire motif, a fox.
The red and white serrated field, described heraldically as ‘dancetty’, was a pattern borne by the de Montfort earls of Leicester, whose family emanated from Normandy. Simon de Montfort, the sixth earl, came from France to claim lands which had belonged to his ancestors. He returned to Gascony in 1248 to settle King Henry III’s unruly lands, which caused the locals to petition the king against him. He was tried for misgovernment at Westminster but won his case. De Montfort and other barons were becoming disaffected with the King’s irresponsible rule, they arrived fully armed at a Great Council meeting, where, led by de Montfort, they forced the King to accept reforms, the “Provisions of Oxford.” A Parliament was to be called and a permanent council of fifteen, of whom de Montfort was one, was to control the King’s actions. On May 14th 1264 de Montfort’s army engaged the King’s on the South Downs north of Lewes, Sussex and victorious, he became de facto ruler of England. After a rule of just over a year, de Montfort met his death at the hands of forces loyal to the King, at the Battle of Evesham. He is regarded today as one of the progenitors of modern parliamentary democracy.
In his “A Complete Guide To Heraldry”, A.C Fox-Davies writes of a cousin, Amaury, count of Gloucester circa 1213, who is recorded as using a seal
featuring the shield from his coat of arms, which has large zigzag indentations, blazoned as “argent and gules”, white and red
This shield, Fox-Davies avers, is doubtless an early form of the red and white indented shield borne by the de Montforts later in the same century. Although the arms of both Simon de Montfort the fifth Earl of Leicester and his son of the same name, the sixth earl, were evidently a red shield with a white double tailed lion
in the heraldic roll (Roll temp. Henry III) Simon the younger is further ascribed arms with a shield with a white and red indented division
which Fox-Davies supposes were probably the original de Montfort arms, as use by the cousin suggests. This seems to be confirmed by the appearance of the same design on the “Herald’s Roll”, c 1270-80 and “Segar’s Roll”, dating about 1282
where it is described as “Le veyl escu de Leycestre”, that is, “the old shield of Leicester”. It appears that in fact the earls deployed both sets of arms, the older set of arms to represent the office, the earldom, with the white lion for the person of the earl holding the title. The white double-tailed lion also appears on the later Segar’s Roll described as the arms of the Count of Leicester
It seems likely that the indented arms originated across the channel and were brought to England by the incoming Norman family. They are displayed on a stained glass window in Chartres Cathedral
where Simon de Montfort the sixth earl, is seen astride his charger with his white lion shield on his arm and the indented red and white banner of his other arms held aloft. An illustration or interpretation, of this window presents a clearer image
A major portion of the earldom was the town and environs of Hinckley and the white and red divided design came to be strongly associated with this locality, being termed the “Arms of Honour of Hinckley”. In the modern era, the design is found in the insignia of local organisations including the civic arms of Hinckley
and in combination with the de Montfort personal arms, forms part of the badge of Hinckley AFC
the town’s football club. The serrated arms can also be found adorning the town’s library
Another stained glass depiction featuring both sets of arms, is present in Saint Andrew’s Church in Headington, Oxfordshire
and on a third
at Saint Lawrence’s Church, Evesham in Worcestershire which portrays de Montfort worshipping with his knights, the morning before the battle of Evesham, August 4th, 1265, the famed de Montfort banner is again present.
The de Montfort double tailed white lion is found in a window at Westminster Abbey, topped by their serrated white and red combination, in pennant form.
De Montfort’s grandfather, Simon IV, had married Amicia de Beaumont, the daughter of Robert De Beaumont (De Bellomont), 4th Earl of Leicester, upon whose death in 1190, he inherited the title through his marriage, to become the fifth Earl of Leicester. De Beaumont bore arms depicting an ermine cinquefoil against a red field
A cinquefoil is a floral emblem, the term meaning “five leaves”. It has been suggested that the device represents a pimpernel, seen below
as a play on words, to indicate Robert’s alternative name, Robert fitzPernel, as an example of canting arms. In “A Complete Guide To Heraldry”, A.C Fox-Davies writes that “the origin of the cinquefoil is yet to be accounted for. The earliest De Bellomont for whom I can find proof of user thereof is Robert “Fitz-Pernell,” otherwise De Bellomont, who died in 1206, and whose seal shows it.”
Curiously, as evidence indicates otherwise, Fox-Davies asserts that the device was not borne as a formal set of arms but used as a badge, “Be it noted it is not a shield….my suggestion that it is nothing more than a pimpernel flower adopted as a device or badge to typify his own name and his mother’s name, she being Pernelle or Petronilla, … and is not therefore likely to have been used as a coat of arms by the De Bellomonts, though no doubt they used it as a badge and device, as no doubt did Simon de Montfort…Men were for Montfort or the king, and those that were for De Montfort very probably took and used his badge of a cinquefoil as a party badge.”
However in the modern era, a very interesting theory about the cinquefoil has been proposed by the history blog thiswasleicestershire which describes the architecture of the tower of Saint Mary’s church, in the village of Humberstone, “There are two more friezes on the south side of the tower that deserve our attention; … They each display a cinquefoil surrounded by four flowers
They have been interpreted as symbols of Leicester’s Norman earls, which is not inaccurate; the cinquefoil was adopted by Robert FitzParnell who reigned over Leicester from 1158 to 1205. With the tower of Humberstone church being constructed in the mid-thirteenth century, this would fit perfectly if indeed the carvings were the same age as the tower. The problem is that the carvings are clearly not the same age. If the Humberstone cinquefoils are Norman in origin, it would make them the oldest depictions of Leicester’s symbol in the county. What I am proposing is a new interpretation, that these cinquefoils pre-date the Norman era and have no direct association with the Norman earls who adopted it as their symbol. It is my thought that the Vikings Ingwar and Hubba were the first to bring the cinquefoil into the Leicester.”
The blog relates that the village was conceivably named for one Hubba, who had arrived from a Danish settlement named Hedeby, which was associated with the cinquefoil device.
“I do believe that all of the carvings at Humberstone were made at the same time by the same artist. Stylistically they are the same and the cinquefoils are made from the same stone as four of the other reliefs….If Humberstone really was a settlement named after Hubba, then the cinquefoil on the church is likely to be a symbol of Hubba’s fatherland – Hedeby.
A tile bearing a cinquefoil is also amongst the designs located at the 14th century Saint Mary de Castro church in Leicester.
the design reflects the positioning deployed on the original De Bellomont seal
and indeed this depiction has also been used on the city’s civic arms
The De Beaumont cinquefoil has certainly become something of a local emblem, having had a clear association with the county since at least 1784 when it appeared on ‘A New Map Of The Counties Of Leicester And Rutland Drawn From The Latest Authorities’ by Thomas Conder
In addition to its appearance on the arms of the council of Leicester, the device is also found on the civic arms of Hinckley
the combined arms for the merged local authority
Ashby de la Zouche
and Castle Donnington
A cinquefoil is also the emblem of the Leicester Hockey Club
and is Leicester Grammar School’s logo
Cinquefoils are also present in the insignia of The Leicestershire Golf Club
and the Leicestershire and Rutland County Archery Association
and are further found on the arms
of Leicester University.
As noted, the fox also has a strong association with the county: as seen, it is used by Leicestershire council as a crest
on its formal arms, awarded in 1930 and as a modern logo
Whilst originally included on the council’s arms in token of the origin of organised hunting in the county, in the late seventeenth century, it has since become a unique Leicestershire symbol, whose modern status as a distinct county emblem now supersedes its original symbolism and reference. And in fact the council’s use of the fox was preceded by decades by the county cricket club, which deployed a running fox as the club badge, from the nineteenth century, as seen on the player’s cap, in this cigarette card illustration
based on an 1895 photo and on this 1896 photo of Leicestershire cricketer Alexander Lorrimer
where the fox can again be seen on the player’s cap.
An early twentieth century version of the club badge is seen here
and a fox adorns the cover of this 1910 club publication
Pointedly, the Leicestershire cricket team is known by the name “Leicestershire Foxes”and a depiction of the animal appears on the flag flown by the club
The cricket club’s fox appears below
in its modern logo form.
A fox was further present on the former badge
of the county’s combined police force and foxes are found on the insignia of Charnwood Borough Council;
the county ambulance service
and the Leicestershire and Rutland division of Saint John Ambulance service.
A fox featured on badges worn by nurses at a county hospital
and the badges of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland Army Cadet Force;
the local branch of the Women’s Institute
and Leicestershire Scouts, in various depictions
and the local golf union includes a fox on its insignia
and presents a trophy in the form of a fox!
The emblem is also present on the badges of Leicestershire clubs, Glenn Gorse
A fox is used by the county rugby association;
and appears on the badges of local clubs Lutterworth
It further appears on the badges of Leicestershire Hockey Association;
and Leicester Squash Club;
Leicestershire County Indoor Bowling;
Leicester Huntsmen Flag American Football Team
A fox is further used in the profile of an online county news service
and by the county football association;
and one appeared on the badge of the former Leicester United football club which ceased to operate in 1996
Another notable example of the county’s association with the fox can be found on this commemorative plate
produced for the Leicestershire Constabulary Gala Day in 1982. Surrounding the plate are arms and emblems of Leicestershire and Rutland organisations. At the top are the arms of the Leicester and Rutland Police Authority, granted 20th Sept 1968, then clockwise, are the arms of Leicestershire County Council; the heraldic device of the former Leicestershire and Rutland Constabulary 1951 – 1967; the arms of Rutland County Council; and finally the arms of Leicester City Council. In-between these are the crests, of Rutland Council – the horseshoes, Leicestershire Council – the Fox and Leicester City Council – the wyverns.
Perhaps the clearest demonstration of the county’s unequivocal association with the fox is the appearance of one on this Christmas card
wishing season’s greetings from Leicestershire!
Leicestershire’s two distinctive cinquefoil and fox emblems are presently found in combination on the badge of Leicester City Football Club,
and fire and rescue service
(which also cover Rutland as indicated by the horseshoe). They are also combined on the insignia of the county’s Amateur Swimming Association
and the badge of Leicestershire Aero Club
which features both a classic running fox depiction, over a central red cinquefoil, with white ermine detail and two further fox faces flanking the central device. Also of note are the arms
of Leicester Grammar School, which feature both the county’s fox
as part of the crest.
All four traditional county themes, a red and white colour scheme, a zigzag pattern, a cinquefoil and above all, a running fox, are all present in the full achievement of arms of Leicestershire County Council;
the aim therefore, was to design a flag that would harmoniously combine all four themes, with the flag using the historic zigzag division in the horizontal depiction found on the council’s arms.
An initial design was roughed out
Leicestershire resident Professor Graham Shipley, of the University of Leicester, aware that his county was yet bereft of a registered flag, galvanised interested locals and formed a group seeking to establish one. After initial attempts to secure a county flag competition failed to attract any interest and mindful of the above existing proposal, Professor Shipley and his group resolved instead to promote this design, which was felt to subsume all the resonant county symbolism and history required of a Leicestershire flag but sought a couple of amendments; he wanted to retain the original ermine cinquefoil as found on existing examples in Leicestershire and also preferred a form of fox that more closely resembled those featured on the badges of numerous county bodies, depicting the beast in a “running “attitude, as seen above in a number of examples. Ensuing discussion including fellow vexillographer Brady Ells, thus elicited the version
which complied with Graham’s preferred depiction, which the “A Flag For Leicestershire Group” subsequently promoted. As detailed above, the combination of fox and cinquefoil on the flag continues a recognised county theme, in a simply constructed and locally meaningful design, which has received trenchant support, both local
and from further afield
Annie Platoff, respected vexillologist and published author.
Having adopted the “Fox and Cinquefoil” as its choice for county flag, the “A Flag For Leicestershire Group” promoted it for several years and seeking official support, in 2017 approached the then Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, who wished the group well but declined to lend formal backing. Professor Shipley subsequently oversaw the setting up of a Facebook page and commissioned flags, seen below in a variety of sizes
aiming to cultivate an organic growth in popularity based on the obvious resonance of the county symbols present on the flag, which would form the basis for a compelling registration request to send to the Flag Institute and sought to make people aware that the county would soon be one of a dwindling few without a flag. One was soon seen decorating a narrowboat on one of the county’s waterways
and another was displayed by the statue of Richard III in Leicester.
The flag was presented
around the University of Leicester campus and was seen
with a local military re-enactment group. One even made an anachronistic appearance at a 2018 Battle of Hastings re-enactment!
Leicestershire flag merchandise was also produced
The campaign was subsequently boosted by a call from government minister Jake Berry for the increased use of county flags and a Telegraph report on his policy initiative, in late December 2018, which included an illustration of the Leicestershire flag
The flag was beginning to take off and the campaign was further energised when a chance meeting in January 2019 led to very active support from the county chair of the Royal British Legion, Sgt Bill Brown RE.
The flag was consequently on display at the 75th anniversary of the Tirpitz Raid, held at Victoria Park, Leicester, on 6th April 2019, with members of the RAF Association, Fleet Air Arm and Leicestershire & Rutland Royal British Legion
Photos courtesy of Steve Godley, RBL Riders.
The flag was raised at veterans’ breakfasts, and an ‘open gardens event’ at Wymeswold village, the first village event in the county to raise the flag.
Local history and archaeology groups subsequently acquired flags to fly at events
a county football team took it to a tournament in Europe
and stickers began to appear on vehicles
The flag was displayed at a Leicestershire school
along with a detailed information sheet above it (top left) and was then seen at the Cropredy Festival
and in the Summer of 2019 a former Gurkha
on a family visit to Nepal,
paraded the flag through the Himalayas and northern India!
In June of the same year the flag made an appearance at the Glastonbury music festival
In the same month the Flag For Leicestershire Group secured statements of “non-objection” to its efforts to see the flag registered, from both the leaders of Leicestershire County Council and Leicester City Council, as well as the county’s Lord Lieutenant, Michael Kapur, which were combined with evidence of the flag’s popularity and substantial county heritage and submitted as a formal request to the Flag Institute for its registration. The request was rejected by the Flag Institute in August on the grounds that they had received interest in establishing a county flag competition, which, deemed to be a means of ensuring a popular ‘mandate’, was the route the body favoured for securing a county flag for Leicestershire. In the meantime however, the group also secured the support of several Leicestershire MPs and Andrew Rosindell, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Flags and Heraldry, seen below, centre, presenting the flag, alongside Graham Shipley left and Iain Jones, Kilby parish councillor, from Leicestershire, right.
It transpired that moves to initiate a county flag competition were being made by BBC Radio Leicester and in early 2019 presenter Martin Ballard discussed the matter of a county flag with the Flag Institute’s Philip Tibbetts. This eventuated in a 6 week long county flag competition, announced in mid-January 2020, in which the Fox and Cinquefoil was invited to participate. The competition judges, seen below,
selected six finalists, including the Fox and Cinquefoil, from the submissions received, for inclusion in a public vote, held in November. Two days into the contest the BBC mystifyingly disqualified the eminently popular Fox and Cinquefoil on the grounds that it had been made commercially available. However, this was manifestly incorrect, whilst the flag had been available to buy since 2018, this commercial decision was made entirely without the participation of either its designer nor any of its promoters. The flag was submitted to the competition by its original creator free of copyright and the selection committee knew all about the ‘Fox and Cinquefoil’ design, knew the rules and saw no problem short-listing it. The BBC refused to offer any opportunity to explain this whatsoever, in effect the competition that was established to select the best and most popular design for the county flag, had banned the design for being so popular, that it was actually produced and flown. This BBC rule was in any case, entirely inappropriate for a flag competition, contradicting previous practice in such competitions. The eventual flag of Dorset for example was available to buy before the council ran a competition and the design that became the Northamptonshire flag was already available as a magnet before the competition. Both, though already widely known and popular, would have been barred from being adopted under such terms as applied by the BBC here, as would many other established flags, a situation graphically highlighted with this publicity
Particularly ridiculous was the fact that BBC Radio Leicester had been totally aware of the ‘Fox and Cinquefoil’ design and its campaign since early 2019, when the idea of a competition was first discussed on air, as on the same afternoon when Philip Tibbetts had been interviewed, Graham Shipley had been contacted a few minutes later, via the campaign’s Facebook page, which was replete with images of the flag in actual use. Self-evidently, any ‘mandate’ that the FI believed was facilitated by the existence of a competition to select a flag, was lost by denying the people of the county the opportunity to vote for what was a manifestly popular design. The bizarre decision unleashed a torrent of outrage from local supporters and further afield and seemingly, in consequence, the whole enterprise was quietly dropped, without any request made for registration – a situation that mirrored the BBC southern Counties competition for a Sussex flag – leaving the county yet flagless.
Earlier in 2020, the Fox and Cinquefoil had been displayed by fans of Leicester City Football Club at the King Power Stadium
and waved with gusto
by fans of Leicester Tigers rugby team at a match against Wasps. In the post competition limbo it further made an appearance at Wembley Stadium, amongst Leicester City supporters, at the 2021 FA Cup final
and was also the backdrop to another Royal British Legion gathering in the county
where it was seen with Mr Ray Griffith, President, Royal British Legion, Whitwick branch, at the Centenary Remembrance Memorial marking 100 years since the foundation of the the local branch.
Elected in late 2019, Alicia Kearns,
MP for Melton and Rutland, met with Graham and Bill from the flag campaign and recognised the value of establishing the county flag. She consequently spearheaded efforts to see the Fox and Cinquefoil flag registered and secured the support of fellow Leicestershire MPs for this goal. The group of county MPs delivered a request to the Flag Institute for them to add the design to its registry as the county flag of Leicestershire and the body acceded to the request. The design was added to the registry on July 16th 2021, in time for the flag to be raised three days later, in Parliament Square
by Bill Brown of the “A Flag For Leicestershire” group, left; Tom Randall, Vice-Chairman of the “Flags & Heraldry Committee All-party Parliamentary Group”, second from left and Leicestershire MPs, Jane Hunt second from right and Alberto Costa right.
at the start of a week where the square would be decorated with county flags in the lead up to Historic County Flags Day, on Friday July 23rd. Commenting on her successful campaign, Alicia stated,
“I am delighted that as of 16th July, Leicestershire is no longer the only County in England without a County Flag. In Parliament I have been spearheading the campaign since February 2020 because Leicestershire deserves no less than any other County. I am delighted that after receiving the support of all my fellow Leicestershire MPs, the Fox and Cinquefoil was registered as the flag for Leicestershire. A Leicestershire Flag gives us an opportunity to learn more about our history and celebrate all that is wonderful about our great county. Our flags carry our history, our pride, helps define who we are, and bring us together as communities. I want in particular to thank the designer of the flag, Jason Saber, and the campaign group ‘A flag for Leicestershire’ which has advocated for this design for so many years to ensure that Leicestershire is no longer the only county without its own flag. Thank you as well to everyone who has written in to me in support of this wonderful design, and thank you to the Flag Institute for acting so expeditiously in registering this flag. It is such a thrill that our campaign has been successful!”
Graham Shipley and Bill Brown, local campaigners from the ‘A Flag for Leicestershire Group’, stated, “The ‘A Flag for Leicestershire’ group warmly applauds the raising of the fox-and-cinquefoil flag on Monday 19 July 2021. With this act, the set of registered flags for the historic counties of England is complete. It is a milestone in the life of England and of our county. We are confident that the flag will be a focus for unity around which all the people of Leicestershire, as well as anyone who has an association with the county, can rally in perpetuity.
“We thank the MPs of Leicestershire for their support, as well as the Association of British Counties and the Flag Institute for their long-standing work in promoting county flags.
“We congratulate the designer, Mr Jason Saber, for creating a flag that so clearly evokes the thousand-year history of Leicestershire. It reflects both the colours and the emblems of the existing flags of the City Council, the County Council, and many other local bodies as well as the free-running fox, a symbol of many sports clubs in the great sporting tradition of Leicestershire.
“Above all, we are grateful to the many hundreds of supporters, both across the county and beyond, who have previously shown their enthusiasm for this design and their commitment to it which has enabled this historic event to take place.”
Fellow Leicestershire MP, Jane Hunt, stood beside her county’s flag on Parliament Square
The new county flag of Leicestershire is seen below
taking its rightful place amongst all the other flags of the historic counties.
The form of the flag that flew in the square was an interim design, produced in quick time, to be raised with other county flags, whilst revisions were still being made. Ultimately, the exact version of the flag
Several days later on County Flags Day itself, the newly established Leicestershire flag was raised across the county by Great Glen Parish Council, the first local authority to fly it
Charnwood Borough Council
Harborough District Council
Shepshed Town Council
North West Leicestershire District Council
and by local campaign supporter, Ian Robinson
A design often marketed as the county flag of Leicestershire, being the coat of arms of Leicestershire County Council in flag form,
in fact represents only Leicestershire County Council and flying it requires permission from the council. This council additionally, does not administer the whole county, the city of Leicester itself is self-administering, so the symbols of the county council cannot represent the entire county, by definition. It is also worth noting that the design does not include, probably the single most definitive county emblem, the running fox, as amply demonstrated above.