What is the Royal Standard flag and why is it draped over the Queen’s coffin?

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FILE - The Koh-i-noor, or "mountain of light," diamond, set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the crown made for Britain's late Queen Mother Elizabeth, is seen on her coffin, along with her personal standard, a wreath and a note from her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, as it is drawn to London's Westminster Hall in this April 5, 2002. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to London’s medieval Westminster Hall from Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, whose coffin will lie in state for four days until her funeral on Monday. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

FOLLOWING the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, September 8, 2022, her coffin has been flown from Edinburgh to London while covered with the Royal Standard flag.

Here, we explain what the Royal Standard flag is and why is draped over the Queen’s coffin.

What is the Royal Standard flag?

The Royal Standard flag represents the Sovereign and the United Kingdom and is flown when the monarch is in residence in one of the Royal Palaces.

In the version of the Standard used today, there are four quarterings: England, represented by three lions passant, in the first and fourth quarters; Scotland, a lion rampant, in the second; and Northern Ireland, shown by a harp, in the third quarter.

Wales is not represented in the Royal Standard, as its special position as a Principality was recognised by the creation of the Prince of Wales before the incorporation of the quarterings for Scotland and Ireland in the Royal Arms. 

The standard is also flown on the monarch’s car on official journeys and his aircraft when grounded.

Only the Queen can have her coffin draped with the Royal Standard flag

In Scotland a different version of the Royal Standard is used, with Scottish arms in the first and fourth quarters and English arms in the second.

How long will the Royal Standard flag remain on the Queen’s coffin?

The Royal Standard flag will remain on the Queen’s coffin throughout the whole week.

At Westminster Hall, the public will see the Queen’s coffin covered in the Royal Standard flag along with the Imperial State Crown.

The Imperial Orb and Imperial Sceptre will also be on the coffin.

The Royal Standard flag will not be buried with the Queen.

Why has the Union Flag not been used?

The Union Flag can be used by many public figures.

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s coffin was covered with a Union flag.

However, the Royal Standard flag represents a higher position, such as that of The Queen.

UK’s chief vexillologist, Graham Bartram told iNews: “Anybody can have the Union Flag on their coffin but only the Queen can have the Royal Standard.

“The Royal Standard is senior to the Union Flag.”

Who can use the Royal Standard flag?

According to the Flag Institute, the Royal Standard can only be flown when the monarch is present, and after consultation with the Lord Chamberlain’s Department or the Royal person’s private secretary.

The flag is never hoisted when the monarch is passing in procession.  

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