Prince of Wales's feathers

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Prince of Wales's feathers
Prince of Wales's feathers Badge.svg
Armiger Charles, Prince of Wales
Blazon A plume of three ostrich feathers Argent enfiled by a royal coronet of alternate crosses and fleur-de-lys Or
Motto German: Ich dien

The Prince of Wales's feathers is the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. It consists of three white ostrich feathers emerging from a gold coronet. A ribbon below the coronet bears the motto Ich dien (German: [ɪç ˈdiːn] , "I serve"). As well as being used in royal heraldry, the badge is sometimes used to symbolise Wales, [1] particularly in Welsh rugby union and Welsh regiments of the British Army.

Heraldic badge para-heraldic emblem, impresa, device, or personal device worn as a badge

A heraldic badge, emblem, impresa, device, or personal device worn as a badge indicates allegiance to, or the property of, an individual or family. Medieval forms are usually called a livery badge, and also a cognizance. They are para-heraldic, not necessarily using elements from the coat of arms of the person or family they represent, though many do, often taking the crest or supporters. Their use was more flexible than that of arms proper.

Prince of Wales title granted to princes born in Wales

Prince of Wales was a title granted to princes born in Wales from the 12th century onwards; the term replaced the use of the word king. One of the last Welsh princes, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was killed in battle in 1282 by Edward I, King of England, whose son Edward was invested as the first English Prince of Wales in 1301.

Feather body-covering structure of birds

Feathers are epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on dinosaurs and possibly other archosauromorphs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates and a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They are among the characteristics that distinguish the extant birds from other living groups.


Origins of the badge

The Black Prince's "shield for peace". Arms of the Prince of Wales (Shield of Peace).svg
The Black Prince's "shield for peace".
Tomb of the Black Prince, Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury Cathedral 28.jpg
Tomb of the Black Prince, Canterbury Cathedral

The badge has no connection with the native Princes of Wales.

Its use is generally traced back to Edward, the Black Prince (1330–1376), eldest son and heir apparent of Edward III of England. Edward bore (as an alternative to his differenced royal arms) a shield of Sable, three ostrich feathers argent, described as his "shield for peace", probably meaning the shield he used for jousting. These arms can be seen several times on his chest tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, alternating with his royal arms [2] (the royal arms of King Edward III differenced by a label of three points argent). The prince also used badges of one or more ostrich feathers in a number of other contexts. [3]

An heir apparent or heiress apparent is a person who is first in a line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting by the birth of another person. An heir presumptive, by contrast, is someone who is first in line to inherit a title but who can be displaced by the birth of a more eligible heir.

Edward III of England 14th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Edward III was King of England and Lord of Ireland from January 1327 until his death; he is noted for his military success and for restoring royal authority after the disastrous and unorthodox reign of his father, Edward II. Edward III transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe. His long reign of 50 years was the second longest in medieval England and saw vital developments in legislation and government, in particular the evolution of the English parliament, as well as the ravages of the Black Death.


Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horsemen wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each participant trying hard to strike the opponent while riding towards him at high speed, breaking the lance on the opponent's shield or jousting armour if possible, or unhorsing him. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism. The participants experience close to three and a quarter times their body weight in G-forces when the lances collide with their armour.

The feathers had first appeared at the marriage of Edward III to Philippa of Hainault, and it is therefore likely that the Black Prince inherited the badge from his mother. [4] Philippa was descended from the Counts of Hainault, whose eldest son bore the title "Count of Ostrevent", the ostrich (French: autruche, Old French spellings including ostruce) feathers being (perhaps) a heraldic pun on that name. [5] [6] [7] Alternatively, the badge may have derived from the Counts of Luxembourg, from whom Philippa was also descended, and who had used the badge of an ostrich. [5]

Philippa of Hainault 14th-century noblewoman and queen of England

Philippa of Hainault was Queen of England as the wife of King Edward III. Edward promised in 1326 to marry her within the following two years. She was married to Edward, first by proxy, when Edward dispatched the Bishop of Coventry "to marry her in his name" in Valenciennes in October 1327. The marriage was celebrated formally in York Minster on 24 January 1328, some months after Edward's accession to the throne of England. In August 1328, he also fixed his wife's dower.

Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.

Canting arms

Canting arms are heraldic bearings that represent the bearer's name in a visual pun or rebus. The term was derived from the Anglo-Norman cant, meaning song or singing.

"Sovereygne" ostrich feather badge used by Henry IV Ostrich Feather Badge of Henry IV.svg
"Sovereygne" ostrich feather badge used by Henry IV

Edward III occasionally used ostrich feather badges, [6] as did other members of the royal family in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Black Prince's younger brother, John of Gaunt, used ostrich feathers in several contexts, including on a shield very similar to Edward's "shield for peace", although in this case the feathers were ermine. [8] [9] Edward's illegitimate son, Sir Roger de Clarendon, bore arms of Or, on a black bend, three ostrich feathers argent; [10] and his legitimate son, King Richard II, used ostrich feather badges in several colours. [11] Henry IV used a badge of a single ostrich feather with a scroll entwined around it bearing the motto "Ma sovereyne" or "Sovereygne"; and, of Henry's sons, Henry V used ostrich feathers as a secondary royal badge at various times, Thomas, Duke of Clarence used an ermine ostrich feather labelled; John, Duke of Bedford an ostrich feather with the "Sovereygne" scroll; and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester an ostrich feather studded with fleurs-de-lis. Similar badges were used by other royal princes. [12] [13]

Ermine (heraldry) "fur", or varied tincture, in heraldry

Ermine in heraldry is a "fur", a type of tincture, consisting of a white background with a pattern of black shapes representing the winter coat of the stoat. The linings of medieval coronation cloaks and some other garments, usually reserved for use by high-ranking peers and royalty, were made by sewing many ermine furs together to produce a luxurious white fur with patterns of hanging black-tipped tails. Due largely to the association of the ermine fur with the linings of coronation cloaks, crowns and peerage caps, the heraldic tincture of ermine was usually reserved to similar applications in heraldry.

Bend (heraldry) heraldic ordinary

In heraldry, a bend is a band or strap running from the upper dexter corner of the shield to the lower sinister. Authorities differ as to how much of the field it should cover, ranging from one-fifth up to one-third. The supposed rule that a bend should occupy a maximum of one-third of the field appears to exclude the possibility of three bends being shown together, but contrary examples exist. Outside heraldry, the term "bend sinister" is sometimes used to imply illegitimacy, though it is almost never true that a bend sinister has this significance, and a "bar sinister" cannot, by its nature, exist.

Richard II of England 14th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Richard II, also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard's father, Edward the Black Prince, died in 1376, leaving Richard as heir apparent to King Edward III. Upon the death of his grandfather Edward III, the 10-year-old Richard succeeded to the throne.

The badge of Prince Edward (later Edward VI), as published in the Genethliacon illustrissimi Eaduerdi principis Cambriae of John Leland (1543) Badge of Prince Edward 1543.jpg
The badge of Prince Edward (later Edward VI), as published in the Genethliacon illustrissimi Eaduerdi principis Cambriae of John Leland (1543)

The first Prince of Wales to use the badge in its modern form (i.e. three white feathers encircled by a coronet, and with the motto Ich dien) was Prince Arthur (1486–1502), eldest son of Henry VII, at the beginning of the 16th century. [5] [14] It was also widely used by Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII and afterwards Edward VI, although he was never formally invested as Prince of Wales. [15] Feathers continued to be used as lesser royal badges, by Elizabeth I among others, until the end of the century. [16] Only from the beginning of the 17th century did the badge become exclusively associated with the Prince of Wales. It is has been a part of the coat of arms of the Prince of Wales since at least 1901.

Arthur, Prince of Wales Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall

Arthur Tudor was Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall. As the eldest son and heir apparent of Henry VII of England, Arthur was viewed by contemporaries as the great hope of the newly established House of Tudor. His mother, Elizabeth of York, was the daughter of Edward IV, and his birth cemented the union between the House of Tudor and the House of York.

Henry VII of England King of England, 1485–1509

Henry VII was the King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizure of the crown on 22 August 1485 to his death on 21 April 1509. He was the first monarch of the House of Tudor.

Henry VIII of England 16th-century King of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father, Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.

An early 17th-century painted carving on the main gate of Oriel College, Oxford Oriel College Feathers.jpg
An early 17th-century painted carving on the main gate of Oriel College, Oxford

According to a longstanding legend, the Black Prince obtained the badge from the blind King John of Bohemia, against whom he fought at the Battle of Crécy in 1346. After the battle, the prince is said to have gone to the body of the dead king, and taken his helmet with its ostrich feather crest, afterwards incorporating the feathers into his arms, and adopting King John's motto, "Ich dien", as his own. The story first appears in writing[ citation needed ] in 1376, the year of the Black Prince's death. There is, however, no sound historical basis for it, and no evidence for King John having used either the crest (he actually bore a crest of vultures' wings) or the motto. [4] [5] [6]

Since a key factor in the English army's victory at Crécy was the use of Welsh archers, it is also sometimes said to have been Edward's pride in the men of Wales which led him to adopt a symbol alluding to their assistance. The mediaeval German motto "Ich dien" ("I serve") is a near-homophone for the Welsh phrase "Eich Dyn" meaning "Your Man", which might have helped endear the young Black Prince to the Welsh soldiers in particular. Again, however, there is no historical evidence to support this theory. In 1917, during the First World War, it was rumoured that the motto might be formally changed to "Eich Dyn" to avoid the use of German. [17]

Modern uses of the badge

Cap badge of the Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles Civil Service Rifles badge.jpg
Cap badge of the Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles
Architectural rendition of the feathers on the former North & South Wales Bank, Ruabon Ruabon HSBC.JPG
Architectural rendition of the feathers on the former North & South Wales Bank, Ruabon

Military uses

The badge is the cap badge of the Royal Welsh, an amalgamation of three Welsh regiments, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Royal Regiment of Wales and the Territorial Army's Royal Welsh Regiment. Previously it was the cap badge of the Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles, whose motto was also Ich dien.

The badge also appears as an element on the regimental badges of many other regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies which have a historical connection with the Prince of Wales:

Sporting uses

The feathers have traditionally been worn on the jerseys of players in the Welsh rugby union team, being sewn on jerseys of players representing Welsh clubs before a national team or union existed. It has since been adopted as the logo of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU). In the 1990s, the WRU modified the form of the badge they used to copyright the design. The new logo is more stylised, with "WRU" in place of "Ich dien". As the logo of the WRU, the Prince of Wales' feathers are also represented in one of the quarters of the British and Irish Lions' badge.

The Welsh Rugby League has stuck to the traditional three feathers with "Cymru RL" ("RL" standing for "rugby league") written underneath.

Surrey County Cricket Club were granted permission in 1915 to use the feathers for their badge. Their home ground, The Oval, is on land owned by the Prince of Wales. [19]

The feathers appear on the badge of Wrexham Association Football Club.

The feathers on a British two pence coin, 1971-2008 Two Pence 01.jpg
The feathers on a British two pence coin, 1971–2008

The feathers are used as the logo of Oxford University Rifle Club (OURC). [20]

Other uses

The Carlton Club uses the feathered coronet badge as its emblem, without the motto.

Prince of Wales' College, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, has used the feathers since the inception of the school in 1876.

The badge appeared on the reverse of the British two pence coins minted between 1971 and 2008, many of which remain in circulation. The badge appears as a provenance mark on those silver coins minted using Welsh mined silver in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

During the English Civil War, most coins minted by Charles I at his various provincial wartime mints carry the feathers. The feathers appear on these coins because Charles I had no access to the Royal Mint in London and instead transferred the Aberystwyth Mint (originally established to coin Welsh silver) to Shrewsbury and then Oxford as an emergency measure. All the Civil War provincial mints are therefore in effect sub-branches of the Aberystwyth mint.

The badge was until 1985 on the coat of arms of Penang, a state in present-day Malaysia, which was founded in 1786 as the settlement of Prince of Wales Island.

The badge is inscribed on the foundation stone, laid on 25 February 1927, of Patna Medical College and Hospital, in Patna, Bihar, India, established in 1925 as the Prince of Wales Medical College. The motto "Ich dien" is still widely used within the institution.

The badge is used by a society in Malta called 'The Prince of Wales Philharmonic Society'. The scope of this organisation is mainly one related to music but is also linked to the feast of St. Dominic in Vittoriosa in Malta. Malta was a colony of the British Crown for 200 years, and there exist a variety of clubs and organisations bearing the name of royal personalities.

From 1932 until its abolition in 1965, the Municipal Borough of Barnes in London used feathers based on those of the Prince of Wales on its coat of arms, in honour of the fact that the then Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VIII, and later Duke of Windsor) had been born in the borough. [21]

Norfolk County Council was given special consent by King Edward VII to use the badge on its arms, in recognition of Sandringham House, which was one of the King's favourite residences. [22] Edward held the title Prince of Wales for 59 years, making him the longest-serving holder.

A derivative of the badge is that used by the Prince's Trust, a charitable organisation that helps young people.

Many pubs in the UK are named The Prince of Wales's Feathers, the Prince's Feathers or simply the Feathers, particularly in areas associated with royal estates.

See also

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  1. "National Emblems". Welsh Assembly Government. 2008. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  2. Scott Giles 1929, pp. 89–91.
  3. Siddons 2009, pp. 178–9.
  4. 1 2 Scott-Giles 1929, p. 89.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Pinches and Pinches 1974, p. 59.
  6. 1 2 3 Siddons 2009, p. 178.
  7. "6th letter". London: 30 August 2006.
  8. Siddons 2009, p. 181.
  9. Harris, Oliver D. (2010). ""Une tresriche sepulture": the tomb and chantry of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster in Old St Paul's Cathedral, London". Church Monuments. 25: 7–35 (22–3).
  10. Scott-Giles 1929, pp. 90–91.
  11. Siddons 2009, pp. 179–80.
  12. Siddons 2009, pp. 182–6.
  13. Pinches and Pinches 1974, pp. 89–93.
  14. Siddons 2009, pp. 186–8.
  15. Siddons 2009, pp. 188–9.
  16. Siddons 2009, pp. 187–9.
  17. "Motto of Prince of Wales". Aberdeen Weekly Journal. 14 September 1917. p. 3.
  18. ( "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link))
  19. Williamson, Martin. "A brief history of Surrey". ESPNcricinfo . Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  20. Oxford University Rifle Club
  21. "Municipal Borough of Barnes". Heraldry of the World. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  22. "Norfolk County Council". Civic Heraldry of England and Wales. Retrieved 9 December 2014.