At the time when the Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident in Paris, the world became aware of these words–THE ROYAL STANDARD. The Royal Standard was flying at Buckingham Palace, and the public couldn’t understand why it was not flying half way down its staff. The general uninformed public were irritated that the Queen was unfeeling by not lowering the ROYAL STANDARD half-mast in honor of their PEOPLE’S PRINCESS. Let me explain misunderstanding.
THE ROYAL STANDARD IS NEVER LOWERED. The expression THE KING IS DEAD, GOD SAVE THE KING means that there is always a reigning sovereign. When one King dies, there is an immediate ascension of his heir. The ROYAL STANDARD is the monarch’s standard and to fly at half mast would mean there is no living sovereign. Impossible !!
The Queen underst00d quickly what was occurring. The people needed a symbol of public grief on the part of the Sovereign while the Queen was adhering to the long tradition of the ROYAL STANDARD which is her responsibility. It was the Queen who came up with the compromise.
When a taxi driver brings clients to their flats from the airport, they always drive by Buckingham Palace–just to get visitors excited. They always say: AH, THE ROYAL STANDARD IS FLYING–THE QUEEN IS IN RESIDENCE or THE ROYAL STANDARD IS NOT FLYING–THE QUEEN MUST BE AT WINDSOR. That is the way it has always been. It has been that way for me for many years; I don’t know how I would feel it were different.
But, since the time of the Princess of Wales’s death, when the ROYAL STANDARD IS NOT FLYING, the UNION JACK flies in its place. When the events require a flag to fly at half-mast at Buckingham Palace, it is the UNION JACK that flies over Buckingham Palace half way down its pole.
This is the Queen’s ability to again adapt to the times, the monarchy reinventing itself–and certainly the reason the monarchy remains in England. The Russian Tsar and Tsarina refused to move with the times, and they were swept away. It is the Queen’s responsibility to serve her people and to adapt to the times; this Queen learned this lesson very clearly at the time of the death of the Princess of Wales. However, some things change while other traditions remain in the hearts of the British people.
When you are in London, wandering around Buckingham Palace, check out the flag pole. Smile when you realize that you are pretty smart and know if the Queen is in residence.
Now Scotland is another matter , of course. The Scots have their own version of the ROYAL STANDARD. The Scottish ROYAL STANDARD has the SCOTTISH SYMBOLS differently placed to give Scotland prominence. I will post both the British and Scottish ROYAL STANDARDS.
The ROYAL STANDARD flies from the front of the Queen’s cars, on her boats, and even at Westminster Abbey when she is in attendance. The chauffeurs in her cars call ahead to inform the Palace when his car carrying the Queen will arrive so the palace staff will be at the pole the minute the Queen arrives–and up goes the ROYAL STANDARD.
I was invited by a friend to attend with her the funeral of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002. When we left the Abbey, I was curious to see how the flags would be placed on the Abbey pole. Ah, the ROYAL STANDARD was atop the pole, and the UNION JACK was flying underneath at half-mast.
By then, the general public was better informed, and there were no protesting crowds.
Every time I see the ROYAL STANDARD flying, the National Anthem GOD SAVE THE QUEEN rings in my ears. Centuries of tradition–something very wonderful, worth holding on to. Afterall, I am an ANGLOPHILE.