His Majesty The King presents the Royal Navy with new Colours
His Majesty The King today presented the Royal Navy with new Colours – the most sacred standard in the Naval Service.
In an historic ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a unique flag – bearing the King’s Royal Cypher and touched by his hand – was entrusted to the Royal Navy, alongside similar presentations to the Army and Royal Air Force.
A 56-strong Naval Guard of Honour, comprising three officers, one warrant officer and 52 ranks and rates, accompanied by musicians, including the Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth, attended the 45-minute ceremony.
The King’s Colour replaces the flag His Majesty’s late mother presented to the Senior Service two decades ago. It features the sovereign’s monogram featuring the initials of their name and title, rex (king), alongside a representation of the crown.
The old Colours were marched off before The King and Queen Consort arrived at the North Lawn of Buckingham Palace’s garden where Royal Navy personnel, The King’s Company of the Grenadier Guards and The King’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force assembled, alongside His Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines Portsmouth and the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment.
Following a Royal Salute and the National Anthem, the three Colours were blessed by the Bishop of the Forces, Hugh Nelson, in the presence of First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key and Chaplain of the Fleet The Reverend Andrew Hillier, the respective heads and senior chaplains of the Army and RAF, and Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.
The King then presented the new Colours, before returning to the dais to address those on parade, followed by a final Royal Salute and the march off of the parade.
“It was an honour to be presented with new Colours today by The King in a ceremony that reflected the deeply-personal nature of His Majesty's life-long relationship with all three Services,” said Admiral Key.
“The Royal Navy is particularly proud of His Majesty's time spent in the service in the 1970s that included flying helicopters with 845 Naval Air Squadron and commanding the minesweeper HMS Bronington.
“We are very much looking forward to playing our part in the Coronation celebrations next week, and continuing to serve His Majesty and the Nation.”
Submariner Petty Officer Christopher Dungey, who teaches cooking and culinary skills at the logistics school at Worthy Down near Winchester, said the experience had been both “amazing” and “a bit surreal”.
He continued: “I’d met the Queen Consort before as the Sponsor of HMS Astute and I was there at the commissioning; she visited us a few times after. It was the first time I’d seen the King though.
“The people on parade just made history. The training has been hard, it’s been ten years since I picked up a rifle, but it was great to be able to represent the whole Naval Service in the Guard – the Submarine Service, Surface Fleet and Fleet Air Arm are all here and have come together today.
“We all put in 110 per cent but the staff have been amazing in getting us up to scratch in such a short space of time. No rest though, we’ll be back in the drill shed tomorrow preparing for the Coronation.”
Able Seaman Marina Whitethread Garcia, serving at HMS Drake in Plymouth, added: “Not many people can say they have been to a private ceremony in the King’s back garden. I’ve not even been in the Royal Navy for a year and only just passed out of basic training. Being there was really impressive and such a great opportunity.
“As a female in the Royal Navy I feel really privileged to have taken part. The Army and RAF didn’t have any females represented in the Guard, only in their Bands. We were the only Service to have females in the Guard. It’s given us a taster of next weekend as well as I didn’t really know what to expect.”
The Colours are far more than a regular flag or standard to any military unit, rather a symbol of the pride, history and honour of a formation. Historically on the battlefield, they become a rallying point for those fighting – to allow them to fall into enemy hands was regarded as the ultimate shame and dishonour.
Today, Colours serve an almost exclusively ceremonial role. In the Royal Navy they are normally held securely in a naval establishment and are paraded for major ceremonial occasions requiring a Royal Guard and Colours Party, such as next month’s Coronation.
The Colours comprise a double folded silk White Ensign with a hand-embroidered crown and new Royal Cypher. It took 400 hours to produce by Essex firm Wyedean Weaving.
Measuring 44in by 36in (111cm x 91cm) with a gold and blue silk cord and gold tassels, the Colours are carried on a staff of ash which is 7ft (213cm) tall.
The flag itself was procured by the Royal Navy’s Head of Clothing Georgina Bridges, who oversaw the entire design and production process which began last October and concluded today at the Palace.
“It’s been quite an overwhelming experience, but definitely a career highlight, being part of such an historic moment this way,” she said.
“I feel an immense pride in being able to contribute to such a significant occasion, helping bring to life the new King’s Colours for the Royal Navy. It’s hard to put into words how I feel about it – proud doesn’t really cover it.”