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Bailiwick of Guernsey

Last modified: 2002-03-29 by andré coutanche
Keywords: guernsey | alderney | sark | herm | brechou | jethou | lions | dolphins | monks | cross: st george |
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[Guernsey] by André Coutanche
Flag adopted 30 April 1985.

See also:

Description of the flag

The flag is white with St George Cross, and a cross with ends pattée - a cross which appears on a gonfanon of William the Conqueror on the Bayeux tapestry. There is also a red ensign, with this cross in the fly.
Pascal Vagnat, 14 March 1996

The gold equal-armed cross overlaying the red cross was added to the flag in 1985 to distinguish it from England's. The gold cross also appears in the fly of the Guernsey Red Ensign. The Lieutenant-Governor's flag is as Jersey's except that Guernsey's arms are distinguished from those of Jersey (and England) by the addition of a golden sprig of leaves issuing from the top of the shield.

Guernsey has two dependencies: Alderney and Sark. Alderney has its own States and Sark has a Court of Chief Pleas as its legislature. Both have representation on the States of Guernsey. Herm also has a degree of independence as a feudal tenancy leased from the States of Guernsey.
Roy Stilling, 14 March 1996

Sark does not have representation in the States of Guernsey but Alderney does have two representatives, (I know, as I am one of them). Secondly Herm is indeed tenanted, but does not follow the feudal system. For administrative purposes it is included in the town parish of St Peter Port and its inhabitants are able to vote for candidates in that parish for election as peoples deputies in the States of Guernsey. Finally, Alderney is not a Seignory. It has had a democratically elected States for many years and very few remnants of feudal law are left.
Bill Walden, Alderney States Member, 26 January 2002

Doctors in Guernsey seem to have had an interest in flags. In 1905 the Medical Officer of Guernsey wrote asking what was the correct flag to fly ashore. The Home Office replied that no particular flag was defined by warrant and that the matter was left to custom and good taste, adding that the Union Flag, or Union Jack, had been used indiscriminately for a very long period throughout Great Britain.

Then in 1924 a doctor at the Health Office in Guernsey wrote asking if the St George's cross flag could be flown from the stern of a vessel. The Naval Law Branch investigated and were surprised to find that, in Guernsey, due to an error, a white flag with a red St George's cross could be flown as an ensign.

In 1906 Guernsey had applied to the Home Office to use certain arms and also the flag of St George. The Home Office were interested only in the arms and not in the flag. The arms were submitted to the King for his approval and the Lt-Governor of Guernsey was then told that, "the King had been pleased to approve his proposals." The Governor interpreted this as meaning that the flag had also been authorised. This was an embarrassing mistake and the Home Office "admitted the blunder and hoped to be excused from glossing it officially." The Admiralty ruled that only the plain Red Ensign could be flown by Guernsey vessels.
Public Record Office HO 45/10061/B2262 and ADM 1/8667/165.
David Prothero, 31 January 2001

Guensey's Ensign

[Civil ensign of Guernsey] by Vincent Morley

Flag of Guernsey in 1863

[Flag of 1863] by António Martins

The checkered flag of Guernsey in 1863 was featured on the cover of The Flag Bulletin, 171, November-December 1996. It looks a like the White Ensign with squares, like on a picnic tablecloth.
Steve Stringfellow, 21 January 1997

The following is from The Flag Bulletin, XXXV:5/171 (1996.09-10), p.197:

Prior to the creation in 1985 of the current Guernsey flag, the Cross of St. George had been flown on the island for an indeterminate time as its local flag. However, during the 19th century a different flag seems to have been in use as well - an ensign with the Union Jack as a canton and a (?red) cross on a chequered field. The cover illustration of this flag is based on a contemporary engraving ('Unveiling the Albert Statue at Guernsey 8 October 1836' from Barbet's Almanack 1864). Design details are not entirely certain: one writer refers to '96 black and white cheques', another to 'Mr. Tupper's blue and white chequered flag'.
I made two gifs of this flag as it probably should have been if the part about ninety-six squares is correct: such a flag would have a 4x8 chequered panel in three of the cross's fields and the Union Jack in the honour one, a precise number to get square squares and a 1:2 Union Jack.
António Martins, 11 June 1997

At this week's meeting of the History Section of La Société Jersiaise, a member brought along a piece of crested china with the chequered Guernsey flag. The flag does appear to have existed.
Geraint Jennings, 19 April 2000


[Alderney] by Vincent Morley

The flag is white with a St George Cross and the badge of the island in the middle.
Pascal Vagnat, 14 March 1996

The badge is a green disc bearing a crowned gold lion rampant holding a sprig of leaves. The badge has a sort of scrolled border, in gold.
Roy Stilling, 14 March 1996


[Sark] by Vincent Morley

Sark (in French Serq) is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel. It comprises Great Sark and Little Sark connected by an isthmus. The flag which is at the same time the flag of the island and the flag of the Seigneur, is white with a red St-George cross and a red canton containing two yellow lions. It has the proportions 1:2. This canton is like the arms of Normandy, not far from Sark.
Pascal Vagnat, 14 March 1996

A 1994 item in Flagmaster says that doubt has been cast upon the story told to the Flag Institute by Dame Sybil Hathaway that the flag had been in use 'for at least two hundred years'. Apparently, it only dates from 1938 when she contacted Mr Herbert Pitt (a member of the pre-war Flag Circle) who designed it for her. The Société Serquiaise has a record of the correspondence.
David Prothero, 20 June 1997


[Herm] by Jaume Ollé

The arms are azure, between two dolphins argent a bend or bearing three cowled monks sable - i.e. a blue field with a silver heraldic dolphin (looking nothing like the aquatic mammal of the same name!) in the bottom left and top right. From top left to bottom right there is a yellow diagonal stripe bearing three cowled monks in black robes. I believe this may also be a personal, not an island flag.
Roy Stilling, 14 March 1996

Flagmaster no. 43 gave news of the adoption of the flag. The ratio is 3:5. It is the usual Cross of Saint George, also used by Guernsey, with a banner of the arms of Herm in the canton. The blue symbolizes the sea that surrounds the island, and the yellow the island itself. The three monks are a reference to the past, since the island was colonized by Benedictine monks from Mont-Saint-Michel in the 11th century and later by Augustinians; for some time Herm was the site of a monastery and monks lived alone on the island. The shield of Herm was adopted in 1953, designed by the Reverend Percival of Guernsey. Around 1951 the island used a blue flag with the heraldic shield of Guernsey near the hoist (three leopards in red field with a green foliage above and the words 'HERM ISLAND' below).
Jaume Ollé, 1 October 1996

According to The Complete Guide to Flags the flag of Herm is depicted with a bend argent (a 'silver' or white diagonal band running from top left to bottom right corners) in the upper hoist canton. It does not seem as though this follows Reverend Percival's 1953 coat-of-arms which apparently employed the heraldic metal or (gold or yellow). This source of information should be considered authoritative because the book's author, William Crampton, himself designed the flag of Herm. On page 25, Herm's flag is clearly shown bearing a bend argent. There always remains the slight possibility that any discrepancy in coloration is due to a printer's error - there is no full textual description of the color scheme provided. It is also possible that, through popular usage, the color has changed.
M. Breier, 17 June 1999


[Flag of former owner of Brechou] by Jaume Ollé

There was also a flag granted to the former owner of Brechou, a minor island in the jurisdiction of Guernsey, by the Lord Lyon King of Arms during the 1980s. I have no more details to hand, except that this is a personal flag of the individual in question, rather than a flag of the island and was taken by the former owner with him when he sold the island on.
Roy Stilling, 14 March 1996

It was warranted on 23 November 1967 by Lord Lyon. It's the same as the flag of Sark with the two lions confined to the inner canton of the flag and not dispersed over the left arm of the St George's cross as well as the canton, and with the shield of Brechou in the lower fly canton. I can't described it very well: roughly, there are three sea-gulls(?) over two and two half vair over three trefoils. I don't know the colours. There is a black and white drawing in Flagmaster 75/76.
David Prothero, 31 March 1998

In an approximately-coloured drawing I received from Derkwillem Visser, there are: two (not three) white rectangles (sea-gulls?) on a red field in the top of the shield; two white vair over two and half blue vair in the center part of the shield; three green trefoils (two over one) on a yellow field in the lower part of the shield. As Roy (and Flagmaster 075/076) pointed out, this was presumably the personal flag of the previous owner of the island as it shows the coat of arms of the Matchan family.
Armand Noel du Payrat, 31 March 1998


[postulated shield of Jethou] by Jaume Ollé

The Shield of Jethou from a bicoloured postage stamp. The colors be considered as "probable" but they are unsure. In the stamp the shield is shown only in blue and white. No flag is known for the island.
Jaume Ollé, 6 February 2000

Jethou is one of the Channel Islands, Guernsey Bailiwick, just south of Herm. area 44 acres (36 hectare) and uninhabited. Nearby are two (much smaller) off-shore islands, Crevichon and Grande Fauconnière, a bird-sanctuary. The islands are property of the Crown. Previous tenants of the Manor House on Jethou have included Sir Compton Mactenzie, who lived in it for fifteen years.
Jarig Bakker, 6 February 2000

Jethou is leased from the Crown (unlike neighbouring Herm which is leased from the States of Guernsey). The tenant may or may not live there full-time, and may or may not allow visitors to land.

Jethou doesn't have its own postage stamps. The postal authority is the Guernsey Post Office and the stamp which Jaume saw is presumably a Guernsey stamp. Probably it was one of a set with the CoAs of all the islands in the Bailiwick.

It's a while since I visited, so I stand to be corrected, but I don't remember a Jethou flag. Then again, I don't know where the CoA came from either! The design and the motto (Watch and Warn if my Latin is up to it) suggests sea-marks in a tricky bit of water with a very large tidal range. The lion is presumably from the Guernsey (and English) CoA, with the leaf on the top which distinguishes the Guernsey CoA from the otherwise identical ones of Jersey and England.
André Coutanche, 7 February 2000

The source for this coat of arms is a postage stamp of Jethou. In 1960 there were attempts to encourage tourism to the minor islands. A coffee shop and a gift shop were set up on the island to accommodate visitors, but the lack of sandy beaches was primarily responsible for making it a flop. At that time (1960s), both Jethou and Lihou were permitted to issue their own local stamps. I think Brecqhou and Bourhou also were, though I am not sure. That privilege was rescinded in 1970.
Chris Kretowicz, 9 April 2001

Construction sheets

Guernsey flag

[Construction sheet of Guernsey flag] by André Coutanche

Guernsey Civil Ensign

[Construction sheet of Guernsey civil ensign] by André Coutanche

The images are from the FOTW-ws gifs originally made by Vincent Morley. I have reduced the length of the flag to give the correct 2:3 ratio specified in the construction sheet. The source is a leaflet published by the States of Guernsey.
André Coutanche, 4 February 2001