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8 Mar 2018

Flags flying again

Written by Antonia Laurence-Allen
Scots Guards Banner
Two banners, known as the King’s Colours, have been restored to full glory after months of conservation work. They bear the arms of George VI and the Scots Guards’ battle honours, and were gifted to the palace in 1950 to mark the 300-year history of the Scots Guards.
Second Scots Guards Banner
Second Scots Guards Banner

The Scots Guards regiment was founded in 1642 by order of Charles I. In 1650, a year after his father was beheaded, Charles II came to Falkland Palace to present his Colours to the Scottish Life Guard of Foot. They have been part of the Sovereign’s Household Division ever since.

Piped through the courtyard three centuries later, these George VI Colours were ceremoniously handed to Falkland’s Keeper Michael Crichton Stuart (he and his father were members of the Scots Guards).

The banners were hung in anticipation of Queen Elizabeth II’s 1958 visit to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Royal Burgh of Falkland.

Close-up showing stitching and battle name
Close-up showing stitching and battle name

The banners are made of several pieces of silk and are ‘seam attached’ to the pole sleeve.

The King’s Arms and battle honours are appliquéd.

A ‘battle honour’ is an official recognition of a regiment’s achievements, either at a particular battle or during a campaign. Since the late 18th century, battle honours have been borne on the flags and other equipment, such as the drums, of the regiments of the British Army.

Close-up showing damage
Close-up showing damage

After the banners spent years hanging from the flag poles in the chapel at Falkland Palace, the effects of gravity were becoming apparent on the banners’ seams. In addition, an earlier net treatment, designed to keep the flag in one piece, was failing. 

In the workshop
In the workshop

Textile conservator Sophie Younger was asked to take on the painstaking work of cleaning and stabilising the banners. First, she gave the fine silks a surface clean, gently removing the dirt. Following this, conservation dye was carefully applied to stabilise areas. 

Image of the fringing and final stitching
Image of the fringing and final stitching

The fringing around the edges was secured and tears in the fabric were repaired. Finally, the banners were tied to a brace board to prevent future damage. 

Time lapse of frames being installed

Bespoke frames were designed and constructed by Fife-based company Foursticks Framing. They were installed in February 2018, just in time for Falkland Palace’s new season.

Close-up of Honores Prǣfero XII Egypt
Close-up of Honores Prǣfero XII Egypt

In 1801 the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards took part in the assault landing at Aboukir Bay and in the Battle of Alexandria against the French, resulting in the British ‘conquest’ of Egypt. For their efforts the regiment was permitted to bear the battle honours of a sphinx on its Colours. 

Image of battle honours earned by George VI’s Scots Guards regiment
Image of battle honours earned by George VI’s Scots Guards regiment

The Battle of Dettingen took place in June 1743, during the War of the Austrian Succession. It is infamous for the fact that it was the last time a monarch (George II) led his troops into battle. The Scots Guards were part of George’s ‘Pragmatic Army’, made up of British, Austrian and Hanoverian troops.

Other honours seen here were earned at Alma and Inkerman – two battles fought in the Crimean War during the 1850s. The Scots Guards, like many other regiments, were weakened by cholera and dysentery yet still gained a number of Victoria Crosses for their valiant efforts.

Image of the thistle, rose and shamrock with motto
Image of the thistle, rose and shamrock with motto

These were the military colours presented to George VI when he was Colonel-in-Chief of the Scots Guards from 1932–7. When military colours are superseded, the old ones must be deposited in a church – these were given to Falkland to be displayed in the chapel. Colours consisted of a Union flag with a company emblem in the middle. Here, the emblem represents the Crown and the rank of Colonel, showing the Scottish thistle, English rose and Irish shamrock with the words Unita Fortior [‘stronger in unity’].  

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