Royal Families

Diana's Badges

Diana's design for a badgePrince of Wales Feathers

N THE MARCH 1997 ISSUE of this magazine, in an explanation of why Diana, Princess of Wales was no longer a princess and why Sarah, Duchess of York is no longer a duchess, the famous badge of the Prince of Wales, the three feathers, was mentioned also, with the prediction that in future Diana's writing paper would probably feature her father's arms displayed on an heraldic lozenge.

We did not foresee just how quickly The Sunday Times (9th March) would be able to report that Diana had "just given herself a new logo" and to reproduce a copy for its readers to admire. (If the editor had not been quite so quick his researchers would have had more time to check the accuracy of his reporter's terminology ~ seldom can so many heraldic errors have been crowded into a single paragraph. The Prince of Wales's feathers are used as an heraldic badge, not "a monogram" ~ which is a combination of two or more letters intertwined; it is manifestly inappropriate in this specific context to suggest the "D" is "crowned" with a coronet; the combination of the "D" and the coronet cannot constitute "a monogram" ~ it is a stylised heraldic badge; and the coronet is not "that of the Spencer family" or anything like it.)

Coronet of a monarch's child

What is this coronet then, if it is not a crown and not the coronet of the Spencer earls? Here The Sunday Times did have a story, but missed it.


Diana, if the report in The Sunday Times was correct, had adopted an heraldic badge that proclaimed her to be not merely a princess (which she was no longer), but to be the daughter or sister of the Sovereign. HRH The Princess Royal, HRH Princess Margaret, and Prince Charles's two younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, alone have the right to use that coronet at the present time. (In interpreting Diana's message as being a serious warning never to "mistake this lady for anything other than top-deck royal" The Sunday Times may have been accurate, but Diana herself was wrong.)

The Coronets

Coronet of the monarch's eldest son

The coronets illustrated here show the significant differences of rank. First it should be noted that the modern coronet consists of the ancient golden circlet combined with the chapeau, or cap of maintenance, of crimson velvet edged with ermine. In heraldic representation the golden circlet is sometimes used alone (as in the badge Diana designed). In mediaeval times the circlet was bejewelled, but today only the crown and the coronet of the monarch's eldest son (shown here on the right) have jewels. All other princes and princesses, together with the peers and peeresses, have the circlet chased to represent the appearance of jewels, but this decoration remains uncoloured. (The coronet of the monarch's eldest son is the only one to have a single arch. This is today most usually illustrated across the picture, but it may sometimes be seen, as here, at a right angle to the plane of the picture. The crown, of course, has two intersecting arches.)

Coronet of a monarch's younger child

The rank of a coronet's wearer is denoted by the decoration above the rim. The coronets of the monarch's other children show crosses patée alternately with fleurs-de-lys, this being the arrangement also for both the monarch's eldest son and the crown itself. (The use of the term "monarch's eldest son" in these descriptions, instead of the more usual "Prince of Wales" is owed to the special coronet being his in right of his position as Heir to the Throne, not, as often stated, in right of the Principality of Wales.)

Coronet of a monarch's grandchild

The grandchildren of the monarch (and, of course, the grandchildren of previous monarchs) have the outer crosses patée (as the coronet is usually portrayed in illustration) replaced by strawberry leaves as shown here.

It should perhaps be stressed that the fine distinctions described in these paragraphs are not the invention of modern bureaucrats, nor even of those anonymous "pompous courtiers" the tabloid newspapers criticise ~ they were defined by Royal Warrant in the reign of Charles II.

Styles, Titles and Heraldry of Diana, Princess of Wales

Mists of Antiquity ~ The Spencers and the Despencers

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