Prince of Wales's feathers

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Prince of Wales's feathers
Prince of Wales's feathers Badge.svg
ArmigerCharles, Prince of Wales
BlazonA plume of three ostrich feathers argent enfiled by a royal coronet of alternate crosses and fleur-de-lys or
MottoGerman: Ich dien (I serve)

The Prince of Wales's feathers is the dexter[1] heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. It consists of three white ostrich feathers encircled by a gold coronet with a ribbon below bearing the German motto "Ich dien" (German: [ɪç ˈdiːn], "I serve").

The heraldic badge is the badge of the Duke of Cornwall, or heir apparent to the British throne.[2]

The badge is sometimes used to symbolise Wales,[3] for example in Welsh rugby union and Welsh regiments of the British Army. This follows the use of the title "Prince of Wales" by the English monarchy (later British) following the killing of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the last native prince of Wales.[4]

Bearers of the motif[edit]

The badge has no connection with the native Princes of Wales.

Edward the Black Prince / House of Plantagenet[edit]

The Black Prince's "shield for peace": Sable, three ostrich feathers argent

The ostrich feathers heraldic motif is generally traced back to Edward, the Black Prince (1330–1376), eldest son and heir apparent of King Edward III of England. The Black Prince bore (as an alternative to his differenced royal arms) a shield of Sable, three ostrich feathers argent, described as his "shield for peace", probably meaning the shield he used for jousting. These arms appear several times on his chest tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, alternating with his paternal royal arms (the royal arms of King Edward III differenced by a label of three points argent).[5] The Black Prince also used heraldic badges of one or more ostrich feathers in various other contexts.[6]

Chest tomb of the Black Prince in Canterbury Cathedral, displaying alternately The Black Prince's paternal arms and his "shield for peace": Sable, three ostrich feathers argent

The feathers had first appeared at the time of the marriage of King Edward III to Philippa of Hainault, and Edward III himself occasionally used ostrich feather badges.[7] It is therefore likely that the Black Prince inherited the badge from his mother,[8] descended from the Counts of Hainault, whose eldest son bore the title "Count of Ostrevent", the ostrich (French: autruche, Old French spellings including ostruce) feathers being possibly an heraldic pun on that name.[9][7][10] Alternatively, the badge may have derived from the Counts of Luxembourg, from whom Philippa was also descended, who had used the badge of an ostrich.[9] Sir Roger de Clarendon, an illegitimate son of the Black Prince by his mistress Edith Willesford, bore arms of Or, on a bend sable three ostrich feathers argent;[11]

Ostrich feather supporters awarded by King Richard II to Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk (1366-1399),[12] a descendant of King Edward I

King Richard II, the Black Prince's legitimate son, used ostrich feather badges in several colours[13] and awarded augmented arms with ostrich feather supporters to Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk (1366-1399),[14] the second son of John de Mowbray, 4th Baron Mowbray, and Elizabeth de Segrave, suo jure Lady Segrave, daughter and heiress of John de Segrave, 4th Baron Segrave, by Margaret, Duchess of Norfolk, daughter and heiress of Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk, a son of King Edward I.

Legendary origins[edit]

According to a longstanding legend, the Black Prince obtained the badge from the blind King John of Bohemia, against whom he fought at the Battle of Crécy in 1346. After the battle, the prince is said to have gone to the body of the dead king, and taken his helmet with its ostrich feather crest, afterwards incorporating the feathers into his arms, and adopting King John's motto, "Ich dien", as his own. The story first appears in writing in 1376, the year of the Black Prince's death.[7][15] There is, however, no sound historical basis for it, and no evidence for King John having used either the crest (he actually bore a crest of vultures' wings) or the motto.[8][9][7]

Since a key factor in the English army's victory at Crécy was the use of Welsh archers, it is also sometimes said to have been Edward's pride in the men of Wales which led him to adopt a symbol alluding to their assistance. The mediaeval German motto "Ich dien" ("I serve") is a near-homophone for the Welsh phrase "Eich Dyn" meaning "Your Man", which might have helped endear the young Black Prince to the Welsh soldiers in particular. Again, however, there is no historical evidence to support this theory. In 1917, during the First World War, it was rumoured that the motto might be formally changed to "Eich Dyn" to avoid the use of German.[16]

John of Gaunt / House of Lancaster[edit]

"Sovereygne" ostrich feather badge used by Henry IV
Heraldic achievement of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, KG, a legitimized grandchild of John of Gaunt, detail from his Garter stall plate in St. George's Chapel, Windsor. It is the earliest garter plate with supporters.[17] The badge of an ostrich feather, here shown as a pair, is blazoned: A feather the pen componée argent and azure, as the Beaufort bordure

John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, the Black Prince's second younger brother, used ostrich feathers in several contexts, including on a shield very similar to the Black Prince's "shield for peace", although in Gaunt's case the feathers were ermine.[18][19] Single ostrich feather supporters were also used by John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset (1404-1444) (as shown in his Garter stall plate in St George's Chapel),[20] the second son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset (1371-1410), the eldest of the four legitimized children of John of Gaunt by his mistress Katherine Swynford.

King Henry IV, of the House of Lancaster, the son of John of Gaunt by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster, used a badge of a single ostrich feather entwined by a scroll inscribed with the motto "Ma Sovereyne".[21] His eldest son and successor King Henry V used ostrich feathers as a secondary royal badge at various times, as did Henry IV's younger sons Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence who used an ermine ostrich feather with a label; John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford who used an ostrich feather with the "Sovereygne" scroll; and Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester who used an ostrich feather semée of fleurs-de-lis. Similar badges were used by other royal princes.[22][23]

House of Tudor[edit]

The badge of Prince Edward (later King Edward VI), as drawn in 1543, comprising A plume of three ostrich feathers enfiled by a royal coronet of alternate crosses and fleur-de-lys surrounded by the Sun of York, a badge of the House of York

The first Prince of Wales to use the badge in its modern form (i.e. three white feathers encircled by a coronet, and with the motto Ich dien) was Prince Arthur (1486–1502), eldest son of Henry VII, at the beginning of the 16th century.[9][24] It was also widely used by Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII and afterwards Edward VI, although he was never formally invested as Prince of Wales.[25] Feathers continued to be used as lesser royal badges, by Elizabeth I among others, until the end of the century.[26]

House of Stuart and successors[edit]

An early 17th-century painted carving on the main gate of Oriel College, University of Oxford

Only from the beginning of the 17th century did the badge become exclusively associated with the Prince of Wales. It has formed the dexter badge[27][28] of the heraldic achievement of the Prince of Wales since at least 1901, blazoned A plume of three ostrich feathers argent enfiled by a coronet composed of fleurs-de-lys and crosses patée or alternately with motto Ich Dien.[29] (See coat of arms of the Prince of Wales).

Modern uses of the badge[edit]

Architectural rendition of the feathers on the former North & South Wales Bank, Ruabon

Military uses[edit]

The plaque of HMS Norfolk has Ich dien beneath a single, crowned, feather. The badge is the cap badge of the Royal Welsh, an amalgamation of three Welsh regiments, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Royal Regiment of Wales and the Territorial Army's Royal Welsh Regiment. Previously it was the cap badge of the Prince of Wales' Own Civil Service Rifles, whose motto was also Ich dien.

The badge also appears as an element on the regimental badges of many other regiments of Commonwealth armies which have a historical connection with the Prince of Wales:

Sporting uses[edit]

The feathers have traditionally been worn on the jerseys of players in the Welsh rugby union team, being sewn on jerseys of players representing Welsh clubs before a national team or union existed. It has since been adopted as the logo of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU). In the 1990s, the WRU modified the form of the badge they used to copyright the design. The new logo is more stylised, with "WRU" in place of "Ich dien". As the logo of the WRU, the Prince of Wales' feathers are also represented in one of the quarters of the British and Irish Lions' badge.

The Welsh Rugby League has stuck to the traditional three feathers with "Cymru RL" ("RL" standing for "rugby league") written underneath.

Surrey County Cricket Club were granted permission in 1915 to use the feathers for their badge. Their home ground, The Oval, is on land owned by the Prince of Wales.[31]

The feathers appear on the badge of Wrexham Association Football Club.

The feathers on a British two pence coin, 1971–2008

The feathers are used as the logo of two shooting clubs at Oxford University: the Oxford University Pistol Club (OUPC),[32] and the Oxford University Rifle Club (OURC).[33]

Other uses[edit]

Prince Edward School, Harare, Zimbabwe was given permission by Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales to use the badge - with the motto "Tot Facienda Parum Factum" as its emblem.

The Carlton Club uses the feathered coronet badge as its emblem, without the motto.

Prince of Wales' College, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, has used the feathers since the inception of the school in 1876.

The badge appeared on the reverse of the British two pence coins minted between 1971 and 2008, many of which remain in circulation. The badge appears as a provenance mark on those silver coins minted using Welsh mined silver in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

During the English Civil War, most coins minted by Charles I at his various provincial wartime mints carry the feathers. The feathers appear on these coins because Charles I had no access to the Royal Mint in London and instead transferred the Aberystwyth Mint (originally established to coin Welsh silver) to Shrewsbury and then Oxford as an emergency measure. All the Civil War provincial mints are therefore in effect sub-branches of the Aberystwyth mint.

The badge was until 1985 on the coat of arms of Penang, a state in present-day Malaysia, which was founded in 1786 as the settlement of Prince of Wales Island.

The badge is inscribed on the foundation stone, laid on 25 February 1927, of Patna Medical College and Hospital, in Patna, Bihar, India, established in 1925 as the Prince of Wales Medical College. The motto "Ich dien" is still widely used within the institution.

The badge is used by a society in Malta called "The Prince of Wales Philharmonic Society". The scope of this organisation is mainly one related to music but is also linked to the feast of St. Dominic in Vittoriosa in Malta. Malta was a colony of the British Crown for 200 years, and there exist a variety of clubs and organisations bearing the name of royal personalities.

From 1932 until its abolition in 1965, the Municipal Borough of Barnes, Surrey, used feathers based on those of the Prince of Wales on its coat of arms, in honour of the fact that the then Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VIII, and later Duke of Windsor) had been born in the borough.[34]

Norfolk County Council was given special consent by King Edward VII to use the badge on its arms, in recognition of Sandringham House, which was one of the King's favourite residences.[35] Edward held the title Prince of Wales for 59 years, making him at the time the longest-serving holder.

A derivative of the badge is that used by the Prince's Trust, a charitable organisation that helps young people.

Many pubs in the UK are named The Prince of Wales's Feathers, the Prince's Feathers or simply the Feathers, particularly in areas associated with royal estates.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ the sinister badge being the "Badge of Wales", On a mount vert a dragon passant gules differenced by a label of three points argent (Montague-Smith, P.W. (ed.), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories Ltd, Kingston-upon-Thames, 1968, p.24)
  2. ^ Williams, Nino (25 November 2018). "The uncomfortable truth about the three feathers symbol embraced by Wales". WalesOnline. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  3. ^ "National Emblems". Welsh Assembly Government. 2008. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  4. ^ Curry, Ian. "The Prince of Wales's feathers – Almost History". Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  5. ^ Scott Giles 1929, pp. 89–91.
  6. ^ Siddons 2009, pp. 178–9.
  7. ^ a b c d Siddons 2009, p. 178.
  8. ^ a b Scott-Giles 1929, p. 89.
  9. ^ a b c d Pinches and Pinches 1974, p. 59.
  10. ^ "6th letter". London. 30 August 2006.
  11. ^ Scott-Giles 1929, pp. 90–91.
  12. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur, Complete Guide to Heraldry, Fig 675
  13. ^ Siddons 2009, pp. 179–80.
  14. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur, Complete Guide to Heraldry, Fig 675
  15. ^ Nicolas, N. H. (1847). "Contemporary authority adduced for the popular idea that the Ostrich Feathers of the Prince of Wales were derived from the crest of the King of Bohemia". Archaeologia. 32: 332–34. doi:10.1017/S0261340900000631.
  16. ^ "Motto of Prince of Wales". Aberdeen Weekly Journal. 14 September 1917. p. 3.
  17. ^ Planché, J.R. (1852). Pursuivant of Arms. p. xx.
  18. ^ Siddons 2009, p. 181.
  19. ^ Harris, Oliver D. (2010). ""Une tresriche sepulture": the tomb and chantry of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster in Old St Paul's Cathedral, London". Church Monuments. 25: 7–35 (22–3).
  20. ^ Planché, J.R. (1852). Pursuivant of Arms. p. xx.
  21. ^ or "Sovereygne", etc
  22. ^ Siddons 2009, pp. 182–6.
  23. ^ Pinches and Pinches 1974, pp. 89–93.
  24. ^ Siddons 2009, pp. 186–8.
  25. ^ Siddons 2009, pp. 188–9.
  26. ^ Siddons 2009, pp. 187–9.
  27. ^ Montague-Smith, P.W. (ed.), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories Ltd, Kingston-upon-Thames, 1968, p.24
  28. ^ Sinister heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales: The Badge of Wales, namely: On a mount vert a dragon passant gules differenced by a label of three points argent
  29. ^ Montague-Smith, P.W. (ed.), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories Ltd, Kingston-upon-Thames, 1968, p.24
  30. ^ "The Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales Own)". Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  31. ^ Williamson, Martin. "A brief history of Surrey". ESPNcricinfo. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  32. ^ Oxford University Pistol Club
  33. ^ Oxford University Rifle Club
  34. ^ "Municipal Borough of Barnes". Heraldry of the World. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  35. ^ "Norfolk County Council". Civic Heraldry of England and Wales. Archived from the original on 28 August 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2014.