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Royal Flags (Thailand)

Last modified: 2013-07-20 by ian macdonald
Keywords: thailand | royal | garuda | phya khrut | mythical creature |
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Introduction

Centered on all of the royal flags are the arms of Thailand. Introduced in 1910, these arms consist of the great mythical being known as the Garuda which is part man and part bird. It is a protective spirit and "the bearer of the god of bravery". The yellow field associated with all of these flags represents Buddhism.

The royal flags of Thailand have a distinctive pattern. The flags of male members of the royal house are square. The female royal members' flags are identical with those of the corresponding male members; however, the fly of their flags are split like a burgee.

The King's flag has the Garuda on a square, yellow field while the Queen's flag is a yellow swallowtailed flag with the Garuda. The Crown Prince's flag places the Garuda on a yellow panel in the middle of a blue field. The Crown Princess' flag places the panel on a blue swallowtailed flag. All other Princes place the Garuda on a yellow disk which is centered on a blue field. The same disk on a blue burgee is the flag of Princesses who are the King's daughters.

Assuming no changes to the law, there are also [broad] pennants that are assigned to each category of royalty. The form of the pennant is a square reproduction of the male member's flag in the hoist while the rest of the pennant has a split tail. The differentiation between male and female royalty is color of the rest of the pennant. The rest of the pennant is white for male royalty and red for female royalty. For example, the pennant of the King is a miniature King's flag with a white tail. The Queen's pennant has a miniature of the King's flag with a red tail.

Sources: Flaggenbuch 1939, Smith 1980; Crampton 1989; Crampton 1990.
Calvin Paige Herring
, 15 May 1998

According to Flaggenbuch 1939 the proportions of all the royal broad pennants – see for instance the king's and queen's broad pennants – are:

  • height and width of the square (hoist) area: 60 units
  • length of tapering fly: 420 units
  • depth of swallowtail cut: 180 units
  • distance between both ends of the swallowtail: 30 units
which match quite well the (incomplete) data given by the Singha Beer source.
Santiago Dotor, 05 Jul 2001

In the course of the 2006 Thai coup d'etat, Wikipedia reported that

Many soldiers and military vehicles wore strips of yellow cloth as symbols of loyalty to the king, whose royal colour is yellow.

This could refer to both the Royal Standard and any of the current king's personal flags – they're both yellow.
Eugene Ipavec
, 21 Sep 2006


Phya Khrut or Royal Garuda – Royal Symbol and National Arms

[Garuda (Thailand)] image from Wikipedia; adapted from Thai government source

The Garuda is a mythical figure with a human torso and arms, a demonic face and a bird's legs, wings and tail. It is dressed in gold, with a crown, bracelets, armbands, a necklace and a girdle or loin cloth. The lower half of the legs are also gold.
Nathan Augustine
, 08 Apr 1996

Garuda, incidentally, is originally a Hindu god, a combination bird / human creature. There is a whole legend behind his birth and doings.
Dipesh Navsaria
, 10 Apr 1996

Garuda is a mythical bird with the head and wings of a phoenix and the body and limbs of a man. He is said to be the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. He plays an important role in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. In countries like Thailand, where the national religion is Buddhism, Garuda is revered as a deity. In Indonesia and Malaysia, he plays an important role in Malay folklore although the two countries are mainly Muslim. This is because the Malay Archipelago used to be Hindu before the coming of Islam (Srivijaya and Majapahit dynasty).
Giuseppe Bottasini
, 13 Aug 1997

The Royal Standard is embellished with a Phya-Khrut. Phya translates to "king," "ruler," or "lord." Khrut translates to Garuda; i.e. "a mythical bird with a human body and head, wings and talons of an eagle". The Phya Khrut is the national symbol of Thailand, and is such is to be displayed and handled with respect and care. Those few businesses – by definition large and influential ones – that display the Phya Khrut on the front of their buildings are privileged to do so as a consequence of explicit approval by the Thai government.
Riley B. VanDyke
, 22 Jun 1998

Smith calls this (in Croatian) state arms, but it may be matter of translation. However, Colouring of Garuda in ALbum 2000 is not entirely the same as I have seen it elsewhere (e.g. mentioned Smith's book or FOTW ). It seems that Garuda should be "membered or" (to use European heraldic terms) and not red as in Album. This difference goes though all the flags showing Garuda, of course.
Željko Heimer
, 30 Mar 2003

Regarding the Royal Garuda, ours seems to be a variation on an image in the Thai Wikipedia, whose description explicitly states "A Garuda, however not the coat of arms of either Thailand or Indonesia." The page provides a list of significant differences, which I now quote:

"This is not the coat of arms of Thailand. The real Thai Coat of Arms (Tra Khrut) should have sharp wing tips – the wingtips of this image are blunt. The real Khrut should have 7 external wing-tips per side – there are 9 wingtips in this image. The real Khrut should be wearing wearing what looks like a high belt which connects to its necklace – the one in this image is only wearing a necklace. The fingertips of the real Khrut should be pointed directly at the apex of its Monthien (hat) at 45 and 225 degree angles – the one in this image has fingers that are horizontal. The tail design is distinctly different."
By comparison, the Thai Royal Garuda in the English Wikipedia is the real deal, closely matching both the above description and the garuda in the header of official goverment PDF's I've downloaded – which makes sense, as the Wikipedia image was taken from the cover of the Royal Thai Government Gazette.

Also, we have our Garuda in the Royal Flags section, as a royal symbol, but there is evidence – both in literature [smi82], usage (on embassies, etc.) and in the Thai Wikipedia – that it also serves as state arms.
Eugene Ipavec
, 02 Oct 2006

The garuda on the Royal Standard shown here is a fair bit smaller than we have it. It may be due to it being used as a car flag.
Eugene Ipavec
, 21 Sep 2006


Former National Arms (1868-1910)

The three ornamented white elephants in the Luan Praban flag appeared on Thailand's former COA, used 1868-1910. [Ed.: visible on the Chuthathut Thippatai former army flag]
Nozomi Kariyasu
, 23 Jul 2004


Kings of the Chakri Dynasty

The list of Their Majesties of the Chakri Dynasty is as follows:

Name                                Date of reign
----                                -------------
King Rama I                         April 6, 1782 -     September 7, 1809
King Rama II                        September 7, 1809 - July 21,1824
King Rama III                       July 21, 1824 -     April 2, 1851
King Mongkut [Rama IV]              April 2, 1851 -     October 1, 1868
King Chulalongkorn [Rama V]         October 1, 1868 -   October 23, 1910
King Vajiravudh [Rama VI]           October 23, 1910 -  November 26, 1925
King Prajadhipok [Rama VII]         November 26, 1925 - March 2, 1935
King Ananda Mahidol [Rama VIII]     March 2, 1935 -     June 9, 1946
King Bhumibol Adulyadej [Rama IX]   June 9, 1946 -      present day

Wisarut Bholsithi, 1 Jan 2000
Editor's note: see also The Illustrious Chakri Family at the Mahidol University website.


Regarding the Personal flags of Royal Family members, Russia (16xx-1917): these royal standards bear so many similarities in design with the set of Thai royal flags adopted in 1911 that I wonder whether they were based on the Russian ones.
Santiago Dotor
, 07 Oct 2002


Pseudoheraldic Emblems on Thai Royal Flags

The website of the Rama IX Art Museum Foundation also contains some additional flag-related information in the shape of (pseudo) coats-of-arms, which appear in Thai royal flags and other flags which have to do with royal jubilees:

[Royal 25th Anniversary Emblem (Thailand)]
[Royal 5th Cycle Birthday Anniversary Emblem (Thailand)]
[Royal Grand Celebrations of the Reign Emblem (Thailand)]
[Royal 50th Anniversary Emblem (Thailand)]
1
2
3
4
  1. The Royal Ceremonial Emblem on the 25th Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne, Marking the 25th Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhuimibol Adulyadej's Reign.

    The emblem has the Royal Crown in the middle, resting on a pedestalled gold tray, radiating golden rays. The whole object is situated on a celestial abode. There is the Thai numeral 9 between the Royal Crown and the tray, signifying the 9th Reign. The mythological lion and half elephant-half lion figures are featured on both sides of the tray, supporting the royal umbrellas. The inscription underneath says: Silver Jubilee 9 June 1971, the 25th Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne.

  2. The Royal Ceremonial Emblem on the 5th Cycle Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty the King, 1987

    The Royal Garuda signifying the State, meaning the Government and the People, respectfully supporting the discus and the ancient sword, symbolizing the Chakri Dynasty and His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The clockwise discus signifies the power of righteousness. The Royal Crown with golden rays, flanked by royal umbrellas and royal belongings, signifies the power of the monarch. The mythological lion symbolizes the civilian side, and the mythological half elephant-half lion figure symbolizes the military side. They hold the royal umbrellas and the royal belongings, signifying the two branches of officials that undertake state affairs in the name of His Majesty the King.

  3. The Royal Ceremonial Emblem on the Grand Celebrations of the Reign, Marking the longest Reign in Thai History

    The Royal Seal, as an eight-sided fig-wood royal throne under the seven-tiered royal umbrella. The royal discus with flames is featured on the throne, with the symbol of auspices in the middle of the discus, symbolizing His Majesty the King's great power of kindness and benevolence that reaches all directions to protect his subjects. The five royal regalia and the Thai numeral 9 signify the longest and most prosperous of the 9th Reign, the longest reigning monarch in Thai history.

  4. The Royal Ceremonial Emblem on the 50th Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne or the Golden Jubilee, 9 June 1996

    The Royal Seal of His Majesty the King is featured in the middle, topped by the Chakri Dynasty crest and the Royal Crown. A double-footed gold tray holds the Constitution, signifying the constitutional monarchy. Two white elephants flank and support the seal, each carrying a tiered royal umbrella. They signify the following:

    1. Elephants were royal carriers, symbolizing the loyal Thai subjects who serve their monarch.
    2. White elephants are, according to the old belief, the symbol of might, wisdom and prowess, befitting a great monarch.
    3. Elephants are national symbols, once portrayed on the national flag. They represent long life, comparable to the long history of the Thai nation.


    This emblem is the one appearing on the "King Rama IX Golden Jubilee Flag."
  5. [Royal 6th Cycle Birthday Anniversary Emblem (Thailand)]
    [Royal 60th Anniversary Emblem (Thailand)]
    [Royal 80th Birthday Emblem (Thailand)]
    5
    6
    7

  6. The Royal Ceremonial Emblem on His Majesty the King's 6th Cycle Birthday Anniversary, 5 December 1999

    His Majesty the King's initials, placed under the Royal Crown and above the eight-sided Royal Throne, signifies that His Majesty the King is the focus of the entire nation, a unifying force who commands the deepest love and respect among his subjects. The letters are in yellow, the colour of the day of His Majesty's birth, Monday, against the background of deep blue, the royal colour. This is surrounded by the discus-emblem of the Chakri Dynasty and the Thai numeral 9, signifying the 9th Reign of the Chakri Dynasty. The crest is flanked on both sides by seven-tiered royal umbrellas, and topped by the nine-tiered royal umbrella.

    The border is divided into four parts, representing the four regions of the country, in green, the colour of peace and abundance. A lotus is featured on each of the four points, as an offering to His Majesty the King on the occasion of His Majesty's 6th Cycle Birthday Anniversary. The golden rays around the crest signify His Majesty the King's grace and benevolence, recognized throughout the Kingdom and beyond.

  7. The Royal Ceremonial Emblem on the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne, 9th June 2006

    There are soft yellow on the Thai letters Bhor Por Ror. The yellow color of the letters is the color of His Majesty's day of birth and a gold color has been a line around with mixing between blue and gold background. Also there are diamonds around the monogram that represent the king as a man of learning, poet laureate and famous craftsman. Therefore the king seems to be a diamond of the Thai people, the topmost of precious stones.

    His Majesty the King's initials are placed under the Royal Crown. There are 5 symbols: a crown, a "chaisri" royal sword, a king’s walking stick, his fan, his shoes, all representing the Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne. Below The Royal Ceremonial Emblem there is a pink silk ribbon bearing the inscription "on the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession." To the right end of it there is a monkey, to the left a garuda.

    All of the Royal Ceremonial Emblems have to contain the mixture of green and gold colors, signifying power and fertility.

  8. The Royal Emblem In Commemoration of the Celebrations on the Auspicious Occasion Of His Majesty the King’s Eightieth Birthday Anniversary, 5th December 2007

    The Royal Emblem depicts the Privy Seal of the Ninth Reign, which is composed of the Octagonal Throne, the Discus (Chakra), in the middle of which is the symbolic letter "Unalome" insignia. Around the Chakra Discus, there are rays radiating all round. Above the Chakra Discus is the Seven-Tiered Umbrella over the Octagonal Throne meaning that His Majesty the King has sovereign power in the realm, for at the Coronation Ceremony His Majesty sat upon the Octagonal Throne and received consecrated water from the eight cardinal points in accordance with ancient Royal custom which for the first time was presented by Members of Parliament instead of Royal pundits. As for the platform on which rests the Octagonal Throne, it is strewn with nine silver and golden "Bikul" flowers.

    The Privy Seal is encircled by eighty diamonds meaning the 80th Birthday Anniversary. On top of the Seal is the Great Crown of Victory which signifies the Royal Dignity of the Sovereign and symbolizes supreme Kingship. Within the Great Crown of Victory is the Thai numeral 9 meaning the Ninth Reign. The Great Crown of Victory is in front of the Great White Umbrella of State, which is in the centre and flanked by two Seven-Tiered Umbrellas, marking the great rank of the Sovereign. Beneath the Privy Seal is the Thai number 80 meaning that His Majesty the King has reached His Eightieth year. Under the number 80 is the silk ribbon bearing the words "The Celebration on the Auspicious Occasion of His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December 2007". Apart from naming the Royal Ceremony, the silk ribbon also supports the two Seven-Tiered Umbrellas.

Emblem #6 is the one appearing on the "Sixth-Cycle Anniversary Flag of King Rama IX, 1999."
Santiago Dotor
, 10 Oct 2005