The King’s Colour of the Royal Canadian Navy

John MacFarlane 2016

Kings Colour

The King’s Colour was laid up in St. Paul’s Church in Esquimalt BC and hangs, with other flags and colours, inside the church. The custom is that they should hang there until they literally turn into dust.

When I was taken into St. Paul’s Naval and Garrison Church in Esquimalt by Admiral Bill Hughes to see the new (then) RCN commemorative stained glass window, I could not help noticing the King’s Colour laid–up inside the church.

The presentation of a Colour to the navy by the Sovereign is an extension of the old Army tradition of carrying a Colour for each regiment. For three hundred years regiments have carried a flag that served as a rallying point in battle and as a potent symbol of the unit itself.

The presentation programme booklet gives background information in considerable detail. It stated: "The King’s Colour may be paraded on shore on the following occasions only:

  • By a Guard of Honour mounted for H.M. The King, H.M. The Queen, H.M. Queen Mary, or for a member of the Royal Family.
  • – By a Guard of Honour mounted for a Foreign Sovereign, or the President of a Republican state.
  • – At parades to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty.
  • – On such important ceremonial occasions as may be ordered by the Admiralty or Naval Commander–in–Chief."

It goes on further to state that under no circumstances may the King’ Colour be paraded on board ship or on foreign territory. On all occasions of the King’s Colour being moved, a Guard must be present and due ceremony observed.


The people of Victoria BC were invited to witness the presentation of the new King’s Colour at the soccer pitch at Beacon Hill Park. The printed programme handed out, gives a very favorable impression of the event. The ceremony in Victoria was the first time that a ruling sovereign had personally presented the Colour to any of his naval forces outside teh British Isles.


The navy mustered as many men as could be placed on the parade deck in an impressive ceremony from the Naval Barracks at Naden and from the ships in the command.

Prior to 1924 naval forces taking part in ceremonies on shore did not have the privilege of parading the King’s Colour. In 1925 King George the Fifth presented a Colour to the Royal Navy. Over the years following there were few additional presentations: six in the Royal Navy, two in the Royal Canadian Navy, two in the Royal Australian Navy, and one in the Royal New Zealand Navy. One was kept on the Pacific coast and one on the Atlantic Coast. Canada was the first overseas Dominion to be presented a naval King’s Colour presented by King George VI on May 30th, 1939.

Kings Colour

The King’s Colour was a White Ensign in silk, in the centre is the Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch within the Garter, surmounted by the crown. It was fastened to an ash staff secured by a blue and gold wire cord. The staff was capped by a badge with an anchor on a three–faced shield superimposed by a royal crown.

Kings Colour

In 1952 the King’s Colour was paraded in honour of the visit of Princess Elizabeth (later HM Queen Elizabeth the Second) to Halifax, Nova Scotia. A ‘practice colour’ was used to rehearse the ceremony saving the actual colour from wear and tear. The colour is carried by a junior officer as the focus of the Royal Guard.

Kings Colour

On the Princess’ arrival a Royal Guard of Honour flanking the Colour greets her.

Kings Colour

The King’s Colour of George V was paraded for the last time on February 28th, 1960. It was transferred to a resting place on the altar at St. Andrew’s Church (the Protestant chapel) in HMCS Naden.

Kings Colour

The colour was transferred from the Naden Wardroom to the chapel under an escort composed of Colour Officer Lieutenant C.J. Scott RCN, CPO L. Farr RCN, PO John Pringle RCN, and PO R.W. Quick RCN.

Kings Colour

The service was conducted by Chaplain Horatio Todd RCN, Senior Chaplain (P) of Pacific Command. The Colour was presented by Rear-Admiral H.S. Rayner RCN, Flag Officer Pacific Coast.

The Queen’s Naval Colour is a variation of the Canadian Naval Jack – it is white, with the Canadian flag in the canton, the Royal Cypher for Canada in the centre and the symbol of the navy in the lower fly. The edge of the Colour is trimmed in gold. The RCN possesses two identical colours: one for the Atlantic fleet and one for the Pacific fleet.

Queens Colour

The Queen’s Colour for the Royal Canadian Navy.

The British Royal Navy and other navies of the Commonwealth of Nations call the flag–raising ceremony that happens every morning when a ship is in harbour Colours. In British home waters, Colours is conducted at 0800 (eight bells in the morning watch) from 15 February to 31 October inclusive, and at 0900 (two bells in the forenoon watch) during the winter. When sunset is at or before 2100, flags are lowered at sunset at the ceremony of Sunset. When sunset is after 2100, the evening flag lowering ceremony is called Evening Colours and carried out at 2100.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2016) The King’s Colour of the Royal Canadian Navy. 2016.

New Nauticapedia Book Just Published!

Volume Four in series

The Nauticapedia List of British Columbia's Floating Heritage Volume Four

Book — British Columbia's Floating Heritage
For more information …

Site News: March2nd, 2019

Databases have been updated and are now holding 56,584 vessel histories (with 5,550 images) and 58,184 mariner biographies (with 3,673 images).

© 2002-2019