Collecting Articles and Features

Crown & Cyphers on British Uniform Buttons

Please share on your social media

In the UK, government land is known as crown land. Anything belonging to the government is called crown property, and if you are prosecuted in the courts, you are prosecuted by the crown.  So the crown is more than just a symbol of Royalty in the UK – it represents the state, the country and the Queen.  There are a lot of different crowns on the buttons and badges of the armed forces and other uniformed government employees, so I am going to tell you what little I know about them.

The Queen Victoria’s crown 1837-1901, (R49*). This isn’t strictly Victoria’s crown because it was used by most of the monarchs before her, but it is associated with her more than anybody else.  Its’ proper name is St. Edward’s crown.  The Hertfordshire Yeomanry (R 387) and The Royal Canadian Regiment (Smylie F111*) both still wear Victoria’s crown on their buttons to this day.  The Royal Canadian Regiment is allowed to wear it as an honour for the services they gave in WW1.  On January 1, 1901 the Irish Guards were formed.  They all paraded wearing their badges and buttons with Victoria’s crown on them.  Then on the 22nd of January she died, and they all had to be replaced.   These buttons and badges are very rare, I have never seen any.

The King’s crown, 1901-1952, (R59).  Known to the Edwardian soldier as “Teddie’s hat,”
it is the Imperial state crown that was made for Queen Victoria when she became Empress of India.  She did not like the St. Edward’s crown and always found it too heavy to wear on state occasions, (no she didn’t wear it when she was doing the house work either).  After her death, the Kings were depicted wearing it on coins, etc., and it was used on buttons and badges, so it became known as the King’s crown.The Queen’s crown, 1952 onwards, (R44).  Now we are back to St. Edward’s Crown.

 * The numbers referenced here are from Howard Ripley’s Buttons of the British Army, and Eric Smiley’s Buttons of the Canadian Militia.Other Crowns The Green Howards, (R233), Alexandra the Princess of Wales’ own Yorkshire Regiment. This crown is a coronet. It is Danish, because Princess Alexandra was a Danish Princess who married the Prince of Wales. In 1902 he became Edward the Seventh.The Rifle Brigade (R567) and The Leicestershire Yeomanry Cavalry (R341), Prince Alberts Own. Albert’s crown is the Guelphic crown. Prince Albert was a German, and this crown is the crown of the Dukes of the House of Hanover, of which he was a member, as were the British Royal family. Victoria and Albert both had the surname, Sax-Coburg-Gotha, and they were first cousins, as are the Queen and Prince Phillip (they like to keep it in the family).

The Yorks and Lancsaster Regiment, (R284).  This is a Ducal crown because the Regiment is named after two Dukes (the Duke of Lancaster is the Queen). If the tiger has its’ head up, the button is Victorian. If the head is down, it is post Victoria, because the tiger was depicted with its’ head down in mourning for Queen Victoria. The Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry (R249) has the same crown.

The Somerset Light Infantry (R224). This is a Mural crown. Mural crowns were Garlands given to the first R oman soldiers to scale the walls of a besieged city. As you can see, the crown is made to look like masonry work. This crown is worn because during the Afghan wars, 1838-1842, the Somerset Light Infantry were besieged in the City of Jellalabab (as were the Russians 100 years later – we won). During the seige, the commanding officer ordered everthing metal (including buttons) to be melted down to make musket balls. They wore Jellalabab on their badges and buttons until 1959.The Queens Royal Regiment (R203). This is the crown of the Royal Navy, and is worn because the Queen’s Regiment fought as marines in a naval battle. The Royal Green Jackets fought as marines during the battle of Copenhagen, in April 1802, when Nelson gave the Danish navy a lesson in naval tactics. Unfortunately, the Danish navy couldn’t put this lesson into practice because Nelson destroyed the Danish fleet in the process.

Royal Cyphers Every King or Queen has their own cypher, which is displayed on certain buttons and badges, notably the Royal Engineers. (R66) Queen Victoria 1855-1901 (R67) Edward the Seventh 1901-1910  (R70) George the Fifth 1910-1936  (R69) Edward the Eighth 1936
(R68) George the Sixth 1936-1952 (R71) Queen Elizabeth the Second

(R 402 & 403) This cypher is also worn by Norfolk Imperial Yeomanry.

The Grenadier Guards have the Royal cypher and the cypher reversed on their buttons. 
(R75) Queen Victoria 1855-1901 (R76) Edward the Seventh 1901-1910  (R77) George the Fifth 1910-1936 (R78) Edward the Eighth 1936  (R79) George the Sixth 1936-1952  (R80) Elizabeth the Second 1952.  Prince Charles will be known as George the Seventh when he becomes King.
(R376) The Honourable Artillery Compnay wear the same buttons as the Grenadier Guards but theirs are white metal and the Grenadiers Guards are brass because the H.A.C. are volunteers.

Personal cyphers The Wiltshire Regiment, The Duke of Edinburghs own, (R280). This button has the cypher of one of Queen Victoria’s sons, Alfred Duke of Edinburgh who died in 1950.  This button was worn until 1956 when Prince Philip became Duke of Edinburgh and his cypher has been worn since.  (R281)
The Second King Edwards Gurkha Rifles (R570) has the cypher ERI.  This stands for Edwardus Regina Emporatum, which is latin for Edward the King Emperor.
The Rifle Brigade, Prince Alberts Own (R567). This is Prince Albert’s cypher.

The Green Howards (R233) has the cypher of Alexandra on it.  This is an “A” within a “Cross” and is known as the Danebrog.  When the Britiish army went to France in WW1 the Green Howards cap badge got the nickname of the Eiffel Tower because of the shape of this cap  badge.  The “A” of Alexandra can also be seen on (R550) Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Service button.

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (R111). This is the Prince of Wales’ own badge.  The three feathers and the motto “lch Dien”, German  for “I Serve”, go back to Edward – the eldest son of Edward the Third 1330-1376.  He was known as the black Prince because he had his suit of armour painted black, a very unusual thing at the time.  He later became the Prince of Wales and the three feathers and coronet have been associated with Wales and the Prince of Wales ever since. (R129 & R170).  The North Staffordshire Regiment (R283) has the coronet without the three feathers.

The Womens Royal Army Corps (R551)
has Queen Mary’s cypher (Queen Mary of Teck 1867-1953 was married to George the Fifth).  This cypher can also be seen on (R573) The 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles.

Text © 2000-2001 by Bob Dunn
Photos and Layout © 2000-2001 by Diana Hefti

Please share on your social media