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Kent (England)

Last modified: 2010-07-16 by rob raeside
Keywords: kent | horse (white) | rochester | admiral of the medway | medway | dover | canterbury cathedral | gillingham |
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[Kent banner of arms] (?) by James Dignan
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White Horse Flag

It is uncertain if the white horse flag is actually used as such.  If so, it would be a banner of arms, and may contain the word "INVICTA" below it.  The Kent County Council uses the white horse on its logo:

[Kent banner of arms] located by James Dignan

This logo has the white horse of Kent, but I have a feeling that the Invicta flag is simply a banner of the county's arms, i.e., a white horse on dark red (certainly far darker than on the KCC logo!).
James Dignan, 10 June 2004

There is an illustration of the flag of Kent on page 63 of Bartram (2004). The horse is very definitely upright, like a circus horse rearing, and is offset towards the hoist.
Graham Bartram, 10 June 2004

This flag is very definitely flown (occasionally, still) from County Hall in Maidstone. Until the new Logo was adopted (?1990s) the heraldic banner was the only flag used by the County Council and flew daily from County Hall. It does NOT have the "Invicta" motto beneath the Horse. The grant of arms was made to Kent County Council in the 1930's, and the first flag caused a little controversy due to its red colour. It was presented by a local  Labour MP, who was suspected of making a Socialist statement.

The position of the horse on the arms, logo and flag is indeed "rampant" , that is, rearing on one hind leg -- but this version dates only from the 1930's Grant of Arms. Earlier versions depict the Horse as forcené (i.e. rearing naturally on its hind legs) or occasionally courant (running). Some 19th century versions
show the background colour as blue, and there is sometimes a green strip of turf below.

The "Invicta" motto is associated with the story of the Treaty of Swanscombe in 1067: according to local legend, William the Bastard, having seized the English throne, was travelling to Dover when he was met by the Cantware (the People of Kent). They demanded from him their ancient laws and rights, in which case he would have their loyalty, or else "battle most deadly". William granted the request, and Kent acceded to his reign by treaty, hence getting the motto "Invicta"
(unconquered). I have lived in Kent all my life, and can vouch for the fact that William is never styled "Conqueror" by anyone native to the County.
Karl Wittwer, 24 July 2004

As a Kentish Man I have just looked at your site re the flag and arms of Kent, and found as expected reference to Hengist and Horsa (though I've never heard it said before that they were one and the same person: brothers, the younger of whom, Horsa, was killed in battle). Hengist, whose banner may have been a white horse on a red ground went on to found the Kingdom of Kent which then included the Isle of Wight, given by a later King of Kent to Cerdic the first King of Wessex. My reason in writing to you is that Hengist and Horsa and their followers were not Saxons, but Jutes who had been exiled from their native land (Jutland). Of course the Saxons, Angles and Jutes were very closely related to each other, all coming from the area of Northern Germany around the Jutland peninsula, so much so that modern DNA testing cannot tell their remains apart.
Richard Kent, 15 June 2006

Coat of Arms

[Kent coat of arms] by James Francom, 13 October 2003

The arms were granted on 17 October 1933 and re-confirmed in 1975. The white horse of Kent is supposedly the old symbol for the Saxon kingdom of Kent, dating from the 6 - 8th century.

The crest shows a mural crown, which symbolizes the many castles in the county, as well as the independent Saxon kingdom of Kent. The sails are symbols for the strong ties of the county with the sea and stand for the navy, the mercantile marine and fisheries. The sea lions are also a symbol for the strong ties with the navy, the lion being the British lion. The sea lions also symbolize that Kent is the frontier of Britain with continental Europe. The left supporter wears the arms of the Cinque Ports, five harbour cities that had to provide support for the English navy until modern times. Four of these cities are in Kent. The arms are three lions with ship hulls as tails.The right supporter wears a shield with the arms of the Archbishopric of Canterbury, founded in 597 by St. Augustine.

James Frankcom, 13 October 2003

Kent Regiments

The badges of some British regiments had a white horse that was not derived from the arms of Hanover:

  • The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
  • 20th County of London Battalion (Blackheath and Woolwich)
  • Queen's Own West Kent Yeomanry (Hussars)
  • Duke of Connaught's Own East Kent Yeomanry (Mounted Rifles)
These are all regiments associated with the County of Kent, one of the Saxon kingdoms supposed to have been founded by Hengist and Horsa. He was actually one person, but known as Hengist by the Frisians and Horsa by the Anglians - both words meaning 'horse'. The badge of Kent is a prancing white horse.

David Prothero, 2 June 1999

When the elector of Hanover became king of England the white horse seems to have been given prominence in other iconography. This may have been because, as others have noted, it was already a German symbol well accepted in England. The white horse of Hanover seems to be associated with the motto Nec Aspera Terrent, and the white horse of Kent with the motto Invicta.

T.F. Mills, 3 June 1999

Canterbury Cathedral

[Canterbury Cathedral] by Rob Raeside

Outside Canterbury Cathedral there is a flagpole, which last Saturday was flying a blue flag with a white cross throughout, and in the centre, the letter I above the letter X, both in black. When I was there, it looked like there was something above the I but it was not clear. I remember spending a fair amount of time trying to see it clearly. I am still not 100% sure that it was there.
Jonathan Dixon, 2 April 2005

They are the arms of the Cathedral itself. From the cathedral's gift shop webpage - "Our logo is the Cathedral's coat of arms (a blue shield with IX, the Greek abbreviation for Jesus Christ)"
Ned Smith, 2 April 2005

The arms of Canterbury Cathedral are "Azure on a cross Argent the Greek letters I and X in pale Sable." See them at
James Dignan, 22 December 2005

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Admiral of the Medway

In 1930 the Town Clerk of Rochester informed the Admiralty that the Mayor of Rochester was, by the terms of various Charters granted between 1189 and 1692, Admiral of the Medway, and entitled to fly the flag of an admiral when on the river between Sheerness (where the river Medway flows into the Thames Estuary) and Hawkwood (near Maidstone). He enclosed the drawing of a flag, a St George's flag defaced in the centre with the arms of Rochester, which he suggested should be approved by the Admiralty, to obviate confusion between an Admiral of the Royal Navy, and the Admiral of the Medway.

The Admiralty replied that the title Admiral of the Medway did not confer the right to the proposed flag, which would contravene the Order in Council of 9 July 1864, that abolished Royal Navy Squadron Colours, and established the design of the flags of naval admirals. The Town Clerk then asked if the Mayor could continue to fly a plain St George's flag, something he had done for many years. At that time Chatham, which is along the river adjacent to Rochester, was a major naval dockyard port, so, not unsurprisingly, the Admiralty refused this request. [National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/8744/138]

David Prothero, 13 June 2003

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