If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you certainly remember…
Thames Valley Symbols
First of all let’s clarify what is considered as Thames Valley. It is a region centred on the River Thames, west from London. It does not really have clear borders but mainly covers areas in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Woodlands, wild game and the Thames played a significant role in the history of these counties which are reflected in their coat of arms and flags.
The Royal County of Berkshire
The full name of the county is the Royal County of Berkshire and is the only royal county. This of course refers to the presence of the royal family and the Windsor Castle which is one of their county residencies. One would think the county was always called royal but in fact Queen Elizabeth II recognised the county as royal in 1974 because of the presence of Windsor Castle.
You may ask why there is an oak and a stag in the county’s flag. This emblem goes back to a poem from 1627 where it was described that the men of Berkshire were marching under the symbol of a stag that stood under an oak. The stag had 12 point antlers which is the characteristic of a royal stag, referring to the royal status of the county. The stag and the oak together represent the county’s woodlands and deer herds. This design, however is not that old and was approved in 2017 only. Berkshire’s former symbols were two lions which still can be seen on country roads at the county borders.
This emblem dates back to Anglo-Saxon times when Buckinghamshire was known for breeding swans for the king. Believe it or not swans were considered to be a delicious meal those days. The bird in chains symbolises that swans are bound to the monarch, a law that still applies today. The red and black colours have also become associated with the county of Buckinghamshire over the time. The county also has a motto: Vestigia Nulla Retrosum – No stepping back (no step backwards).
The basic field colour, dark blue is associated with Oxford University which dates back to 1096. The white, wivy stripes symbolise the River Thames. Red Ox head, golden oak tree and wheat leaf represent the county’s woodland and agriculture. The county’s official flower is snake’s-head fritillary and its motto is Sapere aude! – Be wise!
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