A pennon was one of the principal three varieties of flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

s carried during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 (the other two were the banner
A banner is a flag or other piece of cloth bearing a symbol, logo, slogan or other message. Banner-making is an ancient craft.The word derives from late Latin bandum, a cloth out of which a flag is made...

 and the standard). Pennoncells and streamers or pendants are considered as minor varieties of this style of flag. The pennon is a flag resembling the guidon
Guidon may refer to:*Guidon , a type of heraldic flag*Guidon , a swallow tailed flag for the colours of a light cavalry regiment...

 in shape, but only half the size. It does not contain any coat of arms, but only crest
Crest (heraldry)
A crest is a component of an heraldic display, so called because it stands on top of a helmet, as the crest of a jay stands on the bird's head....

s, motto
A motto is a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of a social group or organization. A motto may be in any language, but Latin is the most used. The local language is usual in the mottoes of governments...

s and heraldic and ornamental devices.

Pennon comes from the Latin penna meaning "a wing
A wing is an appendage with a surface that produces lift for flight or propulsion through the atmosphere, or through another gaseous or liquid fluid...

" or "a feather
Feathers are one of the epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on birds and some non-avian theropod dinosaurs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates, and indeed a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They...

". It was sometimes pointed, but more generally forked or swallow-tailed at the end. In the 11th century, the pennon was generally square, one end being decorated with the addition of pointed tongues or streamers, somewhat similar to the oriflamme
The Oriflamme was the battle standard of the King of France.It was originally the sacred banner of the Abbey of St. Denis, a monastery near Paris. The banner was red or orange-red and flown from a lance. It was suggested that the lance was originally the important object, with the banner a...

. During the reign of Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

, the pennon acquired the distinctive swallow-tail, or the single-pointed shape. Another version of the single-pointed pennon was introduced in the 13th century. In shape this was a scalene triangle, obtained by cutting diagonally the vertically oblong banner.
The pennon was a purely personal ensign
An ensign is a national flag when used at sea, in vexillology, or a distinguishing token, emblem, or badge, such as a symbol of office in heraldry...

. It was essentially the flag of the knight bachelor
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

, as apart from the knight banneret
Knight banneret
A knight banneret, sometimes known simply as banneret, was a Medieval knight who led a company of troops during time of war under his own banner and were eligible to bear supporters in English heraldry.The military rank of a knight banneret was...

, carried by him on his lance, displaying his personal armorial bearings, and set out so that they stood in correct position when he couched his lance for charging. A manuscript of the 16th century (Hari. 2358) in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, which gives detailed particulars as to the size, shape and bearings of the standards, banner
A banner is a flag or other piece of cloth bearing a symbol, logo, slogan or other message. Banner-making is an ancient craft.The word derives from late Latin bandum, a cloth out of which a flag is made...

s, pennons and pennoncells, says "a pennon must be two yards and a half long, made round at the end, and contain the arms of the owner," and warns that "from a standard or streamer a man may flee but not from his banner or pennon bearing his arms." A pennoncell (or penselle) was a diminutive pennon carried by the esquire
Esquire is a term of West European origin . Depending on the country, the term has different meanings...


Pennons were also used for any special ceremonial occasion, and more particularly at state funerals. For instance, there were "XII doz. penselles" among the items that figured at the funeral of the Duke of Norfolk
Duke of Norfolk
The Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the peerage of England, and also, as Earl of Arundel, the premier earl. The Duke of Norfolk is, moreover, the Earl Marshal and hereditary Marshal of England. The seat of the Duke of Norfolk is Arundel Castle in Sussex, although the title refers to the...

 in 1554, and in the description of the lord mayor
Lord Mayor of London
The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London is the legal title for the Mayor of the City of London Corporation. The Lord Mayor of London is to be distinguished from the Mayor of London; the former is an officer only of the City of London, while the Mayor of London is the Mayor of Greater London and...

's procession in 1555, it reads "two goodly pennes (state barges) decked with flags and streamers, and a 1000 penselles." Among the items that ran the total cost of the funeral of Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 up to an enormous sum of money, we find mention of 30 dozen of pennoncells a foot long and costing 20 shillings a dozen, and 20 dozen of the same kind of flags at 12 shillings a dozen.
The streamer, so called in Tudor
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

 days but now better known as the pennant
Pennant may refer to:* Pennon , a narrow, tapering flag commonly flown by ships at sea:** Pennant , the traditional sign of a warship, flown from its masthead while the ship is in commission...

 or pendant, was a long, tapering flag, which it was directed "shall stand in the top of a ship or in the forecastle
Forecastle refers to the upper deck of a sailing ship forward of the foremast, or the forward part of a ship with the sailors' living quarters...

, and therein be put no arms, but the man's cognisance or device
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

, and may be of length 20, 30, 40 or 60 yards (54.9 m), and is slit as well as a guidon or standard". Among the fittings of the ship that took Beauchamp
- Surname :* Alphonse de Beauchamp, French historian* Anne de Beauchamp, 15th Countess of Warwick * Bianca Beauchamp, Canadian fetish model* Christine Beauchamp, case study patient...

, Earl of Warwick
Earl of Warwick
Earl of Warwick is a title that has been created four times in British history and is one of the most prestigious titles in the peerages of the British Isles.-1088 creation:...

, to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in the reign of Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 was a "great streamer for the ship 40 yards (36.6 m) in length [and] 8 yards (7.3 m) in breadth".
Besides the white ensign, ships commissioned in the Royal Navy fly a long streamer from the maintopgallant masthead. This, which is called a pennant
Pennant (commissioning)
The commissioning pennant is a pennant flown from the masthead of a warship. The history of flying a commissioning pennant dates back to the days of chivalry with their trail pendants being flown from the mastheads of ships they commanded...

, is in fact the sign of command, and it is first hoisted when a captain commissions his ship. The pennant, which was really the old "pennoncell", was of three colours for the whole of its length, and towards the end left separate in two or three tails, and so continued until the end of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

. Now, however the pennant is a long white streamer with the St George's cross in the inner portion close to the mast. Pennants have been carried by men-of-war from the earliest times, prior to 1653 at the yard-arm, but since that date at the maintopgallant masthead. There are other navies that also fly pennant in a similar manner (see
pennant (commissioning)
Pennant (commissioning)
The commissioning pennant is a pennant flown from the masthead of a warship. The history of flying a commissioning pennant dates back to the days of chivalry with their trail pendants being flown from the mastheads of ships they commanded...


The commissioning pennant in ships may ends in a point, but they can also be forked, in which case it is also called a banderole
A Banderole , has both a literal descriptive meaning for its use by knights and ships, and is also heraldic device for representing bishops....


Pennants are also associated with American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 sports teams, such as Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 and college
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

 sports teams. In Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football, officially known as Australian football, also called football, Aussie rules or footy is a sport played between two teams of 22 players on either...

, a pennant is awarded to the winner of major competitions. For many years, this was the only prize given. As a result, a League Championship is often referred to as a "pennant," as in, "The Giants
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are a Major League Baseball team based in San Francisco, California, playing in the National League West Division....

win the Pennant!" And in Australian football, a premiership can also be referred to as a "flag."
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