A standard-bearer, also known as a flag-bearer is a person (soldier or civilian) who bears an emblem known as a standard or military Regulation Colours, i.e. either a type of flag or an inflexible but mobile image, which is used (and often honoured) as a formal, visual symbol of a state, prince, military unit, etc.[1] This can either be an occasional duty, often seen as an honour (especially on parade), or a permanent charge (also on the battlefield); the second type has even led in certain cases to this task being reflected in official rank titles such as Ensign, Cornet and Fähnrich.

A standard bearer from No. 7 Company, Coldstream Guards, with its regimental colour.
Prominent in the center of this popular print depicting the 1848 "Five Days of Milan", the Italian city's uprising against Austrian rule, is the standard-bearer raising aloft what was then a revolutionary flag and later became the flag of Italy.
Team USA marches in the parade of athletes around BC Place stadium during the opening Ceremony of the XXI Olympic Winter Games, February 12, 2010, in Vancouver – The standard-bearer is Mark Grimmette.
Identifying iconographic elements in an Aztec standard-bearer sculpture.

Role of the standard-bearerEdit

In the context of the Olympic Games, a flagbearer is the athlete who carries the flag of their country during the opening and closing ceremonies.

While at present a purely ceremonial function, as far back as Roman warfare and medieval warfare the standard-bearer had an important role on the battlefield. In warfare: the standard-bearer acted as an indicator of where the position of a military unit was, with the bright, colorful standard or flag acting as a strong visual beacon to surrounding soldiers. Soldiers were typically ordered to follow and stay close to the standard or flag in order to maintain unit cohesion, and for a single commander to easily position his troops by only positioning his standard-bearer, typically with the aid of musical cues or loud verbal commands. It was an honorable position carrying a considerable risk, as a standard-bearer would be a major target for the opposing side's troops seeking to capture the standard or pull it down.

In the Roman military the person carrying the standard was called Signifer. In addition to carrying the signum, the signifer also assumed responsibility for the financial administration of the unit and functioned as the legionaries' banker. The Signifer was also a Duplicarius, paid twice the basic wage.

In the militia of the cities of the Dutch Republic, the standard-bearer was often the youngest single man, who was shown in group portraits wearing rich clothing in addition to carrying the flag. Chosen ensigns were good candidates for painters to woo with their portrait skills.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The regimental system, National Army Museum