Royal Warrants

Extracts from The Origins and Records of the
Royal Welsh Yacht Club 1847 – 1933

by the Hon. Secretary G.W.Taylor Morgan Esq.
Royal Patronage and Admiralty Warrants.


The Royal Patronage and the Admiralty Warrant both confer distinction upon a yacht club, are much sought after, jealously guarded, and both confer precedence of one with the Royal Patronage only.


With the growth of yachting as a pastime after the battle of Trafalgar, yachts in increasing numbers flaunted the flags of the Fleet. To regularise matters the Admiralty inaugurated a system of granting to certain clubs only the right to fly specifically the white, blue or the red ensign of the Royal Navy defaced, as it is called, with the particular sign of the of the club. The first club to receive the warrant was the Royal Yacht Squadron, whose members were allowed to fly thewhite ensign, a right reserved exclusively for them in 1859, the other clubs holding warrants having to content themselves with the blue and red ensign. Though in 1864 the white ensign only became recognised flag of the Royal Navy, the blue ensign being allotted to the Royal Naval Reserve and the red ensign to the Mercantile Marine, it will be seen that the blue ensign of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club granted in 1847 derived directly from the old blue ensign of the Navy. In 1846 there were only sixteen yacht clubs in the United Kingdom, though there was an Imperial Yacht Club of Russia, a Royal Netherlands, a Royal Belgian, a Gibraltar and a New York Yacht club abroad. Of the British clubs, four were in Ireland (one of which, the Royal Cork, founded in 1720, is the oldest); two in Scotland; ten in England; and in 1847, one in Wales, the Royal Welsh, was instituted. Both the Royal Patronage of Queen Adelaide, the widow of King William IV, and the Admiralty Warrant, were obtained in that year, the date of the Warrant fixing the Club in its order of precedence, i.e. twelfth, some of the other clubs having been in existence a number of years before obtaining the Warrant, or the Royal Patronage.

The possession of a Warrant confers some other minor privileges besides the right to fly the flag- e.g. such a yacht may enter Government Harbours without paying dues, and can make fast to a Government buoy; crew space is under no limitations, etc, etc – but the privileges vary with the different clubs.

A yacht owner must obtain a warrant through the Secretary of his Club. He must not fly the flag without an individual warrant for each individual yacht, or he renders himself, and everybody who has helped to hoist the flag, liable to a penalty of  £500. The special ensign can only be flown by yachts registered under the Merchant Shipping Acts. Should an owner belong to more that one club, he must obtain warrants from every club whose flag he wishes to fly. Yacht Club ensigns are not allowed to be flown ashore even on Yacht Club Houses themselves unless they are upon the coast.

The Club rules are framed to comply with the Admiralty instructions. Thus any member who sells his yacht must return his warrant to the Hon. Secretary, and must not sell the club colours to any other than a member of the Club. Nor is a yacht lent to another any other than a member entitled to fly the club colours, and Admiralty warrants, etc., must be removed from such a yacht prior to such loan. No warrants are granted to foreigners even though members of a privileged club.

The Admiralty, for diplomatic reasons, decided to issue a new warrant which entirely superseded the old one, and this new warrant was granted to the Royal Welsh on May 15th  1894.

On August 7th  1914, an Admiralty letter states that the Royal Yacht Squadron had issued instructions that their yachts were only to fly the red ensign of the Mercantile Fleet during hostilities as a matter of precaution, and asks the Royal Welsh to do the same. On August 21st 1914, an Admiralty order officially cancelled all general warrants to clubs for the duration of the war.


In 1927 the system of issuing a general warrant to certain clubs and a second warrant to yachts of the club was cancelled, and a system of warrants to the members of such clubs through the Honorary Secretary substituted, the old general warrants being returned to the Admiralty for cancellation.

In 1930 the size of yacht allowed to carry an Admiralty warrant was altered to 2½ tons gross.

In 1932 a new Admiralty order qualified Life, Honorary and Temporary members of clubs under certain conditions.