The Prince of Wales’s feathers is the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. It comprises three white ostrich feathers appearing from a gold coronet. A ribbon below the coronet bears the words ‘Ich Dien’ which is a German contraction for ‘I Serve.’
Dating back to the 14th century, the feathers were first used in royal heraldry by Edward, Prince of Wales also known as The Black Prince.
Heraldry experts and historians claim that Philippa of Hainault, Edwards mother likely used the feathers. The motto is to have derived from the arms of the King of Bohemia.
The feathers not only symbolise royal heraldry but also represent Wales in the Welsh regiments of the British Army and the Welsh Rugby Union.
Tradition had the feathers worn on the jerseys preceding the creation of a national team or union. The logo of the Welsh Rugby Union contains the feathers. In the 1990s, a slight modification replaced ‘Ich Dien’ with ‘WCU.’
The feather may also be recognised in the quarters of the British and Irish Lion’s badges also.
There are rules however of heraldry that limit the amount of variations of the badge. The feathers quills or spines may be gold instead or silver or white. The coronet usually features rubies and emeralds may contain sapphires.
As for the ribbon arrangement, the motto may vary although it is shown in front of the two outer feathers and behind the centre feather.
Rugby isn’t the only sport using the feathers for their teams. Surrey County Cricket Club uses the feathers for their emblems. The Oval, the club’s home ground is on land comprising the Duchy of Cornwall.
The Duchy of Cornwall was created by Edward III in 1337. He created the Duchy in order to afford an income for the King’s heir. At the time, it was Edward of Woodstock, who later became the Black Prince and made Duke of Cornwall. The Duchy of Cornwall has been in effect ever since.
The titles of Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall do not necessarily always come together. The title of Prince of Wales is given by the Sovereign upon their discretion whereas the Dukedom of Cornwall is a hereditary title and is either taken at birth or upon accession of a new King or Queen.
Prince Charles became the Duke of Cornwall when Her Majesty acceded in 1952. He was given the title Prince of Wales in 1958 but not invested until 1969.
The badge sees itself for other purposes as well other than rugby and cricket.
Between 1971 and 2008, the badge was on the reverse of the British two pence coins. If one is lucky, they may still catch one in circulation.
The Prince’s Trust has a design of the badge that they use for their organisation.
Founded in 1786 as Prince of Wales Island, Penang (now known as Malaysia) used the badge on their coat of arms until 1985.
A group in Malta called ‘The Prince of Wales Philharmonic Society,’ also uses the badge for their organisation. For 200 years, Malta, as one may recall, was a colony of the British Crown.