Vice-kingdom & Kingdom





Early Emblems

The Shield

The Crown

The Order

The Mantle

The Achievement

The Vali

The Khedive

The Sultan

The King

The Standard

The National Arms

The Flag

Armed Forces


Back to Egypt




Following the French invasion of Egypt in 1798 and Napoleon's defeat of Egyptian forces, which consisted largely of the ruling Mamluk military caste, the Ottoman Empire dispatched troops from Rumelia (the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire) under the command of Muhammad Ali Pasha to restore the Empire's authority in what had hitherto been an Ottoman province. However, upon the French defeat and departure, Muhammad Ali seized control of the country, and declared himself ruler of Egypt, quickly consolidating an independent local powerbase. After repeated failed attempts to remove and kill him, in 1805, the Porte officially recognized Muhammad Ali as Pasha and Wāli (Governor) of Egypt. However, demonstrating his grander ambitions, he claimed for



House of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Vali 1805-1848



Abbas I Hilmi


Muhammad Said




Khedive 1867-1879



Abbas II Hilmi


Husayn Kamil

Sultan 1914-1917

Ahmad Fuad


King 1922-1936



Fuad II

Nominal King 1952-1953

himself the higher title of Khedive (Viceroy), as did his successors, Ibrahim Pasha, Abbas I, and Sa'id I. This however was not granted until 1866 when Ismael Pasha was promoted to the rank of Khedive by Imperial Firman.

As a result of the British interests after the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, Egypt gravitated into the British sphere of interest in the region and after 1882 the khedive was but a British puppet ruler. In 1914, at the outbreak of WW I, the British secured their position by declaring Egypt a protectorate, and promoted the Ottoman vilayet to an autonomous sultanate. In 1922 the protectorate was abolished and Egypt became a sovereign kingdom. This was overthrown by revolting generals who proclaimed a republic in 1953.




Early Emblems


Underlining his military independence within the Ottoman Empire, Muhammad Ali created a system of distinguishing flags for the navy that was different from the Ottoman system. Probably it dates back to the naval campaigns in the twenties of the 19th century. The flags were the flags for the rear admial, the vice-admiral and the admiral, showing on a red field a crescent with one, two and three six-pointed stars respectively. A personal flag for Mohammed Ali himself showed three crescents-and-stars on a red field and this corresponds with the rank of Grand admiral or the admiral of the (Egyptian) fleet.

Distinguishing Flags of the Egyptian and Ottoman Navy, 1841 ca


1. Flag of the Government

2. Flag of the Imperial Family

3. Muhammad Ali

4. Admiral of Egypt

5. Vice-admiral of Egypt

6. Rear-admiral of Egypt

7. Rear-admiral of the Porte

8. Vice-admiral of the Porte

9. Admiral of the Porte

10. Merchant flag

11. Grand-Admiral of the Porte

12. Merchant flag


ð Note that the flag of Muhammad Ali corresponds with the flag of the Grand-admiral of the Porte.


It is possible that these flags were also the distinguishing flags of the corresponding ranks of the army but nothing is known about such flags.

The flag of Muhammad Ali himself, the six-pointed stars replaced by five-pointed ones was also flown as the personal flags of later rulers of Egypt, bearing the title of khedive and sultan. We may assume that in fact not these titles were symbolized, but the rank of grand-admiral or admiral of the (Egyptian) fleet. It was only abandoned in 1922 with the establishment of the kingdom when it was replaced by a blue flag with the royal arms between four royal crowns in the corners.

The coat of arms of the ruler of Egypt showed a crescent and three stars from about the second half of the reign of Muhammad Ali until 1952. The only exception of this rule are the arms of Abbas Hilmi II (1879-1914) who introduced a coat of arms with three crescents and stars in about 1907 and the arms of his successors, sultans of Egypt until 1922. 


The Shield









The arms of Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim (r. 1848) showed the crescent and stars on a red background, corresponding with the rank of admiral (at the Morea campaign 1825-’28). Such arms, the horns of the crescent to the sinister for difference, were also borne by  the tenth son of Muhammad Ali, Said, who was also an admiral and ruled 1854-‘63.

The colours were changed by Ismael who was a son of  Ibrahim, and was born when his father was the Commander in Chief of the Army (from July 1829). His arms were blue, the crescent in the same position as on the arms of his predecessor. Since then the arms of the khedives, sultans and kings of Egypt have always been blue, probably symbolizing the rank of Field Marshal or Commander in Chief (of the army) [1]. He also introduced six (2 Í3) tugh’s or horse-tails as supporters of the arms, symbolizing the rank of (a turkish) vizier which was as much as a vice-roy or, in the Egyptian case, a  khedive.



Œ Originally a tugh is a yak’s tail (kutas) which was later replaced by a horse-tail. It was often attached to a standard crested with a crescent, serving as a rallying point of the forces. In the Ottoman Empire it was a mark of distinction of military rank:


1.         A Mir liwas or Sandshak bey had the right to a single tugh.

2.         A Beyler-bey had the right to two tugh’s

3.         A Vizier had the right to three tugh’s

4.         A Grand vizier had the right to five tugh’s

5.         The Sultan had the right to seven or nine tugh’s



A third innovation were the national arms which consisted of a red shield with three crescents and stars (as on the princely flag). These were depicted horns to the sinister. In the time of the Sultanate they were turned horns upwards.


The crown


Princely crown, 1854 ca - 1922

Egyptian Royal Crown 1923-1952


From about the reign of Muhammad Said (1854-‘63) the shield is crowned. The crown, of an adaptaed European style, consists of a low velvet purple cap, and a diadem with five leaves and five hoops, crested with a crescent and star.

At the occasion of the procalamation of the kingdom a new crown was designed. It consists of a diadem set with five papyrus-flowers and five hoops, crested with a globe with a crescent-and-star on top.


The order



 Order of the Crescent and Star (Hilal Nishani) [2]

Order of  Nishani-Majidieh


Initially, after the death of Muhammad Ali, pending from the arms was the medal of the Ottoman order of the Hilal Nishani (of the Crescent and Star) founded in 1800 as a reward for services rendered to the Sultan by non-ottoman citizens.

From the reign of Said the Hilal Nishani was replaced by the Nishan-i-Majidieh, founded 1851 as a reward for military, civil and religious services rendered to the Ottoman Imperial Government. This order, pending from a collar consisting of crescents-and-stars, surrounded the princely arms until 1915 when the Order of Muhammad Ali was founded by sultan Hussein Kamil (1914-’17).

Order of Muhammad Ali


“Collar: of gold comprising eight lozenges bearing the name of Muhammad Ali in green on white enamel linked with eight medallions formed of entwined papyrus flowers in green, white and red enamel, in the centre of which is a cabochon emerald surrounded by diamonds. Between these elements are sixteen links of white and red enameled papyrus flowers. The reverse of the links are either plain (monogrammed lozenge) or chased (gem-set links). Suspended from the collar hangs a hexagonal gold badge set with diamonds and bearing the Kufic inscription: “Charity, Justice and Freedom from Vindictiveness are the Strength of a Kingdom” in gold; in the centre the name Muhammad Ali in gold on green enamel. The inscriptions are repeated on the sash badge and star.” [3]


The Mantle


From about the reign of Muhammad Said the shield and order are surrounded by a crowned mantle. Initially with the princely crown as shown above and after 1922 with the royal Egyptian Crown.


The Achievement


Ottoman Vilayet (Government)      



Muhammad Ali



Vali 1805-1848


Photo courtesy Ahmed Kamel

Vault in the Shubra Palace in Cairo, about 1820 [4]

The emblems and names of Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim


The vault shows the badges of distinction of an admiral of the Egyptian Navy being red charged with a crescent an three stars. The name of Muhammad Ali is on the right and written on a blue background, the name of his son is written on a green background. These colors are the colors of administrative authority and of the commander in chief, red being the color of armed authority. Indeed Ibrahim was promoted Chief Commander of the Army (and Grand Admiral) in July 1829. His father had been recognized a Vali (Governor) in 1805. [5]


Muhammad Said



Vali 1854-1863


Courtesy Hassan Kamel Kelisli Morali

Supposed achievement of Muhammad Said


Arms: Gules, a decrescent and three mullets two and one Argent.

Crown: The Egyptian Princely Crown.

Supporters: Six sceptres ensigned with a crescent in saltire

Order: The medal of the Order of the Crescent (1800)

Mantle: Purpure, fringed and tasseled Or, lined Ermine and crowned with the crown of the arms.


The Sceptre: The Ottoman Sultan Mehmet IV is depicted in European sources with such a sceptre but this is an exception. Probably the idea of the six sceptres is a west european innovation.





 Wali 1863-1867

Khedive 1866/’73-1879


The Muhammad Ali Dynasty’s use of the title Khedive was not sanctioned by the Ottoman Empire until 1867 when Sultan Abdülaziz confirmed Ismail Pasha in the title of Khedive (Viceroy) of Egypt and the Sudan, together with the style of Sa'adat Sahib al-Tal'a al-vaiqa al-Khedivi al-Afkham wa'l-duari al-Akram, and the establishment of male primogeniture in the direct line of the reigning Khedive as the rule of succession by Imperial Ottoman Firman 17th May 1866 (confirmed 8th June 1873) Moreover, the Porte accepted Ismail's alteration of the royal line of succession to go from father to son, rather than brother to brother, as was the tradition in the Ottoman Empire, and Arab dynasties. In May 1879, the British Empire, and France began pressuring the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II to depose Ismail Pasha, and this was done on June 26, 1879. The more pliable Tawfik Pasha, Ismail's son, was made his successor as the new Khedive. Ismail Pasha left Egypt and initially went into exile to Naples, but was eventually permitted by Sultan Abdülhamid II to retire to his Palace of Emirgan on the Bosporus in Constantinople. There he remained, more or less a state prisoner, until his death. He was later buried in Cairo.

After his promotion to a Khedive Ismael changed the princely achievement by replacing the sceptres by the more Turkish tugh’s. The change of the color of the field from red to blue illustrates his change in style from just a Vali to a Khedive. The first version of his achievement is:


Arms: Azure a decrescent and three mullets two and one Argent.

Crown: The Egyptian Princely Crown.

Supporters: Six tugh’s in saltire

Order: The medal and collar of the Order of the Crescent (1800)

Mantle: Purpure, fringed and tasseled Or, lined Ermine and crowned with the crown of the arms.


A second version shows the same achievement but the Order of the Crescent replaced by the Order of Nishani-Majidieh of which Ismael had received the special class in brilliants on 11.04.1863. [6]


Courtesy Max Karkegi


Arms: Azure a decrescent and three mullets two and one Argent.

Crown: The Egyptian Princely Crown.

Supporters: Six tugh’s ensigned with a crescent and star in saltire

Order: Star and collar of the Order of Nishani-Majidie (1851)

Mantle: Purpure, fringed and tasseled Or, lined Ermine and crowned with the crown of the arms.


Abbas II Hilmi



In the time of Abbas II Hilmi the tugh’s were omitted. His first achievement is:


Arms: Azure a decrescent and three mullets two and one Argent.

Crown: The Egyptian Princely Crown.

Order: Star and collar of the Order of Nishani-Majidie (1851).

Mantle: Purpure, fringed and tasseled Or, lined Ermine and crowned with the crown of the arms.


A second version of his achievement is known from about 1907. It is:

Arms: Azure, three decrescents-and-mullets Argent, two on the dexter and one on the sinister.

Crown: A crown of five leaves and five hoops set with pearls, surmounted by a crescent-and-mullet, lined with a low cap.

Order: Nishani Majidi. (1891.03.07) (Ottoman Empire, 1851)

Supporters: Six sceptres crested with a crescent and star in saltire

Mantle: Purpure, fringed and tasseled Or, lined Ermine and crowned with the crown of the arms.





With the outbreak of the First World War, Abbas Hilmi Pasha sided with the Ottoman Empire, which had joined the war on the side of the Central Powers, and was subsequently deposed by the British, who declared Egypt a protectorate, which means formally adding a territory to British sovereignty under a subordinate ruler, while he was on a visit to Vienna. His uncle Hussein Kamel was declared Sultan of Egypt by the British, who declared severance of the nominal ties of Egypt and Sudan to the Ottoman Empire (at least arguably invalid under international law, which did/does not allow acquisition of title to territory unless the existing sovereign, i.e., the Ottoman Empire, cedes it), and brought an end to the use of the title of Khedive.


Embossed achievement on a Sultanic brevet.


In the first years of the sultanate the sceptres, memorating Ottoman rule were removed. After the Order of Muhammad Ali was founded in 1915 the arms were surrounded by the collar and badge of the order. The new achievement was:


Arms: Azure, three decrescents-and-mullets Argent, two on the dexter and one on the sinister.

Order: Order of Muhammad Ali (Egypt 1915)

Mantle: Purpure, fringed and tasseled Or, lined Ermine and crowned with the crown of the arms.





By a telegram of 28 February 1922 from the British government Sultan Ahmad Fuad was informed that the United Kingdom had terminated the Protectorate over Egypt and that it recognised her as an independent sovereign state, with certain reservations pertaining to territorial defence and communications. On 15 March 1922 he assumed the title of King of Egypt and of Sudan, Sovereign of Nubia, of Kordofan and of Darfur, together with the style of Hazrat Sahib al-Jalala (His Majesty). On 16 March 1922 the independence of Egypt was proclaimed.

With Article 17 of the Treaty of Lausanne of 14 July 1923, Turkey formally ceded (retroactive to 5 November 1914) all remaining claims and rights in Egypt and Sudan

Shortly afterwards a new achievement was adopted. It is:


Arms: Azure, a crescent in base and three mullets one and two Argent.

Crown: The Egyptian Royal Crown.

Order: The collar and jewel of the Order of Muhammad Ali. (1915)

Mantle: Purpure, fringed and tasseled Or, lined Ermine and crowned with the crown of the arms.

Adopted 10.12.1923


ð See illustration in the head of this essay.


The Ruler’s Flag


Muhammad Ali’s Flag

until 1848


Admiral and Vali of Egypt’s Flag at sea

1848-1867 [7]




Khedive’s and Sultan’s Flag

1867-1922 [8]

Egyptian Royal Flag at sea

1923-1952 [9]


The National Arms




The National Arms are known from the time of Muhammad Said (1854-’63) when they were:

Arms: Gules, a decrescent and three five-pointed stars Argent

Crown: A princely crown.


Probably in the time of Tawfiq the arms were changed:

Arms: Gules, three decrescents-and-stars Argent

Crown: A princely Crown [10]


In the time of the Sultanate (1914-’22) the arms were changed again:

Arms: Gules, three crescents-and-stars Argent

Crown: A princely crown


ï Sultan Ahmad Fuad on his throne, 1921. On the back of the throne the national arms.

Photo Courtesy Mahmoud Sabet and Ahmed Kamel.


In the time of the kingdom the national arms were the same as the royal arms.


About the Seal

On a picture dated 1877 the seal of the government shows two piramids and the sphinx of Cheops. The legend reads: Gouvernement Egyptien and the same in arab script. No acceptable pictures of this seal could be obtained.


The Flag


The national flag of Egypt was, in the time of Ottoman rule, the flag of the Government of the Ottoman Empire consisting of a white decrescent-and-star on a red cloth. This was the official flag until 1914/1923.

It was replaced in 1914 by the flag of the Commander of the Fleet of Egypt, consisting of three white decrescents-and-stars on a red cloth.

In 1923 this flag was replaced by a white decrescent-and-three stars on a green field.


! Usually the Muslim flags were flowing to the left (like arab and hebrew script is written from the right to the left) and, as the crescents turn their horns to the left also, they have to be called crescents increscents. In most European sources however, the flags are usually drawn flowing from left to right (the mast end at the left) and so, in that case, the crescents have to be called decrescents.  !


Armed Forces


The army of Muhammad Ali initially was a part of the Ottoman Armed Forces but by and by he and his successors gained a considerable autonomy.

After the opening of the Suez canal in 1869 Egypt was of great stategic importance and from 1881 became a de facto, if not de jure British protectorate. This was effectuated in 1914 when the British proclaimed a sultanate under British protection.

The achievements of the Egyptian armed forces illustrate this development.


Egyptian Barracks (quarters) at Abbassiez (Cairo), early 19th century.


Above the entrance is an achievement Ottoman style consisting of a composition of arms and banners.


Courtesy of. Ahmed Kamel. Photo Rania El-Sayed.

Armed forces achievement in the Shubry Palace, Cairo.


The arms of Muhammad Ali, crested by a sword and a fez and supported by some armature and two tugh’s. Probably this is the achievement of the guard or the police (indicated by the pistols) as Muhammad Ali himself was promoted a pasha of three horse tails on 9 July 1805.


Armed forces achievement on a military document.


On the arms a crescent and three stars, the shield surrounded by the star and ribbon of the order of  Nishani Majidi (founded 1851). Probably from the time of Abbas Hilmi I who received the order in 1853.

The letter head seems to have been used until well into the reign of Ismael.

Armed forces achievement 1863 +.


The crescent made a decrescent on a red field, the arms supported by army standards showing three crescents-and-stars on a red cloth.

Probably from the time of Ismael who, in some other instances, decorated his cypher with several European Orders.

He received:

- The Orders of Glory (Atiq Nishan-i-Iftikhar), of the Osmans (Nishan-i-Osmanieh) special class in brilliants, and Nobility (Nishan-i-Majidieh) special class in brilliants (11.4.1863) of Turkey, Knt. of the Orders of the Anunziata of Italy, and Black Eagle of Prussia (30.12.1868), GC of the Orders of SS Maurice & Lazarus, and the Crown of Italy (25.5.1869), Leopold of Belgium (1862), Sword of Sweden (27.7.1866), the Netherlands Lion (27.10.1866), Legion of Honour of France (1867), Red Eagle of Prussia (30.12.1868), Redeemer of Greece (29.5.1869), and Leopold of Austria (29.5.1869), the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar 1st class (1875). [11]

Standard of Egypt, 1850

Armed forces achievement as on the Khedives Sudan Medal, 1895-1908 [12]


The crescent-and-stars from the standard turned horns upwards which makes the arms different from the national arms. Such an arrangement was the model for the national arms of the sultanate of 1914.



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© Hubert de Vries 2011-12-22


[1] The Navy and the Army were under two different ministries. As a result there was no supreme commander (be it the ruler himself). Ibrahim however, combined the commands of the navy and the army as he was Commander in Chief of the Army and Grand Admiral (of the Navy) after 1829.

[2] Ackermann, Gustav Adolph: Ordensbuch. Sämtlicher in Europa blühender und erloschener Orden und Ehrenzeichen. Annaberg, 1855.

[3] From: Patterson, Stephen: Royal Indisgnia. British and Foreign Orders of Chivalry from the Royal Collection. London 1996.

[4] Mr. Hassan Kamel Kelisli-Morali has offered me the precious pictures of his photostream on: for which I am very grateful.

[5] Information about data of ranks and styles of the Muhammad Ali dynasty from Royal Ark.

[6] His smaller achievement and the one of Muhammad Said was surrounded by the collar and star of this order at an earlier stage. Muhammad Said had received the order in 1853.

[7] According to Gritzner, Maximilian: Flaggen und Banner Landesfarben aller Zivilisierten Staaten der Erde. Nürnberg, 1876 Taf. 64. The stars seven-pointed.

[8] According to Admiralty’s Flags of the World, 1915 but documented at least from the time of  Muhammad Ali.

[9] According to many contemporary sources.

[10] Documented on contemporary show cards and (for example) Heyer von Rosenfeld, Friedrich: Die Staatswappen der bekanntesten Länder der Erde. Frankfurt a/Main, 1895.

[11] According to Royal Ark

[12] Retrieved from: