Emperor Akihito Abdicates

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30 April 2019 is a historic date in Japan. For the first time in two hundred years a Japanese emperor will abdicate. In June of 2017 the National Diet of Japan passed a law allowing Emperor Akihito, 85, to abdicate and hand over to his son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, who will be the 126th Emperor of Japan from 1 May 2019.

In Japanese, the title of the Emperor of Japan, Tennō, literally means “heavenly sovereign”. However, the post-WWII constitution of Japan defines the role of the Emperor as mostly ceremonial; he is “the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people”. The Emperor is no longer the head of the Japanese Shinto religion.

The Imperial Standard of the Emperor is a red banner with the Imperial Seal of Japan, a golden 16-petal Chrysanthemum flower. The term Chrysanthemum Throne can be used when referring to the office of head-of-state of Japan. According to legend, the Japanese monarchy was founded in 660 BC by Emperor Jimmu and is therefore the world’s oldest continuing hereditary monarchy.

There is also an Imperial Standard of the Empress, a swallow-tailed version of the emperor’s standard, as well as specific flags for other members of the Imperial Family.

Emperor Akihito was born in 1933 and succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne when his father Emperor Hirohito died on 7 January 1989. In 1959 he married Michiko Shōda and they had two sons and one daughter. The imperial couple is highly respected amongst the Japanese.

The 31-year reign of Emperor Akihito is known in Japan as the era of Heisei. In April of 2019 it was announced that the new era of Emperor Naruhito will be known as Reiwa. This word can be translated to mean “beautiful harmony”.  

Emperor Akihito’s and Empress Michiko’s new titles following the abdication will be Jōkō and Jōkōgō (in English: Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita).

I have not been able to find out if there will also be a new flag for the retired monarch. It is worth noting that in the 20th Century the Imperial Standard of the Empress was used by more than one empress at the same: the wife of an emperor, the Empress Consort (Kōgō), and the widow of an emperor who has died, the Empress Dowager (Kōtaigō). If and when the Emperor Emeritus appears in public, it will be interesting to see if, for example, his car flag is the same as before the abdication.

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Oceania and the Southern Cross

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Crux, also known as the Southern Cross, is an easily recognizable constellation of stars in the southern sky and features iconically on scores of present, historic and proposed flags in the Southern Hemisphere. Here is a list of Oceanian flags depicting the Southern Cross.

Top row, from left to right:

(1) The Australian Blue Ensign is the national flag of Australia. Civilians and the Australian Army use it on land. Government agencies use it both on land and at sea. It was first flown in 1901 and has undergone minor changes since.

(2) The Australian White Ensign was first used on Royal Australian Navy vessels in 1967.

(3) The Australian Red Ensign is the national flag of Australia for use at sea. It is used on merchant vessels, fishing ships and other privately owned boats and yachts.

(4) The Australian Air Force Ensign is used by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). It is “air force blue” and has on it the RAAF roundel with a red kangaroo.

(5) The Australian Civil Aviation Ensign is used by the Australian Government’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Air League, a non-governmental youth organization.

(6) Cocos Islands, or Keeling Islands, is an Australian territory. The flag was adopted in 2004. Green and yellow are the national colours of Australia.

Middle row, from left to right:

(7) The flag of Christmas Island, also an Australian territory, is from 2002.

(8) Australia’s Northern Territory adopted its flag in 1978. It is black and ochre and has a stylized desert rose in the fly.

(9) The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) adopted its flag in 1993. It has the coat of arms of Canberra, the capital city of Australia, in the fly.

(10) Niue is a self-governing state in association with New Zealand. The flag is from 1975. The five stars of the Southern Cross and the British Union Flag in the hoist refer to the fact that Queen Elizabeth II is the head-of-state of Niue as Queen of New Zealand. The yellow colour stands for sunshine and warm feelings between the peoples of Niue and New Zealand.

(11) Tokelau is a dependent territory of New Zealand. There is a Southern Cross and a Polynesian canoe on the flag which has been official since 2009.

(12) Papua New Guinea became independent from Australia in 1975. The Papuan flag from 1971 is diagonally red-black and features a Southern Cross and a bird-of-paradise.

Bottom row, from left to right:

(13) Samoa became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The Samoan flag is from 1949.

(14) The flag of New Zealand is similar to that of Australia, but older. A British Blue Ensign with four stars in the shape of the Southern Cross was adopted for use by government ships of New Zealand in 1869. This flag was officially confirmed as the national flag in 1902.  

(15) The New Zealand White Ensign has been used by the Royal New Zealand Navy since 1968. 

(16) The New Zealand Red Ensign is used at sea by civilian New Zealanders. On land it can be used at Maori events or in Maori areas. 

(17) Victoria, one of the six states of Australia, has a crowned Southern Cross on its state flag since 1870.

(18) New South Wales is the most populous of Australia’s states. The state flag from 1876 has a white disk in the fly with a red Saint George’s Cross, a golden lion and four stars of the Southern Cross, also in gold.

Papal Heraldic Expert Wanted To Change The Vatican Flag

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Archbishop Bruno Bernard Heim designed the coats of arms of four popes from John XXIII to John Paul II. For half a century he was the Catholic Church’s leading heraldic author and artist. In 1978 he presented an alternative design for the papal flag. His proposal was superior, he argued, both aesthetically and heraldically.

The alternative papal flag proposed by Archbishop Heim differs from the official version in two ways: it is not square, but has an aspect ratio of 2:3, and it has the papal insignia in a red shield in the middle. The papal insignia are the crossed keys of Saint Peter crowned by the papal tiara.

The official papal flag is a square vertical bicolour of yellow and white with the papal insignia in the white field. This flag was first used in the Papal States in the 1800s. In 1929 the Vatican, a small area around Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, became the world’s smallest independant country when the Papacy signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy. Since then, the papal flag is the flag of both the Vatican City State and the Holy See as the governing body of the universal Catholic Church.

Bruno Bernard Heim (1911-2003) was born i Switzerland and became a Doctor of Philosophy and a Doctor of Canon Law. In 1938 he was ordained a priest and in 1947 he started a 38-year career as a papal diplomat. From 1973 til 1985 he served as Apostolic Delegate and Apostolic Pro-Nuncio of the Holy See in the UK.

Archbishop Heim criticized the papal flag in his book on ecclesiastical heraldry, Heraldry in the Catholic Church – Its Origin, Customs and Laws, published in 1978.

As an expert on heraldry it is not surprising that he used heraldic terminology and made reference to the so-called rule of tincture (metal should not be put on metal, colour should not be put on colour). In heraldry, gold/yellow and silver/white are categorized as metals, not as colours. Heim was unhappy with the fact that the gold and silver keys are in the white (or silver) field of the flag:

“Whoever did this first must have been totally lacking in heraldic and aesthetic feeling. On a coloured ground, the gold and silver papal insignia stand out as they should; on a white background the silver is lost.”

In the book Archbishop Heim described how the papal flag ought to be:

“The Papal Flag is gold and silver, gold being next to the staff on the heraldic right (dexter). The emblems of the Papacy being also gold and silver, the obvious and correct thing to do from the heraldic and aesthetic point of view, and for the sake of clarity, (so absolutely essential in heraldry), is to put the arms of the Papacy, the red shield with the tiara and keys, in the middle of the flag.”

Was he right? It is worth pointing out that a flag design should not be judged on its adherence to heraldic rules per se. The vexillologist knows that designing a good flag cannot be as tightly bound by rules as in the art of heraldry. He or she is also aware that the liberty to style and restyle afforded to heraldic artists would never work in the world of flags; usually the shape, design and colouring of a national flag is strictly defined and should not be changed by individual graphic artists and flag makers.

One of the reasons why Heim’s alternative papal flag remained a proposal, I think, is because the official version of the yellow-white bicolour is sufficiently distinct from other national flags and easily recognizable in different kinds of use. Thus, there is no pressing need for a new papal flag with the arms of the Papacy in the middle.

It’s Always Someone’s Birthday

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In Denmark, the proper question when seeing the Danish flag raised outdoors or indoors or used to decorate a table or a cake is: “Who’s birthday is it today?”.

Danes are known for their festive and informal use of the Danish national flag, the Dannebrog. For at least a hundred years it has been common to fly the flag in abundance at private celebrations such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries and graduation parties.

Flags may be printed on napkins, tablecloth, balloons and gift wrapping paper. Flags on strings may be hung from ceilings and cakes may be decorated with small paper or edible flags. Many families own a table flag or a small flagpole for indoor use. It’s hard to imagine children’s birthday parties in Denmark without lots of Danish flags.

Most Danes don’t consider the use of the national flag in the context of birthdays and other private celebrations as a sign of patriotic sentiments. Rather, the flag is simply an indication that there is something special to be happy about.

When noticing a table flag on a desk in the workplace, a foreigner working in Denmark shouldn’t expect the reason to be a national holiday or some sports match won by the Danish national team the previous day, but require which colleague is celebrating his or her birthday.

For indoor use, the distinction between the rectangular national flag (stutflag, in Danish) and the swallow-tailed state flag (splitflag, in Danish) is not observed. Thus, it’s just as likely for table flags and flags on all kinds of party decorations to be the splitflag version of Dannebrog, even though this flag is formally meant for royal, state and military use only.

This photo was taken in the restaurant of Hotel Kirstine in Næstved on the island of Zealand (Sjælland, in Danish) on the morning of 13 April 2019. Later that day, all the table flags were in use in the restaurant for what seemed to be a couple of birthday dinners and a party celebrating some baby girl’s baptism.

Finnish City Flags Are Heraldic Banners

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In Finland it is more common than in other Nordic countries for cities to use their coats of arms as banners. In an age of ever-changing municipal logotypes, Finnish cities present an alternative to the large number of mostly white municipal logo flags so typical elsewhere.

A heraldic banner is a square or rectangular flag depicting the same graphic design as in the shield of a coat of arms. In the illustration above, the arms and banners of Tampere are on the left, the arms and banners of Turku are on the right. 

Tampere (Tammerfors in Swedish) was founded in 1775 and grew from a small market town to being the second-largest urban area in Finland. Hammer and caduceus, the winged wand of the god Mercury (or Hermes), in the arms of Tampere allude to industry and trade. The present version of the city’s arms was redesigned by Olof Eriksson and became official in 1960.

Turku (Åbo in Swedish) is much older than Tampere and was for centuries the largest city and cultural centre of Finland. Settled in the 13th Century, Turku’s coat of arms stem from a seal of the city from 1309. The golden gothic letter A stands for the city’s name (Aboa in Latin), the four silver lilies represent the Virgin Mary. The Cathedral of Turku, once Catholic and dedicated to Mary, is the seat of the Evangelical Lutheran Archbishop of Turku and Finland. The present version of the arms of Turku was drawn by Tauno Torpo in 1965.

Among the Nordic countries, the use of heraldic banners as municipal flags is prevalent only in Finland and Sweden. In Denmark and Norway, city arms are almost never used as city banners.

For example, the Swedish capital of Stockholm fly blue city banners depicting the golden, crowned head of Saint Eric, the patron saint of Sweden. The oldest known seal of the city with Saint Eric’s head is from 1376. In the 20th Century it became common for the City of Stockholm to use its armorial bearings in flag form. The Danish capital of Copenhagen in contrast have never used its city arms as a heraldic banner.

The use of logo flags – of no heraldic value, and of very little value when it comes to good flag design – have become more and more common in municipalities all over the Nordic countries as ever-changing municipal logotypes and visual identities replace the use of long-established and time-honoured municipal heraldry.

In light of this, colourful and historic heraldic banners in Finnish cities is something to commend and celebrate, and to draw inspiration from.

New Flag In German-Danish Border Region

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A flag has been proposed for the German-Danish border region of Schleswig by Peder Kristiansen, a parish priest from Øsby on the Danish side of the border. His name for this new Nordic Cross flag is “The Sønderjylland-Schleswig Flag” and it was hoisted for the first time on 29 March 2019 outside his parish church. Yellow and blue are the historic heraldic colours of the Duchy of Schleswig.

Schleswig is the region stretching from the river Kongeå in Denmark to the river Eider in Germany. It is divided between the two countries since a referendum in 1920. For centuries before, the region was one duchy, disputed and fought-over by Danes and Germans. Sønderjylland (Southern Jutland, in English) is the name mostly used in Denmark to describe this region.

The new proposed Sønderjylland-Schleswig Flag has its roots in the history of peaceful coexistence in the border region. The flag has been designed specifically to match the official Danish, German and Schleswig-Holstein flags when hoisted.

Obviously, inspiration for the design of this new flag came from the north, i.e. from Dannebrog, the flag of Denmark, and other Nordic Cross flags. The colours of the flag stem from the south: The deep yellow is the same as in the German flag, usually described as Schwarz-Rot-Gold (black-red-gold, in English). The blue cross is the same nuance as the blue stripe in the blue-white-red tricolour of Schleswig-Holstein.

Gold and blue have a special connection to this region. Since medieval times, the coat of arms of the Dukes of Schleswig had two blue lions in a field of gold. Today, the Schleswig lions can be found in the royal arms of Denmark as well as in the state arms of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost of Germany’s 16 states.

Peder Kristiansen, himself a Dane married to a German, wanted to create a flag which is not tied to one particular party or nationality: Majority Danes and minority Germans north of the border as well as majority Germans and minority Danes south of the border share a common Schleswig identity and history, although it is often forgotten. There is more that unites us than divides us in this region, he argues.

The Sønderjylland-Schleswig Flag has been created in time for the centenary of the 1920 referendum when North Schleswig voted to become Danish and South Schleswig voted to remain German. After the Danish defeat in the war of 1864, the whole region was a part of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. The referendum was made possible by the German defeat in the First World War of 1914-1918. 

2020 not only marks the 100th anniversary of the referendum which created the peaceful German-Danish border, but also the 65th anniversary of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations of 29 March 1955 which secured certain cultural rights for the national minorities on both sides of the border. Peder Kristiansen proposes 29 March as an official flag day for the Sønderjylland-Schleswig Flag.

Photo: Ute Levisen.

1918 in Flag History: Finland and the Baltics

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The centenary of the end of the First World War was celebrated in countries all over the world in 2018, and this year also marked the 100th anniversary of several national flags. A number of nations gained their independence following the fall of four empires in the Great War of 1914-1918: the Russian, the Ottoman, the German and the Austro-Hungarian. Here are five of them, all of which officially adopted national flags in 1918.

Finland

The Finnish flag belongs to the “family” of Nordic Cross flags. Finland was part of Sweden until 1809 when it became a Grand Duchy with the Russian Emperor as Grand Duke. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the fall of Nicholas II, “the last tsar”, Finland declared its independence on 6 December 1917.

However, during the first months of independence Finland’s temporary national flag was a banner of the Finnish coat of arms: red, with a golden lion and silver roses. It was on 29 May 1918 that the white flag with a blue cross was officially adopted. Back then, the blue of the flag was slightly lighter than it is today. White and blue have been considered national colours in Finland since the 19th Century.

Belarus

The Belarusian People’s Republic was a short-lived state. The fall of the Russian Empire and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between Germany and the Russian Bolsheviks made it possible for Belarusians to declare independence on 9 March 1918. In December, the government of Belarus was forced out of the capital city Minsk by the Bolshevik Red Army and went into exile.

In 1918, the flag of Belarus was a white-red-white “tricolour”. Since then, it has been used by the still existing Belarusian government in exile. When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, it became the official national flag of Belarus. Four years later, however, the country’s flag was changed again. Today, the white-red-white flag is mostly used by Belarusians to protest the government of Alexander Lukashenko, the first and only President of Belarus since its independence.

Lithuania

The Lithuanian flag is a tricolour of yellow, green and red. The national colours stem from the 19th Century. The country’s first declaration of independence was on 16 February 1918, its second was on 11 March 1990 at the end of the Cold War.

Lithuania had been incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 18th Century. The retreat of Russian forces from Lithuania in 1917 and, a year later, the German defeat in the First World War made it possible for Lithuanians to restore sovereignty. Wars with the Soviet Union and Poland ensued. In the Second World War Lithuania was conquered by Germany once and by the Soviet Union twice.

Under Nazi and Communist occupation, it was illegal to use the yellow-green-red flag. In 1988, a couple of years before the fall of the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet decided to restore the old national flag.

Latvia

The Latvian flag is carmine red with a white horizontal stripe. Red-white-red have been known as the colours of the Latvians since the Middle Ages. The flag was adopted on 18 November 1918 when the country declared its independence.

Latvia was part of the Russian Empire from the 18th Century. As in Lithuania, the Russian defeat in the First World War made it possible for Latvians to gain independence. But civil war, with German and Soviet involvement, marred the following years. 1940-1944 Latvia was run over by the Soviet Red Army and the German Wehrmacht. The country only regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The Latvian national flag was restored a year earlier, on 27 February 1990.

Estonia

The third of the three Baltic countries, Estonia, declared its independence on 24 Februar 1918. The national flag of Estonia, the blue-black-white tricolour, was adopted on 21 November 1918. Near the end of Soviet occupation, the flag was restored as the national flag of Estonia on 7 August 1990.

Estonia’s history is similar to that of Latvia and Lithuania: When Russian and German forces left the Baltic countries in 1917-1918, independence was possible. In the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, signed on 23 August 1939, Hitler and Stalin devided the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe between them. Estonia suffered under occupation and totalitarianism from 1940 until independence was formally restored in 1991.

Church Banners In Gothenburg

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In Sweden, flags of the Church of Sweden and its dioceses can be seen outside cathedrals and parish churches. These flags are all heraldic banners depicting the coats of arms of the Church or one of the thirteen dioceses. The use of ecclesiastical heraldry is much more elaborate and consistent in Sweden than in the other Nordic countries.

In the picture above are the banners of the Church of Sweden and the Diocese of Gothenburg, hoisted at Gothenburg Cathedral which is centrally located in Sweden’s second-largest city (in Swedish Göteborgs domkyrka, also known as Gustavi domkyrka).

The Church of Sweden (Svenska kyrkan, in Swedish) is an Evangelical-Lutheran church. It was the Swedish state church from 1536 until 2000. As of 2017 the church has close to 6 million members which equals 59 % of the population of Sweden. Antje Jackelén is the current Archbishop of Uppsala, primate of the Church of Sweden, and the first woman to hold that office.

The coat of arms of the Church of Sweden were adopted in 1977. Or, on a cross gules a crown Or is the proper heraldic blazon of the arms. The inspiration came from the arms of the Archdiocese of Uppsala: its golden cross on red was inverted to a red cross on gold. The crown is associated with Christ and Saint Eric, the patron saint of Sweden. 

The arms of the Diocese of Gothenburg (Göteborgs stift, in Swedish) were adopted in 1960. The golden triangle surrounded by golden rays is inspired by the “eye of God” also adorning the crosier, or bishop’s staff, of the bishop of Gothenburg from 1955.  

Apart from the City of Gothenburg, the Diocese of Gothenburg covers parts of the historic Swedish province of Västergötland and two provinces conquered from Denmark and Norway in the 17th Century – Halland and Bohuslän, respectively. The first bishop of Gothenburg was appointed in 1665. The present bishop is Susanne Rappmann. She was elected in November 2017 and consecrated bishop of Gothenburg in Uppsala Cathedral in March 2018.

Icelandic Independence 100 Years

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A century ago today, on 1 December 1918, Iceland became an independent nation. And the “Civic National Flag of Icelanders”, first adopted in 1915 when Iceland was still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, became the official flag of Iceland both on land and at sea. 

“Iceland’s thousand years, Iceland’s thousand years!” is the refrain of Lofsöngur, the national anthem of Iceland written in 1874. That year Iceland celebrated the 1000th anniversary of the island’s settlement. Full independence was only achieved four decades later. The flag of Iceland, íslenski fáninn, adopted a little over a hundred years ago, is also among the younger in the Nordic countries.

Iceland was settled from Norway in the Early Middle Ages. In 1814 Iceland, together with Greenland and the Faroe Islands, became a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. In 1874 Iceland was given home rule under its own constitution.

A blue flag with a white cross, similar to the one in use on the Shetland Islands today, had been used by Icelandic nationalist republicans since before 1900. This flag was abandoned because of its similarity to other flags – the naval jack of Greece for example.

Its replacement was also a blue flag with a white cross, but a narrow red cross was placed on the white cross. This flag was presented by Matthías Thórðarson at a meeting in the Reykjavík Students’ Union (Stúdentafélagið) on 27 September 1906. The three colours were described to represent the blue of the mountains, the white of the ice and the red of the fire.

A royal decree on 19 June 1915 made this blue-white-red Scandinavian Cross flag the official flag of Iceland on land. When Iceland was recognised as an independent nation in 1918, the flag became official also at sea.

A hundred years ago today, on 1 December 1918, Iceland became fully independent when the Union Law (Sambandslögin in Icelandic, Forbundsloven in Danish) was signed. A Kingdom of Iceland was established with King Christian X of Denmark functioning as king of both countries. Iceland finally severed all constitutional ties with Denmark and became a republic on 17 June 1944.

The latter date is now celebrated as the Icelandic National Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn in Icelandic), but the date of the signing of the Union Law in 1918 is still an official flag day known as Sovereignty Day (Fullveldisdagurinn in Icelandic).

For this year’s centenary celebrations, the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, has invited among others Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the granddaughter of the first and only King of Iceland. Born in 1940, during the time of the Kingdom of Iceland, she is lovingly known among Icelanders by her Icelandic names Margrét Thórhildur.

The Raven Banner

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Vikings used a banner with ravens, the birds of the god Odin. But the Raven Banner cannot be considered an early national flag of Denmark or the Nordic countries. We know very little about its use and what it looked like. The Bayeux Tapestry suggests that the Raven Banner was in use by Normans long after they became Christians.

Did the Vikings have a flag?

There is a depiction of the Raven Banner on the Bayeux Tapestry which was made in the 11th Century to commemorate the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. Normans were the descendants of “Northmen” who came primarily from Denmark and settled in northwestern France in the 10th Century.

Two centuries before the Norman conquest of England, the Raven Banner is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 878 when a Viking army was defeated in southern England. “There also was taken a war-flag which they called “the Raven”, the chronicler tells. There are also other English sources which mention Raven Banners in connection with Viking armies.

Why was this banner called “the Raven”?

Ravens are intelligent and rather large birds. The wingspan of a common raven can be up to 150 cm. Ravens are iconic in Norse pagan religion and folklore as they are closely connected to the deity Odin. According to Norse mythology, he has two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Their names mean “thought” and “memory” and they fly to all corners of the world and bring tidings to him. It is understandable that Viking warriors would want to fight under a symbol of their highest god.

What did the Raven Banner look like?

We don’t know exactly how it looked. Most likely, there was no standardized way to make a Raven Banner a thousand years ago. The Raven Banner in the Bayeux Tapestry seams to be rounded or slightly triangular in shape and it has gold fringes (the illustration above, left side). There is only one raven visible on the flag. Maybe it was believed that Huginn was the bird on “the front side” of the flag, and Muninn the bird on “the back side”.

In recent years, many Raven Banners have been reproduced. A high level of creative freedom is allowed as the medieval sources are so unclear when it comes to flag design. The Raven Banner made for the exhibition in the Natural History Museum in Aarhus, Denmark has a black raven in flight on a red background (the illustration above, right side).

Was the Raven Banner “a Viking national flag” or “an early flag of Denmark”?

No. The Raven Banner was not a national flag in the modern sense of the word. We don’t know if the banner was a war flag only, or if it also had a totemic meaning and perhaps a specific use in religious and cultic life. We don’t know if the banner was considered a personal symbol for kings and warlords, or if it represented, more broadly, all of the army or all of the people.

Was the Raven Banner replaced by the Dannebrog when Denmark became Christian?

No. Denmark became a Christian country in the 10th and 11th Centuries. The earliest depiction of the Dannebrog in colours, a banner with a white cross on a red background, is in a 14th Century armorial. In the 12th Century red flags with white crosses were used by crusader knights and kings and as a war banner by the Holy Roman Empire. However, for centuries Dannebrog was the personal banner of the King of Denmark and was used only by him and his armies and on board his warships.

Only in 1854 were Danish citizens allowed to use the flag as a civil national flag. During the time of the Schleswig Wars (1848-1852 and 1864) Dannebrog was widely used to show support for the fight against Germany and as a sign of a growing national sentiments.