Draped in the Dannebrog

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Marie Krarup, a Danish People’s Party MP recently draped herself in the Danish flag for a Facebook cover photo. The practice of “wearing the flag” is normally limited to sports. In official portraits it’s unusual and not something to be recommended.

On the last day of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Denmark won the men’s handball competition with a nerve-wracking 28-26 goal victory over France, the reigning Olympic gold medallists and five-times World Champions.

Mikkel Hansen, the Olympic handball tournament’s overall top goal scorer, was thrown a Danish flag from fans in the audience just after the match and wore it around his shoulders while celebrating the win together with his teammates.

Athletes, players and sports fans from all over the world often carry national or club flag with them, occasionally wearing the flags around their shoulders or on their heads. This may not look particularly nice, or adhere to the strictest interpretations of international flag etiquette, but it is common practice nonetheless.

With regards to painting and photography draping yourself in a national flag is not recommendable as it may be deemed disrespectful by some. A flag touching the ground certainly would.

The definition of disrespect differs from country to country or from context to context, but generally speaking a national flag should not be used as a piece of clothing or a piece of furniture (i.e. as a cape or a towel or a table cloth or a carpet or a curtain).

Of course, there is a huge “grey area” between tastefully and tactfully decorating someone or something with a flag on the one hand – and just plain fooling around with the flag on the other. It is fair to give the artist, Per Morten Abrahamsen, some room to play with. But the standard way to do a portrait with a flag is to stand or sit in front of a hoisted or hanging flag.

Ironically though, the Danish People’s Party, Dansk Folkeparti, is known for its staunch defence of Danish independence, the Danish language and Danish traditions. The party has been represented in the Danish parliament, Folketinget, since 1995 and the Danish flag, Dannebrog, has always played an important role in the party’s campaign material and at party events.

It could be argued that a more natural role for Danish People’s Party politicians would be to advocate for traditional Danish flag etiquette and leave it to Olympic gold winners to “wear the flag”.

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Suez, 1950s

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The flag of the Kingdom of Egypt was in use after the fall of the monarchy in 1953. Not until the proclamation of the United Arab Republic in 1958 was the Egyptian flag officially changed.

In 1955 the Danish shipbuilding company Burmeister & Wain together with Minerva Film made a movie about one of the company’s newbuildings and its maiden voyage from Copenhagen to the Far East. M/S Simba was a 145 m long and 10,300 tdw cargo ship owned by the East Asiatic Company (EAC) of Copenhagen, Denmark.

On its maiden voyage M/S Simba passed through the Suez Canal. For a few seconds in the film, the flag of Egypt is seen being hoisted on the ship’s foremast. This courtesy flag is the green national flag of Egypt with a white crescent and three white five-pointed stars. This is an example of the Egyptian kingdom’s flag in official use after the country became a republic in 1953.

The Egyptian Revolution of 1952 aimed to end the monarchy and secure Egypt’s independence of the British Empire. The new leadership of Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser represented a staunch Arab Nationalism and worked to unite Arab states into one nation. The nationalization in 1956 of the Suez Canal led to the Suez Crisis and a short war with the United Kingdom, France and Israel.

The republican government of Egypt didn’t officially abolish the kingdom’s flag after the fall of the monarchy. It did, however, also make use of a revolutionary flag, the Flag of Arab Liberation, a red-white-black tricolour of three horizontal stripes. In the middle of this flag was the so-called Eagle of Saladin with a circular shield on its chest similar to the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Egypt: green, with a crescent and three stars.

In 1958 Egypt entered into union with Syria and established the United Arab Republic. It was short-lived and lasted only till 1961, but the union’s flag, adopted in 1958, proved to be more resilient. This new official flag of Egypt had three horizontal stripes of red, white and black with two green five-pointed stars in the middle white stripe. This flag remained the national flag of Egypt until 1971. Since 1980 it has been the flag of Syria.

The old green flag of Egypt has not been in use since the 1950s with the exception that it is still seen in connection with H.M. Fuad II, the former King of Egypt and the Sudan, and the Egyptian royal family.

“Last Night” Was Last Night

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Where would you go to see the flags of China and Tibet being waved peacefully and cheerfully next to each other? BBC’s Last Night of the Proms is not only a classical music highlight and the quintessence of Britishness, it is also a world festival of flags. 

The BBC Proms, the annual eight-week summer series of classical concerts in London and around the UK, has been described as the world’s largest music festival. Conductor Sir Henry Wood founded the so-called Promenade Concerts in 1895. Today, the Proms still draw large audiences and the season’s final concert, the especially festive and traditional Last Night of the Proms, is broadcast around the world.

Last Night of the Proms is held in Royal Albert Hall in London, usually on the second Saturday in September. It is notoriously difficult to get tickets for the concerts. In addition to the seated and standing audience in Royal Albert Hall, thousands of classical music fans attend the Proms in the Park Last Night concerts held in London’s Hyde Park and in other cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The second half of the concert’s programme is dominated by British patriotic music by Britten, Elgar, Parry, Vaughn Williams and Wood. No Last Night concert without the classics: God Save the Queen, Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and Auld Lang Syne. Every year the audience can be expected to sing along in a strangely mixed atmosphere of solemnity and raucousness.

Some of the world’s best conductors, singers and musicians are invited to join the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Chorus and the BBC Singers for the Last Night. Yesterday, the concert’s biggest name was Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez. The hugely popular Rule, Britannia! was sung by Flórez dressed as a 13th Century Inca king.

The Last Night with all its traditions and show of British patriotism is surprisingly popular among non-Brits. The concert draws a huge television and radio audience in countries around the world. The festive and well-dressed so-called Prommers in Royal Albert Hall also come from all over the world.

Every year in a veritable sea of Union Flags there will be a wide range of other flags from all over the British Isles, from Europe and the rest of the world. Any flag enthusiast will be hard pressed to recognize all of the more rarely seen English county flags, German city flags or flags of British crown dependencies and overseas territories.

In 2016, following the “Brexit” referendum, the EU flag seemed to be especially popular in the audience. Notwithstanding the British decision to leave the European Union, it is remarkable that this ultra-British event is so popular among former enemies of the United Kingdom. As always, during Rule, Britannia! at the end of the concert, German flags as well as Chinese, Japanese and American flags were waved just as enthusiastically as the British.

State of the Union: What About Wales?

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The flag of the United Kingdom combines elements of the flags of its constituent countries. But Wales is missing. In 1801 the Union Flag was updated to reflect constitutional changes. Two centuries later it seems fair to ask: What would the British Union Flag look like if Welsh elements were incorporated too?

The flag of England, Saint George’s Cross, was combined with the flag of Scotland, Saint Andrew’s Cross, for the first time in 1606. This first version of the Union Flag was ment for maritime use only. It wasn’t a national flag. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland had succeeded to the English crown and had become King James I of England, but Scotland and England remained two kingdoms, each with its own parliament.

A hundred years later the Acts of Union 1706/1707 united the two countries into one Great Britain, with only one parliament. Through yet another Act of Union in 1800 the Kingdom of Great Britain was united with the Kingdom of Ireland. A royal decree on 1 January 1801 changed the Union Flag, combining it with the flag of Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Cross.

Saint George’s Cross is a white flag with a red cross. It has been the flag of England since the Middle Ages, its origins going back to the Crusades of the 12th Century. Saint Andrew’s Cross is a blue flag with a white saltire. It has been the flag of Scotland since the 15th Century. Saint Patrick’s Cross is a white flag with a red saltire. It has been used to represent Ireland since the late 18th Century.

The British Empire spread the Union Flag to dominions, colonies, protectorates and dependencies on all continents. Today, the British Union Flag is still part of the flags of some independent Commonwealth countries as well as several overseas territories and states or provinces of former British dominions.

At the beginning of the 20th Century Ireland was partitioned, and today only the six northernmost counties of Ireland are part of the United Kingdom. At the end of the 20th Century considerable powers were devolved from the British parliament to new parliaments established in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Further devolution and future changes to the constitutional set-up of the United Kingdom are expected. The UK flag hasn’t changed since 1801, though.

Both before and after the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, flag enthusiast have speculated how the Union Flag would look without the Scottish blue-white Saint Andrew’s Cross. At the same time it has been suggested that elements symbolizing Wales should be incorporated into the Union Flag in order to reflect that country’s equal status with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.

The flag of Wales, the Red Dragon, was adopted in 1959. On two horizontal stripes of white and green it has the red dragon of King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd. Another flag is also used in Wales: Saint David’s Cross is a black flag with a yellow cross.