Scandinavian cross flags Scandinavians may never have heard of

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More than a thousand years after the Vikings conquered and settled parts of Scotland and England, and hundreds of years after the Dannebrog first inspired the designs of other flags, four British counties have chosen their own Scandinavian cross flags to celebrate cultural ties with Scandinavia.

1. The Shetland Islands is the northernmost part of Scotland. Together with Orkney, Shetland was raided and invaded by Norse, mostly Norwegian, Vikings as early as the 8th Century. The isles were officially part of the Kingdom of Norway until 1468.

The flag of Shetland was designed in 1969 and made official on 1 February 2005. The colours are Scottish (blue and white), the cross shape is Scandinavian. The Scandinavian, or Nordic, cross design has been adopted for all national flags and a number of other flags in the Nordic countries. Now, the design has also spread across the North Sea.

2. The Orkney Islands lie south of Shetland and north of Caithness. The Orkney flag, also known as the St. Magnus’ Cross, was adopted on 10 April 2007. The colours come from the coat of arms of the Orkney Islands Council which displays the galley of the medieval Earldom of Orkney (gold on blue) and the ax-carrying lion from the royal arms of Norway (gold on red).

3. Caithness is a county on the northern shore of mainland Scotland. The flag of Caithness was adopted on 26 January 2016. The colours represent the peatlands, the turf and the Caithness flagstone (black), the county’s beaches (gold) and the sea (blue). A golden galley with a black raven on its sail is a traditional emblem of Caithness, too. The raven was an important badge for the Vikings.

4. West Riding is a historical division of Yorkshire, the largest county in England. The West Riding of Yorkshire covers roughly half of the county’s area including cities like Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield.

The West Riding flag was adopted on 23 May 2013. It combines the white and red cross of St. George, patron saint of England, with the Scandinavian cross design. Norse, mostly Danish, Vikings ruled the Kingdom of Jórvik (York) in the 9th and 10th Centuries. The White Rose of York is a traditional Yorkshire emblem. The rose-en-soleil badge with a white rose and a blazing sun was used by the royal House of York (14th-15th Century) as well as by the West Riding Council (1927-1974).

Twin Flags: Royal Danish, Presidential Icelandic

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The flag of the President of Iceland is similar in design to the Danish Royal Standard. Both flags figure prominently during a two-day state visit underlining the close historical and cultural ties between Iceland and Denmark. 

The President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, who was installed as his country’s head of state on 1 August 2016, is on an official state visit to Denmark together with his wife, Canadian-born Eliza Reid. The visit is hosted by Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik.

The first official visit of a newly elected President of Iceland traditionally goes to Denmark. Ties between the two countries are strong. Danish is taught in Icelandic schools and Denmark is where the largest group of Icelandic expatriates live and work.

Iceland was part of the Kingdom of Denmark until 1918 when Iceland became an independant kingdom in personal union with Denmark meaning that King Christian X of Denmark was also the King of Iceland. However, in 1944 the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed.

At that time the present Queen of Denmark was four years old. As her grandfather was the King of Iceland, the third of her four given names is Icelandic: Margrethe Alexandrine Þórhildur Ingrid. As a sign of respect and friendliness, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the former President of Iceland, once called her “Margrethe Þórhildur, Iceland’s Honourary Queen”.

The flag of the President of Iceland copies the flag of the Queen of Denmark in the sense that it is also a modified version of the national flag with swallow-tails and a white square with the coat of arms in the centre. The presidential arms of Iceland has a shield with a cross in the colours of the Icelandic flag. Its supporters are the so-called landvættir, the four mythological protectors of Iceland: a bull, a griffin, a dragon and a giant.

In four of the five Nordic countries the head of state’s flag is a modified version of the national flag. Only in Norway the king’s standard is a heraldic banner with a different design.

Interestingly, when Iceland was a kingdom, the Icelandic Royal Standard was not at all similar to the Danish Royal Standard; it was a heraldic banner with a white falcon on a blue field. The falcon adorned the arms of Iceland from 1903 till 1919.

The Order of the Falcon is the Icelandic national order. Queen Margrethe II is a Grand Cross of the order since 1958. In 1973, after her succession as Queen of Denmark, she was given the Collar, the order’s highest class. During the state visit, President Jóhannesson will receive the Order of the Elephant, the highest Danish order.

What’s With The Flags Behind The President?

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Here is the explanation for the unusual flag display on Capitol Hill on Inauguration Day: A tribute is paid to President Trump’s home state of New York and to one of USA’s earliest national flags.

Five huge flags hang vertically on the United States Capitol during the Inauguration Day ceremony. In the center: the current Flag of the United States with fifty stars. In second and third position: the U.S. flag in use when the President’s home state was admitted to the Union. In fourth and fifth position: the Betsy Ross Flag with thirteen stars in a circle.

The so-called Betsy Ross Flag is one of the earliest designs of the U.S. flag and it has been popular since the 19th Century. The thirteen stripes and the circle of thirteen stars represent the thirteen colonies which formed the United States in 1776.

The flag with thirteen stars arranged in rows is sometimes called the Francis Hopkinson Flag. This was the first official version of the U.S. flag, adopted in 1777. As the state of New York was one of the original thirteen U.S. states, this flag represents the home state of President Donald Trump.

According to the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the presidential inauguration takes place every four years on January 20, at noon. The newly elected president takes the Oath of Office, administered by the Chief Justice of the United States.

The ceremony, which also includes music, prayers and the President’s Inaugural Address, takes place on the West Front of the Capitol Building and the event draws hundreds of thousands of spectators. In 1985, though, the public inauguration of President Ronald Reagan had to be held indoors in the Capitol Rotunda because of unusually harsh weather conditions with freezing temperatures and strong wind chill.

It was in the 1980’s that the flag display on Inauguration Day began to include historical U.S. flags connected to the president’s home state. Note, that a president’s home state is not necessarily the state where he is born.

At the two inaugurations of President Bill Clinton, in 1993 and 1997, flags with 25 stars represented his home state of Arkansas as, in 1836, Arkansas was the 25th state to be admitted to the Union. Texas, being the 28th state to be admitted to the Union in 1845, was honored with 28-star flags at the inaugurations of President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005.

At the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations, flags with 21 stars hung next to the Stars and Stripes and the Betsy Ross Flags. This flag was the version of the U.S. flag in use for one year after the 1818 admission to the Union of Illinois, home state of President Barack Obama.

 

Read also: USA: The President’s Flag and George Washington On The Flag.

USA: The President’s Flag

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The American presidential flag has always been dark blue. Fittingly so, since it was first used by the U.S. Navy. Four presidents played an important part in the flag’s evolution.

Since 1882 the U.S. presidents have had a flag. It is used for military and ceremonial purposes, it is seen behind the president in official photos and at press conferences, it hangs in the Oval Office of the White House and it flies on buildings, cars, ships and airplanes when the President of the United States is present.

As other flags of heads of state around the world, the U.S. presidential flag is never flown at half mast as it is a symbol of national sovereignty and the executive power of the president. On Inauguration Day every four years, or when a U.S. president dies or leaves office before the end of his term, the presidential flag immediately becomes the flag of his successor. It is not connected to the president as a person, but rather to the president as an institution.

Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) wanted the President of the United States to have his own flag. This idea was inspired by other countries where the presence of the commander-in-chief, be it a president or a monarch, on board a naval vessel was indicated by use of a special flag hoisted at the main mast.

In his 1882 executive order, President Arthur described the new presidential flag for use at sea: “a blue ground with arms of the United States in the center”. The official U.S. coat of arms is displayed on the Great Seal of the United States. When the Great Seal was redesigned in 1885, the presidential flag changed too.

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) decided in 1902 that there should be only one flag for the U.S. President and made some changes to the flag’s design. The issue was that an alternative presidential flag had been used by the U.S. Army since 1898. The blue presidential flag, primarily used by the Navy, was deemed too similar in appearance to the Army infantry flag. So, the Army’s presidential flag was red in stead of blue.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) changed the design of the president’s flag to accommodate the needs of the U.S. Army. Adding four white stars, one in each corner of the flag, the flag was made sufficiently distinct from other flags. President Wilson’s 1916 executive order also ended the Army’s use of a ceremonial Presidential Color with a different design from the Presidential Flag.

Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) was president when both the Seal of the President and the Flag of the President found their current form. Since 1945 the president’s arms on his seal and on his flag differ from the arms on the Great Seal. For example, a circle of white stars surrounds the coat of arms, representing all the States of the Union.

 

Read also PROPOSAL: A Flag for the President-Elect and What’s With The Flags Behind The President?

Lord Snowdon dies at 86

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The former brother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II, Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, passed away peacefully in his London home on Friday 13 January 2017. His son David, aged 55, inherits his titles and arms and is now the 2nd Earl of Snowdon.

Antony Armstrong-Jones was a British photographer, film maker and philanthropist. In 1960 he married Princess Margaret, the only sister of Queen Elizabeth II. The marriage was troubled and ended in scandal and divorce in 1978.

The wedding of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones took place on 6 May 1960 at Westminster Abbey in London. The couple had two children: David Armstrong-Jones, the present Earl of Snowdon, born in 1961, and Lady Sarah Chatto née Armstrong-Jones, born in 1964. Both of them, as well as their children, are in line of succession to the Queen.

Shortly before David’s birth Antony Armstrong-Jones was created Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley. Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales with its 1,085 m above sea level. The mountain’s name was connected to the British royal family already in the 18th Century: Baron Snowdon was among the many titles of King George III.

According to British custom a peer’s “lesser” title is used as a courtesy title by his eldest son, so David Armstrong-Jones was styled Viscount Linley in the lifetime of his father. As a designer, writer and businessmann he has used the Linley name commercially. His son, 17-year-old Charles Armstrong-Jones, is the new Lord Linley.

The coat of arms of the Earl of Snowdon has a chevron of silver and red as well as an eagle and two fleurs-de-lis of gold, all on black. A fleur-de-lis is a stylized lily. The blazon i.e. the proper heraldic description of the arms reads:

Sable, on a chevron argent, between in chief two fleurs-de-lis Or, and in base an eagle displayed Or, four pallets gules.

The golden eagle in Lord Snowdon’s arms comes from the arms attributed to Owain ap Gruffudd, the Welsh King of Gwynedd who lived in the 12th Century. A green banner with three golden eagles was carried by soldiers from Caernarfonshire in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. A flag with three yellow eagles on green was adopted as the county flag of Caernarfonshire in 2012.

The paternal grandparents of Antony Armstrong-Jones came from the historic county of Caernarfonshire in Wales, an area which formed part of the medieval Kingdom of Gwynedd. Caernarfonshire is also where Snowdon is located.

In 1999 the Earl of Snowdon was created Baron Armstrong-Jones, a life peerage, in order to keep his seat in the House of Lords after the Lords reform of 1999. He was a member of the House of Lords until retiring in 2016.

Lord Snowdon married a second time after divorcing Princess Margaret. He leaves behind three children from his two marriages and two children from affairs outside of marriage. He should be remembered as an artist and a champion for disabled people.