Heraldic Banners of U.S. Presidents

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Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, etc. More than a third of America’s presidents have had their own personal coat of arms. But almost none of them have been displayed in public. This is how they would look in flag form, as banners of arms.

The American Heraldry Society must be commended for having collected and made public all available knowledge on the heraldry of U.S. Presidents and other historic figures in American history. Their research shows that about half of the presidential arms are family arms inherited by a President. The other half are arms created for a President, inspired by his ancestry, his family name or the symbols of office.

Except for the arms of the 1st President of the United States, presidential arms are virtually unknown. In only two cases, banners of these arms have been used in public. The illustration shows how heraldic banners of six U.S. Presidents would look together.

Top row, from left to right:

George Washington (1789-1797) proudly and consistently used his family arms. Without doubt, the Washington arms are the best known of any U.S. president. In 1938, his arms were used to create the flag of Washington, D.C. Therefore, the capital’s flag with the proportions 1:2 is a variant of the heraldic banner in the illustration above.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), the 3rd President of the United States, scorned the snobbery of people who used coats of arms. But at the same time he was a gentleman of his time and made use of his family arms in his personal seal and on silverware, not least while being the American minister to France in the 1780s.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), 32nd President, was a fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President. The Roosevelt arms spell out the family’s name in Dutch (literally, rose field): “upon a grassy mound a rose bush proper bearing three roses”. These arms were used by Teddy Roosevelt; FDR used a modified version with three cut roses criss-crossing each other.

Bottom row, from left to right:

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was not only the 34th President of the United States, he was also a highly decorated WWII general. In 1945, King Christian X of Denmark conferred on him the Order of the Elephant. However, Eisenhower didn’t show a great deal of interest and it took more than a decade for him to live up to what is required of a Knight of the Elephant: to provide the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders with a drawing of his personal coat of arms. In the end, he had help from Denmark. The anvil plays on the German roots of the family name Eisenhower/Eisenhauer (literally, iron miner).

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was of Irish descent. On Saint Patrick’s Day 1961, the President and his family were presented with arms granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland at the behest of the Irish government. After the President’s assassination, his brother Robert F. Kennedy led an expedition to the summit of Mount Kennedy in Canada, named in honor of the 35th U.S. President. Here, he planted a heraldic banner with the Kennedy arms.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) accepted a grant of arms from the now defunct American College of Heraldry and Arms in 1968. However, according to the research of the American Heraldry Society, the 36th President never made use of his arms. Since LBJ, only three U.S. Presidents are known to have used arms: Reagan, Clinton and Trump.

 

Read more about presidential coats of arms in the USA on the website of the American Heraldry Society: https://www.americanheraldry.org/heraldry-in-the-usa/arms-of-famous-americans/presidents-of-the-united-states.

Flag In Parliament? Almost All Of Denmark’s Neighbours Do It

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The Danish flag will be displayed permanently in the Danish parliament from 2017. Controversial as this may be in Denmark, use of the national flag inside a national parliament is perfectly normal in almost all of Denmark’s neighbouring countries.

It has been announced that the flag of Denmark, the Dannebrog, will be displayed permanently in the meeting hall of the Danish Parliament, the Folketing. This change will take effect at the official opening of the next legislative session, on the first Tuesday of October 2017.

At the opening of the present legislative session in October 2016 a large, swallow-tailed Danish splitflag hung vertically behind the Speaker’s chair. This was a temporary measure because of repairs to the tapestry usually hanging in that place. The decision caused lots of debate in parliament and on social media. The announcement from the Folketing yesterday has reignited the debate.

Danes would be hard pressed to explain to foreigners why the use of the Dannebrog in the Danish parliament is such a contentious subject. Especially, since almost all of the countries that Denmark likes to compare itself to display their national flags inside their national parliaments.

Some of the debate, it seems, centres around the fact that permanent use of the flag in the Folketing has been championed by the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti). Its former leader, Pia Kjærsgaard, is the present Speaker, or President, of the Danish parliament. Being highly skeptical of the European Union and of immigration, the Danish People’s Party see itself as a defender of Danish sovereignty, language etc.

In the future, the Dannebrog will not be hanging vertically behind the Speaker’s chair. Rather, it will be hoisted on a flagpole positioned near the Speaker’s chair. Deputy Speaker Christian Juhl of the left-wing Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), who was very critical last October, has said that he can live with this decision.

It is worth noting that by flying the flag in the legislative assembly, Denmark would do exactly the same as Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The flag of Greenland, Erfalasorput, can be seen in the Greenlandic parliament, Inatsisartut, and the flag of the Faroe Islands, Merkið, in the Faroese parliament, Løgtingið.

A flagpole with the national flag is placed near the Speaker’s chair in the parliaments of Iceland, Germany and Latvia. In the Estonian parliament, a table flag is standing at the Speaker’s left hand. In the Polish Sejm and the Lithuanian Seimas, a large national flag is displayed vertically behind the Speaker’s chair. In the parliament of Åland, there are no less than four Ålandic flags.

Also in the plenary hall of Sweden’s Riksdag, their is a Swedish flag. For six months in 2009, during the Swedish presidency of the European Union, there was an EU flag, too. In the German Bundestag and in many other parliaments of EU countries, the EU flag is displayed permanently next to the national flag. That is not likely to happen in Denmark’s Folketing, especially not with Ms Kjærsgaard in the Speaker’s chair.

 

Read also: Parliament Opens Amid Flag Debate

The Flag Coalitions In German Politics

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If you want to understand German politics and all the possible party coalitions people talk about, you need to know a little about flags, too. Some of the combinations of parties which could potentially join to form a government are named for flags with the same colours as the parties in question. 

2017 is Super Election Year in Germany. Today, it started off with the election of a new Federal President. There will be three state parliamentary elections this spring and, on September 24, a new Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, will be elected.

However, it has become increasingly less easy to predict which parties will be in government in the future. Those days are long gone when the Christian Democrats (CDU and CSU) or the Social Democrats (SPD) could be sure to govern alone, or with the help of just one of the smaller parties.

At the moment, Germany and three of its states (Länder) are governed by a “grand coalition” – a coalition where the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats have had to join forces to form a majority. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the CDU and her Social Democratic counterparts will be sure to look for other options this year.

A coalition of Christian Democrats (party colour: black), the Greens (party colour: green) and the liberal Free Democrats (party colour: yellow) will probably be possible. Such a coalition is usually referred to as a “Jamaica coalition” as the Jamaican flag is black, green and yellow.

Another combination of one larger party and two smaller ones is the red-yellow-green. This kind of coalition is usually referred to as a “traffic light coalition” (Ampelkoalition), but has also been called a “Senegal coalition”. At the moment red-yellow-green governs in the the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

In the case that a parliamentary majority can’t be built even when  Christian Democrats and Social Democrats come together there is talk of a “Germany coalition” (black-red-yellow) or a “Kenya coalition” (black-red-green) where one of the smaller parties takes part in the governing coalition, the Free Democrats or the Greens respectively. Presently, the state of Saxony-Anhalt has a black-red-yellow government.

Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein has been governed by a coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and the SSW since 2012. The South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW) is an alliance representing the interests of the Danish and the Frisian minorities. Its party colours are those of the arms of the historical duchy of Schleswig: yellow and blue. Because of the SSW blue, some have named the Schleswig-Holstein government the “Gambia coalition” as the Gambian flag has on it the colours red, green and blue.

A new Schleswig-Holstein state parliament will be elected on May 7. One week later, on May 14, parliamentary elections will be held in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

On February 12, the 1260 electors of the Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung) convened in the Reichstag building in Berlin to elect the Bundespräsident, the head-of-state of the Federal Republic of Germany. The next Federal President is the former Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the SPD.

Sapphire Jubilee

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65 years ago today, on 6 February 1952, Queen Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne of seven different countries: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Ceylon.

When King George VI died, his eldest daughter, 25-year old Princess Elizabeth, had just set out on a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. She was still in Kenya when the news of the King’s death reached her. The following year on 6 June 1953 she was crowned in Westminster Abbey in London.

British monarchs since the time of Queen Victoria, the first Empress of India, had all been Kings and Emperors. But after World War II the British Empire, spanning dominions, protectorates and colonies on all five continents, entered a period of dissolution. One by one new nations gained independence. In 1947 the Empire of India was partitioned and the main part became the Republic of India.

Pakistan became a republic in 1956. So, at the time of her succession, Elizabeth was also Queen of Pakistan. In 1952 the country consisted of both West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) and East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). At the time of partition in 1947, Pakistan was defined as the majority Muslim territories of British India. The flag of Pakistan, adopted in 1947, was inspired by the flag of the All-India Muslim League. Sectarian violence, the Kashmir conflict and other tensions between Pakistan and India led to four wars including the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

Ceylon only became a republic under the name of Sri Lanka in 1972. A year before Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, the flag of Ceylon had been changed to include symbols of all three major religious communities on the island. The maroon colour, the lion and the four leaves represent the Sinhalese majority and the Buddhist faith. The orange stripe represents the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Hindu faith. The green stripe represents the Sri Lankan Moors and the Muslim faith.

The Statute of Westminster in 1931 underlined the equal status of the United Kingdom and all of the so-called Dominions, e.g. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Already at the beginning of the 20th Century the nominal independence of these countries had been established.

South Africa was a monarchy in 1952, having been established in 1910 with the unification of four previous British colonies: the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange River Colony (the former Oranje Free State). The flag of South Africa between 1928 and 1994 put together the British Union Flag and flags of the former Dutch Boer republics. South Africa became a republic in 1961. Princess Elizabeth had visited the country in 1947 with her parents. Not until the end of Apartheid did she revisit. Elizabeth II, the former Queen of South Africa, was received by Nelson Mandela, the first black South African president in 1995.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand remained monarchies. Today, they are among the 16 independent nations where Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, represented in everyday constitutional life by a Governor-General. The flags of New Zealand and Australia stem from the 1900s. The flag of Canada was a version of the British Red Ensign until 1965 when the red and white Maple Leaf (or l’Unifolié) was adopted.

The British Empire is no more. In its stead, the Commonwealth of Nations unites 52 independent countries, most of which are former British territories. Elizabeth II is the greatly respected head of this intergovernmental organization, a role she has fulfilled for 65 years.