Princess Elisabeth of Denmark dies at 83

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The Danish “Royal House Flag” covered the coffin of Princess Elisabeth of Denmark at her funeral in Kongens Lyngby on Monday. This flag was introduced in 1905 for members of the Danish Royal Family who do not have their own personal flag. Princess Elisabeth was a first cousin of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Princess Elisabeth was No. 12 in the line of succession to the Danish throne at the time of her death. On Tuesday 19 June 2018 she died peacefully in her home town of Kongens Lyngby north of Copenhagen. The funeral service took place on Monday 25 June in the parish church of Kongens Lyngby.

The Princess was born on 8 May 1935 in Copenhagen as the eldest grandchild of Christian X, King of Denmark and Iceland, and Queen Alexandrine. Elisabeth was the daughter of the King Christian’s younger son Prince Knud and his wife Princess Caroline-Mathilde. Elisabeth’s parents were first cousins as her paternal grandfather King Christian X and her maternal grandfather Prince Harald were brothers.

In 1953 when the Danish Law of Succession was changed for women to be able to inherit the throne, on the condition that they had no brothers, Princess Elisabeth became the seventh in line to the throne. Her father went from being first in line to being No. 4. His brother King Frederik IX had only daughters, so during the first five years of his reign Prince Knud as his closest male relative was the heir to the Danish throne.

The funeral service of Princess Elisabeth was attended by her only surviving brother Ingolf, Count of Rosenborg, formerly Prince of Denmark, and her first cousins Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Benedikte of Denmark and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. A wreath from Queen Margrethe prominently placed in the church had the name “Daisy” on a red-white ribbon; Queen Margrethe is known by that name among her closest friends and family.

Princess Elisabeth never married and had no children. From 1956 till 2001 she worked for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was awarded the Royal Medal of Merit in Silver after 40 years of service. The medal together with the collar and badge of the Order of the Elephant decorated a pillow which was placed on her coffin.

As a member of the Danish Royal Family, Princess Elisabeth was entitled to use a version of the Dannebrog with swallow-tails and a royal crown in the middle of the cross. Since 1905 this has been the distinguishing flag for “other members” of the Royal House i.e. those who do not have their own personal flag, like the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince and the Regent (who acts as head of state when the monarch is absent or incapacitated).


The Longest Day of the Year Is the National Day of Greenland


In Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, 240 km south of the Arctic Circle, the sun is in the sky for 21 hours at summer solstice on June 21. The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is Greenland’s national day. Since 2016, this date is also an official flag day in all parts of the Kingdom of Denmark.

The flag of Greenland was designed by Thue Lynge Christiansen in 1985. Its name in Greenlandic, Erfalasorput, means ‘our flag’. Its design and colours symbolize the sun and the ice. Most of Greenland, the world’s largest non-continental island, is covered in ice and the average temperature in Nuuk at the height of summer is 8 °C. June 21, the day with the most sunlight, has been the national day of Greenland since 1983. 

Thue Christiansen, who has worked as a teacher, an artist and a politician, was Greenland’s first Minister for Culture and Education after the country was given Home Rule in 1979. He wanted the red and white colours of his flag to represent the close ties between Greenland and Denmark. Until 1985 Dannebrog, the flag of Denmark, was the only flag in Greenland. Christiansen’s Greenlandic flag was hoisted officially for the first time on the national day, June 21, in 1985.

In March 2016 new flag rules were issued by the government of Denmark: All Danish government agencies and state institutions (except for the Armed Forces) are required to fly the Greenlandic flag, Erfalasorput, on June 21 and the Faroese flag, Merkið, on July 29. Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark are the three nations which make up the Kingdom of Denmark. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen explained at the time that he wanted to strengthen relations between the three countries.

So, for the third time, Greenlandic flags will be hoisted on all state buildings in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands and on Danish embassies around the world. Busy Copenhageners passing the Danish parliament, ministries or other government offices on their way to work this morning will notice that the Danish state flag has been replaced by the flag of Greenland. June 21 is the day when many Danes are reminded what the Greenlandic flag looks like. Happy national day, Greenland!

Read more about the new Danish flag rules. Read also about the alternative proposal in 1985 that could have become the flag of Greenland.

Happy International Heraldry Day!

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Any flag based directly on a coat of arms is a heraldic banner, or banner of arms. Hundreds of regional, provincial, cantonal and municipal flags, mostly in Europe, are heraldic banners. National flags that are also banners of the national arms are more rare. Celebrating International Heraldry Day, here are a few of the flags bridging the worlds of heraldry and vexillology.  

National flags:

In the first row you can se a number of national flags which are all heraldic banners. The flags of Austria (1), Switzerland (2) and Kiribati (5) are among the few national flags in the world based directly on a country’s national coat of arms. The banner of arms of Luxembourg (3) is widely used as civil flag and ensign in the Grand-Duchy. In Lithuania the banner of the Vytis (the traditional Lithuanian coat of arms) is used as state flag and naval jack (4).

In the second row is the Royal Banner of Scotland. Historically and legally, this is the personal standard of the Scottish sovereign. Today, it is in widespread use by Scots as an alternative to the blue and white Scottish flag, also known as the Saint Andrew’s Saltire.

Regional and provincial flags:

The flag of the Belgian region of Flanders, De Vlaamse Leeuw (the Flemish lion, in Dutch), is a heraldic banner of the coat of arms of the medieval Counts of Flanders, important rulers in the medieval Low Countries. In heraldic terms these arms are: Or, a lion rampant armed and langued Gules.

The four provinces of Ireland all have flags which are banners of the provincial arms. The flag of Leinster is green with an Irish harp (properly blazoned: Vert, a harp Or stringed Argent). The flag of Connaught is rather more complicated (per pale Argent and Azure, in the first an eagle dimidiated and displayed Sable, in the second issuant from the partition an arm embowed and vested, the hand holding a sword erect, all Argent).

Swiss cantonal flags:

In 23 of the 26 cantons of Switzerland the cantonal flags are heraldic banners in the strictest sense in that the flags depict the cantonal arms without modification. Beginning in the second row with the green flag with white fasces of St. Gallen and the white-blue-white stripes of Zug, flags of seven cantons are in the third row: Zürich, Thurgau, Aargau, Bern, Geneva, Schaffhausen and Fribourg.

Municipal and city flags:

A horizontal bicolour of black and white (per fess Sable and Argent) is also the flag of the city of Ferrera in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. In the fourth row are the flags of another Emilian city, Parma, the Tuscan cities of Pisa and Florence as well as the city of Verona in the Veneto region. All these flags are heraldic banners of the cities’ municipal coats of arms.

In Italy it is quite normal for cities to have municipal flags which are also banners of arms. In Germany it is not. In Hamburg, however, the city and state flag (as the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is one of Germany’s 16 federal states) is the same as the city’s coat of arms.

Read more about why June 10 is the International Heraldry Day here.

Seattle Introduces Rainbow Flag With Eleven Stripes

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On June 1, 2018 a new Rainbow Flag was raised over City Hall in Seattle, Washington. It adds the three colors from the Transgender Pride Flag to the six colors of the iconic LGBT Pride Flag and the two new colors introduced a year ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Last year, on June 8, 2017 an eight-color Rainbow Flag was raised in the City of Brotherly Love to raise awareness about people of color within the LGBT community. Above the traditional colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet – two new colors were added: black and brown.

Read more about the eight-color Philadelphia Pride Flag here.

The three new stripes in Seattle’s Rainbow Flag are powder blue, baby pink and white. These colors also feature in the Transgender Pride Flag designed by Monica Helms in 1999. Light blue and light pink are the traditional colors for baby boys and baby girls. According to Helms, the white color represents “those who are intersex, transitioning, or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender.”

I do not know if Monica Helms was consulted about including elements of her flag design into the new Rainbow Flag in Seattle. In 2014 she said that she felt the Rainbow Flag, originally designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, “is the LGBTQ flag for everybody, and each individual group can have their own flag for their own individuality.”

Read more about the Transgender Pride Flag and its designer here.

The Seattle LGBTQ Commission together with other organizers explain the colors of the new Rainbow Flag: “The pink, light blue and white stripes represent trans, gender non-binary, intersex and folks across the gender spectrum.” 

The eleven-color flag was raised for the first time on Friday to mark the LGBTQ Pride Month in Seattle by Jenny Durkan, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. In her speech she acknowledged the “colors of our black and brown brothers and sisters” as well as “the trans colors”. She said: “Our rainbow is even more beautiful than before”.

Read the news story about the new Rainbow Flag in Seattle here.

Just as the Philadelphia Pride Flag did last year, the new Seattle Pride Flag is sure to cause debate within the LGBT community and among flag experts and enthusiasts.

Some will argue that the 40-year-old six-color Rainbow Flag, a well branded and easily recognizable flag design, is and has always been a symbol of diversity and inclusion, in the same way as the rainbow contains a wide spectrum of colors. Others will argue that adding more colors is not only possible, but also necessary for raising awareness about groups of people within the LGBTI/queer community who are too often forgotten about, left out or discriminated against.

Read more about Gilbert Baker’s iconic Rainbow Flag from 1978 here.