For Those in Peril on the Sea: 150 Years of the Hanseatic Cross

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The flag of the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service was adopted on 23 May 1868. This NGO, one of Germany’s oldest, has been saving lives for 153 years. The Hanseatic Cross which is in the organisation’s flag and on its ships and boats combines Prussian and Hanseatic symbolism. 

Along Germany’s North Sea and Baltic Sea coastline, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service presently organizes 180 employees and 800 volunteers. 24 hours a day and in all weather conditions, they man 54 stations and 60 search and rescue vessels. “We go out when others come in” is the motto of this important NGO.

The German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (in German, Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger, DGzRS) was established when several smaller organisations were amalgamated in 1865. Three years later, the North German Confederation – the Prussian-led predecessor of the second German Empire – decided on a flag for DGzRS vessels: a red Hanseatic Cross in a white field with a thin black border.

The Hanseatic Cross (in German, Hansekreuz) is similar to the Iron Cross used by the Prussian and the German military since the Napoleonic Wars, but it is red and white, the traditional colours of the Hanseatic League. Both the flag of the DGzRS and the national flag of the North German Federation (1866-1871) and the German Empire (1871-1918) combine the red and white of the Hanseatic cities and the black and white of the Kingdom of Prussia.

Since 1865 more than 84,000 persons have been rescued by the crews of the DGzRS. In 2015 the organisation celebrated its 150th birthday. Three years on, today marks the 150-year anniversary of the organisation’s iconic flag with the red-white Hansekreuz.

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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.

New Swiss Guard Recruits Swear To Serve And Protect The Pope

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On May 6 every year, new recruits in the Pontifical Swiss Guard take the oath of loyalty in the Vatican City State. Soldiers and officers with Swiss citizenship have protected the Pope for more than 500 years. The Guard’s banner reflect the history of this Swiss corps in the service of the Pope as head of state and head of the Roman Catholic Church. 

The Pontifical Swiss Guard consists of between 100 and 200 men, all recruited among Catholic, unmarried, Swiss citizens. Since the middle ages, soldiers from Switzerland have served with distinction in the armed forces of other nations. The most famous of such Swiss contingents in the service of foreign heads of state is the Pontifical Swiss Guard in Rome. 

Traditionally, May 6 is the day for the swearing-in because, in 1527, the Sack of Rome by the mutinous Spanish and Imperial troops of Emperor Charles V happened on that date. Of the 189 men strong Pontifical Swiss Guard 147 died in the close vicinity of Saint Peter’s Basilica defending Pope Clement VII’s escape to the Castel Sant’Angelo.

The solemn occasion of the swearing-in usually takes place in the Saint Damaso Courtyard at the centre of the Apostolic Palace. However, in case of bad weather, the ceremony has been held indoors in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall. That happened in 2010 and 2013 for example.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard is dressed in 16th Century dress, plate armour, morion helmets and is armed with halberds and smallswords. The main part of the ceremony is when all new halberdiers of the Guard take the oath of loyalty, fidelity and obedience to the Pope and the Commanding Captain. 

One by one, the recruits are called forward. Each takes hold of the Guard’s banner with his left hand and confirms the oath which has been read by the Guard’s chaplain. At the same time, each raises his right hand pointing three fingers upwards as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. The halberdiers take the oath in any of the official languages of Switzerland, most of them in German and French.

The banner of the Pontifical Swiss Guard

The banner of the Guard plays an important role when the halberdiers take the oath of loyalty to the Pope and the Commanding Captain. On it are the personal coats of arms of both. Thus, the banner must be redesigned and renewed every time there is a new pope as well as every time a new Swiss Guard officer is appointed as Commanding Captain.

The banner is a large, square standard; a white cross divides it in four quarters. In the first, on red, are the arms of the present pope, Francis, adopted in 2013. In the fourth, also on red, are the arms of Julius II. He was of the della Rovere family and when he became pope in 1503 he established the first constant corps of Swiss mercenaries at the papal court. Note the papal tiara in the arms of Pope Julius II and the bishop’s mitre in the arms of Pope Francis. 

In the second and third quarter are the red, blue and golden stripes, the colours also seen in the renaissance style dress uniform of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

In the middle of the white cross are the coat of arms of the Commanding Captain. The present Commanding Captain is colonel Christoph Graf. He was born in Pfaffnau in the Swiss canton of Lucerne and joined the Guard in 1987. In 2015 he was appointed to his present role by Pope Francis.

The gold antler and the silver plowshare on red in his shield symbolize the traditions of hunting and farming in the Graf family of Pfaffnau. The coat of arms rest on a background of silver and blue. These colours represent the Commanding Captain’s home canton of Lucerne; the flag of Lucerne is a horisontal bicolour of white and blue. 

The Prince Who Wanted To Be King Got A King’s Crown On His Flag

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In 2002 the personal flag of Prince Henrik of Denmark was changed: a heraldic crown for a prince was replaced by that for a king. In 2005 his title was upgraded from HRH Prince Henrik to HRH The Prince Consort. But he never got the equal status with his wife that he really wanted.

When Princess Margrethe succeeded her father in 1972 and became HM Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark, new royal flags were adopted. The so-called King’s flag had to be changed to fit the new Queen as she had also made changes to the royal coat of arms. For centuries the personal flag of the Danish monarch has had the royal arms in the middle of a splitflag, the swallow-tailed version of the Danish national flag, the Dannebrog.

A “flag for HRH Prince Henrik” was also adopted in 1972. It was similar to the flag of the new Queen, but instead of the royal arms it has the Prince’s coat of arms as a knight of the Royal Danish Order of the Elephant in the centre. Prince Henrik became a knight of this old and prestigious order in 1967 when he married the heir to the Danish throne.

Prince Henrik’s coat of arms as a knight of the Elephant combines the arms of Denmark (three lions and nine waterlily pads in a field of gold) with the arms of the Prince’s own French family, de Laborde de Monpezat (a lion and three stars in a field of red). The shield is supported by two golden lions, and on top of a mantle lined with ermine there was originally a crown appropriate for a royal prince.

This particular heraldic crown for a prince has three visible arches and a pearl on top.

The Danish system of different types of heraldic crowns for kings, princes, counts, barons etc. stems from the 17th Century. It was the version of the Prince Henrik’s coat of arms with a prince’s crown that was used on his personal the flag for 30 years.

“It will be changed,” it was announced in 2002 by Nils G. Bartholdy, Senior Archivist and Heraldic Consultant at the Danish National Archives, “because fundamentally it has been a mistake to use the crown for a prince in Prince Henrik’s coat of arms when displayed outside of Frederiksborg Castle.”

Bartholdy explained in an article in the newspaper Ekstra-Bladet that all members of the royal family correctly use the royal crown (the crown for a king) on all flags, pennants, monograms and elsewhere.

The royal crown, the king’s crown, has five visible arches and an orb and a cross on top.

All of Prince Henrik’s flags and pennants were upgraded accordingly. At the time, the Royal Court refuted any relation between this correction of an old mistake and the Prince’s public dissatisfaction with his status and role in the Royal Family. From 2002 onwards Prince Henrik often expressed that he felt discriminated against: “In Denmark, the wife of a king becomes a queen, but the husband of a queen is only a prince”.

Later the shield with Prince Henrik’s coat of arms as a knight of Order of the Elephant was also changed to feature a king’s crown instead of a prince’s. This shield hangs in the chapel of the Royal Danish Orders at Frederiksborg Castle. However, right now it is part of the decorations at the castrum doloris in the chapel of Christiansborg Palace where Prince Henrik is lying in state until the funeral service on Tuesday 20 February.

 

This is part 3 in a series about Prince Henrik of Denmark. Read also:
Prince Henrik of Denmark dies at 83
FLAG FAIL: Royal Flags Fly In The Dark Without Proper Lighting

FLAG FAIL: Royal Flags Fly In The Dark Without Proper Lighting

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While the personal flag of Prince Henrik of Denmark covering his coffin was well-lit when the Prince left the royal residence in Copenhagen for the last time, other royal flags were flying at half mast over Amalienborg without proper lighting. On a grey and rainy February day, the decision to fly the royal flags after sunset was a bit of a mistake.

Prince Henrik, husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, died at the age of 83 on Tuesday 13 February 2018 at the Palace of Fredensborg. The funeral service will take place on Tuesday 20 February in the chapel of the Palace of Christiansborg.

Thursday 15 February at 10 a.m. the Prince’s body was driven from Fredensborg to Copenhagen. The coffin was draped in the Prince’s personal flag which is a variant of the national flag of Denmark, with swallow tails like other Danish royal and state flags and a white square in the middle of the cross decorated with the Prince’s royal coat of arms.

The hearse was followed by cars carrying the widow of the departed, Queen Margrethe, and their two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim, together with their wives and children. In the royal residence of Amalienborg, the coffin was guarded by sailors from the Royal Yacht Dannebrog and soldiers from the Royal Life Guards.

The transfer of the Prince’s remains from Amalienborg to the palace chapel at Christiansborg was scheduled to be on Friday 16 February at 6 p.m. Christiansborg is the political centre of Denmark; the palace houses the Danish Parliament, Folketinget, and the Danish Supreme Court, Højesteret.

Until the funeral the Prince is lying in state in the palace chapel and for three days it will be possible for the public to visit this castrum doloris. Yesterday 5,081 Danes paid their respects to Prince Henrik at Christiansborg and many more are expected to queue up to do likewise today and tomorrow.

Had the transfer from Amalienborg to Christiansborg taken place an hour earlier, the unfortunate break with flag protocol would not have happened. The sun set in Copenhagen at 17:13 on Friday. 50 minutes later, when the Prince’s hearse left Amalienborg accompanied by a cortege of the Royal Family with thousands of onlookers lining the route in the rain, it was already dark.

Earlier Friday the Royal Danish Court had announced that the flag flying at half mast over the residence of Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik, was to “be taken down at 6 p.m. and not at sunset, as a farewell to the Prince”.

As a grey and rainy Copenhagen afternoon grew darker and darker in the hour before 6 p.m. live TV transmission from the royal residence documented that the Queen’s flag, the Crown Prince’s flag and the other royal flags at Amalienborg ought to have been taken down at sunset.

If there is no proper lighting of a flagpole, it is not permissible to fly a flag in the dark as it is not possible to distinguish it from other flags, commercial logo banners or any type of textile.

Sometimes it makes good sense to break with protocol. These days Danes show their respect and love for Prince Henrik and his mourning family in many different ways. Henrik was a colourful and sometimes unconventional prince. However, the idea to fly the flag over the royal residence after sunset when there are no means to illuminate the flagpoles at Amalienborg seems misguided. It has never been considered a sign of respect to fly the flag in the dark, not even when mourning the death of a prince.

 

This is part 2 in a series about Prince Henrik of Denmark. Read also:
Prince Henrik of Denmark dies at 83
The Prince Who Wanted To Be King Got A King’s Crown On His Flag

Prince Henrik of Denmark dies at 83

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These are the flags in the life of the Frenchman who came of age in Vietnam and became a Prince of Denmark when he married the future Queen Margrethe II in 1967. Tuesday 13 February 2018 he passed away at Fredensborg Palace where half of his ashes will be interred in the palace garden. The other half will be spread at sea in Danish waters.

Henri Marie Jean André de Laborde de Monpezat was born i Talence in the south-west of France [1] on 11 June 1934. At the end of his life, after 50 years in Denmark, Prince Henrik described himself as Danish, but he was always also very French. Following his death he is praised in France for his lifelong ambassadorship on behalf of French culture and the French language.

Until the age of 5 he lived with his family in Hanoi in what was then French Indochina and after WWII he returned to Vietnam and graduated there in 1952. His first childhood memories were from Hanoi and of the Vietnamese cuisine. As a young man he studied Vietnamese and Chinese in Paris, Hong Kong and Saigon. In the 1950s Vietnam was torn between the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam [2] and the anti-communist Republic of Vietnam [3].

Prince Henrik also studied law and political science at the University of Sorbonne and after serving in the French Army in Algeria from 1959 till 1962 he became a diplomat. It was during his time as a Secretary at the French Embassy in the UK [4] that he met Princess Margrethe, daughter of King Frederik IX and heir to the Danish throne.

The couple was married in Copenhagen on 10 June 1967. The 32-year-old Henri de Monpezat became Prince Henrik of Denmark [5]. They had two sons, Frederik in 1968 and Joachim in 1969. Prince Henrik’s first visits to the Faroe Islands [6] and Greenland [7] were in the early 1970s. The Danish Royal Family has close and cordial ties with these two autonomous countries within the Kingdom of Denmark.

In 1972 Princess Margrethe became Queen Margrethe when her father died. Prince Henrik was still “just” Prince Henrik. Later in life it became apparent that he had never fully accepted his role as a queen’s husband. In the Danish public, some criticized that he never learned to speak Danish perfectly and felt that he was “too French”, others loved the Prince for his colourful, creative and sometimes unconventional sides.

Prince Henrik travelled extensively on behalf of Danish industrial and commercial interests and he was the patron of a large number of organisations and charities. He played a pivotal role in establishing Europa Nostra, a European federation for cultural and natural heritage, and the Danish branch of WWF, the international nature conservation fund. He took over from his mother-in-law Queen Ingrid in 2001 as the royal patron of the Danish Red Cross [8].

From 1972 he had his own flag, a version of the Danish national flag with swallow-tails and the Prince’s coat of arms in the middle. In the above 1970s photograph Prince Henrik can be seen with another flag, a heraldic banner of his arms [9] quartering the arms of Denmark (three lions in gold) with the arms of the Monpezat family (a lion in red). This banner was also used at the Prince’s vineyard Château de Cayx near Cahors in southern France.

The other two flags in the picture are the British club pennant, a so-called burgee, of the Royal Yacht Squadron [10] and that special Danish yacht flag [11] used only by members of the Royal Danish Yacht Club (Kongelig Dansk Yachtklub). The flag is similar to the Danish naval ensign and has the letters Y.F. for “yacht flag” and three stars, all in gold, in the upper hoist.

Sailor, tennis player, poet, art collector, sculptor, pianist, writer, wine producer, food connaisseur. Prince Henrik was a man of many, many interests and abilities. He was a bon vivant, a man who loved life, it has been rightly said. He was a beloved husband and patriarch of a growing family. All over Denmark flags are lowered to half mast to honour the Prince Consort of Denmark. His funeral service will be on Tuesday 20 February.

 

This is part 1 in a series about Prince Henrik of Denmark. Read also:
The Prince Who Wanted To Be King Got A King’s Crown On His Flag
FLAG FAIL: Royal Flags Fly In The Dark Without Proper Lighting

2017 in Flag History: The Philadelphia Pride Flag

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This year, a new flag was introduced in the LGBT community. It adds a black and a brown stripe to the iconic 6-color Rainbow Flag to represent people of color. Received by many as a positive new addition in the rich culture of LGBT flags, it also ignited debate. The colors of the rainbow don’t represent any specific groups, but already includes everyone in the community, critics underline.

The new 8-color rainbow flag was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 8 June 2017 as part of the campaign #MoreColorMorePride at a kickoff event at the beginning of the city’s Pride Month. The flag was created with the help of Tierney, a Philadelphia-based advertising and PR agency. Patrick Hardy, Executive Creative Director, explained:

“The rainbow flag is an iconic symbol of the LGBTQ community. In the spirit of Gilbert Baker’s original design, we believe that adding black and brown to this historic flag will fuel a continuing dialogue about diversity in a community that celebrates inclusion, and help to acknowledge the contributions people of color make every day.”

American artist and activist Gilbert Baker, who created the original LGBT Rainbow Flag, also known as the Gay Pride Flag, in 1978, died on 31 March 2017 in New York City, a little over two months before the introduction of the new Philadelphia Pride Flag.

Charley Beal, a friend of Gilbert Baker told NBC: “The stripes were not chosen for skin color. They were chosen to reflect the spectrum of color in nature”. Baker’s Rainbow Flag originally had eight colors which didn’t represent specific groups within the community but rather concepts such as life, healing, nature, magic, art, spirit etc. (The colors turquoise and pink were omitted around 1979.)

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

The new Philadelphia Pride Flag became a popular new LGBT flag in 2017 and was seen at Pride events in many cities around the world in June, July and August. However, the flag was also the cause of heated debate within the LGBT movement. Critics warned that the original Rainbow Flag shouldn’t be changed as it is an iconic brand and a powerful symbol of pride and inclusion for everyone in the community.

Amber Hikes, Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs at the Philadelphia City Hall, commented on the criticism in an interview with NBC:

“White people do not know what racism looks like, because that’s the definition of racism. The vast majority of critics are gay white men, a sector of the LGBT community that doesn’t necessarily understand the issues that LGBT people of color might face. There is a presumption among gay white men that the rainbow flag already represents everyone.”

Hikes also said about the Philadelphia Pride Flag: “It’s a push for people to start listening to people of color in our community, start hearing what they’re saying”. A 2017 report from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights pointed out that homosexual and transgender people of colour are more likely to experience discrimination in the city, also within the LGBT community itself.

Read more about 2017 in flag history: Mauritania’s New Flag.

2017 in Flag History: Mauritania’s New Flag

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This year, one of world’s 193 UN member states made changes to its national flag: The Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Two red horizontal bands were added to its flag, effective from 15 August 2017. The changes have been criticized because the President of Mauritania failed to include the country’s opposition in the decision and because of low voter turnout in the flag referendum on 5 August 2017.

It was in 2016 that the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, announced that  a referendum on constitutional changes and changes to the country’s national flag and national anthem would be held before the end of the year.

“Two red stripes will be added to the top and bottom of the national flag to honour the sacrifice of the nation’s martyrs,” it said in the accord from the 2016 political talks ment to end years of political instability in Mauritania. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, twice elected as President of Mauritania, has also lead two military coups against two of his presidential predecessors.

Read my report from 2016 on the announced changes to the Mauritanian flag.

However, the process of changing the constitution and the national symbols was delayed, not least because of opposition from the Senate which was to be abolished. Opposition parties and political opponents of the President rejected the referendum altogether.

In the national referendum on 5 August 2017, 85 % voted in favour of constitutional changes and changes to the national symbols. However, voter turnout was only about 50 %, so the changes can’t be said to have widespread national support.

The changes to the national flag and the national anthem have been criticized as a mere political gesture compared to the much larger issues facing the nation. Many Mauritanians suffer the consequences of unemployment, malnutrition, corruption and the government’s abuse of power. Even slavery remains a problem in parts of the Mauritanian society. Only in 2007 did Mauritania become the last African country to criminalize slavery.

From a vexillological point of view, Mauritania’s new flag is less remarkable and less unique than the old flag. The now defunct national flag of Mauritania, in use from 1959 till 2017, was made up of only two colours: green and yellow. Thus, it was one of only a few national flags in the world which doesn’t contain the three most common flag colours: red, white and blue.

As of August 2017, only Jamaica has a national flag which doesn’t feature either of the colours red, white or blue.

Read more about 2017 in flag history: The Philadelphia Pride Flag.

100 years ago: Finland declares independence

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The white and blue Nordic Cross flag was not yet Finland’s national flag when the country declared its independence on 6 December 1917. The white-blue Finnish flag was adopted by law on 29 May 1918. In the winter of 1917-1918 Finland’s temporary flag was a red heraldic banner with the Finnish coat of arms.   

Top left: National flag of Finland since 1918

A white flag with a blue Nordic Cross has been the Finnish national flag for almost a century. The colour combination white-blue became popular in the 19th Century and were already established as the, albeit inofficial, national colours of Finland at the time of the country’s declaration of independence in December 1917.

However, red and yellow, the colours from Finland’s coat of arms, also played an important role in the Finnish flag debate in the winter of 1917-1918. The Finnish Civil War January–May 1918 between the conservative Whites and the socialist Reds made it impossible to solve the flag issue. Following the White victory, the Finnish Parliament decided on a national flag featuring white and blue rather than red and yellow

Bottom left: Temporary national flag 1917-1918

When Finland declared its independence on 6 December 1917, it was a banner of the coat of arms of Finland that was hoisted on the flagpole of the Finnish government, the Senate.

Finland’s arms stem from around 1580 and feature a yellow lion on a red background surrounded by white roses. The lion treads on a sabre while raising a sword over its head. (Expressed in proper heraldic terms, the blazon of the arms of Finland is as follows: Gules, a lion rampant crowned Or, trampling a sabre in base proper, his dexter foreleg in the form of a man’s arm vambraced and embowed Argent, garnished Or, bearing aloft a sword proper, nine roses Argent.)

A banner of these arms, “the Lion Flag”, was proposed by the Senate’s Flag Commission on 8 December 1917 and it was used as a temporary national flag during the winter of 1917-1918.

Bottom right: Provisional merchant flag in the spring of 1918

The Senate decided to adopt a provisional civil ensign to be used by the merchant navy on 27 February 1918. It was a red flag with a yellow Nordic Cross fimbrated by thin lines of white and blue. This design combined the competing red-yellow and white-blue, but it played no lasting role in Finnish flag history. In May 1918 “the Blue Cross Flag” became the new official national flag for use on land and at sea.

A Nordic Cross flag in the colours of the Finnish coat of arms, red with a yellow cross, is used by the Swedish speaking minority in Finland. This flag is very similar to the flag used by Scanians in Southern Sweden; also a red flag with a yellow cross.

Top right: State flag of Finland 1918-1920

The first official Finnish state flag, adopted on 29 May 1918, had the crowned coat of arms of Finland in the middle of the blue cross. The grand ducal crown was removed on 12 February 1920. Finland was a Grand Duchy in personal union with Russia from 1809 until the abdication of the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, in 1917. Officially, Finland has been a republic since the Constitution Act of 1919.

 

Read also: Finns fly the flag at night to celebrate Finland’s centenary.

Finns fly the flag at night to celebrate Finland’s centenary

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If you illuminate it properly, you’re allowed to fly the Finnish flag from the evening of December 5 and through Independence Day on December 6. Normally, flying the flag in the middle of the night is not allowed in Finland. But an exception to the rule will be made this year as the country celebrates 100 years of independence.    

In Finland, it’s prohibited by law to fly the flag during the dark hours. Being a country in the Northern Hemisphere, the northernmost part of the country lying north of the Arctic Circle, Finland has to live with plenty of dark hours in December.

On December 6, Finland’s Independence Day, the sun rises in the capital city of Helsinki at about 9 am and it sets approximately 6 hours later. In Northern Finland, Rovaniemi (the village known as Santa Claus’ Village) enjoys only three hours of daylight at this time of year.

So, in order for the national flag to play a more prominent role in the festivities marking the 100-year anniversary of Finland’s independence, the Finnish Ministry of the Interior has announced that the Finnish flag, if properly lit, can be hoisted during the dark hours from Tuesday evening at 6 pm until Wednesday evening at 10 pm.

“Flying the flag through the night is only allowed if the flag can be illuminated so that the blue is blue and the white is white,” Mika Mäkinen, Communications Director of the Ministry of the Interior, said in an interview.

“No street lighting or car lights are sufficient,” Mr. Mäkinen made it perfectly clear. “There should be proper lights if the flag is to be flown all night long.”

The ministry has also announced that a large Finnish flag will be hoisted in front of the City Hall in Helsinki’s Market Square (Kauppatori in Finnish, Salutorget in Swedish). It will fly day and night for a year to celebrate the centenary of Finland’s independence and the flag will be illuminated during the dark hours.

“It’s a bit odd that the only flag you see in this central square in Helsinki is the blue and yellow flag on the Swedish Embassy. Now we’ll get a more beautiful flag in that place,” Communications Director Mäkinen explained.

Finland declared its full independence on December 6, 1917. Since 1809 the country had been a Grand Duchy in personal union with Russia. But when Emperor Nicholas II abdicated during the March Revolution of 1917, Finland no longer had a Grand Duke. After the October Revolution later that year, members of the Finnish Government travelled to Saint Petersburg (then Petrograd) to secure the acceptance of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. In January of 1918, Russia as well as other European countries formally recognized Finland’s independence. Finland has been a parliamentary republic since 1919.

 

Read the original interview and news story in Finnish here and in Swedish here. Read also about Finnish flag history: 100 years ago: Finland declares independence.