Tour de France: Flags of the West

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The seven first stages of this year’s Tour de France are set in the West of France. Besides the blue-white-red French tricolour, two flags fly prominently along the route: the red and white flag of Vendée and the black and white flag of Brittany. 

In 2017, the Tour never came to western and northern France. In 2018, however, the Tour starts off in the West – le Grand Départ was on the island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast on July 7 – and a total of ten out of twenty-one Tour stages are in the West and the North. Traditionally, the last stage of the Tour, which will be on July 29 this year, ends on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Vendée

The first two stages of the 105th edition of the Tour de France were in the department of the Vendée in the western Pays de la Loire region. The third stage was the team time trial in Cholet, a town in the department of Maine-et-Loire.

Quite close to Vendée, but historically in the Duchy of Anjou, Cholet was the capital of la Vendée Militaire, a Royalist and Catholic uprising during the French Revolution in 1793. The Vendean forces used le Sacré-Coeur, the Sacred Heart of Jesus – a heart with a cross rising from it – as a symbol on their banners and on patches on their clothes.

Two hearts, intertwined and crowned, with a crosslet on top is known as a Coeur vendéen, a Vendean heart. This emblem, used in the region since the 13th Century, is the official logo of the Vendée today.

In 1944 a newly designed coat of arms for the department was officially recognised. It has a red Vendean heart on silver within a bordure of fleurs de lys, gold on blue, for France, and golden castles with three towers on red, for Poitou, the historical French province to which Vendée once belonged.

The modern departmental flag of the Vendée is a red-white vertical bicolour with an asymmetric version of the Vendean heart in the middle. This logo was designed by French designer Michel Disle and adopted by the departmental assembly on 18 September 1989.

Brittany

Stage 4-6 of the 2018 Tour de France are all in the region of Brittany or in areas of western France which was part of that region historically. Stage 7 will begin in Fougères in Brittany and end in Chartres in the Central Region of France on July 13.

The flag of Brittany was designed in 1923 by the Breton separatist politician Morvan Marchal. Its name in Breton, a Celtic language unrelated to French, is Gwenn-ha-du meaning “the white and black”. Today, the flag of Brittany is no longer seen as a sign of Breton nationalism, but rather as a symbol of Brittany and Bretons worldwide.

The Gwenn-ha-du has nine horizontal stripes of white and black representing the nine original dioceses of Brittany: five French speaking and four Breton speaking. Today, less than 5 % of the population in Brittany speak Breton.

In the upper inner corner of the flag there is a canton of ermine. In heraldry, ermine is not a colour or a metal, but a fur: on a white background the black-tipped tails of the stout. From 1316 the coat of arms of the Dukes of Brittany was a shield of ermine. So, for more than seven hundred years ermine has been connected to the region, and from beer bottles to policemen’s uniforms white and black ermine signifies all things Breton.

 

Read also: Tour de France: A Festival of Regional Flags and The Regional Flags of the 2017 Tour de France.

 

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This Boy Got A Camel Through the Eye of a Needle

Skærmbillede 2018-07-04 kl. 07.25.19

FIFA 2018 is nearing the quarter-finals. During the group stage 9 days ago, a Russian newspaper told the story of a boy and his family who almost got in trouble because of the flag of their home town. Stadium security guards check every flag and banner at the World Cup in the search of “materials of extremist, offensive or discriminatory nature”. 

The Martynenko family from Chelyabinsk had tickets for the Germany-Sweden match on June 23 at the Olympic Stadium in Sochi. With them the family had brought their city flag and the Russian national tricolour with the inscription Chelyabinsk. At the entrance to the stadium the family was stopped and questioned because of the city flag that none of the guards recognized.

“Their job is to look for propaganda of prohibited, extremist organizations, and insulting inscriptions. Our flag with a camel was nearly taken away,” Yevgeny Martynenko told Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian tabloid newspaper.

The guards summoned an expert who also did not know the camel and its connection to Chelyabinsk. “I had to use the internet to prove it to them,” Yevgeny Martynenko explained.

Chelyabinsk is a city with approximately 1 million inhabitants just to east of the Ural Mountains, the border between Asia and Europe. The city’s coat of arms and banner depict a golden camel in front of a silver crenellated wall. The camel, which also appears in the arms of Chelyabinsk Oblast, represents the old trading routes passing through the area from Central Russia and the Volga Region to the steppes, Siberia and China.

Russia is the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russian authorities and stadium security personel do their best to keep controversial flags and banners away from no less than 64 football matches played in 12 stadiums over four and a half weeks.

According to the Stadium Code of Conduct for the World Cup in Russia, all flags with Nazi symbols and attributes of extremist organisations are prohibited as well as any flag which discriminates against a country or person or group “based on race, colour of skin, ethnic, national or social background and wealth, birth or any other status, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, sexual orientation or on any other grounds”.

Under such rules almost all flags that are not the national flags of the 32 qualified countries can be prohibited, and so far all Russian and foreign flags with extreme nationalist, separatist, religious and right or left wing ideological messages have been kept well out of view of the television cameras.

International visitors to the World Cup have had similar experiences as the Martynenkos from Chelyabinsk when guards have been unwilling to let in regional and county flags wrongly deemed to be sectarian or carrying controversial political messages. For example, read the story of England fan Daniel Henery here.

Yevgeny Martynenko and his family were let in to watch the match between Sweden and Germany in Sochi, and his son Semyon proudly carried their city flag in the stadium and afterwards. Back home in Chelyabinsk he will now wave the flag with the camel in front of the TV to support the Russian team in the knockout stage.

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.

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

Prince Henrik of Denmark dies at 83

Skærmbillede 2018-02-20 kl. 07.02.04

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

Cross of Saint John the Baptist

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In medieval Italy bloody battles were fought between white flags with red crosses and red flags with white crosses. The former is known as the Cross of Saint George, the latter as the Cross of Saint John the Baptist. Both flags stem from the time of the Crusades and their simple designs spread to all of Europe and the rest of the world. 

Top left: Order of Malta, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland

The state flag of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) is red with a white cross. Saint John the Baptist is the patron saint of the order and the flag with the Croce di San Giovanni Battista (as it’s called in Italian) can be seen in Malta, on the SMOM headquarters in Rome and at SMOM embassies around the world. The order is a charitable organisation and a subject of international law at the same time. Since 1798 it doesn’t rule an independent territory, but the order enjoys diplomatic recognition by many countries and issues its own passports, license plates, etc.

The Order of Malta which is Roman Catholic and the different Orders of Saint John which are Protestant trace their roots back to the hospitaller knights of Jerusalem, founded around 1099 to provide medical care to pilgrims and to protect Christians against Islamic prosecution. The SMOM is the world’s oldest surviving chivalric order and its state flag, a Crusader flag basically, has remained unchanged for 700-800 years.

According to legend, the Danish flag fell from the sky during a battle in Estonia in 1219. A far more reasonable explanation for the Dannebrog with its white cross on a red field is the Crusader flags of the 12th and 13th Century. The banner of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsfahne, in German) during this time was also red with a white cross. This early German war flag may have inspired the flags of two neighbouring nations: Denmark and Switzerland.

The Swiss city of Lugano in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino flies a white cross on red, too. Its name (Luganum, in Latin) is spelled with the letters L, V, G and A in the four quarters of the flag.

Top right: Savoy, France and Italy

A red flag with a white cross is also the popular flag of the French historical region of Savoy (Savoie, in French). Savoy borders Italy and Switzerland and for eight centuries it was ruled by the House of Savoy, one of Europe’s oldest dynasties. Amadeus III may have been the first Count of Savoy to use a Crusader flag with a white cross on red. He participated in the Second Crusade in 1147. The flag of Savoy, therefore, shares the same origins as the flags of Malta and Denmark.

The city of Chambéry is the historical capital of Savoy. The only difference between the city’s and the region’s flag is a golden 5-pointed star. Also the flag of Valence, capital of the Drôme department, have a white cross on red (with a blue tower in the centre).

The Counts, later Dukes, of Savoy extended their rule across the Alps into Northern Italy. Amadeus VI of Savoy (Savoia, in Italian) fought the Turks under a blue flag with an image of the Virgin Mary in 1366. Since then sky blue, or Savoy blue, has been the livery colour of the Savoyard dynasty.

In the 19th Century Italy was unified under the Savoyard crown. The Kingdom of Italy from 1861 till 1946 made use of the white cross on red and a border of Savoy blue. These arms appeared in the white middle stripe of Italian flags and a banner of these arms was the naval jack of Italy’s Regia Marina.

Bottom left: Veneto

Northern Italy was part of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. For centuries cities, towns and noble families battled over their loyalties: On one side the pro-imperial ghibellini with their German-inspired red flags with white crosses (John the Baptist’s cross), on the other side the pro-papal guelfi who used flags of reversed colours (George’s cross). For example, the cities of Milan and Genoa used and still use white flags with red crosses.

Around Venice the Croce di San Giovanni Battista is in the municipal arms of e.g. Vicenza, Mirano (with an added cross in the first quarter), Treviso (with two 8-pointed white stars) and Oderzo (with a pair of 6-pointed stars). The arms of Vicenza and Treviso appear together with arms of other provincial capitals on the tails of Veneto’s elaborate regional flag, adopted in 1975.

Bottom right: Piedmont

In the North Italian region of Piedmont (Piemonte, in Italian) flags of several cities and towns are red with white crosses. Examples of cities which have a Cross of Saint John the Baptist in its municipal arms and flag are Asti and Novara.

The regional arms of Piedmont are the same as those of the Principality of Piedmont. The heir of the Dukes of Savoy, later the Kings of Sardinia and later still the Kings of Italy used the title of Prince of Piedmont. This is why the arms of Piedmont are the same as the arms of the House of Savoy differenced with a blue so-called label. In heraldry, a label is used to mark the elder son.

In Piedmont three versions of the regional flag are in use: One which is a heraldic banner of the region’s arms, another with an added blue border and yet another which has both a border of blue as well as fringes of gold. The latter of these is the official regional flag, adopted in 1995, the most common is the version with the blue border.

 

Read also about the Cross of Saint George (Saint George’s Day) and the Cross of Saint Andrew (Saint Andrew’s Day and The Russian Connection).

Bavarian – A New Flag Family?

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You already know these flag families: Nordic Cross, Pan-Slavic, Pan-Arab, Pan-African. Also, flags around the world have been inspired by the Stars & Stripes, the Communist red flag, the Dutch and French tricolours, and the UN flag. I ask: Will Bavaria’s flag design with the iconic lozenges spread and become a new flag family?

The German state of Bavaria has two official flags which are both white and blue, the Bavarian state colours, or Landesfarben: One with two horizontal stripes called the Streifenflagge and another with a lozengy pattern called the Rautenflagge.

A lozenge (in German: Raute) is a rhombus, a geometric shape with four equally long sides, with acute angles of less than 90°. Lozenges or lozengy patterns is a well known feature in heraldry. The lozengy flag of Bavaria is derived from the arms of the Bavarian Royal Family, the Wittelsbachs, who have used the white and blue lozenges (in strict heraldic terms: fusilly in bend argent and azure) since the 13th Century.

Both the striped and the lozengy flag are in use in Bavaria and represent the state in the rest of Germany and abroad. But the flag with lozenges, being graphically more distinct and original than the one with stripes, has become the most widespread and is seen in a wide range of versions: with or without the officially prescribed number of lozenges (at least 21), with or without the Bavarian coat of arms, etc.

The lozengy design has for a long time been a symbol of Bavaria, one might even call it an iconic brand. The white and blue lozenges can be seen on all kinds of Bavarian produce. Maybe this is the reason why the lozengy flag design has spread in resent years.

Flags with black and yellow lozenges are being used in the Bavarian capital of Munich. The city’s colours are black and yellow and come from the city’s arms: a monk dressed in black and yellow. The official flag of Munich has two horizontal stripes, but the lozengy version is popular, too.

A Bavarian style version of the Gay Pride Flag with rainbow coloured lozenges is also in use.

It is perhaps most remarkable that the lozengy flag design has spread to a region of Bavaria which is not really Bavarian. Franconia (in German: Franken) covers the northern third of the state of Bavaria and is culturally and linguistically distinct from Bavaria proper in the south. Most of historical Franconia was incorporated into Bavaria in the beginning of the 19th Century, but there are also areas in the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia where people speak the Franconian dialect.

Franconia has its own regional flag (die Frankenflagge) with horizontal stripes, red and white, and the regional arms, the so-called Franconian Rake (der fränkische Rechen). This flag is common in the region. A version of the Franconian flag with a red-white lozengy pattern is also commercially available. Will the Bavarian lozenges spread further?

The Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg dies at 82

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Prince Richard, brother-in-law of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and head of the Sayn-Wittgenstein family, passed away on Monday 13 March 2017. His funeral service will be held on Tuesday 21 March, in the Evangelische Stadtkirche Bad Berleburg. 

Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg was the third son-in-law of King Frederik IX of Denmark. He married Princess Benedikte in 1968 at Fredensborg Palace, Denmark. Her younger sister Anne-Marie had married Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, in 1964 in Athens, Greece. In 1967, the older sister Margrethe, heiress to the Danish throne, married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat who became Prince Henrik of Denmark.

Richard was a man of humour, and of temper, totally devoid of the stiff upper lip and the jetset lifestyle so often associated with royalty. He met his future wife at the wedding of Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus in the Netherlands in 1966. “In the royal corner,” as he once explained. From birth, Prince Richard belonged to that inner circle of closely related princely houses of Europe, but he never liked the pomp and circumstance and would rather wake up early to a day of hard work in the forest.

His main occupation in life was the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg inheritance, one of the largest private estates in Germany. Prince Richard took that responsibility seriously. “One would hate to be the weakest link in a long chain,” he said. The Prince has been praised for his work in wildlife conservation. He was an accomplished hunter and angler. And he was a central figure in local life in the town of Bad Berleburg. His family’s presence in the area goes back 800 years.

Prince Richard was a male line descendant of the medieval Counts of Sponheim. The chequered arms of the House of Sponheim were however not used by that branch which inherited the County of Sayn in the 13th Century. In stead, the arms of Sayn (Gules, a lion guardant Or) became the central element of the family’s heraldic achievements.

The County of Wittgenstein, where Bad Berleburg is located, was added in the 14th Century. Its arms (Argent, two pallets Sable) are the same as those of the medieval Counts of Battenberg and, in modern times, the Mountbatten family: the Marquesses of Milford Haven, the Marquess of Carisbrooke, the Earls Mountbatten of Burma and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1792, the reigning count in Berleburg was raised to princely rank by the Holy Roman Emperor. The Principality of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in the Rothaar Mountains on the border between Westphalia and Hesse was one of the many tiny German states that didn’t survive the Napoleonic Wars. Until the fall of the monarchy in 1918, the head of the family sat in the Prussian House of Lords.

The arms of Sayn and Wittgenstein can be seen together with the arms of the lordships of Homburg (Gules, a castle twice towered Argent, windows and port Sable) and Freusburg (Sable, on a bend sinister Argent three boar’s heads Sable) on the family’s armorial banner which was lowered to half mast on Berleburg Castle at the news of the Prince’s death.

Prince Richard’s only son, Gustav, is the new Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. Prince Gustav is named after his paternal grandfather Prince Gustav Albrecht who was reported missing in action in Russia in 1944 during World War II. In the 1960s the prospect of the Danish king getting a German son-in-law was disliked by many Danes. It was decided that any children of Prince Richard and Princess Benedikte would only succeed to the throne on the condition that they were raised in Denmark and became Danish citizens.

It is one of Prince Richard’s achievements that his nationality became a non-issue. As a young child he had lived in Sweden with his widowed mother who was a member of the Fouché d’Otrante family, Swedish nobles descended from Napoleon’s Minister of Police. So, Prince Richard had learned Swedish. Later in life he also spoke Danish, albeit in his own charming, “mixed Scandinavian” version. He was the German prince who put a friendly face on Germany at a time when it was needed.