Cross of Saint John the Baptist

Skærmbillede 2017-06-21 kl. 21.32.51

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?

Skærmbillede 2017-04-21 kl. 06.27.18

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

Skærmbillede 2017-03-19 kl. 16.45.21

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.

100 years ago: The last day of the Russian Empire

Skærmbillede 2017-03-12 kl. 22.54.47

The Imperial Russian State Colour is a splendid flag symbolizing that which came to an end on 15 March 1917 when Nicholas II abdicated: More than twenty million square kilometres of empire and a thousand years of monarchy.

The State Colour of the Russian Empire was the principal and most prestigious military flag in pre-revolution Russia, treated always with full military honours. The latest version of the State Colour, from 1896, is kept in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow. The image above shows the State Colour as depicted in Герб и Флаг России: X-XX века (1997).

On it are the full heraldic achievements of Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias: the arms of all the realms and territories that made up the Russian Empire and, at the lower edge of the flag, the combined arms of his Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov dynasty. These armorial bearings were the same as in the Greater State Arms of the Russian Empire.

The central element of the flag is the crowned, double-headed Imperial Eagle carrying the sceptre and orb of the Empire and, on its breast, the arms with Saint George slaying the dragon, surrounded by the collar of the Order of Saint Andrew, the highest Russian order. On its wings the arms corresponding to a list of the Emperor’s titles:

Tsar of Kazan (a zilant), Tsar of Astrakhan (an oriental sword), Tsar of Poland (a single-headed eagle), Tsar of Siberia (two sables), Tsar of the Tauric Chersonesus (a double-headed eagle), Tsar of Georgia (Saint George and the dragon, among others), Grand Duke of Kiev, Vladimir and Novgorod (Saint Michael, a lion, a throne and two bears, respectively) and Grand Duke of Finland (a lion and roses).

At the edges of the flag, six shields surround the Imperial Eagle with arms of principalities, provinces and territories of the Empire. On an oak branch, from top to bottom: Great Russia (present-day Central Russia), Belarus and Lithuania, and the North-East (present-day Northern Russia). On a palm branch, from top to bottom: the South-West (Ukraine), the Baltic lands (e.g. Estonia, Livonia, Karelia) and Turkestan (Central Asia).

The State Colour was made of silk and adorned with different kinds of passementarie i.e. elaborate embroidery, edgings and braids, with gold and silver cords, and applications of coloured silk and gold leaf. Fringes and tassels were black, gold and silver. These are the colours of the Russian “heraldic flag”, a black-yellow-white tricolour introduced in 1858 and still used by Russian monarchists and nationalists today.

Two silk scrolls were embroidered with four important years. 862: The founding of the first Russian state by the viking Rurik. 988: The baptism of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great and the acceptance of Christianity by Kievan Rus. 1497: The introduction of a nationwide code of law by Grand Prince Ivan III; he was also the first Russian ruler to use the title Tsar and Autocrat. 1721: The founding of the Russian Empire by Peter the Great.

The year 1917 was as important as any in Russian history. The terrible World War brought about the fall of a deeply troubled monarchy. But in no way did the February Revolution and the abdication mean the end of hardship for Russia. The October Revolution, terror and civil war, decades of Communism and another World War followed. The last Tsar was killed, the legacy of the Empire and a millennium of Rurikid and Romanov rulers survived and is stronger in Russia today than for a long time.

Heraldic Banners of U.S. Presidents

skaermbillede-2017-02-28-kl-06-57-25

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.

Lord Snowdon dies at 86

skaermbillede-2017-01-16-kl-04-50-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queen Ana of Romania

Skærmbillede 2016-08-14 kl. 09.52.55

The royal standard of the Queen of Romania draped the coffin during the state funeral of the wife of the former king. For a couple of days Romanian television and state protocol put the Royal House of Romania centre stage.

Queen Ana (Anne) has died at the age of 92. She was the wife of King Mihai (Michael) who was Romania’s head of state 1927-1930 and 1940-1947. Ana was born in Paris, France in 1923 and she died on Monday 1 August 2016 in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland.

Queen Ana was given af state funeral in Romania. Her body was flown from Geneva to Bucharest on 9 August and was received with full military honours. The coffin was draped with the Queen of Romania’s standard, a flag which has been very rarely used in Romania since the abolition of the monarchy by the Communists in 1947.

From the airport the queen’s body was escorted to the Peleș Castle in Sinaia. Here, the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, the President of Moldova, Nicolae Timofti, and the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel of All Romania, payed their respects. From 10 August the body lay in state for three days in the throne room of the Royal Palace in Bucharest.

Saturday 13 August 2016, the day of Ana’s funeral, was declared a national day of mourning in Romania and Moldova. While thousands of mourners lined the streets the funeral cortege passed through the Romanian capital. The queen was buried in the Royal Cathedral in Curtea de Argeș north of Bucharest.

Known from birth as Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma she was the granddaughter of Robert, the last sovereign Duke of Parma, and the niece of Zita, the last Empress of Austria. Her mother was a Princess of Denmark and on her father’s side she was closely related to the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg.

During World War II Princess Anne served as an ambulance driver in the Free French Army under General Charles de Gaulle. In 1947 she met the King of Romania. After his forced abdication the young couple married in Athens, and from 1956 they lived in Switzerland. They had five children.

After the fall of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu the royal couple visited Romania together for the first time in 1992. Confiscated property was returned to the royal family and they slowly returned to playing a role in Romanian society, and on behalf of Romania in the wider world. Today, the 94-year old King Mihai is respected as an institution outside of day-to-day politics, a living link with the nation’s history and traditions.

Like other royal flags of Romania Queen Ana’s standard shows symbols of the country’s sovereignty and connects her to all of its regions:

1. The golden eagle with an Orthodox cross in its beak is a symbol of Wallachia or, in a narrower sense, Muntenia. This is the historic region centered around the capital city of Bucharest.

2. The bull’s or aurochs’ head is a symbol of Moldavia, a historic region covering both the Republic of Moldova and the Moldavia region of eastern Romania.

3. The lion on the bridge (Emperor Trajan’s bridge crossing the River Danube) represents the southwestern regions of Oltenia and the Banat.

4. The seven castles and the eagle surrounded by a sun disc and a moon crescent represent the central and western regions: Transylvania,  with its minorities of Hungarians, Szeklers and Siebenbürger Saxons, and Crișana and Maramureș, until 1920 part of Hungary.

5. The two dolphins is a symbol of the coastal region of Dobrogea.

This coat of arms is similar to that of the modern Romanian republic, the difference being the quartered white-black inescutcheon superimposed on the shield which is the ancestral Hohenzollern arms of the royal family.