Copenhagen 1892: Flags at the Royal Golden Wedding Anniversary

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The last time there was a royal golden wedding anniversary in Denmark was in 1892. A flag decorated Copenhagen celebrated the happy marriage of King Christian IX and Queen Louise. Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, their daughter, may have inspired a peculiar Saint Andrew’s cross flag: a merger of a Nordic swallow-tailed flag and a Russian naval ensign.

This photograph from 1892 shows a festively decorated building on the corner of Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Allé, two streets in Vesterbro close to the centre of Copenhagen. A number of different flags can be detected, some of them quite out of the ordinary.

Most of the flags are Danish flags, a number of them swallow-tailed. These are not naval or state flags, though. Since the 19th Century the swallow-tailed Dannebrog (the so-called splitflag) has been in wide-spread unofficial use at wedding parties, birthday celebrations etc.

There are also Norwegian and Swedish swallow-tailed flags in the black and white photo (Sweden’s blue and yellow appear a little lighter than Denmark’s red and white). Erroneously, the Norwegian and Swedish flags have two swallow tails like the Danish flag. In Norway and Sweden three tails is the norm.

The white flags with a Saint Andrew’s cross appear to be some sort of Russian flags. A white flag with a blue saltire is the naval ensign of Russia. On the building in the picture, these unofficial Russian flags are swallow-tailed like the Nordic flags.

On 26 May 1892, Christian IX and Louise had been happily married for 50 years and had been King and Queen of Denmark for more than half that time. The golden wedding celebrations in Copenhagen lasted for days. Photos and paintings from the time show that streets and houses and ships were decorated with literally thousands of flags, put up by the authorities and by private citizens.

King Christian IX and Queen Louise were known as “Europe’s parents-in-law” because their children married into prominent royal families all around the continent.

Their eldest sons became King Frederik VIII of Denmark and King George I of Greece. Their youngest son, Prince Valdemar, was suggested as a possible king of Bulgaria in 1887 and of Norway in 1905. Among their three daughters, Alexandra was married to Britain’s King Edward VII and Dagmar was married to Russia’s Emperor Alexander III. She was known as Maria Feodorovna in Russia and was the mother of the last tsar, Nicholas II.

A large number of King Christian’s and Queen Louise’s children, grandchildren, relatives and in-laws as well as foreign dignitaries gathered in Copenhagen for the celebrations. The Russian imperial yacht, the Polar Star (in Russian, Полярная звезда), lay at anchor in the harbour. The vessel was in Copenhagen not only at this occation, but rather often in fact, as the Empress loved to visit her parents and always travelled from Saint Petersburg to Denmark by ship.

Manned and commanded by the Russian Navy the imperial yacht of course flew the Russian naval ensign. This fact may explain why the Saint Andrew’s cross would have been known and used by Copenhageners to represent Russia in flag decorations in 1892.

125 years later, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, a great-great granddaughter of King Christian IX and Queen Louise, celebrates her royal golden wedding anniversary. It was on 10 June 1967 that Princess Margrethe, then heir to the Danish throne, married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, today known as Prince Henrik of Denmark.

Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik have decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary in private with their family away from rolling TV cameras. So, there will be no public festivities in Copenhagen today and, it’s safe to say, far fewer flags than in 1892.

The Russian Connection

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In 1698 Tsar Peter the Great established the Order of Saint Andrew. The X-shaped cross of Russia’s patron saint became an integral part of Russian naval flag design and inspired a number of naval jacks and ensigns in countries around the world.

The naval ensign of the Russian Federation, also know in Russian as “the Andreyevsky flag”, has a blue saltire (a diagonal cross, or a Saint Andrew’s cross) on white. It was designed by Tsar Peter personally and in its present form it has been Russia’s naval ensign since the 1710s (except from the time between the Communist Revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union). It is used by the Russian Navy and on board its warships, submarines and auxiliary vessels.

The Russian naval jack and fortress flag also originated in the 1710s during the reign of Peter the Great. It is a red flag with a white narrow cross on which is superimposed a blue saltire with white edges. The jack is flown from the bow of a naval vessel when it’s moored or at anchor. The fortress flag is raised on a flagpole at coastal fortresses and naval shore installations.

The Russian Coast Guard ensign is green and also has on it the blue saltire with white edges. The flag is used by all Coast Guard vessels. The Coast Guard is part of the border force of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

The flag of Arkhangelsk Oblast, adopted in 2009, has the provincial coat of arms and a blue saltire on white. The oblast, or province, is the home of Russia’s largest naval shipyard. The city of Arkhangelsk lies where the Northern Dvina river meets the White Sea. It is the most important harbour on the country’s northern coastline.

The naval jack of Uruguay shares two features with the country’s national flag: “The Sun of May” is in the centre, and the colours of the national flag are arranged as a blue saltire on white.

The naval ensign of Belgium has a saltire of black-yellow-red, the three colours from the Belgien national flag, with an anchor, two crossed cannons and a crown, all in black.

The naval jack of Bulgaria has the three colours of the Bulgarian national flag, but with a different design: A white background with a red cross superimposed on a green saltire.

The naval jack of Estonia also has the colours of the national flag arranged differently: A blue cross on a black saltire, all on a white background.

The naval ensign of Georgia has a white saltire on a red cross, all on blue. This flag is the youngest naval ensign of what could be called “the Andreyevsky naval flag family”. It came into use in 2004 at the same time as the national flag of Georgia was changed to its present design.

 

 

This is part 2 in a series about Saint Andrew’s crosses in flags. Read also Saint Andrew’s Day.