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

Skærmbillede 2018-02-18 kl. 12.03.32

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

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Copenhagen 1892: Flags at the Royal Golden Wedding Anniversary

Skærmbillede 2017-06-07 kl. 12.31.31

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.