1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Flag
FLAG (or “Flagge,” a common Teutonic word in this sense, but apparently first recorded in English), a piece of bunting or similar material, admitting of various shapes and colours, and waved in the wind from a staff or cord for use in display as a standard, ensign or signal. The word may simply be derived onomatopoeically, or transferred from the botanical “flag”; or an original meaning of “a piece of cloth” may be connected with the 12th-century English “flage,” meaning a baby’s garment; the verb “to flag,” i.e. droop, may have originated in the idea of a pendulous piece of bunting, or may be connected with the O. Fr. flaguir, to become flaccid. It is probable that almost as soon as men began to collect together for common purposes some kind of conspicuous object was used, as the symbol of the common sentiment, for the rallying point of the common force. In military expeditions, where any degree of organization and discipline prevailed, objects of such a kind would be necessary to mark out the lines and stations of encampment, and to keep in order the different bands when marching or in battle. In addition, it cannot be doubted that flags or their equivalents have often served, by reminding men of past resolves, past deeds and past heroes, to arouse to enthusiasm those sentiments of esprit de corps, of family pride and honour, of personal devotion, patriotism or religion, upon which, as well as upon good leadership, discipline and numerical force, success in warfare depends.
History.—Among the remains of the people which has left the earliest traces of civilization, the records of the forms of objects used as ensigns are frequently to be found. From their carvings and paintings, supplemented by ancient writers, it appears that several companies of the Egyptian army had their own particular standards. These were formed of such objects as, there is reason to believe, were associated in the minds of the men with feelings of awe and devotion. Sacred animals, boats, emblems or figures, a tablet bearing a king’s name, fan and feather-shaped symbols, were raised on the end of a staff as standards, and the office of bearing them was looked upon as one of peculiar privilege and honour (Fig. 1). Somewhat similar seem to have been the customs of the Assyrians and Jews. Among the sculptures unearthed by Layard and others at Nineveh, only two different designs have been noticed for standards: one is of a figure drawing a bow and standing on a running bull, the other of two bulls running in opposite directions (Fig. 2). These may resemble the emblems of war and peace which were attached to the yoke of Darius’s chariot. They are borne upon and attached to chariots; and this method of bearing such objects was the custom also of the Persians, and prevailed during the middle ages. That the custom survived to a comparatively modern period is proved from the fact that the “Guns,” which are the “standards” of the artillery, have from time immemorial been entitled to all the parade honours prescribed by the usages of war for the flag, that is, the symbol of authority. In days comparatively recent there was a “flag gun,” usually the heaviest piece, which emblemized authority and served also as the “gun of direction” in the few concerted movements then attempted. No representations of Egyptian or Assyrian naval standards have been found, but the sails of ships were embroidered and ornamented with devices, another custom which survived into the middle ages.
In both Egyptian and Assyrian examples, the staff bearing the emblem is frequently ornamented immediately below with flag-like streamers. Rabbinical writers have assigned the different devices of the different Jewish tribes, but the authenticity of their testimony is extremely doubtful. Banners, standards and ensigns are frequently mentioned in the Bible. “Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his standard, with the ensign of their father’s house” (Num. ii. 2). “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?” (Cant. vi. 10. See also Num. ii. 10, x. 14; Ps. xx. 5, lx. 4; Cant. ii. 4; Is. v. 26, x. 18, lix. 19; Jer. iv. 21).
|Fig. 1.—Egyptian Standards.|
The Persians bore an eagle fixed to the end of a lance, and the sun, as their divinity, was also represented upon their standards, which appear to have been formed of some kind of textile, and were guarded with the greatest jealousy by the bravest men of the army. The Carian soldier who slew Cyrus, the brother of Artaxerxes, was allowed the honour of carrying a golden cock at the head of the army, it being the custom of the Carians to wear that bird as a crest on their helmets. The North American Indians carried poles fledged with feathers from the wings of eagles, and similar customs seem to have prevailed among other semi-savage peoples.
|Fig. 2.—Assyrian Standards.|
The Greeks bore a piece of armour upon a spear in early times; afterwards the several cities bore sacred emblems or letters chosen for their particular associations—the Athenians the olive and the owl, the Corinthians a pegasus, the Thebans a sphinx, in memory of Oedipus, the Messenians their initial M, and the Lacedaemonians A. A purple dress was placed on the end of a spear as the signal to advance. The Dacians carried a standard representing a contorted serpent, while the dragon was the military sign of many peoples—of the Chinese, Dacians and Parthians among others—and was probably first used by the Romans as the ensign of barbarian auxiliaries (see fig. 3).
|Fig. 3.—Roman Standards.|
The question of the signa militaria of the Romans is a wide and very important one, having direct bearing on the history of heraldry, and on the origin of national, family and personal devices. With them the custom was reduced to system. “Each century, or at least each maniple,” says Meyrick, “had its proper standard and standard-bearer.” In the early days of the republic a handful of hay was borne on a pole, whence probably came the name manipulus (Lat. manus, a hand). The forms of standards in later times were very various; sometimes a cross piece of wood was placed at the end of a spear and surmounted by the figure of a hand in silver, below round or oval discs, with figures of Mars or Minerva, or in later times portraits of emperors or eminent generals (Fig. 3). Figures of animals, as the wolf, horse, bear and others, were borne, and it was not till a later period that the eagle became the special standard of the legion. According to Pliny, it was Gaius Marius who, in his second consulship, ordained that the Roman legions should only have the eagle for their standard; “for before that time the eagle marched foremost with four others—wolves, minotaurs, horses and bears—each one in its proper order. Not many years passed before the eagle alone began to be advanced in battle, and the rest were left behind in the camp. But Marius rejected them altogether, and since this it is observed that scarcely is there a camp of a legion wintered at any time without having a pair of eagles.”
The vexillum, which was the cavalry flag, is described by Livy as a square piece of cloth fastened to a piece of wood fixed crosswise to the end of a spear, somewhat resembling the medieval gonfalon. Examples of these vexilla are to be seen on various Roman coins and medals, on the sculptured columns of Trajan and Antoninus, and on the arch of Titus. The labarum, which was the imperial standard of later emperors, resembled in shape and fixing the vexillum. It was of purple silk richly embroidered with gold, and sometimes was not suspended as the vexillum from a horizontal crossbar, but displayed as our modern flags, that is to say, by the attachment of one of its sides to a staff. After Constantine, the labarum bore the monogram of Christ (fig. 5, A). It is supposed that the small scarf, which in medieval days was often attached to the pastoral staff or crook of a bishop, was derived from the labarum of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great. The Roman standards were guarded with religious veneration in the temples at Rome; and the reverence of this people for their ensigns was in proportion to their superiority to other nations in all that tends to success in war. It was not unusual for a general to order a standard to be cast into the ranks of the enemy, to add zeal to the onset of his soldiers by exciting them to recover what to them was perhaps the most sacred thing the earth possessed. The Roman soldier swore by his ensign.
Although in earlier times drapery was occasionally used for standards, and was often appended as ornament to those of other material, it was probably not until the middle ages that it became the special material of military and other ensigns; and perhaps not until the practice of heraldry had attained to definite nomenclature and laws does anything appear which is in the modern sense a flag.
Early flags were almost purely of a religious character. In Bede’s description of the interview between the heathen king Æthelberht and the Roman missionary Augustine, the followers of the latter are said to have borne banners on which silver crosses were displayed. The national banner of England for centuries—the red cross of St George—was a religious one; in fact the aid of religion seems ever to have been sought to give sanctity to national flags, and the origin of many can be traced to a sacred banner, as is notably the case with the oriflamme of France and the Dannebrog of Denmark. Of the latter the legend runs that King Waldemar of Denmark, leading his troops to battle against the enemy in 1219, saw at a critical moment a cross in the sky. This was at once taken as an answer to his prayers, and an assurance of celestial aid. It was forthwith adopted as the Danish flag and called the “Dannebrog,” i.e. the strength of Denmark. Apart from all legend, this flag undoubtedly dates from the 13th century, and the Danish flag is therefore the oldest now in existence.
The ancient kings of France bore the blue hood of St Martin upon their standards. The Chape de St Martin was originally in the keeping of the monks of the abbey of Marmoutier, and the right to take this blue flag into battle with them was claimed by the counts of Anjou. Clovis bore this banner against Alaric in 507, for victory was promised him by a verse of the Psalms which the choir were chanting when his envoy entered the church of St Martin at Tours. Charlemagne fought under it at the battle of Narbonne, and it frequently led the French to victory. At what precise period the oriflamme, which was originally simply the banner of the abbey of St Denis, supplanted the Chape de St Martin as the sacred banner of all France is not known. Probably, however, it gradually became the national flag after the kings of France had transferred the seat of government to Paris, where the great local saint, St Denis, was held in high honour, and the banner hung over the tomb of the saint in the abbey church. The king of France himself was one of the vassals of the abbey of St Denis for the fief of the Vexin, and it was in his quality of count of Vexin that Louis VI., le Gros, bore this banner from the abbey to battle, in 1124. He is credited with having been the first French king to have taken the banner to war, and it appeared for the last time on the field of fight at Agincourt in 1415. The accounts also of its appearance vary considerably. Guillaume Guiart, in his Chronicle says:—
|“Oriflambe est une bannière|
De cendal voujoiant et simple
Sans portraiture d’autre affaire.”
It would, therefore, seem to have been a plain scarlet flag; whilst an English authority states “the celestial auriflamb, so by the French admired, was but of one colour, a square redde banner.” The Chronique de Flandres describes it as having three points with tassels of green silk attached. The banner of William the Conqueror was sent to him by the pope, and the early English kings fought under the banners of Edward the Confessor and St Edmund; while the blended crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick still form the national ensign of the united kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, whose patron saints they severally were.
|Fig. 4—Pennons and Standards from the Bayeux Tapestry.|
The Bayeux tapestry, commemorating the Norman conquest of England, contains abundant representations of the flags of the period borne upon the lances of the knights of William’s army. They appear small in size, and pointed, frequently indented into three points and bearing pales, crosses and roundels. One, a Saxon pennon, is triangular, and roundly indented into four points; one banner is of segmental shape and rayed, and bears the figure of a bird, which has been supposed to represent the raven of the war-flag of the Scandinavian Vikings (fig. 4). In all, thirty-seven pennons borne on lances by various knights are represented in the Bayeux tapestry, and of these twenty-eight have triple points, whilst others have two, four or five. The devices on these pennons are very varied and distinctive, although the date is prior to the period in which heraldry became definitely established. In fact, the flags and their charges are probably not really significant of the people bearing them; for, even admitting that personal devices were used at the time, the figures may have been placed without studied intention, and so give the general figure only of such flags as happened to have come under the observation of the artists. The figures are probably rather ornamental and symbolic than strictly heraldic,—that is, personal devices, for the same insignia do not appear on the shields of the several bearers. The dragon standard which he is known to have borne is placed near Harold; but similar figures appear on the shields of Norman warriors, which fact has induced a writer in the Journal of the Archaeological Association (vol. xiii. p. 113) to suppose that on the spears of the Saxons they represent only trophies torn from the shields of the Normans, and that they are not ensigns at all. Standards in form much resembling these dragons appear on the Arch of Titus and the Trajan column as the standards of barbarians.
At the battle of the Standard in 1138 the English standard was formed of the mast of a ship, having a silver pyx at the top and bearing three sacred banners, dedicated severally to St Peter, St John of Beverley and St Wilfrid of Ripon, the whole being fastened to a wheeled vehicle. Representations of three-pointed, cross-bearing pennons are found on seals of as early date as the Norman era, and the warriors in the first crusade bore three-pointed pennons. It is possible that the three points with the three roundels and cross, which so often appear on these banners, have some reference to the faith of the bearers in the Trinity and in the Crucifixion, for in contemporary representations of Christ’s resurrection and descent into hell he bears a three-pointed banner with cross above. The triple indentation so common on the flags of this period has been supposed to be the origin of one of the honourable ordinaries—the pile. The “pile,” it may be explained, is in the form of a wedge, and unless otherwise specified in the blazon, occupies the central portion of the escutcheon, issuing from the middle chief. It may, however, issue from any other extremity of the shield, and there may be more than one. More secular characters were, however, not uncommon. In 1244 Henry III. gave order for a “dragon to be made in fashion of a standard of red silk sparkling all over with fine gold, the tongue of which should be made to resemble burning fire and appear to be continually moving, and the eyes of sapphires or other suitable stones.” The Siege of Carlaverock, an Anglo-Norman poem of the 14th century, describes the heraldic bearings on the banners of the knights at the siege of that fortress. Of the king himself the writer says:—
|“En sa bannière trois luparte|
De or fin estoient mis en rouge;”
and he goes on to describe the kingly characteristics these may be supposed to symbolize. A MS. in the British Museum (one of Sir Christopher Barker’s heraldic collection, Harl. 4632) gives drawings of the standards of English kings from Edward III. to Henry VIII., which are roughly but artistically coloured.
The principal varieties of flags borne during the middle ages were the pennon, the banner and the standard. The “guydhommes” or “guidons,” “banderolls,” “pennoncells,” “streamers” or pendants, may be considered as minor varieties. The pennon (fig. 5, B) was a purely personal ensign, sometimes pointed, but more generally forked or swallow-tailed at the end. It was essentially the flag of the knight simple, as apart from the knight banneret, borne by him on his lance, charged with his personal armorial bearings so displayed that they stood in true position when he couched his lance for action. A MS. of the 16th century (Harl. 2358) in the British Museum, which gives minute particulars as to the size, shape and bearings of the standards, banners, pennons, guydhommes, pennoncells, &c., says “a pennon must be two yards and a half long, made round at the end, and conteyneth the armes of the owner,” and warns that “from a standard or streamer a man may flee but not from his banner or pennon bearing his arms.”
|Fig. 5.—A, Labarum from medallion of Constantine; B, Medieval Pennon; C. Medieval Banner; D., Standard of Henry V.|
A pennoncell (or penselle) was a diminutive pennon carried by the esquires. Flags of this character were largely used on any special occasion of ceremony, and more particularly at state funerals. For instance, we find “XII. doz. penselles” amongst the items that figured at the funeral of the duke of Norfolk in 1554, and in the description of the lord mayor’s procession in the following year we read of “ij goodly pennes (state barges) deckt with flages and stremers, and a m (1000) penselles.” Amongst the items that ran the total cost of the funeral of Oliver Cromwell up to an enormous sum of money, we find mention of thirty dozen of pennoncells a foot long and costing twenty shillings a dozen, and twenty dozen of the same kind of flags at twelve shillings a dozen.
The banner was, in the earlier days of chivalry, a square flag, though at a later date it is often found greater in length than in depth, precisely as is the case in the ordinary national flags of to-day. In some very early examples it is found considerably longer in the depth on the staff than in its outward projection from the staff. The banner was charged in a manner exactly similar to the shield of the owner, and it was borne by knights banneret and all above them in rank. As a rough guide it may be taken that the banner of an emperor was 6 ft. square; of a king, 5 ft.; of a prince or duke, 4 ft.; of a marquis, earl, viscount or baron, 3 ft. square. As the function of the banner was to display the armorial bearings of the dignitary who had the right to carry it, it is evident that the square form was the most convenient and akin to the shield of primal heraldry. In fact, flags were originally heraldic emblems, though in modern devices the strict laws of heraldry have often been departed from.
The rank of knights bannerets was higher than that of ordinary knights, and they could be created on the field of battle only. To create a knight banneret, the king or commander-in-chief in person tore off the fly of the pennon on the lance of the knight, thus turning it roughly into the square flag or banner, and so making the knight a banneret. The date in which this dignity originated is uncertain, but it was probably about the period of Edward I. John Chandos is said to have been made a banneret by the Black Prince and the king of Castile at Najara on the 3rd of April 1367; John of Copeland was made a banneret in the reign of Edward III., he having taken prisoner David Bruce, the Scottish king, at the battle of Durham. In more modern times Captain John Smith, of Lord Bernard Stuart’s troop of the King’s Guards, who saved the royal banner from the parliamentary troops at Edgehill, was made a knight banneret by Charles I. From this time the custom of creating knights banneret ceased until it was revived by George II. after Dettingen in 1743, when the dignity was again conferred. It is true, however, that, when in 1763 Sir William Erskine presented to George III. sixteen stands of colours captured by his regiment [now the 15th (king’s) Hussars] at Emsdorf, he was raised to the dignity of knight banneret, but as the ceremony was not performed on the field of battle, the creation was considered irregular, and his possession of the rank was not generally recognized.
The banner was therefore not only a personal ensign, but it also denoted that he who bore it was the leader of a military force, large or small according to his degree or estate. It was, in fact, the battle flag of the leader who controlled the particular force that followed it into the fight. Every baron who in time of war had furnished the proper number of men to his liege was entitled to charge with his arms the banner which they followed. There could indeed be at present found no better representative of the medieval “banner” than what we now term the “royal standard”; it is essentially the personal battle flag of the king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It and other royal and imperial standards have now become “standards,” inasmuch as they are to-day used for display in the same fashion, and for the same purposes as was the “standard” of old. The “gonfalon” or “gonfannon” was a battle flag differing from the ordinary banner in that it was not attached to the pole but hung from it crosswise, and was not always square in shape but serrated, so that the lower edge formed streamers. The gonfalon was in action borne close to the person of the commander-in-chief and denoted his position. In certain of the Italian cities chief magistrates had the privilege of bearing a gonfalon, and for this reason were known as “gonfaloniere.”
The standard (fig. 5, D) was a flag of noble size, long, tapering towards the fly (the “fly” is that portion of the flag farther from the pole, the “hoist” the portion of the flag attached to the pole), the edges of the flag fringed or bordered, and with the ends split and rounded off. The shape was not, however, by any means uniform during the middle ages nor were there any definite rules as to its charges. It varied in size according to the rank of the owner. The Tudor MS. mentioned above says of the royal standard of that time—“the Standard to be sett before the king’s pavilion or tente, and not to be borne in battayle; to be in length eleven yards.” A MS. of the time of Henry VII. gives the following dimensions for standards: “The King’s had a length of eight yards; that of a duke, seven; a marquis, six and a half; an earl, six; a viscount, five and a half; a baron, five; a knight banneret, four and a half; and a knight four yards.” The standard was, in fact, from its size, and as its very name implies, not meant to be carried into action, as was the banner, but to denote the actual position of its possessor on occasions of state ceremonial, or on the tilting ground, and to denote the actual place occupied by him and his following when the hosts were assembled in camp preparatory for battle. It was essentially a flag denoting position, whereas the banner was the rallying point of its followers in the actual field. Its uses are now fulfilled, as far as royalties are concerned, by the “banner” which has now become the “royal standard,” and which floats over the palace where the king is in residence, is hoisted at the saluting point when he reviews his troops, and is broken from the mainmast of any ship in his navy the moment that his foot treads its deck. The essential condition of the standard was that it should always have the cross of St. George conspicuous in the innermost part of the hoist immediately contiguous to the staff; the remainder of the flag was then divided fesse-wise by two or more stripes of colours exactly as the heraldic “ordinary” termed “fesse” crosses the shield horizontally. The colours used as stripes, as also those used in the fringe or bordering of the standard, were those which prevailed in the arms of the bearer or were those of his livery. The standard here depicted (fig. 5, D) is that of Henry V.; the colours white and blue, a white antelope standing between two red roses, and in the interspaces more red roses. To quote again from the Harleian MS. above mentioned: “Every standard and guidon to have in the chief the cross of St George, the beast or crest with his devyce and word, and to be slitt at the end.” The motto indeed usually figured on most standards, though occasionally it was missing. An excellent type of the old standard is that of the earls of Percy, which bore the blue lion, the crescent, and the fetterlock—all badges of the family—whilst, as tokens of matrimonial alliances with the families of Poynings, Bryan and Fitzpayne, a silver key, a bugle-horn and a falchion were respectively displayed. There was also the historic Percy motto, Espérance en Dieu. No one, whatsoever his rank, could possess more than one banner, since it displayed his heraldic arms, which were unchangeable. A single individual, however, might possess two or three standards since this flag displayed badges that he could multiply at discretion, and a motto that he could at any time change. For example, the standards of Henry VII., mostly green and white—the colours of the Tudor livery—had in one “a red firye dragon,” in another “a donne kowe,” in a third “a silver greyhound and two red roses.” The standard was always borne by an eminent person, and that of Henry V. at Agincourt is supposed to have been carried upon a car that preceded the king. At Nelson’s funeral his banner and standard were borne in the procession, and around his coffin were the banderolls—square, bannerlike flags bearing the various arms of his family lineage. Nelson’s standard bore his motto, Palmam qui meruit ferat, but, in lieu of the cross of St George, it bore the union of the crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick, the medieval England having expanded into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Again, at the funeral of the duke of Wellington we find amongst the flags his personal banner and standard, and ten banderolls of the duke’s pedigree and descent.
The guidon, a name derived from the Fr. Guyd-homme, was somewhat similar to the standard, but without the cross of St George, rounded at the end, less elongated and altogether less ornate. It was borne by a leader of horse, and according to a medieval writer “must be two and a half yards or three yards long, and therein shall no armes be put, but only the man’s crest, cognisance, and devyce.”
The streamer, so called in Tudor days but now better known as the pennant or pendant, was a long, tapering flag, which it was directed “shall stand in the top of a ship or in the forecastle, and therein be put no armes, but the man’s cognisance or devyce, and may be of length twenty, thirty, forty or sixty yards, and is slitt as well as a guidon or standard.” Amongst the fittings of the ship that took Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, to France in the reign of Henry VII. was a “grete stremour for the shippe xl yardes in length viij yardes in brede.” In the hoist was “a grete bere holding a raggid staffe,” and the rest of the fly “powdrid full of raggid staves.”
National Flags.—British. The royal standard of England was, when it was hoisted on the Tower on the 1st of January 1801, thus heraldically described:—“Quarterly; first and fourth, gules, three lions passant gardant, in pale, or, for England; second, or, a lion rampant, gules, within a double tressure flory counter flory of the last, for Scotland; third, azure, a harp or, stringed argent, for Ireland.” The present standard connects in direct descent from the arms of the Conqueror. These were two leopards passant on a red field, and remained the same until the reign of Henry II., when lions were substituted for leopards, and a third added. The next change that took place was in the reign of Edward III. when the royal arms were for the first time quartered; fleurs-de-lis in the first and fourth quarters, and the three lions of England in the second and third. The fleurs-de-lis were assumed in token of the monarch’s claim to the throne of France. In the “coats” of Edward III. and the two monarchs that succeeded him, the fleurs-de-lis were powdered over a blue ground, but under Henry V. the fleurs-de-lis were reduced in number to three, and the “coat” so devised remained the same until the death of Queen Elizabeth. The lion of Scotland and the Irish harp were added to the flag on the accession of James I., and the flag then had the French and English arms quartered in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland, red on a yellow ground, in the second quarter, and the harp of Ireland, gold on a blue ground, in the third quarter. With the exception of the period of the Commonwealth, to which reference will be made later, the flag remained thus until the accession of William III., who imposed upon the Stuart standard a central shield carrying the arms of Nassau. Queen Anne made further alterations; the first and fourth quarters were subdivided, the three lions of England being in one half, the lion of Scotland in the other. The fleurs-de-lis were in the second quarter; the Irish harp in the third. Under George I. and George II. the first, second and third quarters remained the same, the arms of Hanover being placed in the fourth quarter, and this continued to be the royal standard until 1801, when the standard was rearranged as first described with the addition of the Hanoverian arms displayed on a shield in the centre. On the accession of Queen Victoria, the Hanoverian arms were removed, and the flag remained as it to-day exists. It is worthy of note, however, that in the royal standard of King Edward VII. which hangs in the chapel of St George at Windsor, the ordinary “winged woman” form of the harp in the Irish third quartering is altered to a harp of the old Irish pattern. At King Edward’s accession this banner replaced that of Queen Victoria which for sixty-two years had hung in this, the chapel of the order of the Garter.
Up to the time of the Stuarts it had been the custom of the lord high admiral or person in command of the fleet to fly the royal standard as deputy of the sovereign. When royalty ceased to be, a new flag was devised by the council of state for the Commonwealth, which comprised the “arms of England and Ireland in two several escutcheons in a red flag within a compartment.” In other words, it was a red flag containing two shields, the one bearing the cross of St George, red on a white ground, the other the harp, gold on a blue ground, and round the shields was a wreath of palm and shamrock leaves. One of these flags is still in existence at Chatham dockyard, where it is kept in a wooden chest which was taken out of a Spanish galleon at Vigo by Admiral Sir George Rooke in 1704. When Cromwell became protector of the commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, he devised for himself a personal standard. This had the cross of St George in the first and fourth quarters, the cross of St Andrew, a white saltire on a blue ground, in the second, and the Irish harp in the third. His own arms—a lion on a black shield—were imposed on the centre of the flag. No one but royalty has a right to fly the royal standard, and though it is constantly seen flying for purposes of decoration its use is irregular. There has, however, always been one exception, namely, that the lord high admiral when in executive command of a fleet has always been entitled to fly the royal standard. For example, Lord Howard flew it from the mainmast of the “Ark Royal” when he defeated the Spanish Armada; the duke of Buckingham flew it as lord high admiral in the reign of Charles I., and the duke of York fought under it when he commanded during the Dutch Wars.
The national flag of the British empire is the Union Jack, in which are combined in union the crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick. St George had long been a patron saint of England, and his banner, argent, a cross gules, its national ensign. St Andrew in the same way was the patron saint of Scotland, and his banner, azure, a saltire argent, the national ensign of Scotland. On the union of the two crowns James I. issued a proclamation ordaining that “henceforth all our subjects of this Isle and Kingdom of Greater Britain and the members thereof, shall bear in their main-top the red cross commonly called St George’s cross, and the white cross commonly called St Andrew’s cross, joined together according to a form made by our heralds, and sent by us to our admiral to be published to our said subjects; and in their fore-top our subjects of south Britain shall wear the red cross only, as they were wont, and our subjects of north Britain in their fore-top, the white cross only as they were accustomed.” This was the first Union Jack, as it is generally termed, though strictly the name of the flag is the “Great Union,” and it is only a “Jack” when flown on the jackstaff of a ship of war. Probably the name of the Stuart king “Jacques,” which James I. always signed, gave the name to the flag, and then to the staff at which it was hoisted. At the death of Charles I., the union with Scotland being dissolved, the ships of the parliament reverted to the simple cross of St George, but the union flag was restored when Cromwell became protector, with the Irish harp imposed upon its centre. On the Restoration, Charles II. removed the harp and so the original union flag was restored, and continued as described until the year 1801, when, on the legislative union with Ireland, the cross of St Patrick, a saltire gules, on a field argent, was incorporated in the union flag. To so combine these three crosses without losing the distinctive features of each was not easy; each cross must be distinct, and retain equally distinct its fimbriation, or bordering, which denotes the original ground. In the first union flag, the red cross of St George with the white fimbriation that represented-the original white field was simply imposed upon the white saltire of St Andrew with its blue field. To place the red saltire of St Patrick on the white saltire of St Andrew would have been to obliterate the latter, nor would the red saltire have its proper bordering denoting its original white field; even were the red saltire narrowed in width the portion of the white saltire that would appear would not be the St Andrew saltire, but only the fimbriation appertaining to the saltire of St Patrick. The difficulty has been got over by making the white broader on one side of the red than the other. In fact, the continuity of direction of the arms of the St Patrick red saltire has been broken by its portions being removed from the centre of the oblique points that form the St Andrew’s saltire. Thus both the Irish and Scottish saltires can be easily distinguished from one another, whilst the red saltire has its due white fimbriation.
The Union Jack is the most important of all British ensigns, and is flown by representatives of the empire all the world over. It flies from the jackstaff of every man-of-war in the navy. With the Irish harp on a blue shield displayed in the centre, it is flown by the lord-lieutenant of Ireland. When flown by the
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governor-general of India the star and device of the order of the Star of India are borne in the centre. Colonial governors fly it with the badge of their colony displayed in the centre. Diplomatic representatives use it with the royal arms in the centre. As a military flag, it is flown over fortresses and headquarters, and on all occasions of military ceremonial. Hoisted at the mainmast of a man-of-war it is the flag of an admiral of the fleet.
Military flags in the shape of regimental standards and colours, and flags used for signalling, are described elsewhere, and it will here be only necessary to deal with the navy and admiralty flags.
The origin of the three ensigns—the red, white, and blue—had its genesis in the navy. In the days of huge fleets, such as prevailed in the Tudor and Stuart navies, there were, besides the admiral in supreme command, a vice-admiral as second in command, and a rear-admiral as third in command, each controlling his own particular group or squadron. These were designated centre, van, and rear, the centre almost invariably being commanded by the admiral, the vice-admiral taking the van and the rear-admiral the rear squadron. In order that any vessel in any group could distinguish its own admiral’s ship, the flagships of centre, van, and rear flew respectively a plain red, white, or blue flag, and so came into being those naval ranks of admiral, vice-admiral, and rear-admiral of the red, white, and blue which continued down to as late as 1864. As the admiral in supreme command flew the union at the main, there was no rank of admiral of the red, and it was not until November 1805 that the rank of admiral of the red was added to the navy as a special compliment to reward Trafalgar. About 1652, so that each individual ship in the squadron should be distinguishable as well as the flagships, each vessel carried a large red, white, or blue flag according as to whether she belonged to the centre, van, or rear, each flag having in the left-hand upper corner a canton, as it is termed, of white bearing the St George’s cross. These flags were called ensigns, and it is, of course, due to the fact that the union with Scotland was for the time dissolved that they bore only the St George’s cross. Even when the restoration of the Stuarts restored the status quo the cross of St George still remained alone on the ensign, and it was not altered until 1707 when the bill for the Union of England and Scotland passed the English parliament. In 1801, when Ireland joined the Union, the flag, of course, became as we know it to-day. All these three ensigns belonged to the royal navy, and continued to do so until 1864, but as far back as 1707 ships of the mercantile marine were instructed to fly the red ensign. As ironclads replaced the wooden vessels and fleets became smaller the inconvenience of three naval ensigns was manifest, and in 1864 the grades of flag officer were reduced again to admiral, vice-admiral, and rear-admiral, and the navy abandoned the use of the red and blue ensigns, retaining only the white ensign as its distinctive flag. The mercantile marine retained the red ensign which they were already using, whilst the blue ensign was allotted to vessels employed on the public service whether home or colonial.
The white ensign is therefore essentially the flag of the royal navy. It should not be flown anywhere or on any occasion except by a ship (or shore establishment) of the royal navy, with but one exception. By a grant of William IV. dating from 1829 vessels belonging to the Royal Yacht Squadron, the chief of all yacht clubs, are allowed to fly the white ensign. From 1821 to 1829 ships of the squadron flew the red ensign, as that of highest dignity, but as it was also used by merchant ships, they then obtained the grant of the white ensign as being more distinctive. Some few other yacht clubs flew it until 1842, when the privilege was withdrawn by an admiralty minute. By some oversight the order was not conveyed to the Royal Western of Ireland, whose ships flew the white ensign until in 1857 the usage was stopped. Since that date the Royal Yacht Squadron has alone had the privilege. Any vessel of any sort flying the white ensign, or pennant, of the navy is committing a grave offence, and the ship can be boarded by any officer of His Majesty’s service, the colours seized, the vessel reported to the authorities, and a penalty inflicted on the owners or captain or both. The penalty incurred is £500 fine for each offence, as laid down in the 73rd section of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. In 1883 Lord Annesley’s yacht, belonging to the Royal Yacht Squadron, was detained at the Dardanelles in consequence of her flying the white ensign of the royal navy which brought her under the category of a man-of-war, and no foreign man-of-war is allowed to pass the Dardanelles without first obtaining an imperial irade. Since then owners belonging to the squadron have been warned that they must either sail their ships through the straits under the red ensign common to all ships British owned, or obtain imperial permission if they wish to display the white ensign.
Besides the white ensign the ship of war flies a long streamer from the maintopgallant masthead. This, which is called a pennant, is flown only by ships in commission; it is, in fact, the sign of command, and is first hoisted when a captain commissions his ship. The pennant, which was really the old “pennoncell,” was of three colours for the whole of its length, and towards the end left separate in two or three tails, and so continued till the end of the great wars in 1816. Now, however, the pennant is a long white streamer with the St George’s cross in the inner portion close to the mast. Pennants have been carried by men-of-war from the earliest times, prior to 1653 at the yard-arm, but since that date at the maintopgallant masthead.
The blue ensign is exclusively the flag of the public service other than the royal navy, and is as well the flag of the royal naval reserve. It is flown also by certain authorized vessels of the British mercantile marine, the conditions governing this privilege being that the captain and a certain specified portion of the officers and crew shall belong to the ranks of the royal naval reserve. When flown by ships belonging to British government offices the seal or badge of the office is displayed in the fly. For example, hired transports fly it with the yellow anchor in the fly; the marine department of the Board of Trade has in the fly the device of a ship under sail; the telegraph branch of the post-office shows in the fly a device representing Father Time with his hour-glass shattered by lightning; the ordnance department displays upon the fly a shield with a cannon and cannon balls upon it. Certain yacht clubs are also authorized by special admiralty warrant to fly the blue ensign. Some of these display it plain; others show in the fly the distinctive badge of the club. Consuls-general, consuls and consular agents also have a right to fly the blue ensign, the distinguishing badge in their case being the royal arms.
The red ensign is the distinguishing flag of the British merchant service, and special orders to this effect were issued by Queen Anne in 1707, and again by Queen Victoria in 1864. The order of Queen Anne directed that merchant vessels should fly a red flag “with a Union Jack described in a canton at the upper corner thereof next the staff,” and this is probably the first time that the term “Union Jack” was officially used. In some cases those yacht clubs which fly the red ensign change it slightly from that flown by the merchant service, for they are allowed to display the badge of the club in the fly. Colonial merchantmen usually display the ordinary red ensign, but, provided they have a warrant of authorization from the admiralty, they can use the ensign with the badge of the colony in the fly.
In regard to ensigns it is important to remember that they are purely maritime flags, and though the rule is more honoured in the breach than in the observance, the only flag that a private individual or a corporation has a right to display on shore is the national flag, the Union Jack, in its plain condition and without any emblazonment.
There are two other British sea flags which are worthy of brief notice. These are the admiralty flag and the flag of the master of Trinity House. The admiralty flag is a plain red flag with a clear anchor in the centre in yellow. In a sense it is a national flag, for the sovereign hoists it when afloat in conjunction with the royal standard and the Union Jack. It would appear to have been first used by the duke of York as lord high admiral, who flew it when the sovereign was afloat and had the royal standard flying in another ship. When a board of commissioners was appointed to execute the office of lord high admiral this was the flag adopted, and in 1691 we find the admiralty, minuting the navy board, then a subordinate department, “requiring and directing it to cause a fitting red silk flag, with the anchor and cable therein, to be provided against Tuesday morning next, for the barge belonging to this board.” In 1725, presumably as being more pretty and artistic, the cable in the device was twisted round the stock of the anchor. It was thus made into a “foul anchor,” the thing of all others that a sailor most hates, and this despite the fact that the first lord at the time, the earl of Berkeley, was himself a sailor. The anchor retained its unseamanlike appearance, and was not “cleared” till 1815, and even to this day the buttons of the naval uniform bear a “foul anchor.” The “anchor” flag is solely the emblem of an administrative board; it does not carry the executive or combatant functions which are vested in the royal standard, the union or an admiral’s flag, but on two occasions it has been made use of as an executive flag. In 1719 the earl of Berkeley, who at the time was not only first lord of the admiralty, but vice-admiral of England, obtained the special permission of George I. to hoist it at the main instead of the union flag. Again in 1869, when Mr Childers, then first lord, accompanied by some members of his board, went on board the “Agincourt” he hoisted the admiralty flag and took command of the combined Mediterranean and Channel squadrons, thus superseding the flags of the two distinguished officers who at the time were in command of these squadrons. It is hardly necessary to add that throughout the navy there was a very distinct feeling of dissatisfaction at the innovation. When the admiralty flag is flown by the sovereign it is hoisted at the fore, his own standard being of course at the main, and the union at the mizzen.
The flag of the master of the Trinity House is the red cross of St George on its white ground, but with an ancient ship on the waves in each quarter; in the centre is a shield with a precisely similar device and surmounted by a lion.
The sign of a British admiral’s command afloat is always the same. It is the St George’s cross. Of old it was borne on the main, the fore, or the mizzen, according as to whether the officer to whom it pertained was admiral, vice-admiral, or rear-admiral, but, as ironclads superseded wooden ships, and a single pole mast took the place of the old three masts, a different method of indicating rank was necessitated. To-day the flag of an admiral is a square one, the plain St George’s cross. When flown by a vice-admiral it bears a red ball on the white ground in the upper canton next to the staff; if flown by a rear-admiral there is a red ball in both the upper and lower cantons. As nowadays most battleships have two masts, the admiral’s flag is hoisted at the one which has no masthead semaphore. The admiral’s flag is always a square one, but that of a commodore is a broad white pennant with the St George’s cross. If the commodore be first class the flag is plain; if of the second class the flag has a red ball in the upper canton next to the staff. The same system of differentiating rank prevails in most navies, though very often a star takes the place of the ball. In some cases, however, the indications of rank are differently shown. For instance, both in the Russian and Japanese navies the distinction is made by a line of colour on the upper or lower edges of the flag.
The flags of the British colonies are the same as those of the mother country, but differentiated by the badge of the colony being placed in the centre of the flag if it is the Union Jack, or in the fly if it be the blue or red ensign. Examples of these are shown in the Plate, where the blue ensign illustrated is that of New Zealand, the device of the colony being the southern cross in the fly. Precisely the same flag, with a large six-pointed star, emblematic of the six states immediately under the union, forms the flag of the federated commonwealth of Australia. The red ensign shown is that of the Dominion of Canada, the device in the fly being the armorial bearings of the Dominion. As the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, as the representative of royalty, flies the Union Jack with a harp in the centre, or the viceroy of India flies the same flag with, in the centre, the badge of the order of the Star of India, so too colonial governors or high commissioners fly the union flag with the arms of the colony they preside over on a white shield in the centre and surrounded by a laurel wreath. In the case of Canada the wreath, however, is not of laurel but of maple, which is the special emblem of the Dominion.
French.—To come to flags of other countries, nowhere have historical events caused so much change in the standards and national ensigns of a country as in the case of France. The oriflamme and the Chape de St Martin were succeeded at the end of the 16th century, when Henry III., the last of the house of Valois, came to the throne, by the white standard powdered with fleurs-de-lis. This in turn gave place to the famous tricolour. The tricolour was introduced at the time of the Revolution, but the origin of this flag and its colours is a disputed question. Some maintain that the intention was to combine in the flag the blue of the Chape de St Martin, the red of the oriflamme, and the white flag of the Bourbons. By others the colours are said to be those of the city of Paris. Yet again, other authorities assert that the flag is copied from the shield of the Orleans family as it appeared after Philippe Égalité had knocked off the fleurs-de-lis. The tricolour is divided vertically into three parts of equal width—blue, white and red, the red forming the fly, the white the middle, and the blue the hoist of the flag. During the first and second empires the tricolour became the imperial standard, but in the centre of the white stripe was placed the eagle, whilst all three stripes were richly powdered over with the golden bees of the Napoleons. The tricolour is now the sole flag of France.
American.—Before the Declaration of Independence the flags of those colonies which now form the United States of America were very various. In the early days of New England the Puritans objected to the red cross of St George, not from any disloyalty to the mother country, but from a conscientious objection to what they deemed an idolatrous symbol. By the year 1700 most of the colonies had devised badges to distinguish their vessels from those of England and of each other. In the early stages of the revolution each state adopted a flag of its own; thus, that of Massachusetts bore a pine tree, South Carolina displayed a rattlesnake, New York had a white flag with a black beaver, and Rhode Island a white flag with a blue anchor upon it. Even after the Declaration of Independence, and the introduction of the stars and stripes, the latter underwent many changes in the manner of their arrangement before taking the position at present established. In 1775 a committee was appointed to consider the question of a single flag for the thirteen states. It recommended that the union be retained in the upper corner next to the staff, the remainder of the field of the flag to be of thirteen horizontally disposed stripes, alternately red and white. This flag, curiously enough, was precisely the same as the flag of the old Honourable East India Company. On the 14th of June 1777 congress resolved “that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” This was the origin of the national flag, but at first, as the number of the stripes were unequal, the flag very often varied, sometimes having seven white and six red stripes, and at other times seven red and six white, and it was not for some considerable time that it was authoritatively laid down that the latter arrangement was the one to be adopted. It has also been held that the stars and stripes of the American national flag, as well as the eagle, were suggested by the crest and arms of the Washington family. The latter supposition is absurd, for the Washington crest was a raven. The Washington arms were a white shield having two horizontal red bars, and above these a row of three red stars. This might, by a stretch of imagination, be supposed to have inspired the original idea of the flag which was that each state in the Union should be represented in the national flag by a star
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and stripe. Naturally other states coming into the Union expected the same privilege. After Vermont in 1790 and Kentucky in 1792 had entered the Union, the stars and stripes were changed in number from thirteen to fifteen. Later on other states joined, and soon the flag came to consist of twenty stars and stripes. It was, however, found objectionable to be constantly altering the national flag, and in the year 1818 it was determined to go back to the original thirteen stripes, but to place a star for each state in the blue union canton in the top corner of the flag next the staff. Thus the stars always show the exact number of states that are in the Union, whilst the stripes denote the original number of the states that formed the union. The presidential flag of the president of the United States is an eagle on a blue field, bearing on its breast a shield displaying stripes, and above the national motto E pluribus unum, and a design of the stars of the original thirteen states of the union.
Other Countries.—The most general and important of the various national flags are figured in the Plate. In the top line representing Great Britain are shown the royal standard, the Union Jack (the national flag), the white ensign of the royal navy, the blue ensign of government service, and the red ensign of the commercial marine, colonial flags being shown in the case of the two latter ensigns. The two Japanese flags shown are the man-of-war ensign—a rising sun, generally known as the sun-burst—and the flag of the mercantile marine, in which the red ball is used without the rays and placed in the centre of the white field. The imperial standard of Japan is a golden chrysanthemum on a red field. It is essential that the chrysanthemum should invariably have sixteen petals. Heraldry in Japan is of a simpler character than that of Europe, and is practically limited to the employment of “Mon,” which correspond very nearly to the “crests” of European heraldry. The great families of Japan possess at least one, and in many cases even three, “Mon.” The imperial family use two, the one Kiku no go Mon (the august chrysanthemum crest) and Kiri no go Mon (the august Kiri crest). The first represents the sixteen-petalled chrysanthemum, and, although the use of the chrysanthemum flower as a badge is not necessarily confined to the imperial family, they alone have the right to use the sixteen-petalled form. If used by any other family, or society or corporation, it must be with a number of petals less or more than sixteen. The second imperial “Mon” is composed of three leaves and three flower spikes of the Kiri (Paulownia imperialis). This, however, is not displayed as an official emblem, that being reserved for the chrysanthemum. The Kiri is used for more private purposes. For example, the chrysanthemum figures in the imperial standard, and the Kiri “Mon” adorns the harness of the emperor’s horses. It is very probable that the chrysanthemum crest did not originally represent the chrysanthemum flower at all but the sun with sixteen rays, and it will be noticed that in the “sun-burst” flag the sun’s rays are sixteen in number. The use of the number sixteen is probably traceable to Chinese geomantic ideas.
The German imperial navy and mercantile marine flags are next depicted. The “iron cross” in the navy flag is that of the Teutonic Order, and dates from the close of the 12th century. For five centuries black and white have been the Hohenzollern colours, and the first verse of the German war song, Ich bin ein Preusse, runs:—
|“I am a Prussian! Know ye not my banner?|
Before me floats my flag of black and white!
My fathers died for freedom, ’twas their manner,
So say these colours floating in your sight.”
The mercantile marine tricolour of black, white and red is emblematic of the joining of the Hohenzollern black and white with the red and white, which was the ensign of the Hanseatic League. This flag came into being when the North German Confederacy was established (November 25th, 1867) at the close of the Austro-Prussian War.
The German imperial standard has the iron cross with its white border displayed on a yellow field, diapered over in each of the four quarters with three black eagles and a crown. In the centre of the cross is a shield bearing the arms of Prussia surmounted by a crown, and surrounded by a collar of the Order of the Black Eagle. In the four arms of the crown are the legend Gott mit uns 1870. The United States flag and the tricolour of France have already been fully dealt with, and in both countries the one flag is common to both men-of-war and ships of the mercantile marine.
The next depicted are the imperial navy and the mercantile marine flags of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In the latter the introduction of the green half stripe denotes the combination of the Austrian red, white and red with the Hungarian red, white and green. The shields with which the flag is charged contain respectively the arms of Austria and of Hungary. The former shield only is borne on the man-of-war ensign, and displays the heraldic device of the ancient dukes of Austria, which dates back to the year 1191. The Austrian imperial standard has, on a yellow ground, the black double-headed eagle, on the breast and wings of which are imposed shields bearing the arms of the provinces of the empire. The flag is bordered all round, the border being composed of equal-sided triangles with their apices alternately inwards and outwards, those with their apices pointing inwards being alternately yellow and white, the others alternately scarlet and black.
The green, white and red Italian tricolour was adopted in 1805, when Napoleon I. formed Italy into one kingdom. It was adopted again in 1848 by the Nationalists of the peninsula, accepted by the king of Sardinia, and, charged by him with the arms of Savoy, it became the flag of a united Italy. The man-of-war flag is precisely similar to that of the mercantile marine, except that in the case of the former the shield of Savoy is surmounted by a crown. The royal standard is a blue flag. In the centre is a black eagle crowned and displaying on its breast the arms of Savoy, the whole surrounded by the collar of the Most Sacred Annunziata, the third in rank of all European orders. In each corner of the flag is the royal crown.
For Portugal the flag is one of the few national flags that are parti-coloured. It is half blue, half white, with, in the centre, the arms of Portugal surmounted by the royal crown, and it is the same both in the mercantile marine and in the Portuguese navy. The royal standard of Portugal is an all-red flag charged in the centre with the royal arms, as shown in the national flag.
In the Spanish ensigns red and yellow are the prevailing colours, and here again the arrangement differs from that generally used. The navy flag has a yellow central stripe, with red above and below. To be correct the yellow should be half the width of the flag, and each of the red stripes a quarter of the width of the flag. The central yellow stripe is charged in the hoist with an escutcheon containing the arms of Castile and Leon, and surmounted by the royal crown. In the mercantile flag the yellow centre is without the escutcheon, and is one-third of the entire depth of the flag, the remaining thirds being divided into equal stripes of red and yellow, the yellow above in the upper part of the flag, the red in the lower. Of all royal standards that of Spain is the most elaborate, for it contains quarterings of the Spanish royal escutcheon, many of the bearings being as much an anachronism as if the royal arms of England were to-day to be quartered with the fleur-de-lis. In all, the quarterings displayed are those of Leon, Castile, Aragon, Sicily, Austria, Burgundy, Flanders, Antwerp, Brabant, Portugal and France. The flag is usually depicted as composed entirely of the quarterings. We believe, however, that it is more correctly a purple flag in the centre of which the quarterings are displayed on an oval shield surmounted by a crown and encircled by the collar of the order of the Golden Fleece.
The flag of the Russian mercantile marine is a horizontal tricolour of white, blue and red. Originally, it was a tricolour of blue, white and red, and it is said that the idea of its colouring was taken by Peter the Great when learning shipbuilding in Holland, for as the flag then stood it was simply the Dutch ensign reversed. Later, to make it more distinctive, the blue and white stripes changed places, leaving the tricolour as it stands to-day. The flag of the Russian navy is the blue saltire of St Andrew on a white ground. St Andrew is the patron saint of Russia, from whence the emblem. The imperial standard is of a character akin to that of Austria; the ground is yellow, and the centre bears the imperial double-headed eagle, a badge that dates back to 1472, when Ivan the Great married a niece of Constantine Palaeologus and assumed the arms of the Greek empire. On the breast of the eagle is an escutcheon charged with the emblem of St George and the Dragon on a red ground, and this is surrounded by the collar of the order of St Andrew. On the splayed wings of the eagle are small shields bearing the arms of the various provinces of the empire.
The Rumanian flag is a blue, yellow and red tricolour, the stripes vertical, with the blue stripe forming the fly. The Servian flag is a horizontal tricolour, the top stripe red, the middle blue and the lower white. When these tricolours are flown as royal standards the royal arms are displayed on the central stripe. The flag of Montenegro is a horizontal tricolour, the top stripe red, the centre blue, the lowermost white. The Bulgarian flag is a similar tricolour, white, green and red, the white stripe uppermost, but when flown as a war ensign there is a canton in the upper corner of the hoist in which is a golden lion on a red ground.
The flags of all the three Scandinavian kingdoms are somewhat similar in design. That of Denmark, the Dannebrog, has been already alluded to, and it is shown in our illustration as flown by the Danish navy. The mercantile marine flag is precisely similar, but rectangular instead of being swallow-tailed. The Swedish flag is a yellow cross on a blue ground. When flown from a man-of-war it is forked as in the Danish, but the longer arm of the cross is not cut off but pointed, thus making it a three-pointed flag as illustrated. For the mercantile marine the flag is rectangular. When Norway separated from Denmark in 1814, the first flag was red with a white cross on it, and the arms of Norway in the upper corner of the hoist, but as this was found to resemble too closely the Danish flag, a blue cross with a white border was substituted for the white cross. This, it will be seen, is the Danish flag with a blue cross imposed upon the white one. For a man-of-war the flag is precisely similar to that of Sweden in shape; that is to say, converted from the rectangular into the three-pointed design. While Sweden and Norway remained united the flag of each remained distinct, but each bore in the top canton of the hoist a union device, being the combination of the Norwegian and Swedish national colours and crosses. In each of the three above nationalities the flag used for a royal standard is the man-of-war flag with the royal arms imposed on the centre of the cross.
The Belgian tricolour is vertical, the stripes being black next the hoist, yellow in the centre and red in the fly. That of the Netherlands is a horizontal tricolour, red above, white in the centre and blue below. In both countries the same flag is common to both navy and mercantile marine, but when the flag is used as a royal standard the royal arms are displayed in the central stripe. The black, yellow and red of the Belgian flag are the colours of the duchy of Brabant, and were adopted in 1831 when the monarchy was founded. The original Dutch colours adopted when Holland declared its independence were orange, white and blue, the colours of the house of Orange, and when and how the orange became red is not quite clear, though it was certainly prior to 1643.
The blue and white which form the colouring of the Greek flag shown in our illustration are the colours of the house of Bavaria, and were adopted in 1832, when Prince Otho of Bavaria was elected to the throne of Greece. The stripes are nine in number—five blue and four white—with, in the upper corner of the hoist, a canton bearing a white cross on a blue ground. The flag for the royal navy is similar to that flown by the mercantile marine, with the exception that it has the addition of a golden crown in the centre of the cross. The royal standard is a blue flag with a white cross, on the centre of which the royal arms are imposed. The cross is exactly similar to that in the Danish flag, that is to say, the arms of the cross are not of equal length, the shorter end being in the hoist of the flag.
The very simple flag of Switzerland is one of great antiquity, for it was the emblem of the nation as far back as 1339, and probably considerably earlier. In addition to the national flag of the Swiss confederation, each canton has its own cantonal colours. In each case the flag has its stripes disposed horizontally. Basel, for instance, is half black, half white; Berne, half black, half red; Glarus, red, black and white, &c., &c.
The Turkish crescent moon and star were the device adopted by Mahomet II. when he captured Constantinople in 1453. Originally they were the symbol of Diana, the patroness of Byzantium, and were adopted by the Ottomans as a triumph, for they had always been the special emblem of Constantinople, and even now in Moscow and elsewhere the crescent emblem and the cross may be seen combined in Russian churches, the crescent badge, of course, indicating the Byzantine origin of the Russian church. The symbol originated at the time of the siege of Constantinople by Philip the father of Alexander the Great, when a night attempt of the besiegers to undermine the walls was betrayed by the light of a crescent moon, and in acknowledgment of their escape the Byzantines raised a statue to Diana, and made her badge the symbol of the city. Both the man-of-war and mercantile marine flags are the same, but the imperial standard of the sultan is scarlet, and bears in its centre the device of the reigning sovereign. This device is known as the “Tughra,” and consists of the name of the sultan, the title of khan, and the epithet al-Muzaffar Daima, which means “the ever victorious.” The origin of the “Tughra” is that the sultan Murad I., who was not of scholarly parts, signed a treaty by wetting his open hand with ink, and pressing it on the paper, the first, second and third fingers making smears close together, the thumb and fourth finger leaving marks apart. Within the marks thus made the scribes wrote in the name of Murad, his title, and the epithet above quoted. The “Tughra” dates from the latter part of the 14th century. The smaller characters in the “Tughra” change, of course, on the accession of every fresh sovereign, but the leading form of the device always remains the same, namely, rounded lines to the left denoting the thumb, lines to the right denoting where the little finger made impression, and three upright lines indicating the other fingers.
The Mahommedan states tributary to Turkey also display the crescent and star. Morocco, Muscat and other Arab states where they use an ensign display a red flag, that of the Zanzibar protectorate having the British union in the centre of the red field.
The Persian flag is white with a border, green on the upper edge of the flag and in the fly, and red in the hoist and on the lower edge. On the white ground are the lion and sun.
The flag of Siam is a white elephant on a red ground. That of Korea, a white flag with, in the centre, a ball, half red, half blue, the colours being curiously intermixed, the whole being precisely as if two large commas of equal size, one red and the other blue, were united to form a complete circle.
The Chinese flag is a yellow one, bearing on it the emblem of the dragon devouring the sun. As at present used, it is a square flag, but an earlier version was a triangular right-angled flag, hoisted with the right-angle in the base of the hoist. The merchant flag is red with a yellow ball in the centre.
Among the South American republics the Brazilian flag is peculiar inasmuch as it is the only national flag which carries a motto.
Mexico flies precisely the same tricolour as Italy, but plain in the case of the merchant ensign, and charged on the central stripe with the Mexican arms (as illustrated) when flown as a man-of-war ensign.
The Argentine flag is as illustrated flown by the navy, but, when used by the mercantile marine, the sun emblazoned on the central white stripe is omitted, the flag otherwise being precisely the same.
The Venezuelan flag shown is also that of the navy. The flag of the mercantile marine is the same, but the shield bearing the arms of the state is not introduced into the yellow top stripe in the corner near the hoist, as in the naval flag.
The Chilean ensign illustrated is used alike by men-of-war and vessels in the mercantile marine, but, when flown as the standard of the president, the Chilean arms and supporters are placed in the centre of the flag.
The plain red, white, red in vertical stripes, is the flag of the mercantile marine of Peru, and becomes the naval ensign when charged on the central stripe with the Peruvian arms as shown in our illustration. In fact, in nearly every case with the South American republics, the ordinary mercantile marine flag becomes that of the war navy by the addition of the national arms, and in some cases is used in the same way as a presidential flag.
In nearly every case the flags of the lesser American republics are tricolours, and in a very great many of them the flags are by no means such combinations as would meet with the approval of European heralds. All flag devising should be in accordance with heraldic laws, and one of the most important of these is that colour should not be placed on colour, nor metal on metal, yellow in blazonry being the equivalent of gold and white of silver. Hence, properly devised tricolours are such as, for example, those of France, where the red and blue are divided by white, or Belgium, where the black and red are divided by yellow. On the other hand, the yellow, blue, red of Venezuela is heraldically an abomination.
Manufacture and Miscellaneous Uses.—Flags, the manufacture, of which is quite a large industry, are almost invariably made from bunting, a very light, tough and durable woollen material. The regulation bunting as used in the navy is made in 9 in. widths, and the flag classes in size according to the number of breadths of bunting of which it is composed. The great centre of the manufacture of flags, as far as the royal navy is concerned, is the dockyard at Chatham. Ensigns and Jacks are made in different sizes; the largest ensign made is 33 ft. long by 16½ ft. in width; the largest Jack issued is 24 ft. long and 12 ft. wide.
The dimensions of a flag according to heraldry should be either square or in the proportion of two to one, and it is this latter dimension that is used in the navy and generally.
Signalling flags are dealt with elsewhere (see Signal), and here it will only be necessary to make brief allusion to some international customs with regard to the use of flags to indicate certain purposes. For long a blood-red flag has always been used as a symbol of mutiny or of revolution. The black flag was in days gone by the symbol of the pirate; to-day, in the only case in which it survives, it is flown after an execution to indicate that the requirements of the law have been duly carried out. All over the world a yellow flag is the signal of infectious illness. A ship hoists it to denote that there are some on board suffering from yellow fever, cholera or some such infectious malady, and it remains hoisted until she has received quarantine. This flag is also hoisted on quarantine stations. The white flag is universally used as a flag of truce.
At the sea striking of the flag denotes surrender. When the flag of one country is placed over that of another the victory of the former is denoted, hence in time of peace it would be an insult to hoist the flag of one friendly nation above that of another. If such were done by mistake, say in “dressing ship” for instance, an apology would have to be made. This custom of hoisting the flag of the vanquished beneath that of the victor is of comparatively modern date, as up to about a century ago the sign of victory was to trail the enemy’s flag over the taffrail in the water. Each national flag must be flown from its own flagstaff, and this is often seen when the allied forces of two or more powers are in joint occupation of a town or territory. To denote honour and respect a flag is “dipped.” Ships at sea salute each other by “dipping” the flag, that is to say, by running it smartly down from the masthead, and then as quickly replacing it. When troops parade before the sovereign the regimental flags are lowered as they salute him. A flag flying half-mast high is the universal symbol of mourning. When a ship has to make the signal of distress, this is done by hoisting the national ensign reversed, that is to say, upside down. If it is wished to accentuate the imminence of the danger it is done by making the flag into a “weft,” that is, by knotting it in the middle. This means of showing distress at sea is of very ancient usage, for in naval works written as far back as the reign of James I. we find the “weft” mentioned as a method of showing distress.
We have already alluded to the Union Jack as used for denoting nationality, and as a flag of command, but it also serves many other purposes. For instance, if a court-martial is being held on board any ship the Union Jack is displayed while the court is sitting, its hoisting being accompanied by the firing of a gun. In a fleet in company the ship that has the guard for the day flies it. With a white border it forms the signal for a pilot, and in this case is known as a Pilot Jack. In all combinations of signalling flags which denote a ship’s name the Union Jack forms a unit. Lastly, it figures as the pall of every sailor or soldier of the empire who receives naval or military honours at his funeral.
Bibliography.—See Flags: Some Account of their History and Uses, by A. MacGeorge (1881); National Banners: Their History and Construction, by W. Bland (1892) (one of a series of Heraldic Tracts, 1850–1892, Br. Museum Library, No. 9906, b. 9; this pamphlet gives the design of the national banners of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick, and illustrates and tells the story of the composition of the three flags into the great union flag, commonly known as the Union Jack); Our Flags: Their Origin, Use and Traditions, by Rear-Admiral S. Eardley-Wilmot (1901), an excellent treatise, historical and narrative, on all the flags of the British empire; A History of the Flag of the United States (Boston, 1872), by G. H. Preble; Flags of the World: Their History, Blazonry and Associations, by Edward Hulme, F.L.S., F.S.A. (1897), a most complete monograph on the subject, illustrated with a very complete series of plates; Admiralty Book of Flags of all Nations, printed for H.M. Stationery office, 1889, kept up to date by the publication periodically of Errata, officially issued under an admiralty covering letter; Flags of Maritime Nations, prepared by the Bureau of Equipment department of the navy, printed by authority (Washington, 1899). The last two works have no letterpress beyond titles, but contain, to scale, delineations of all the flags at present used officially by all nations. Between the two there are no discrepancies, and the delineation of a flag taken from either may be assumed as absolutely correct. Both are respectively the guides for flag construction in the royal navy and the United States navy. (H. L. S.)
- By the admission of Oklahoma as a state in 1907 the number of stars became 46, arranged from the top in horizontal rows thus: 8, 7, 8, 7, 8, 8 = 46.