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Denmark Royalty

Danish Historic Royal Flags

Last modified: 2003-07-12 by edward mooney jr.
Keywords: denmark | scandinavian cross | dannebrog | danmark | royal |
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Eric VII of Pomerania

Some time ago I watched a report on TV about the history of Denmark. There was shown a historical flag from the Union of Kalmar, ca 1397. The flag shown was rather schematic and consists of a Dannebrog, i.e. a white cross on red. Each corner of the flag showed a banner of arms of a member of the Union of Kalmar. Because the images was shown very shortly, I am not quite sure about the colours, so I describe it from out of memory:

  • Field 1 (upper hoist) shows the arms of Denmark, three blue heraldic leopards on yellow
  • Field 2 (upper fly) shows the arms of Sweden, three yellow crowns on blue
  • Field 3 (lower hoist) shows the arms of Norway a yellow lion holding an axe on red (or blue)
  • Field 4 (lower fly) shows the flag of Pomerania, a white gryphon on red (or a red gryphon on white?)

Dirk Schönberger, 16 May 2002

Erik (VII) of Pomerania (originally Bugislav), a great-nephew of Queen Margrete I, was appointed as her successor in 1387. He became king of Norway in 1389, and elected king in Denmark and Sweden in 1396. In 1397, he was crowned as king of all three countries. He withdrew to Gotland in 1436, and was ousted in Denmark and Sweden in 1439, in Norway in 1441. He kept Gotland after resigning and lived there a-pirating in the Baltic Sea 1442-49. In 1449 he ceded the island to Denmark and moved to Pomerania, where he died in 1459.

The flag (or rather ensign) was lost in war in 1427 and hung in the Marienkirche in Lübeck, where it was destroyed in an air raid in WWII.
Ole Andersen, 17 May 2002

Cyphers on flags of Frederik IV (1699-1730), Christian VI (1730-1746) and Frederik V (1746-1766)

Bellin (1956) (or at least the cover of Sierskma (1963) showing part of a chart with a very similar title) shows a royal standard for Christian V with bears his cypher (and a crown above it). Christian V ruled 1670-1699, according to our royal lineage page which was before the flags with Arms were introduced in 1731. This suggests that Frederik IV ruling from 1699-1730 may likewise have had such a standard with a crowned cypher. The need for a standard for Christian VI apparently started the custom of placing the arms on the flag. On the other hand, kings before Christian V may have had a similar flag, back to Erik VII von Pomerania. At least, a naval ensign showing his coat of arms with a white cross was a spoil of war in 1427, according to Danmarksbog, which would suggest that at that time the flag system was different.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 20 June 2001

Danish flags with cyphers are known from the early 1600s onwards. However, at the early stage, these flags were not official. Official recognition and legislation only came in 1757.

Regulations dated 25 March 1757 inserted a white panel with the Royal cypher to the intersection of the cross in the Danish flag for ships sailing in the Mediterranean. This was made necessary because of increasing Danish trade and the conclusion of treaties with the North African states who on payment of tribute undertook to respect the flag of Denmark as long as it was distinguished from the flag of Malta. This variant civil ensign survived, with changing cyphers, until it was abolished in 1867.
Jan Oskar Engene,11 March 2003

Christian VII (1766-1808), Frederik VI - 1808-1839, Christian VIII (1839-1848)

In the Flensburger Schiffartsmuseum I saw some paintings of ships flying a Danish flag with the cypher of Christian VIII (hoist-equal), on the center of the cross.

Paintings in Sønderborg slot depict ships flying a splitflag with a white square centered on the cross, with in it the C7 cypher of Christian VII. Likewise for the FR VII cypher of Frederik VII.

Marstal Sjøfarts Museum has both paintings depicting merchants ship flying Danish flag with a white square centered on the cross with F VI in it, and the warship Jupiter flying the same as a splitflag. It also has a picture of the ship Svanen flying a splitflag with a crown over the letters DS in the first quarter!

Ærøskøbing museum:  Dannebrog with F IV, but it might have been intended as the mirror-image of a F VI; how far are these in between/is their cypher alike?

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 August 2001

Christian IX (1863-1906), Frederik VIII (1906-1912), Christian X (1912-1947)

In Tranenekaer Slots Mølle a photograph could be seen entitled "Kong Christian rider over den Sønderjydske graense den 10 juli 1920", ("King Christian rides across the South Jytland border, the 10th of July 1920", when the Danish speaking part of Schleswig was returned to Danmark.) which was unfortunately in an area visitors could only look into. It appears to show to the right of the picture a flag with the C X cypher, but I can't be sure. Whatever, there's a flag-story here, about a Per(?) fra Sønder Jylland who gives the king a flag. I don't know the details, but I saw a reference to it when trying to locate the picture above.

The Søfart museum in Troense has paintings showing ships flying: the Dannebrog with square with the cypher of Christian IX cypher  (C enveloping IX); the Dannebrog with square with O&W in gold (whatever that is).

All in all, it appears that indeed several of those Royal cyphers were used in a white square centered on the cross, and some without a square as well. Their uses vary, though. At some point in the past it seems to have been common for merchant ships to fly such flags, while currently they are limited to the Royal household.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 August 2001

According to Orlogskaptajn P.Holk, Danish ships going to the Mediterranean in 1757 wore the royal cipher in the centre of their ensigns to distinguish themselves from Maltese ships. ['The King's Flags' by Cecil King in Mariner's Mirror May 1952].

One, with the cipher of King Christian VIII, is illustrated in R.H.Laurie's 1842 flag chart, reproduced on page 71 of Wilson's 'Flags at Sea'.
David Prothero, 9 March 2003

The Flag of King Frederik IX of Denmark (1947-1972)

Comparing the Danish Arms of 1948 with the Arms of King Frederik as shown in Politikens Flagbog (2nd ed.):

- The book depicts the crowns in the image with sides that rise almost vertical then bend outward nearer the top, rather than like the crowns on stylized Swedish arms which angle out immediately (in some images in an angle as wide as 135 degrees).

- Since this is also valid for the crowns on the heads of the lions, and since the book shows their tails only coiling to the front as far as the middle of their hips, there's are gap between each lion's head and tail wide enough to place a heart. The pattern for the heart then becomes: One in front, and one behind and one directly above each lion; the one above slightly higher than the outer ones. Since this is the same for the State arms, as drawn for official use by Aage Wulff in 1991 depicted on the same page, I guess this is the current style.

- All three shields in the arms of King Frederik are in the old Hungarian style, as in the electronic image of the flag of Queen Ingrid, although with a small tip at the base. Since each takes up slightly more than a third of each dimension of the shield below it, the middle shield covers a heart and one leg and the tail of a lion (touching the middle heart in that row, and the hind one in the middle row), the lower paw and most of the body of a lion in the quarter beside it, two arcs/leaves of a crown in one lower quarter, and a heart and most of a second one and a lion's front paws and almost its complete head in the other. The top shield is depicted doing little more than touch the charges of the middle shield, except where it hides almost the entire leg of the swan. (Those charges, btw, are depicted in grey, rather than the white used in the lower dexter quarter.)

- In the book all lions have the same posture, the ones in the upper sinister quarter are merely stretched a bit vertically to fill the space.

- Delmenhorst is shown with a latin cross, rather than a symmetrical one. The same cross (in the same colours) is also displayed on the oval shield of the Dithmarschen knight. The Lauenburg horse head is depicted rotated slightly forward; face not so high and the bottom line not horizontal.

- In the book the wyvern has a field with the same area as the lion above it. Since it's in the base of the shield this means its field is slightly more than half the heigth, but not as much as in the electronic image. (The division in the quarter beside it matches this division.)

- Finally: The sheep is depicted standing (though on all fours) rather than going, while the bear is depicted mostly like a standing brown bear that happens to be white. It has a slightly mouse-like head, which the pixel devil seems to have dealt to the bear in the electronic image as well. (-:

Comparing the flags:

- The mantle falls rounder below the shield, but more noticeable, the hems are braided gold, and the cords of the tassels are red (and one cord on each side is shown circling round the shoulder with the tassel hanging just inside the mantle).

- Since the cross is a charge its straight outer edges don't curve into the tip of the base. This leaves free a small triangle of the quartered shield the cross is placed upon, coloured according to the two quarters meeting there. Unfortunately, lacking colours I'm unable to make out the same details in the electronic image.

- I'm not sure about the crown in the electronic version. It appears to have a rather high bonnet and I can't make out all five jewels that I would expect to see on the band. But I find it difficult to make out those detail in the book as well, so I may be wrong there.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, December 2000

Danmarksbog (  mentions that the royal standard has had the royal coat of arms in a central field since 1731.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 20 June 2001