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Historical Flags 1785-1931 (Spain)

Kingdom of Spain until 1931, Spanish Republic 1873-1874

Last modified: 2003-07-18 by santiago dotor
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[Civil Ensign 1785-1927 (Spain)] 2:3 | stripes 1+1+2+1+1
by Zeljko Heimer
Flag adopted 1785, abolished 19th July 1927

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Civil Ensign 1785-1927

Bandera Mercante

[Civil Ensign 1785-1927 (Spain)] 2:3 | stripes 1+1+2+1+1
by Zeljko Heimer
Flag adopted 1785, abolished 1927

The Spanish civil ensign from 1785 to shortly before 1931 was a yellow field with narrow red stripes near the top and bottom. It was essentially five stripes of yellow, red, yellow, red, yellow in proportions 1:1:2:1:1.

Nick Artimovich, 10 April 1996

National Geographic 1917 shows a jack in the yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow 1+1+2+1+1 pattern, thus equal to the merchant flag shown above.

Zeljko Heimer, 6 August 2001

This is a mistake in National Geographic 1917 since until 1945 the naval jack was the same as the war ensign and merchant ships had no jack.

Luis Miguel Arias, 15 July 2003

Civil Ensign 1928-1931

Bandera Mercante

[Civil Ensign 1928-1931 Spain] 2:3 | stripes 1+2+1
by Jorge Candeias
Flag adopted 1928, abolished 1931, readopted 1936

War Ensign 1785-1931, also State and War Flag 1843-1931, also used as Jack

[War Ensign 1785-1931, also State and War Flag 1843-1931, also used as Jack (Spain)]

2:3 up to 1:3
stripes 1+2+1
by Jaume Ollé and Santiago Dotor

A contemporary print in Jose Cadero's Atlas para el riaje de las goletas "Sutil" y "Mexicana" ... en 1792 (in the British Columbia Provincial Archives), shows the flag flying over the Spanish Fort at Friendly Cove (Canada) as the national flag adopted by Spain in 1785. The length of the flag is about three times the width. The flag has three horizontal stripes: the yellow centre stripe is twice the width of each of the red stripes along the top and bottom of the flag (similar to the modern Spanish flag). A circle with the arms of Leon (a red lion) and Castile (a yellow castle) is set in the yellow stripe towards the hoist.

Peter Cawley, 13 September 1995

This flag was reported as national flag in 1793 and as war flag in 1897. It was red-yellow-red with arms in the first third of the yellow stripe. The arms are crowned, and vertically divided, left red with a tower, right white with a lion.

Zeljko Heimer and Nick Artimovich, 10 April 1996

This flag (with varying arms) became:

  • War Ensign by Royal Decree of May 25th 1785;
  • Flag for Navy buildings (harbours, maritime outposts...) by the General Navy Regulations 1793;
  • State and War Flag and Ensign by Royal Decree of October 13th 1843.
  • State and War Flag and Ensign by Decree July 27th 1938;
  • State and War Flag and Ensign by Regulation October 11th 1945;
  • National flag 1977;
  • National flag (with the current arms) 1981.

Santiago Dotor, 26 May 1999

War Pennant 1785

[Spanish War Pennant (1785-1931)]
by Santiago Dotor

The 1785 Royal Decree also established a new war pennant, a tapering R-Y-R 1:2:1 pennant with a yellow square at the hoist bearing the oval small Arms, tilted 90. Sources: Calvo and Grávalos 1983; Banderas de la Marina de Guerra Española - Bicentenario de la Bandera de la Marina de Guerra Española (1785-1985), Instituto de Cultura e Historia Naval, Museo Naval, 1985.

Santiago Dotor, 8 July 1999

First Spanish Republic (1873-1874)

The First Spanish Republic existed during 1873-1874. Unlike the Second Republic, its flag was the same as the 1785 one only without the crown. Actually the law said a piece of material be stitched over the crown in the existing flags, so the coat-of-arms left was not centred vertically but slightly offset to the bottom of the middle stripe.

Santiago Dotor, 1 July 1999

When the first Republic came into being in 1873 flags with the colour purple (morado) appeared in several parts of Spain, mainly in the South and South-East, and many a ship of the Navy in Cadiz and Cartagena unofficially hoisted tricoloured flags of red, yellow and purple horizontal bands, sometimes also in red, white and purple. The first Republic however never did adopt that colour, the national flag remained yellow and red as before (only was the royal crown removed from the coats-of-arms on the flags, being re-established in 1875). There is correspondence in the Archives of the Navy Museum of Madrid about that period, where you can read that the Navy High Command ordered the captains of several men-of-war in the Navy base of Cadiz to remove the tricoloured flags!

Emil Dreyer, 21 January 2001

Spanish Flag in Canada (1789-1795)

The 1785 flag of Spain flew on the west coast of Canada between 1789 and 1795. Spain claimed the west coast of North America by virtue of the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). Spanish explorations and landings on the west coast of Canada in 1592 and 1774, however, were not consolidated by any settlement. In 1789, fearful of Russian intentions to move down the coast from Alaska, and concerned by British trading activity that followed Cook's visit in 1778, Spain asserted its sovereignty in the region by establishing a fort at Friendly Cove at the entrance to Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Spain withdrew from Nootka in 1795.

Peter Cawley, 13 September 1995

Mistaken flag reported in Encyclopaedia Britannica 1771

[Mistaken flag reported in <em>Encyclopaedia Britannica</em> 1771 (Spain)]
by Randy Young

First of three Spanish flags listed in the Encyclopaedia Britannica 1771. Horizontal tricolour: top 1/4 in red, bottom 1/4 in blue, and the middle in yellow. Similar to the flag used by the Spanish Republic.

Randy Young, 31 July 1998

Strange flag. Absolutely unknown to me. In 1771 the red-yellow-red flag didn't exist yet. After [the end of the Spanish War of Succession in] 1714 the French rulers of Spain used the Bourbon white flag.

Jaume Ollé, 3 August 1998

The flag of Encyclopaedia Britannica is not very strange. It might have been a variant of Spanish colours used in the Americas. There have been used flags of red-yellow and blue stripes even before 1785. The blue for America (or overseas). We are still searching [at the Archiv für Flaggenkunde] for a solution about this flag.

Ralf Stelter, 13 June 1999

Mistaken Variant with Vertical Stripes

The 1998 motion picture Zorro shows the Spanish 1785 red-yellow-red flag with vertical stripes and the arms centered on the middle stripe. This flag has never existed.

Juan Morales, 23 January 1999

Such a flag did not exist in that period (around 1841, according to the movie). The first Spanish vertical red-yellow-red flag was the square one established in 1878 for Ministers. It carried the arms of Castile and Leon in an oval escutcheon, royally crowned. Source: Calvo and Grávalos 1983.

Santiago Dotor, 26 January 1999