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Pule'anga Tonga, Kingdom of Tonga

Last modified: 2001-10-05 by santiago dotor
Keywords: tonga | kingdom of tonga | pule'anga tonga | canton: cross (red) | cross: scandinavian (red) | cross: scandinavian (fimbriated) | tongatabu | tupouto'a | coat of arms | royal | banner of arms | customs | minerva | torch | circle |
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[Tonga] 1:2   (until 1985 )
by Zeljko Heimer
Flag adopted 4th November 1875, coat-of-arms adopted 1862

See also:


Ferreting in search of Tongan flags information, I found an image of the national flag in the Tongan Consulate in San Francisco website which instead of 1:2 is (exactly) 3:4. Also the canton is not half as high as the flag but around 2/5ths.

Santiago Dotor, 25 January 2001


Tonga used to use an identical flag to the Red Cross. In order to save confusion, the Tongan national flag was changed so that the former flag appeared as the canton of a red ensign.

Jaume Ollé (?), 5 March 1997

The present design (...) was adopted for its symbolism (the red field is a representation of Christ's blood, and the cross also comes from Christian iconography) back in the 1870s or something on the understanding that it would never be changed.

David Kendall, 5 March 1997

The current flag was in use after 1864 but was adopted officially on 4th November 1875.

Jaume Ollé, 5 March 1997

Pedersen 1973 also mentions the old flag of Tonga was indeed identical to the flag of the Red Cross.

Marcus Wendel, 15 September 1999

From Dorling Kindersley 1997:

The first design [1862] was a plain white flag with a red couped cross, but this was later found to be too similar to the International Red Cross Flag, adopted in 1863, and so the white flag was placed in the canton of a red one. The 1875 constitution states that the flag shall never be altered.
Smith 1980 adds that "the actual forms of the flag and arms are credited both to Prince Uelingatoni* Ngu Tupoumalohi and to Reverend Shirley Baker, a Wesleyan minister." This might be stupid Napoleonian fanatism, but is Uelingatoni not a local form of Wellington?

Ivan Sache, 31 December 1999

War Flag or Armed Forces Ensign

The naval ensign (and war flag) [sic] is white with a red-fimbrated white shield towards the hoist; on the shield are three red swords; above the shield is a red crown. Source: Flaggkarta 1995.

Christian Berghänel, 17 January 1998

When I was there in 1991, the Scandinavian cross flag flew on Navy ships, the three-sword flag did not, but flew over an army camp.

Norman Martin, 17 January 1998

Crampton 1989 mentions both flags, which by the way calls the war flag the Armed Forces ensign.

Santiago Dotor, 24 January 2001

War Ensign

According to Jilek 1989 and Znamierowski 1999 According to Dorling Kindersley 1997
[War Ensign (Tonga)] 8:11?     
by Jan Oskar Engene
Flag adopted 1985
[War Ensign (Tonga), according to Dorling Kindersley 1997] 1:2
by António Martins

The design seems to be inspired by the Tongan national flag, the British White Ensign, the German Imperial War Flag and the Scandinavian cross flags, all put together in one. The flag has a red Scandinavian cross bordered in white and red. In the white canton is a red Greek cross (as in the Tongan national flag). The flag was designed by Prince Tupouto'a, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence when the flag was adopted 13 September 1985. Source: Jilek 1989.

Jan Oskar Engene, 19 September 1996

I spotted the war ensign of Tonga in the Jane's Fighting Ships 1995-96.

Tom Gregg, 21 March 1997

When I was there in 1991, the Scandinavian cross flag flew on Navy ships, the Album des Pavillons 1990, the naval ensign is hoisted on the portside and the Album des Pavillons 1990: War ensign (hoisted on portside) and Army ensign (hoisted on starboard). National Defence: national police of ca. 300 men (1991). Source: Encyclopaedia Universalis Yearbook, 1998.

Ivan Sache, 24 May 1999

Jan Oskar Engene's GIF seems to be based on the Norwegian flag, while Dorling Kindersley 1997 has the flag as approximately 1:2 and with a Swedish cross.

Ole Andersen, 4 December 1999

Dorling Kindersley 1997 shows the naval ensign with proportion 1:2, Album des Pavillons says "ca. 2:3".

Ivan Sache, 31 December 1999

Smith 1980 indicates the national flag to be also war flag and naval ensign. Album des Pavillons 2000 shows a distinctive naval ensign and also a war flag. Unusual practice of flying two ensigns on naval vessels is also mentioned.

Zeljko Heimer, 22 January 2001

The war ensign was adopted in 1985, according to Dorling Kindersley 1997 and Znamierowski 1999. It is also mentioned (but not illustrated) in Crampton 1989. Even though the first two sources are supposed to share the same original source (Flag Research Center), they show different versions of the ensign. That in Dorling Kindersley 1997 is about 1:2, the one in Znamierowski 1999 looks very much like Jan Oskar Engene's GIF based upon Jilek 1989.

Santiago Dotor, 24 January 2001

Royal Flag

[Royal Flag (Tonga)] 26:37
by Marcus Wendel

Source: Talocci 1994. Its symbolism is:

  • Red cross: The blood of Christ
  • Three stars: The 3 largest groups of islands
  • Crown: The Kingdom
  • Three swords: The three dynasties
  • Dove: Peace

Marcus Wendel, 5 September 1999

Concerning the Royal Flag, Smith 1980 says: "The [three] stars stand for the main island groups united in Tonga (Tongatapu, Ha'apai, Vava'u). Christianity's dove of peace holds a myrtle leaf, emblem of national unity." Proportion of the flag is listed as 26:37. Another detail is available only in the Smith 1975: "The current royal family is successor to three lines of kings — hence the three swords."

Ivan Sache, 31 December 1999


[Coat-of-Arms (Tonga)]
(Click on image to see full size detail)
by Jorge Candeias based on an image in a no longer accessible URL

Customs Flag

Upper half of the flag is blue (with the same canton as the state flag) and the lower half is white with letters "H.M.C." (His Majesty's Customs) in black. Proportions 72:42 (vertical:horizontal). The same design (with different writing) is used by other departments and institutions. Source: Pedersen 1973.

Marcus Wendel, 15 September 1999

Tongatabu Historical Flag

[Old Tongatabu flag (Tonga)] 2:3
by Ivan Sache

The Flags of Paradise 1996 chart represents a similar flag to that of Uvea 1842 (the only difference is in cross size and colours: blue, red, blue, red) attributed to Tonga / Tongatapu, ca. 1858-1862.

Ivan Sache, 29 June 1999

Republic of Minerva 1972

['Republic of Minerva' 1972 (Tonga)] 2:3
by George Cruikshank

Fuligni 1997, pp. 155-156 deals with the Republic of Minerva. Michael J. Oliver, American citizen born in Lithuania, fond of numismatics, decided once to found a new nation. He got in touch with British authorities to put up a tax-free state in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and of course failed with this. He found in an atlas that there were two atolls in formation at the north of the territory of Tonga, known as Minerva since a ship named this way had wrecked because of them. Oliver and a friend, Morris Bud Davis, bought a ship in May 1972, engaged some men, and with this brought some sand on Minerva, to make it become a real island. When there was enough sand to make it possible to walk on Minerva, they proclaimed the Republic, Davis becoming president, and Olivier making money with his book (A new constitution for a new country) and the coins (with goddess Minerva) he made for his state.

Tuphou IV of Tonga was rather unhappy to see this republic be born in his kingdom, and sent the Tongan army there, where the soldiers took the flags of the new republic [sic] and replaced them with the Tongan flag.

After that, Davis tried to buy Palmyra island, but did not succeed... Oliver got in touch with a secessionist movement in Abaco (Bahamas), and in 1980 gave money to the NaGriamel movement in Vanuatu and the republic of Vemerana. Oliver tried to get in touch with secesionnists in Azores and in Isle of Man, but always failed.

Does anyone have an idea of the design of the short-flown flag of Minerva?

Olivier Touzeau, 1 May 2001

Reported flag of Minerva: golden torch on blue. I received from George Cruikshank a very good image of the Minerva flag. I slighty corrected according image in Vexilologie no. 6. Note that Balough 23 report a change of flag. Blue with a narrow red stripe from the lower hoist to the upper fly. In the blue fly is centred a yellow five-pointed star.

Jaume Ollé, 1-3 May 2001

I think that I read about this in The People's Almanac, II by Irving Wallace, Amy Wallace, and David Wallechinsky. (...) As I recall, the latitude and longitude of Minerva Reef were given, and I found the spot well to the south of Tongan territorial waters. The proponents of this project asked the King of Tonga whether he had any claim to the reef, and he did not, so they staked their own claim to it, and were utterly bewildered when the king sent his armed forces to seize it for Tonga.

John S. Ayer, 9 June 2001

From The People's Almanac #2 by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, 1978:

Established in 1972 by a declaration of sovereignty by a group of Californians, the Republic of Minerva has more claim to authenticity than most micronations because it actually has some land, although it disappears at high tide. The republic consists of two coral reefs 17 miles apart in the South Pacific Ocean some 3,400 miles southwest of Honolulu and 915 miles northeast of Auckland, New Zealand. President Morris C. Bud Davis, a former project engineer with North American Rockwell, runs this domain from the living room of his suburban house in Justin, California. Originally the plan was to attract a population of 60,000 to a fancy sea resort, called Sea City, which was to be constructed on the reefs, where residents would have "no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism". Since the main income was to be from the registration of international cargo ships, the Sea City project was dropped as impractical for lack of funds. A ship was, however, purchased to carry sand out to the homeland for "a major landfill project". Minerva also had a political skirmish with the Kingdom of Tonga over ownership of the reefs that nearly led to a war. When Davis made his original claim by building a small stone tower on one reef, with a flasher on it and the Minervan flag (a torch on a blue field), King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV set sail from Tonga 200 miles to the northeast aboard the ship Olovaba with the 100-man strong Tonga Defense Force (recruited from among the prisoners). They tore down the flag and read a Tongan proclamation of sovereignty. Said Davis: "We can't for the life of us understand why the king should suddenly decide he wants the reefs". While Minerva remains uninhabited, the conflict is dormant.
The reef in question is probably the same as Falcon Island, which pops up every 10 years, does its stuff, and then goes down again. That island falls under Tongan jurisdiction; as soon as it is up, the king orders the Tongan flag to be planted there. Sometimes it's too late...

Jarig Bakker, 9 June 2001

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