Flag of Denmark
From Academic Kids
The national flag of Denmark is more commonly known as the Dannebrog. The Dannebrog is red with a white cross that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side. The cross design of the Danish flag was subsequently adopted by the other Nordic countries: Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. During the Danish-Norwegian personal union, the Dannebrog was also the flag of Norway and continued to be, slightly modified, until Norway adopted its current flag in 1821.
3.1 Theories of the origin of the flag, #2
The legendary origin of the flag
The legend of the flag is very popular among Danes, but most consider it to be a legend though a beautiful one. The legend says that during the Battle of Lyndanisse, also known as the Battle of Valdemar (Danish: "Volmerslaget"), near Reval in Estonia (close to the modern city of Tallinn), on 15 June 1219, the flag fell from the sky during a critical stage, resulting in a Danish victory.
No historical record supports this legend. The first record of the legend dates from more than 300 years after the campaign, and the first record connects the legend to a much smaller battle, though still in Estonia; the battle of Felin in 1208. Though no historical support exists for the flag story in the Felin battle either, it is not difficult to understand how a small and unknown place is replaced with the much grander battle of Reval from the Estonia campaign of King Valdemar II.
This story originates from two written sources from the early 16th century.
The first is found in Christiern Pedersen's "Danske Krønike", which is a sequel to Saxos Gesta Danorum, written 1520-1523. It is not mentioned in connection to the campaign of King Valdemar II in Estonia, but in connection with a campaign in Russia. He also mentions that this flag, falling from the sky during the Russian campaign of King Valdemar II, is the very same flag that King Eric of Pomerania took with him when he left the country in 1440 after being deposed as King.
The second source is the writing of the Franciscan monk Petrus Olai (Peder Olsen) of Roskilde, from 1527. This record describes a battle in 1208 near a place called "Felin" during the Estonia campaign of King Valdemar II. The Danes were all but defeated when a lamb-skin banner depicting a white cross falls from the sky and miraculously leads to a Danish victory. In another record by Petrus Olai called "Danmarks Tolv Herligheder" (Twelve Splendours of Denmark), in splendour number nine, the same story is re-told almost to the word, however a paragraph has been inserted correcting the year to 1219.
Whether or not these records describe a truly old oral story in existents at that time, or a 16th century invented story, is not currently determined.
Some historians believe that the story by Petrus Olai refers to a source from the first half of the 15th century, making this the oldest reference to the falling flag.
The sequel of the romantic legend
The story of the original flag has a sequel that many Danes are not aware of.
According to tradition the original flag from the Battle of Lyndanisse, was used in the small campaign of 1500 when King Hans tried to conquer Dithmarschen (in western Holstein in north Germany). The flag was lost in a devastating defeat on 17 February 1500. In 1559, King Frederik II recaptured it during his own Dithmarschen campaign. In the capitulation terms it is stated that all Danish banners lost in 1500 were to be returned.
This legend is found in two sources, Hans Svanning's History of King John from 1558-1559 and Johan Rantzaus History about the Last Dithmarschen War, from 1569. Both claims that this was the original flag, and consequently both writers knew the legend of the falling flag. In 1576, the son of Johan Rantzau, Henrik Rantzau, also writes about the war and the fate of the flag. He notes that the flag was in a poor condition when returned.
Sources from Dithmarschen, written shortly after the battle of 1500, do mention banners, including the Royal banner, being captured from the Danes, but there is no mention of Dannebrog or the "original" flag. It is quite plausible that the kings personal banner as well as the leading banner of the army were both lost, as the battle was led by the King himself. However, it is more questionable if he indeed was carrying the "original" flag.
In a letter dated 22 February 1500 to Oluf Stigsøn, King John describes the battle, but does not mention the loss of an important flag. In fact, the entire letter gives the impression that the lost battle was noting more than an "unfortunate affair".
An indication that we are dealing with multiple flags, are the 1570 writings of Niels Hemmingsøn regarding a bloody battle between Danes and Swedes near the Swedish town of Uppsala in 1520. He writes that the "Danish head banner" ("Danmarckis Hoffuitbanner") was nearly captured by the Swedes. It was saved only by the combined efforts of the banner-carrier Mogens Gyldenstierne, taking multiple wounds, and a young man coming to his rescue. This young man was Peder Skram. This "Danmarckis Hoffuitbanner" was probably nothing short of the "Banner of the Realm'" (Rigsbanner), the Dannebrog.
This is however not the end of the story. A priest and historian from Dithmarschen, Johan Neocorus, wrote in 1598 that the banner captured in 1500, was brought to the church in Wohrden and hung there for the next 59 years, until it was returned to the Danes as part of the peace settlement in 1559. Henrik Rantzau states in his writing of 1576 that the flag was brought to Slesvig city and placed in the cathedral, following its return.
A historian from Slesvig, Ulrik Petersen (1656-1735), wrote in the late 17th century that the flag hung in Slesvig cathedral till about 1660 until it simply crumbled away, thus ending it's more than 400 year old story.
Historically, it is of course impossible to prove or disprove that these records speak of the same flag. If the flag of 1208 or 1219 ever existed. Many of these legends are apparently built on earlier ones.
Other theories of the origin of the flag
Other origin theories have been put forth in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Theories of the origin of the flag, #2
The Danish historian Casper Paludan-Møller in 1873 in his book "Sagnet om den himmelfaldne Danebrogsfane" put forth the theory that it is a banner sent by the Pope to the Danish King to use in his crusades in the Baltic countries. Other kings and lords certainly received such banners.
One would though imagine that if this story was true, some kind of record ought to exist of the event and presumably Danish historians would not have failed to mention it in some way. Being granted a banner by the Pope would have been a great honour, but despite the many letters of the popes relating to the crusades, none of them mentions granting a banner to a King of Denmark. On the other hand, the letter in question might simply have been lost.
Theories of the origin of the flag, #3
A similar theory was suggested by Danish explorer, adventurer and Captain Johan Støckel in the early 20th century. He suggested that it was not a pope banner to the King but a pope banner to the Churchly legate in the North, more specifically to archbishop Andreas Sunesøn, which he - without the knowledge of the King brought with him on the Kings crusade in the Baltic countries, in a effort to make the army take on a Christian symbol (over the kings symbol) and thereby strength the power of the church.
It is unlikely that the very fair and very loyal archbishop would do such a thing behind the kings back. Moreover it is unlikely that the pope would send such a banner, given the fact that they already had a banner, namely the banner of the Knights Hospitaller (Danish: "Johanitterne").
Theories of the origin of the flag, #4
A theory brought forth by the Danish historian Adolf Ditlev Jørgensen in 1875 in his book "Danebroges Oprindelse", is that the Danish flag is the banner of the Knights Hospitaller (Danish: "Johanitterne"). He supports his theory with that the order came to Denmark in the latter half of the 12th century and during the next centuries spread to major cities, like Odense, Viborg, Horsens, Ribe and their headquarter in Slagelse, so by the time of the Baltic crusade, the symbol was already a known symbol in Denmark.
Furthermore he claims that Bishop Theodorik, already a part initiator of the order in Livonia, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, had the idea of starting a similar order in Estland and that it is he that is the original instigator of Bishop Albert of Buxhoeveden inquiry to King Valdemar II in 1218, that sets the whole crusades in the Baltic in motion.
In the contemporary writing of the priest Henry of Livonia from Riga it is said that Bishop Theodorik was killed during the 1219 battle, as the enemy storms his tent, thinking it's the Kings tent. This is explained by Adolf Ditlev Jørgensen with that it is Bishop Theodorik that carries the flag, well planted outside his tent, thus as an already well-known Knights Hospitaller symbol in Livonia, the enemy thinks this is the Kings symbol and mistakenly storms Bishop Theodorik tent. It is from this confusion in the battle the origin of the legend of the falling flag comes, he says.
Adolf Ditlev Jørgensen does not give an explanation how the white Maltese cross on red of the Knights Hospitaller, found its way to the Danish flag of 1219, given the fact that in that time it was a white cross on black. The Knights Hospitaller is a monk-order and used black dresses. The white on red warrior-cloak cannot be traced until later.
Theories of the origin of the flag, #5
The Danish church-historian L. P. Fabricius put up yet another theory. It is explained in his study of 1934, titled "Sagnet om Dannebrog og de ældeste Forbindelser med Estland". In this study he put the location to 1208 Felin and not the Battle of Lyndanisse in 1219, based on the earliest source available about the story.
He says in this theory that it might have been Archbishop Andreas Sunesøn's personal ecclestical banner or perhaps even the flag of Archbishop Absalon. That is based on his tireless efforts to expand Christianity to the Baltic countries and that under his initiative and supervision several smaller crusades had already been conducted in Estonia. The banner would then already be known in Estonia. He repeats the story about the flag being planted in front of Bishop Theodorik's tent which the enemy mistakenly attacks believing it to be the tent of the King.
All these theories centre around two battles in Estonia, whether it is in Felin 1208 or Lyndanisse 1219, and thus try to explain the origin in relation to the tale brought forth over 300 years after the event.
Theories of the origin of the flag, #6
A much different theory is briefly discussed by Fabricius and elaborated more by Helga Bruhn in a book from 1949. She claims that it is neither the battle nor the banner that is central to the tale, but rather the cross in the sky. Similar tales of appearances in the sky at critical moments, particularly of crosses, can be found all over Europe.
Bruhn mentions a battle (also mentioned by Fabricius) taking place on September 10, 1217 between Christian knights and Moor warriors on the Iberian Peninsula near the castle Alcazar, where it is said that a golden cross on white appeared in the sky, to bring victory to the Christians. Likewise an almost identical Swedish tale from the 18th century about a yellow cross on blue appearing in 1157 during a Swedish battle in Finland. Probably a later invention to counter the legendary origins of the Danish flags, but never the less of the same nature. The English flag, the Saint George's Cross is also claimed to have appeared in the sky during a critical battle, in this case in Jerusalem during the crusades.
The similarities to the legends is obvious. In Spain, the colours of the Pope appears in the sky, in Finland the Swedish colours. In Estonia it is the Danish colours, and in Jerusalem the English colours. Basically, these are all variations of the same legend.
Since King Valdamar II was married to the Portuguese princess, Berengaria, it is not unthinkable that the origin of the story, if not the flag, was the Spanish tale or a similar tale, which again might have been inspired by an even older legend.
Earliest recorded use of the flag
Danish literature of the 13th and 14th centuries remains suspiciously quiet about the national flag. Whether the flag has its origins in a divine sign, a banner of a military order, an ecclesiastical banner, or perhaps something entirely different, Danish literature is no help before the early 15th century.
However, several coins, seals and images exist, both foreign and domestic, from the 13th to 15th centuries and even earlier, showing flags similar to the Dannebrog. In the 19th and early 20th century, these images were used by many Danish historians, with a good flair of nationalism, trying to date the origins of the flag to 1219. However, if one examines the few existing foreign sources about Denmark from the 13th to 15th centuries, it is apparent that, at least from foreign point of view; the national symbol of Denmark was not a red-and-white banner but the royal coat of arms (three blue lions of a golden shield.) This coat of arms remains in use to this day.
An obvious place to look for documentation is in the Estonian city of Tallinn, the site of the legendary battle. In Tallinn a coat-of-arms resembling the flag is found on several buildings and can be traced back to the middle of the 15th century where it appears in the coat-of-arms of the "Die Grosse Gilde", a sort of merchant consortium which greatly influenced the city's development. The symbol later became the coat-of-arms of the city. Efforts to trace it from Estonia back to Denmark have, however, been in vain.
The national coat of arms of Denmark, three blue lions on a golden shield, is almost identical to the coat-of-arms of Estonia, and can be traced directly back to King Valdemar II and Danish rule in Estonia 1219-1346.
Earliest undisputed link
The earliest source that indisputably links the red flag with a white cross to a Danish King, and to the realm itself, is found in a Dutch register of coats-of-arms Wapenboek Gelre, written between 1340 and 1370 (some sources say 1378 or 1386). Most historians claim that the book was written by Geldre Claes Heinen. The book displays some 1700 coats-of-arms from all over Europe, in colour. It is now located on the Royal Library of Brussels (the "Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier").
On page 55 verso we find the Danish coat-of-arms with a helmet on top with horns. On the right horn is a Danish banner. The text left of the coat of arms says die coninc van denmarke (The King of Denmark). This is the earliest known undisputed colour rendering of the Dannebrog.
This image has been used to acknowledge a previously disputed theory that the cross found in Valdemar Atterdag's coats of arms located in his Danælog seal ("Rettertingsseglet") from 1356 is indeed the cross from the Danish flag.
This image from "Wapenboek Gelre" is near identical found in an old coats of arms book from the 15th century now located in the National Archives of Sweden, ("Riksarkivet")
From Queen Margaret I and King Erik VII time we also have a case that undisputed links Dannebrog to Denmark. The royal seal of King Erik VII from 1398 - the first combined coat of arms found in Denmark - shows the flag twice; the cross that separates the four coats-of-arms is the cross of the Dannebrog and the coat of arms representing Denmark show the three lions holding a Dannebrog banner.
Origin and meaning of "Dannebrog"
From Kings banner to National flag
Laws and flag variations
Denmark does not have a specified flag law, but various regulations and rules spread out over many documents, from King Christian IV's time till today, can be found. The quest to unit them into a specified flag law have been brought forth many times, especially in the 20th century, but it never amounted to anything.
The size and shape of the coufhordie flag ("Koffardiflaget") for merchant ships is given in the regulation of June 11, 1748, which says: A red flag with a white cross with no split end. The white cross must be 1/7 of the flags height. The two first fields must be square in form and the two outer fields most be 6/4 lengths of those.
The proportions are thus: 3:1:3 vertically and 3:1:4.5 horizontally. This definition are the absolute proportions for the Danish national flag to this day, for both the civil version of the flag, "Stutflaget", as well as the merchant flag ("Handelsflaget"). Both flags are identical.
A somewhat curious regulation came in 1758 concerning Danish ships sailing in the Mediterranean. These had to carry the Kings cypher logo in the center of the flag, to distinguish them from Maltese ships, due to the similarity of the flag of the Order of St. John (a.k.a. the Knights Hospitaller). To the best of knowledge, this regulation has never been revoked, however it is probably no longer done.
A great confusion exists concerning the proper colour of the flag, since the colour has never been officially specified. The regulation of June 11, 1748 simply states the colour as red. Unofficially, it is now defined as 185U or PMS032 (Pantone 032), but legally, the colour is still not properly defined. The colour is known simply as "Dannebrog red" ("Dannebrogsrød")
During the next about 150 years nobody paid much attention to actually abide fully to the proportions of the flag given in the 1748 regulation, not even the government. As late as 1892 it was stated in a series of regulations that the correct lengths of the two last fields in the flag were 6/4. Some interested in the matter made inquires into the issue and concluded that the 6/4 length would make the flag look blunt. Any new flag would also quickly become unlawful, due to wear and tear. They also noted that the flag currently used had lenghts, of the last two fields, anywhere between 7/4 to 13/6.
So in May 1893 a new regulation to all chiefs of police, stated that the police should not intervene, if the two last fields in the flag were longer then 6/4 as long as these did not exceed 7/4, and provided that this was the only rule violated.
This regulation is still in effect today and thus the legal proportions of the National flag is today anywhere between 3:1:3 width / 3:1:4.5 length and 3:1:3 width / 3:1:5.25 length.
That some confusion still exists in this matter can be seen from the regulation of May 4, 1927, which once again states that Danish merchant ships have to fly flags according to the regulation of 1748.
The Splitflag or Orlogsflag have similar specifications, but legally, they are two different flags. The Splitflag is a Danish flag ending in a swallow-tail, it is Dannebrog red, and is used on land. The Orlogsflag is a Splitflag with a deeper red colour and is only used on sea.
The Orlogsflag with no markings, may only be used by the Royal Danish Navy. There are though a few exceptions to this. A few institutions have been allowed to fly the clean Orlogsflag. Same flag with markings has been approved for a few dozen companies and institutions over the years.
Furthermore, the Orlogsflag is only described as such if it has no additional markings. Any swallow-tail flag, no matter the color, is called a Splitflag provided it bears additional markings.
The first regulation regarding the Splitflag dates from 27 March, 1630, where King Christian IV orders that Norwegian "Defensionskibe" (merchants ships with guns) may only used the Splitflag if they are in war-service under Denmark. In 1685 an order, distributed to a number of cities in Slesvig, says that all ships must carry the Danish flag, and in 1690 all merchants ships is forbidden to use the Splitflag, with the exception of ships sailing in the East Indies, West Indies and at the coast of Africa. In 1741 it is re-stated that the regulation of 1690 is still very much in effect, that merchants ships may not use the Splitflag. At the same time it is now allowed the Danish East India Company to use the Splitflag when past the equator.
That some confusion about the splitflag must have existed is evident; cause in 1696 the Danish Admiralty sends a proposal forth to the king for a standard in the size and shape of the Splitflag. In the same year a Royal resolution defines the proportions of the Splitflag, which in this resolution is called Kongeflaget (the flag of the King), as follows: The cross must be 1/7 of the flags height. The two first fields must be square in form with the sides three times the cross width. The two outer fields are rectangular and 1½ the length of the square fields. The splits are the length of the flag.
These numbers are the basic for the Splitflag, or Orlogsflag, today, though the numbers have changed a bit. The term Orlogsflag arrives in 1806 for use in the navy.
From about 1750 to early 1800's a number of ships / companies which the government has interests in, received approval to used the Splitflag. From the mid 1800's to 1899 another bunch of institutions and private companies also received approval to use the splitflag. Especially after 1870 the government generous and with little thought hand out approval to all kinds to institutions.
In royal resolution of October 25, 1939 for the Danish Navy, it is stated that the Orlogsflag is a Splitflag with a deep red ("Kraprød" or "dybrød") colour. Like the National flag, no nuance is given, but in modern days this is given as 195U. Furthermore the size and shape is corrected in this resolution to be: The cross must be 1/7 of the flags height. The two first fields must be square in form with the height of 3/7 of the flags height. The two outer fields are rectangular and 5/4 the length of the square fields. The splits are 6/4 the length of the rectangular fields.
Comparing this to the 1696 resolution one can see that both the rectangular fields and the splits have become smaller.
Who may use what?
From left to right 1. flag is the national flag and all may use it. 2. flag is the flag that only the danish stat and navy may use. 3. flag is the kings flag (Denmark don't have a king right now so the flag is not in use) 4. flag is the queen's flag 5. flag is the prime minister's flag. 6. flag is the crown prince's flag. 7. flag is the royal house's flag 8. flag is the defence minister's flag 9. flag is to show that there is an admiral on the ship 10. flag is to show that there is a vice admiral on the ship 11. flag is to show that there is a rear-admiral on the ship 12. flag is the mailflag (used for by the danish mail) 13. flag is used by the Government's ships. 14. flag is used by the DSB (the Government's rail road(den statslige bane)) 15. flag is used by the danish haborpolice
--Michael.h.o 08:22, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)by michael.h.o
|List of national flags | List of national coats of arms|
- Dannebrog - Vort Flag, Lieutenant Colonel Thaulow, Forlaget Codan, Copenhagen 1943
- Dannebrog, Helga Bruhn, Forlaget Jespersen og Pios, Copenhagen 1949
- Danebrog - Danmarks Palladium, E. D. Lund, Forlaget H. Hagerups, Copenhagen 1919