For most countries, the date they adopted their flags is obvious and can easily be traced. However, in some countries, the dates have been disputed and only estimated since the flag designed has changed over time. Some of the flags may have been used for other purposes before they were adopted as national flags. Some countries have used the same flag for centuries. Here is a look at some of the oldest flags in the world.
Ten Oldest Flags
The flag of Denmark is the oldest in the world. The flag has been in use since 1370. It is commonly referred to as the Danish Cloth or the Dannebrog. The flag was first used as the Gelre Armorial by Claes Heinenzoon shows. It was used in the naval wars between Sweden and Denmark in the 1560s. The flag is red in color with a white Scandinavian cross. The white cross signifies Christianity, the dominant religion in Denmark.
The flag of Scotland dates back to the early 16th century. References to the Saint Andrew's Cross as a flag can be found in 1503, 1512, and 1542. However, the design of the flag might have come into use even earlier. The flag is known as either the St Andrew's Cross or the Saltire. The flag is light blue in color with a white cross, in reference to the crucifixion of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. Use of this imagery dates back to the late 14th century.
The current flag of the Netherlands has been in use since 1572. It is similar to the flag of Luxembourg. The flag consists of horizontal tricolor of red, white and blue from top to bottom. The flag was originally orange, white, and blue. The orange color was gradually replaced with the current red color. The orange color was replaced because red was easily visible in the sea. The flag is referred to as the Prince’s Flag because it was first used when Prince William led the Dutch resistance against The Spanish. The red-white-blue colors are the heraldic colors of Prince William of Orange.
The Nepalese flag has been in use since 1743. Interestingly, it is the only flag in the world that is not a quadrilateral. It is a combination of two crimson red pennons and can simply be described as two-right angled triangles that are overlapping. The color of the flag was inspired by the rhododendron, which is the national flower of Nepal. The red color represents the bravery of the Nepalese while the blue borders on the flag signify peace. The smaller upper triangle has a crescent moon, and the lower larger triangle has a white twelve-pointed sun. The celestial bodies represent the hope of longevity or forever prospering, just like the moon and the sun. The pennons represent the Himalayas.
The flag of the United Kingdom has been in use since 1801. It is commonly referred to as “The Union Jack.” It is used as a semi-official or a ceremonial flag in some of the Commonwealth states including Canada. It is also the national flag of the British Overseas Territories. The Union Jack appears on the cantons of some of the British Dominions. The flag consist of the red cross of Saint George (England) superimposed on the cross of Saint Patrick (Ireland) over the saltire of Saint Andrew (Scotland), the three saints of the UK. Wales is not represented on the flag.
Chile’s national flag has been in use since 1817. The flag has two equal horizontal stripes of white and red with white on top. A blue square is located on the canton. In the blue square is a white five-pointed star. The flag is also referred to as the ‘”The Lone Star” or “La Estrella Solitaria.” The blue color symbolizes the sky and the Pacific Ocean while white stands for the snow-capped Andes. Red is for the blood that was shed in the fight for independence. The white star symbolizes honor and progress.
Argentina adopted its national flag in 1818. The flag consists of three horizontal stripes of baby blue on the top and bottom and white in the middle. The sun of May is placed at the center of the white stripe. The flag was used during the war for independence 1812. During that time, the flag did not have the sun of May. It was until 1818 when the Sun of May was introduced to the flag. The blue color symbolizes the sky whereas the white color represents peace and harmony. The sun of May signifies the independence and freedom that the Argentines hope to maintain.
The flag of Peru has been in use since 1825. It is a vertical tricolor band of red on the fly and hoist sides, and white in the middle. On the center of the white band is the national coat of arms of Peru. Having two colors, it is commonly referred to as “The Bicolor Band.” The red color represents the blood that was shed by the freedom fighters. The white color represents peace and harmony that the Peruvians seek to maintain. The coat of arm on the flag has a llama and a cinchona tree which are the national symbols of Peru.
The national flag of Uruguay was adopted in 1828. The flag is commonly referred to as “Pabellon Nacional.” The flag consist of nine alternating horizontal stripes of white and blue. The canton is white and has the “Sun of May.” The sun has sixteen rays. The rays alternate from wavy to triangular. When the flag was adopted, it had 19 stripes. On July 11, 1830, the number of stripes was reduced to 9. The nine stripes represent the nine departments that originally formed Uruguay. The Sun of May represents a new state in the world.
The current flag of France was adopted in 1830. The flag was designed by Lafayette and Jacques Louis David. It is a vertical tricolor flag of blue on the hoist side, white in the middle, and red on the fly side. According to Lafayette, white was France’s traditional color. It was added to red and blue, which were the colors of the cockade worn by the French militia during the French Revolution. The tricolor flag has become very famous in Europe. In fact, the flag is simply referred to as the Tricolor, or ‘Tricolore’ in French. Its popularity resulted in other countries copying the design. It was first used as in 1794 as the Napoleon Army Flag.
Modifications of the Flags
Although most of the flags have remained largely unchanged, modifications have been made to some of the flags. The readjustments and modifications on the flags included change in the proportion of the flag, addition or removal of a feature such as coat of arm, and change of color shade. Some of the flags were abandoned only to be re-adopted years later.