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Civil Ensign 1785-1927 (Spain)

Bandera Mercante

Last modified: 2015-07-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: ensign: civil | stripes: 2 (red) | stripes: 5 (yellow-red) |
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[Civil Ensign 1785-1927 (Spain)] 2:3 | stripes 1+1+2+1+1
image by Željko Heimer
Flag adopted 1785, abolished 1927

See also:


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 Apr 1996

In 1785 King Charles III decided it was time to replace the current war ensign, white with the Spanish coat-of-arms, for a new, distinct ensign which could not easily be mistaken with those of other countries (mainly Bourbon-ruled ones as France, Parma, Tuscany or Two Sicilies but also the British white ensign). As a result there was a contest (...) Red, yellow, white and blue were preferred to other colours. (...) It is probable that cost of the material, ease of production and long distance reconnaisance capability played a role as important, if not much more, than tradition. (...) One of the proposals (...) was selected – though without the coat-of-arms – to become the new (...) civil ensign.


  • Calvo and Grávalos 1983 [cag83]
  • Fernández Gaytán 1985 [fgy85]

Santiago Dotor, 08 Jul 1999

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.

Željko Heimer, 06 Aug 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 Jul 2003

Alternate Depiction

[Civil Ensign 1785-1927 variant depiction (Spain)]
image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 16 Mar 2010

At the Military Museum of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (which I visited on 18 February 2010), images of the 1785 flag contest are given in two plates, the first showing the final flags chosen by Carlos III, the second one the twelve proposals.

According to a source which unfortunately is not given within the explanations, the flags are shown with ratio 4:9 (the ratio of the war pennant is estimated at 1:18) and having minimal differences (e.g. crowns, width of crossbars, shades) from our versions already depicted. The civil ensign is a yellow flag divided twice horizontally by red stripes in a ratio of of approx. 1:1:2:1:1.

The primary source is probably from 19th century or even earlier. The flags are depicted as flying colours. [cpe83b] obviously has another primary source, because it shows different ratios. Furthermore only the results are displayed there, without any proposal.

Klaus-Michael Schneider, 16 Mar 2010