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The States-General (The Netherlands)


Last modified: 2018-12-15 by rob raeside
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[States-General flag] by Jarig Bakker, 8 Jun 2005, after Hesman's Flaggeboek (1708).

See also:

The States-General

The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands also used a flag with seven orange-white stripes. As can be seen on several paintings.
During the republican era the Estates General (De Staten Generaal; the Dutch parliament) used a red flag with a yellow/golden lion. The opposite of the flag of the Province of Holland, nowadays in use by the Province of South-Holland.
Jos Niewold, 1 Aug 2003

That one I don't know; possibly it is the discolored flag of Rotterdam (green - white - etc) - since our friend doesn't present us with verifiable sources we must assume IMO that the flag mentioned did not exist. As Joe McMillan surmises our correspondent may have confused the 7 stripes with the 7 arrows...
The States General at first (since 1579/81?) used a yellow flag with a red lion, a BoA of the coat of arms of the province of Holland. Holland was the most important province of the Republic of the Seven Netherlands, paying over half of the national taxes.
Led by the province of Zeeland the other provinces protested against the dominance of Holland in this national emblem, so it was changed in 1663 to a yellow lion on a red field.
Source: Kl. Sierksma, Vlaggen - Symbool - Traditie - Protocol, 1963 [sie63]
Jarig Bakker, 5 Aug 2003

The "Generaliteitsvlag" or flag of the States-General was taken into use in 1579 after the formation of the "Unie van
Utrecht", and consisted of a yellow field, charged with a red lion passant, armed blue, holding in its right paw a blue sword and in its left paw a blue bunch of arrows.

c. 1650 the Zeeuwse States complained that the "Generaliteitsvlag" was the symbol of the domination of the Union by Holland, by showing the red Holland lion. So the flag was changed to one with reversed colors:
red with a yellow lion rampant armed blue, holding in its right paw a white sword and in its left paw a bunch of arrows feathered and pointed white. This flag was used until the French occupation (c. 1794).

These flags have been reproduced on a lot of flagcharts and paintings, but I guess that there are a lot of questions about where they were used. The reversal of colors may have been inspired by the closeness of yellow to orange, though: a red lion on yellow will tend to ramp soon dirty, darkening yellow...
Jarig Bakker, 8 Jun 2005

According to C. Pama in "Prisma van heraldiek & genealogie" the yellow lion was crowned and his white sword had a golden handle.
Mark Sensen, 8 Jun 2005

I think that this statement is based on observation of old flagcharts and paintings. My observations:
Bellin (1756): yellow lion, uncrowned, yellow sword and arrows.
Hesman (1708): idem.
van Keulen (c. 1710): yellow lion, uncrowned, white sword, yellow handle, yellow arrows.
de Bussy (1901) (in van der Laars, 1913): yellow lion uncrowned, armed blue, white sword, white arrows.
Danckert (1745): yellow lion, uncrowned, yellow sword & arrows.

Several of these flagchart-makers were able to observe the "Statenvlag" live - and to see that, unlike the lion on the national arms, the one on the Statenvlag was uncrowned.
Jarig Bakker, 8 Jun 2005

States-General seal

[States-General seal] scan from van der Laars' Wapens, Vlaggen en Zegels van Nederland, 1913.

The first seal of the States General of the 7 United Netherlands had a lion with the arrows pointing downwards. I scanned the image in van der Laars' Wapens, Vlaggen en Zegels van Nederland, 1913 (p.119). This lion was probably used on the first States General flag.

Incidently the first States General seal was of the 17 United Netherlands, adopted in 1559, in which the lion clinched 17 arrows (pointing downwards) in his left paw. In 1579 the southern provinces (presently mainly Belgium) decided by the "Unie van Atrecht" (union of Arras) to reaccept the lordship of King Philips II of Spain, while in the same year the Northern provinces (now the Netherlands) by the "Unie van Utrecht" decided to stay independent. It consisted then of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Friesland, Overijsel and Groningen.

The 17 Netherlands were: (from north to south): Vriesland, Groningen, Overyssel (incl. Drenthe), Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Zeeland, Brabant, Vlaanderen, Luyk (Liège), Limburg, Artois, Henegouwen (Hainault), Rijssel (Lille), Douai & Orchies, Namen (Namur), Luxemburg. (approximately, so far I found no complete list).
Jarig Bakker, 5 Aug 2003

The flag of Holland had the climbing Lion of its arms. So does the current flag of South-Holland, but here the lion is moved towards the hoist. The lion of the States, however, had a sword and a bundle of arrows. (And later on they switched the colours.)

I'm unfortunately unable to recognize the arrowhead on the scan. Other depictions of flagchart suggest the arrow heads point downwards on those, but I'm not sure. I don't know whether there was any symbolism behind it.

On another page T. van der Laars. mentions that it's said that the red Lion of the States started out with a bare head, then acquired a freedom-hat, and finally a crown to indicate the sovereignty of the States. He doesn't explicitly say whether this was said to be valid for the flag, or (just) for the seal, though.

Thus, the Seventeen Provinces were: The Duchies of Brabant, Limburg, Luxemburg, and Gelre, the Counties of Artois, Henegouwen, Vlaanderen, Holland, Zeeland, Namen, and Zutphen, the Viscountry [?] of Antwerp, and the Seignories of Friesland, Groningen, Mechelen, Overijssel, and Utrecht.

The Utrecht Union, BTW. was in itself a military union, signed in 1579 by whatever lands, provinces, and cities felt a need for a common defence against Spain. For example, originally the province of Groningen did not sign, as the city of Gronignen was Royalist, however the Groninger Ommelanden (Environs) did. The Union became of wider importance after the States General 26 July 1581 adopted de Acte van Verlatinghe (Bill of Abandonment), declaring the rule of Phillips II was no longer valid.

"Also een yegelick kennelick is, dat een Prince van den Lande van Godt ghestelt is hooft over sijne ondersaten, om deselve te bewaren, ende beschermen van alle ongehelijck, overlast ende ghewelt, ghelijck een Herder tot bewaernisse van sijne Schapen: Ende dat d'ondersaten niet en zijn van Godt geschapen tot behoef van den Prince ... maer den Prince om d'ondersaten wille ... Ende so wanneer hij sulcks niet en doen ... moet gehouden worden niet als Prince, maar als een Tyran ..."
(As it's known to each person, that the Monarch of the Land is placed by God over his subjects, to preserve those, and protect them from all injustice, inconvenience, and violence, like a Sheppard to the preservation of his Sheep: And that subjects are not created by God for the needs of the Monarch ... but the Monarch for the subjects' sake ... And thus when he does not do so ... should be taken not as a Monarch, but as a Tyrant ...)

By 1648, as its independence is acknowledge, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands does comprise the Lands of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Friesland, Overijssel, and Groningen. Additionally it includes the Landscape of Drenthe, and the Generaliteitslanden, which were parts of the Southern Netherlands that had for various reasons ended up inside the Republic.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 Aug 2003

First States-General flag

[First States-General flag] by Jarig Bakker, 8 Jun 2005, after Hesman's Flaggeboek (1708).

States-General jack

[States-General jack] by Jarig Bakker, 8 Jun 2005, after Hesman's Flaggeboek (1708).

In Hesman's Flaggeboek (1708) is the Jack of the States-General:
"gored, 12x r-w-b-&, and in the center a red shield with a yellow lion, in its paws a yellow sword and a bunch of yellow arrows".
Jarig Bakker, 8 Jun 2005