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Spain: 1938-1945

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National flag, 1938-1945 - Image by Luis Miguel Arias, 12 December 2001

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National flag

By the Decree of 2 February 1938, General Franco introduced a new coat of arms, more or less according to the heraldry of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel. An Order of the Ministry of the Interior, issued on 11 February 1928 and published the next day in ths State official gazette, No. 479, p. 5,738 (text) specified the official design of the coat of arms. The nationalist Ministry of War issued an Order on 27 July 1938, compelling the Navy to use the new coat of arms on their flags (though this Order did not show the coat of arms nor did it mention any further details).

A coloured flag chart, issued in 1939 after the war had ended (1 April 1939), shows the Navy ensign with the coat of arms. A new flag regulation, issued on 11 October 1945, and published one day later, slightly changed the coat of arms.

Emil Dreyer & Luis Miguel Arias, 6 July 2003

National coat of arms


National coat of arms, 1938-1945 - Image by Luis Miguel Arias, 12 December 2001

The coat of arms was established by a Decree issued in 2 February 1938 by General Franco and published on 3 February 1938 in the State official gazette, No. 470, pp. 5,578-5,579 (text), as follows.

The composition of the blazon of arms, emblem of the Spanish State, has reflected the historical events of the State itself. The union of the Crowns of Castile and Aragón under the Catholic Monarchs fixed a coat of arms in which the quarterings of both monarchies appeared in turn, territorial acquisitions and dynastic links redounded in its figures and heraldic composition, since until the early 19th century the personal and family arms of our kings was the symbol of public power. Thus, the quarterings of the States of the Houses of Austria [Habsburg] and Burgundy were added with Philip I; Charles V [I of Spain] adopted the imperial crown and the double-headed eagle, symbols of his Caesarean dignity; Philip II added the Portuguese quinas which remain until Charles II; Philip V adds the inescutcheon of Bourbon-Anjou of his dynasty, and Charles III the Medici roundels and the Farnese fleurs-de-lis.
When the Spanish State stopped being confused with the reigning dynasty, as a consequence of political changes in the 19th century, an escutcheon showing quarterly Castile and León with the fleurs-de-lis on its centre and the pomegranate in base was used as the official emblem of the State, a notoriously unsuitable choice, since it did not represent the former kingdoms that together with the Castillian-Leonese monarchy had come to integrate the greater Spain. The provisional government established in 1868 appropriately corrected this defect, establishing as blazon of Spain a quartered escutcheon with the arms of Castile, León, Aragón-Catalonia and Navarre, and in base Granada, accompanied by the Pillars of Hercules with the motto "Plus Ultra". This coat of arms was kept, with the natural changes, by the Savoyan monarchy [Amadeus I], by the first Republic, by the Bourbon restoration [Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII] and by the Republic of 1931.

As the glorious national revolution of 1936 has established a new State, radically different in its essence to the one it replaces, it is necessary that this change is reflected in the national emblems. Spontaneously, all those who cooperated in the National Movement proudly used as their badge the eagle which has been symbolizing the imperial idea since Rome and which appeared in the Spanish blazon in the most glorious times of its history. The bundle [of arrows] and the yoke of the Catholic Kings, whose adoption as its badge is one of the best decisions of our Falange, must appear in the official arms to indicate which must be the tone of the New State. Finally, a badge which summarizes our history and which reflects in its beauty the beauty of immortal Spain must be established to represent a Fatherland which summarises all the substance of theSpanish Tradition.

No heraldic set is more beautiful and more purely Spanish than that which presided, during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, the finishing of the reconquest, the foundation of a strong and imperial State, the predominance of Spanish arms in Europe, the religious unity, the discovery of a new world, the beginning of Spain's immense missionary work, the incorporation of our culture to the Renaissance. It is the coat of arms which, repeated by Juan Guas' chisel in the walls of San Juan de los Reyes [church in Toledo], composes the most marvelous decorative ensemble which can be imagined, that which appears in the old stonework of Salamanca, of Segovia, of Ávila, of Valladolid and of Granada, as witness of a historical time similar to the one we are now living, in the troubles of fight, in triumphant optimism, in imperial longings. The eagle which appears in it is not that of the German Empire, in the end foreign to Spain, but that of St. John the Evangelist, which sheltering the Spanish arms under its wings symbolises the adherence of our Empire to Catholic truth, so frequently defended with Spanish blood; in it appear as well the bundle of arrows and the yoke, then and now emblems of unity and discipline. The repetition of heraldic motifs, [though] unnecessary, powerfully contributes to rhythm and harmony of the whole, enhanced with the brightness of the tinctures, among which the colours of the national flag prevail.

Some changes are nevertheless necessary. The arms of Sicily, which stopped being Spanish by the Treaty of Utrecht, must be suppressed, replaced with that of the glorious Kingdom of Navarre, whose chains were incorporated with good sense and justice to the State's emblem in 1868. It is also appropriate to keep the columns with the "Plus Ultra" motto, which since Charles V have been symbolizing Spain's overseas expansion and the courage of Spanish seamen and conquerors.


Article 1.
The coat of arms of Spain is constituted with the heraldry of the Catholic Monarchs, replacing the arms of Sicily with those of the former Kingdom of Navarre, thus integrating the blazons of the groups of medieval states which constitute nowadays Spain.

Article 2.
The coat of arms of Spain shall be described thus:
Quarterly, 1. and 4. Grand quarters counterquartered, first and fourth gules a castle triple-turreted each turret with three embattlements or masoned sable gate and windows azure, second and third argent a lion gules crowned langued and armed or, 2. and 3. Per pale, or four pallets gules and gules on a chain in cross, saltire and orle or an emerald.
In base argent a pomegranate proper seeded gules slipped with two leaves vert.
A coronet with eight flowers of which five visible.
The whole on the eagle of St. John displayed with wings inverted nimbed or beaked and membered gules armed or, to its dexter and sinister a yoke and a bundle of arrows both with strings all gules.
The cri-de-guerre "Una Grande Libre" (One Great Free [Nation]).
The whole accompanied by two columns argent on waves azure crowned or, the dexter and sinister column with scrolls reading "Plus" and "Ultra".

Luis Miguel Arias & Santiago Dotor, 28 April 2004

Simplified coat of arms


Simplified coat of arms, 1938-1945 - Image by Luis Miguel Arias, 12 December 2001

The Decree prescribed a simplified version of the new arms, only valid for printed documents, rubber seals etc. and never intended for flags. The Undersecretary of the Navy issued a note on 27 July 1938, published one day later in the State official gazette, No. 28, p. 415 (text).

The Generalissimo Head of the State has decided that the coat of arms of Spain to be used on the flags of the Navy vessels shall be as defined in Article 2 of the Decree of 2 February 1938 (official gazette, No. 470), whose drawing appeared on 12 February 1938 in the State official gazette, No. 479. The reduced model shown in the same issue of the State official gazette shall not be used, except for bureaucratic purposes, as stated in the Order of the Ministry of the Interior of 11 February 1938, published in the State official gazette, No. 479.


Erreoneous flag with the simplified coat of arms - Image by Steve Stringfellow, 12 August 1997

Smith and Taylor (1946-1947) [s2t46] shows an erroneous flag of Spain with the simplified arms.

Steve Stringfellow, 12 August 1997