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Flags of Sweden, 16th Century - 1814

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by christopher oehler
Keywords: historical flags: sweden | fort christina | state | monochrome flags |
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The Flag of Sweden until 1818 (same as present flag)

[Flag of Sweden before union with Norway] by Edward Mooney, Jr.

The flag as depicted in Siegel's flagcharts (1912)

[Flag of Sweden before union with Norway] by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 October 2009

[Flag of Sweden before union with Norway] by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 October 2009

Source: [sig12] flagchart 62. I've interpreted the ratio as being 5:8. As far as I can see, the colours are the standard yellow and blue Siegel uses. Before this, he gives the exact same image, but with the colours reversed. t62/c1/r/1

Both are captioned "Handelsflagge 1820" (Merchant Ensign). The year 1820 suggests that his source in this case is a Danish Flag collection: "Samling af Nation Flage og Wimpler v. J. Hjorth. Kiöbenhavn 1820." [hjo20].
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 October 2009

I must say I find this yellow flag pretty unlikely, since Swedish flags always have been blue with yellow crosses. So my guess is, this is an error in SIEGEL's flagchart.
Elias Granqvist, 31 July 2010

The War Ensign of Sweden until 1815 (same as present war ensign)

[Flag of Sweden before union with Norway] by Jan Oskar Engene

In those days, this flag can be considered to have been state flag, too.

Regarding the naval use of the state flag in the seventeenth century

Merchant vessels frequently used the three-tailed flag, even though they formally had no right to. Using the flag of the King and navy, would give an impression that a vessel had guns or was under the protection of the King. The same thing happened in Denmark-Norway. Only in 1663 was an ordinance issued in Sweden prohibiting merchantmen from using the three-tailed flag. On land, the flag (splitflag) was only flown from castles and fortresses. In the book Från fälttåg till folkfest (1993), there is a detail from a picture of Fort Christina in Delaware showing the three tongued flag flying over the fort. The picture was made in 1654.
Jan Oskar Engene, 1998

The Ensign of the Archipelago fleet (the fleet of the army), Sweden, 1761-1813

[Ensign of the Swedish Archipelago fleet] by Elias Granqvist,

1761-1813 there was an all blue three-tongued flag - it was used by the "archipelago fleet" (skärgårdsflottan) (the fleet of the army), a fleet of light ships to be used in the Swedish archipelago.
(Literature: Jan von Konow: Svenska flaggan, Atlantis, Stockholm 1986)
Elias Granqvist, 18 November 1999

The flag as depicted in Siegel's flagcharts (1912)

[Ensign of the Swedish Archipelago fleet, as depicted in Siegel's flagcharts (1912)] by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 October 2009

The third flag on the same line [in Siegel's flagcharts (1912) [sig12]; cf above at this page], t62/c3/r/1, is an all blue three-tongued splitflag. It's captioned "Scheerenflotte 1820". (Skerry Fleet) The year suggests the same source [i.e. a Danish Flag collection: "Samling of Nation Flage og Wimpler" v. J. Hjorth. Kiöbenhavn 1820]. This probably refers to the military Skerry Fleet of Sweden, as it existed in the latter part of the 18th century.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 October 2009

Early sources regarding the flag

In 1569, King John III decided that all Swedish flags used at the peace negotiations with the Danes in Knäred should be blue with a yellow cross, because they had been like that "as of old". However, this is the first official decision known to state this. (See also the text about the flag and arms of Finland Proper.)
Elias Granqvist, 14 March 2001

The present navy ensign was also used prior to 1815. The oldest source for this is a colourful drawing from the 1620's which now is held at the War Archive. The first act of law which mentions this flag is a Flag Act of 1663, in which it was decided, merchant ships where not allowed to fly the swallow tailed flag.

(Literature: Jan von Konow: Svenska flaggan, 1986 [knw86a])
Elias Granqvist, 18 November 1999

According to Dr. Paul Warming, heraldry advisor of the Danish kingdom, the flag of Sweden was blue with WHITE cross before 1520.

Source: K. Sierksma in vexillinfo 43 [vxf]
Jaume Ollé, 23 July 2001

Flag Bulletin vol. XXVI, #120, Jan.-June 1987, p. 164 has an abstract of a paper presented at the 10th International Congress of Vexillology which was entitled "A Surprising Vexillological Discovery Made Through the Study of Heraldry" by Dr. Warming. The paper states that an armorial of the Order of the Golden Fleece shows eight blue flags with white off-center crosses for Christian II, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Since Christian received the Collar of the Order on 4 Nov. 1520, the day of his coronation as King of Sweden, Warming proposed that the white on blue flags were intended to represent the Kingdom of Sweden. He also said that a 1761 Royal decree indicated that the cross had been white before being changed to yellow.

Since this was only a very short abstract I do not know what details might have been given about the 1761 decree, nor if the author considered the possibility of oxidized pigment in the armorial.
Ned Smith, 25 July 2001