Flag of Belgium
The national flag of Belgium (Dutch: Vlag van België, French: Drapeau de la Belgique, German: Flagge Belgiens) contains three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red. The colours were taken from the colours of the Duchy of Brabant, and the vertical design may be based on the flag of France.
The national flag has the unusual proportions of 13:15, but is rarely seen. A flag in a 2:3 or similar ratio is used in most cases, even by most government bodies. The unusual proportions of 13:15 are of unknown origin.
After the death of Charlemagne, the present-day territory of Belgium became part of Lotharingia, which had a flag of two horizontal red stripes separated by a white stripe. The territory then passed into Spanish hands, and after the coronation of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor yellow and red, the colours of Spain, were added. From the 16th century to the end of the 18th century, the colours of what is now Belgium were red, white and yellow. Occasionally the red cross of Burgundy was placed on the white section of the flag.
During the period of Austrian rule, a number of different flags were tried, until the Austrian Emperor imposed the Austrian flag. The population of Brussels was opposed to this, and following the example of France, red, yellow and black cockades began to appear; those being the colours of Brabant. The colours thus correspond to the red lion of Hainaut, Limburg and Luxembourg, the yellow lion of Brabant, and the black lion of Flanders and Namur.
Independence and adoption of current flag
On August 26, 1830, the day after the rioting at the Brussels Opera, and the start of the Belgian Revolution the flag of France was flown from the city hall of Brussels. This was hastily replaced by a tricolour of red, yellow and black horizontal stripes made at a nearby fabric store, similar to the one used during the Brabantian Revolution. As a result, article 193 of the Constitution of Belgium describes the colours of the Belgian Nation as Red, Yellow and Black instead of the order used in the above official flag.
On January 23, 1831, the stripes were changed from horizontal to vertical, and October 12 saw the flag attain its modern form, with the black placed at the hoist side of the flag. It is suggested that the change was to more clearly distinguish the flag of Belgium from the flag of the Netherlands, which also has three horizontal stripes, especially important during naval battles. Some think the change to vertical was a gesture of sympathy with the French, again clearly separating them from the Dutch.
Design and specifications
The official guide to protocol in Belgium states that the national flag measures 2.60 m tall for each 3 m wide, giving it a ratio of 13:15. Each of the stripes is one-third of the width of the flag. It is important to note that the yellow is in fact yellow and not the darker gold of the flag of Germany, which is a somewhat similar black-red-gold tricolour.
National flag and civil ensign
The "national" flag has the unusual proportions of 13:15, but is rarely seen. A flag in a 2:3 or similar ratio is used in most cases, even by most government bodies. The unusual proportions of 13:15 are of unknown origin. Most Belgians are unaware that the 13:15 version even exists.
The flag of Belgium (seen from behind) in the common 2:3 ratio flying from the Gravensteen Castle overlooking Ghent.
The 2:3 flag is also technically the civil ensign, the correct flag for use by civilians at sea.
Naval ensign and jack
The naval ensign of Belgium has the three national colours in a saltire, on a white field, with a black crown above crossed cannons at the top and a black anchor at the bottom. It was created in 1950, shortly after the Belgian Navy was re-established, having been a section of the British Royal Navy during World War II, and it is reminiscent of the white ensign or the Royal Navy.
There is also an official Belgian naval jack, which is the same as the national flag, except in a 1:1 ratio, making it square.
Royal standard and flags on the royal palaces
The royal standard of Belgium is the personal standard of the current king, Albert II, and features his monogram, an 'A' above the numeral 'II' in the four corners. The designs of royal standards of past monarchs have been similar.
Notably, the flag of Belgium flown on the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Royal Palace of Laeken is in none of the proportions above. It has the irregular 4:3 ratio, making it taller than it is wide. The stripes remain vertical. These proportions are explained as an aesthetic consideration, as the palaces are large, and the flags are thus viewed from far below, which makes them look more normal due to foreshortening.
The flags are flown above the palaces when the king is in Belgium, not necessarily just in one of the palaces. The flags are not flown if the king is on a state visit to another country or on vacation outside of Belgium, There have been exceptions to this rule, but in general presence or absence of the flag is a reasonably reliable indicator of whether or not the king is in the country.
As Belgium is a federal state, the flag of Belgium and the flags of the communities or regions in principle occupy the same rank. Nonetheless, when flags are raised and lowered or carried in a procession, the national flag takes precedence over all the others.
The order of precedence is:
1. The national flag of Belgium
2. The flag of the community or region of Belgium
3. The European flag
4. The flags of the provinces of Belgium, in alphabetical order in the local language, if more than one is flown
5. The flag of the municipality
If there is a visiting head of state, that country's flag may be set second in precedence, all other flags dropping a rank.
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