Flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The flag of the Netherlands is a horizontal tricolour of red, white, and blue. Introduced in 1572, it is one of the first tricolours and the oldest tricolour still in use today. Since 1937, the flag has officially been the national flag of the Netherlands and of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The national flag of the Netherlands is a tricolour flag. The horizontal fesses are bands of equal size in the colours, from top to bottom, red (officially described as a "bright vermilion"), white (silver), and blue ("cobalt blue"). The flag proportions (width:length) are 2:3. The first stadtholder of the Dutch Republic was William I of Orange, who joined with Dutch nationalists and led the struggle for independence from Spain. Partly out of respect for him, the first flag adopted by the Dutch was a horizontal tricolour of orange, white, and blue. It became known as the Prinsenvlag ("Prince's flag") and was based on the livery of William of Orange. The orange dye was particularly unstable and tended to turn red after a while, so in the mid-17th century, red was made the official colour. The flag has flown since then, but was confirmed by Royal Decree only in 1937, at the same time the colour parameters were exactly defined. As the first revolutionary flag, it has had a seminal influence throughout the world, particularly on the Pan-Slavic colours of Russia. Until about 1800, in the case of both the orange- and the red-striped versions, the number of stripes and their order frequently varied.
Cross of Burgundy Flag
The current flag was not the country's first flag. When, at the end of the 15th century, the majority of the Netherlands provinces were united under one lord, one common flag came into use for joint expeditions. This was the banner of the Lord of Burgundy, which consisted of a white field charged with two bundles of red laurel branches in the form of an X, with flames issuing from the intersection: the Cross of Burgundy. Under the later House of Austria, this flag remained in use.
The Prince's Flag
The provinces of the Low Countries, however, rose in revolt against King Philip II of Spain, and the Prince of Orange placed himself at the head of the rebels. The Watergeuzen (pro-independence privateers), acting on his instructions, harassed the enemy everywhere they could and they did this under a tricolour Orange White Blue (in Dutch: Oranje, Wit, Blauw or Oranje, Blanje, Bleu, from French Orange, Blanche, Bleu), the colours of the Prince's coat of arms. It was thus a flag easily associated with the leader of the rebellion, and the association was also expressed in the name: "the Prince's Flag." In an atlas of Kittensteyn, the first Red White and Blue flag can be seen on a painting imaging a battle between the Watergeuzen and the Spaniards. This date was early on in the Eighty Years' War, the Dutch war of independence. Hence 1572 is the official year of the introduction of this banner. This was commemorated in the Netherlands by the issue of a post stamp in 1972.
The flag had three, sometimes six or even nine horizontal stripes, but also took the form of rays projecting from a circle. The colours were used without any fixed order and it was only towards the end of the 16th century that any degree of uniformity appeared. After 1630, the orange stripe was gradually replaced by a red one, as paintings of that time indicate. Since there was likely no political reason for introducing a non-orange motif in the flag, the probable reason is that orange and blue are faint colors and more difficult to distinguish than red and dark blue, especially at sea. Another explanation is that the orange was originally made of natural/herbal yellow and red. The yellow colour faded out first, leaving a red strip.
The orange-white-blue flag, however, continued to be flown as well and in later times formed the basis for the former South African flag. It is also the basis for the flags of New York City and Albany, New York. In addition to the two main flags, a third official flag, that of the States-General, came into being, although it never assumed the importance of the tricolour. Originally it consisted of the red lion of the province of Holland, taken from its coat of arms, on a gold field, holding a sword and seven arrows, and later, of a gold lion on a red field.(See the page on the Coat of arms of the Netherlands.) It marked no contradistinction to the Prince's flag and, in old paintings of ships and sea battles, both flags may be seen flying harmoniously side by side, thus illustrating the complex form of government with its two centres of authority: the Stadtholder (who was always a member of the House of Orange) and the States General.
Flag of the Batavian Republic
The revolution in the Netherlands, in the last decade of the 18th century, and the conquest by the French also resulted in another flag. The name "Prince's Flag" was forbidden. There came no change in the red-white-blue (colours to which the French "liberators" were kindly disposed, analogous as they were to their own tricolour, chosen just a few months earlier), but in 1796 the red division of the flag was embellished with the figure of a Netherlands maiden, with a lion at her feet, in the upper left corner. In one hand she bore a shield with the Roman fasces and in the other a lance crowned with the cap of liberty. This flag had a life as short as that of the Batavian Republic for which it was created.
Louis Bonaparte, made king of Holland by his brother the Emperor Napoleon, wished to pursue a purely Dutch policy and to respect national sentiments as much as possible. He removed the maiden of freedom from the flag and restored the old tricolour. His pro-Dutch policies led to conflicts with his brother, however, and the Netherlands were incorporated into the French Empire. Its flag was replaced by the imperial emblems.
In 1813, the Netherlands regained its independence and the Prince of Orange returned to the country from England. In order to demonstrate the attachment of the people to the House of Orange, the orange-white-blue and the red-white-blue fluttered together on the roofs. Which of the two flags should be the national flag was left undecided. Until recently, both had the same rights, although the red-white-blue was generally given precedence. This is apparent from the fact that it was not only hoisted on public buildings but also chosen by the first King as his personal standard, showing the national coat of arms on the white stripes. From the same period dates the custom, prescribed spontaneously by popular will, to fly an orange pennant together with the national flag as a sign of allegiance of the people to the House of Orange. The pennant is added on Queen's Day (Dutch: Koninginnedag, April 30) or other festive occasions related to the Royal Family.
On February 19, 1937, a Royal Decree issued by Queen Wilhelmina finally laid down the red, white and blue colours as the national flag (heraldic colours of bright vermilion, white and cobalt blue).
Display and use
The flag is customarily flown at government buildings and military bases in the Netherlands and abroad all year round. Private use is much rarer. Only on holidays such as Koninginnedag is there widespread private use. On Koninginnedag an orange pennant is added to the flag. There are special, none holiday, festivities or remembrance, related occasions when the flag is flown. Such as at the homes of students who have just graduated. The flag is then often accompanied by the graduate's school bag hung from the tip of the flag pole. The flag can also be displayed at times of sadness at half-staff as a sign of respect or national mourning.
Flags of current countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Flag of Aruba
The national flag of Aruba was officially adopted on March 18, 1976. The blue field represents the sky, the sea, peace, hope, Aruba's future and its ties to the past. The two narrow stripes "suggest the movement toward status aparte". One represents "the flow of tourists to sun-drenched Aruba, enriching the island as well as vacationers", the other "industry, all the minerals (gold and phosphates in the past, petroleum in the early 20th century)". In addition to sun, gold, and abundance, the yellow is also said to represent wanglo flowers. The star has particularly complex symbolism. It is vexillologically unusual in having four points, representing the four cardinal directions. These refer in turn to the many countries of origin of the people of Aruba. They also represent the four main languages of Aruba: Papiamento, Spanish, English, and Dutch. The star also represents the island itself: a land of often red soil bordered by white beaches in a blue sea. The red also represents blood shed by Arubans during war, past Indian inhabitants, patriotic love, and Brazil wood. The white also represents purity and honesty.
Flag of the Netherlands Antilles
Within the Flag of the Netherlands Antilles there are five stars that symbolise the five islands that make up the country. While the colours red, white and blue refer to the flag of the Netherlands. A six-star version was used until 1986 when Aruba became its own country within the Kingdom. This original version was adopted on 19 November 1959. The future of this flag is uncertain as the Netherlands Antilles are set to be dissolved.
Flags of former countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The pre-independence flag of Suriname consisted of five colored stars (from top left clockwise: White, Black, Brown, Red and Yellow) connected by an ellipse. The coloured stars represented the major ethnic groups that comprise the Surinamese population: the original Amerindians, the colonizing Europeans, the Africans brought in as slaves to work in plantations and the Hindoestanen, Javanese and Chinese who came as indentured workers to replace the Africans who escaped slavery and settled in the hinterland. The ellipse represented the harmonious relationship amongst the groups.
Flags of former colonies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
New Holland (Brazil)
The Flag of New Holland, also known as the Flag of Dutch Brazil, was the flag used by the Dutch West India Company for the territories that were under its control in Brazil from 1630 until 1654. The flag consists of three horizontal stripes in the colors of the flag of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (red, white and blue) and it displays a monogram on the central stripe and a crown on the upper stripe, both gold-coloured. The origin of the monogram as well as its initials and its meaning is not known.
Netherlands East Indies
For the Majority of the existence of the Netherlands East Indies the flag of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (English: Dutch East India Company) was used. When the VOC became bankrupt and was formally dissolved in 1800. its possessions and debt were taken over by the government of the Batavian Republic. The VOC's territories became the Netherlands East Indies and were expanded over the course of the 19th century to include the whole of the Indonesian archipelago. As such the flag of the Batavian Republic and Kingdom of the Netherlands were used.
The flag of the Netherlands has been said to be the origin of the Indonesian flag. To symbolize the intention of forcing out the Dutch, the Indonesian nationalists would rip apart the Dutch flag. They tore off the bottom third of the flag, and separated the red and white colors from the blue color.
Netherlands New Guinea
The Morning Star flag (Indonesian: Bintang Kejora) represented the Netherlands New Guinea from 1 December 1961 until 1 October 1962 when the territory came under administration of the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). The flag is commonly used by the West Papuan population including OPM supporters to rally self-determination human rights support and is popularly flown on 1 December each year in defiance of Indonesian domestic laws. The flag consists of a red vertical band along the hoist side, with a white five-pointed star in the center. The flag was first raised on 1 December 1961 and used until the United Nations became the territory's administrator on 1 October 1962.
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