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The Flag of Spain
The flag of Spain (Spanish: Bandera de España), as it is defined in the Spanish Constitution of 1978, consists of three horizontal stripes: red, yellow and red, the yellow stripe being twice the size of each red stripe. Traditionally, the middle stripe was defined by the more archaic term of gualda, and hence the popular name rojigualda (red-weld).

The origin of the current flag of Spain is the naval ensign of 1783, Pabellón de la Marina de Guerra under Charles III of Spain. It was chosen by Charles III himself among 12 different flags designed by Antonio Valdés y Bazán (all projected flags were presented in a drawing which is in the Naval Museum of Madrid). The flag remained marine for much of the next 50 years, flying over costal fortreses, marine barracs and other naval property. During the Napoleonic wars the flag could also be found on marine regiments fighting inland. Not until 1820 was the first Spanish land unit (The La Princesa Regiment) provided with one and it was not until 1843 that Queen Elisabeth II of Spain would make the flag official.

Throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the color scheme of the flag remained intact, with the exception of the Second Republic period (1931–1939); the only changes centered on the coat of arms.

Flags for the Armed forces
The flag used by the Spanish Armed Forces is the same one used as state flag and national ensign, though military units use a more square version (1,280cm x 1,475cm) charged with the name of the unit. Naval jack (Bandera de Proa o de Tajamar)

The Spanish naval jack (Bandera de Proa o de Tajamar) is only hoisted at the prow of all Navy ships when docked or anchored in foreign waters, from sunrise to sunset. In national waters it is hoisted on Sundays, festivities and in presence of a foreign warship as soon as it moors at the dock. The national flag is always hoisted at the stern, when sailing, and from sunrise to sunset, when docked. It is a square flag (ratio 1:1) composed of 4 quarters:

* First quarter, for Castile: Gules, a tower Or, masoned sable and ajouré azure;
* Second quarter, for León: Argent, a lion rampant gules (differing from the one on the national flag) crowned, langued and armed or;lk
* Third quarter, for Aragon: Or, four pallets gules;
* Fourth quarter, for Navarre: Gules, a cross, saltire and orle of chains linked together Or, a centre point vert;

Royal Standards of Spain
The King of Spain (Spanish: Rey de España) uses a flag known as the Royal Standard. The Royal Standard of Spain consists of a dark blue square with the Coat of arms of the King in the center. It is usually hoisted at the King's official residence, the Palacio de la Zarzuela, others Spanish royal sites, present on its official car, as small flags and has a military use. The Royal Guidon (Guión) is regulated by Title II, Rule 1, of Royal Decree 1511/1977. It is identical to the Royal Standard except that the Royal Guidon has a Gold fringe. It is made of silk’s taffeta. The size of the guindon is 80 x 80 cm. It is the personal command sign or positional flag of the monarch and carried nearby him.

Also the heir of the crown, the Prince of Asturias, has its own standard and guidon. The Standard of the Prince of Asturias (Estandarte del Príncipe de Asturias) is regulated by Royal Decree 284/2001 that modified the Title II of Spanish Royal Decree 1511/1977. The Standard of the Prince of Asturias consists of a light blue (the colour of the Flag of Asturias) square flag with the Coat of arms of the Prince of Asturias in the center. The Guidon (Guión) is identical to the Standard except that the Royal Guidon has a Gold fringe. It is made of silk’s taffeta. The size of the guidon is 80 x 80 cm.

Civil authorities
Some high ranking officials of the Spanish state (i.e.: the president, the vice-presidents and the ministers of the Government, or the chairmen of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate) have the right to display a flag representative of their status. It is a square flag of Spain with the Spanish coat of arms on the centre.

Flag for sport and leisure boats
The flag for private sport and leisure boats (in Spanish: bandera de embarcaciones de recreo) is the flag of Spain charged with the royal crown in blue on the center of the yellow stripe. This flag was established in 1945 though with a blue coronet instead of the current royal crown.

Spanish flag legal frame and specifications
The present laws and regulations on the Spanish flag are:
* Spanish Constitution of 1978, establishing the national flag:
* Act 39/1981, regulating the use of the flag.
* Royal Decree 441/1981, establishing the detailed technical specifications of the colours of the flag.
* Royal decree 1511/1977, establishing the Regulations on flags, banners and emblems

Design
The basic design of the current flag of Spain with the coat of arms is specified by the Rule number 3 of the Royal decree 1511/1977, that states the following: * The coat of arms of Spain will high 2/5 of the hoist (width) and will figure on both sides of the flag.
* When the flag of Spain were of regular proportions (length equal to 3/2 of width), the coat's axis will be placed at a distance from the hoist equal to ½ of the flag's width.
* If the flag's length were less than normal or the flag were square-shaped, the coat of arms will be placed on the centre of the flag.

Flag protocol
The flag can only be flown horizontally from public buildings, private homes, businesses, ships, town squares, or during official ceremonies. While the flag should be flown from sunrise to sunset, government offices in Spain and abroad must fly the flag on a 24-hour basis (during the night, it must be properly lit). The flags must conform to the legal standards, and cannot be soiled or damaged in any way.

For mourning activities, the flag can be flown in either of the following ways. The first method, commonly known as half-staffing, is performed when the flag is hoisted to the top of the flagpole, then lowered to the pole's one-third position. The other method is to attach a black ribbon to a flag that is permanently affixed to a staff. The ribbon itself is ten centimetres wide and it is attached to the mast so that the ends of the ribbon reach the bottom of the flag. During the funeral ceremony, the flag may be used to cover the coffins of government officials, soldiers and persons designated by an act of the President; these flags are later folded and presented to the next of kin before internment.

When flying the Spanish flag with other flags, the following is the correct order of precedence: The national flag, flags of foreign states, the flag of the European Union, international NGOs, military and government standards, Autonomous communities flags, city flags and any others. When foreign flags are used alongside the Spanish flag, the flags are sorted according to their countries' names in the Spanish language. The only exception is when the congress or meeting held in Spain dictates a different language to be used for sorting. The flag of Europe has been hoisted since Spain became a member of the Union. While not mentioned by name in the law, the flag of NATO can be used in Spain, since it belongs to that organization as well.

When unfurled in the presence of other flags, the national flag must not have smaller dimensions and must be situated in a prominent, honorable place, according to the relevant protocol.

History
While the concept of a national flag did not exist in the Middle Ages, the symbol of Spain was the Royal Shield. It was frequently made up of other different flags, full of images and symbols that represented all the values that the troops or the King defended.

Standard of the Catholic monarchs
In Spain the medieval kingdoms which merged in the sixteenth century had their own heraldric symbols and their navies used to display their own flags and standards on both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, where the Aragonese and Castilian Crowns had their respective areas of influence. The flag of the Crown of Aragon (the Senyera in Catalan) was a yellow flag with four red stripes (the same of the present flag of Catalonia and basically the same as the Valencian, Aragonese or Balearic Islands autonomous communities in Spain, or the Roussillon in France). The Crown of Castile, since the final union between the kingdoms of Castile and Leon in 1230, used a quartered flag alternating the Castilian (Gules, a tower Or, masoned sable and ajouré azure) and Leonese (Argent, a lion rampant purpure crowned or, langued and armed gules) emblems. Aragonese and Castilian flags and coats of arms merged when the Catholic monarchs created the new symbols of their personal union of the crowns in 1475.

Cross of Burgundy
This is one of the most important flags in the history of Spain, for after the marriage of Joanna of Castile (Joanna the Mad), daughter of the Catholic monarchs, with Archduke of Austria and later Philip I of Castile (Philip the Handsome), it was introduced among the Spanish flags a piece that, although of foreign origin, would later become the Spanish symbol by antonomasia, whatever the color of cloth where it will be embroidered would be (mainly white and yellow). It is more properly called "Cruz de San Andrés" (Saint Andrew's Cross) or, "Vane of Burgundy". This was the symbol of the Archduke. Since Emperor Charles I of Spain, the different armies used the flag with the Cross of Burgundy over different fields, first incorporated to the uniforms of the Archers of Burgundy and later to the rest of the army, painted on the dresses to distinguish themselves in combat. It soon appeared also on the flags that, up to present-day, wear the regiments of Spain.

Both the Cross of Burgundy and the blazon of the Catholic Monarchs were the first European symbols to arrive to the New World.

Habsburg Spain
When the House of Habsburg took the Spanish throne by mid 16th century each military company had its own flag in which appeared usually the arms of its commander over the Cross of Burgundy. In order to represent the King, they used to have another one, the "Coronela", during the reign of Charles I (Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor) that was made of yellow silk (the imperial color) with the embroidered imperial shield.

When Philip II came to power, he ordered that, in addition to the flags of each company, each Tercio should have another one of yellow color with the Cross of Burgundy in red. The units of Cavalry took the same flags but of smaller size, called Banners.

However, at this time the concept of a national flag as understood nowadays did not exist, and so the true symbol of the nationality was represented by the Royal arms. It was frequent the use of other flags different from the mentioned ones, with various images or symbols. Some examples are the Flag of Santiago (Saint James the Great), the green one the own Emperor took during the conquest of Tunisia or the crimson one used by Hernán Cortés in Mexico.

Philip V and the new Bourbon dynasty
The arms of Bourbon-Anjou were added in 1700 when Philip V became king of Spain. He introduced several changes on the royal arms. The king's new arms were designed by the French heraldists Charles-René d'Hozier and Pierre Clairambault in November 1700. Philip V also changed the philosophy and the design of the flags of Spain. He was the first to give Spain a unified symbol of its own when putting on white fabric the Cross of Burgundy and the Royal coat of arms. It still was not a national flag, but a first "try", in line with similar attempts in other European nations.

The flags were organized in three groups:

* Standard or Royal flag: it continued being of crimson color, with the royal arms embroidered, the Golden Fleece and the necklace of the Order of the Holy Spirit.
* Military flag: the color was reduced to white with the Cross of Burgundy and the Royal arms.
* Pavilion of the Navy: again white, with the Royal arms.

The origins of the present ensign: Charles III
In 1760 Charles III modified the shield of the Royal arms, suppressing the necklace of the Holy Spirit, maintained the Golden Fleece and added two new quarters, corresponding to the House of Farnese (six blue lilies on gold) and Medici (blue disc with three lilies of gold and five red discs, all on gold).

The military flag or Coronela of Spanish regiments was, during the Bourbon years, the Cross of Burgundy with different additions in each military unit depending on their territorial origin, commander, etc.

When Charles III became King of Spain, he observed that most of the countries in Europe used flags which were predominantly white and, since they were frequently at war with each other, lamentable confusions occurred at sea, it being difficult to determine if a sighted ship were enemy until practically the last moment. For this reason, he ordered to his Minister of the Navy to present several models of flags to him, having to be visible from great distances. The Minister selected twelve sketches which were shown to the king. The flag that was chosen as war ensign is the direct ancestor of the current flag. It was a triband red-yellow-red, of which the yellow band was twice the width of the red bands, a unique feature that distinguished the Spanish tribanded flag from other tribanded European flags. The flag chosen as civil ensign or for Merchant Marine use, meanwhile, consisted of five stripes of yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow, in proportions 1:1:2:1:1.

The origin of the colours of the Spanish flag is based on the heraldic schemes of the Crown of Aragon. Catalan ships used to wear a Standard with red and yellow stripes. In historical documents as well as cartographical drawings from the Middle Ages, the Catalan flag is seen in different forms, with two, three, four, and even five red stripes over a yellow background, sometimes vertical and sometimes horizontal. Since the Catalan navy dominated large parts of the Mediterranean Sea, those heraldic schemes were quite common, as in the Kingdom of Naples where Charles III had ruled as Charles VII before becoming the monarch of Spain in 1759. Some historians argue that the coat of arms placed on the flag was reduced to the Castilian arms so the flag would represent both kingdoms: yellow and red for Aragon, and the castle and lion coat of arms for Castile.

The First Spanish Republic
The First Spanish Republic started with the abdication on February 10, 1873 of King Amadeo I, mostly as a consequence of the Hidalgo Affair, when he had been required by the radical government to sign a decree against the artillery officers. The next day, February 11, the republic was declared by a parliamentary majority made up of radicals, republicans and democrats. It lasted twenty-three months, between February 11, 1873 and December 29, 1874.

The First Republic had suppressed all the royal symbols (the royal crown and the scutcheon with the dynastic arms) from the coat of arms, and although it was debated the adoption of a new tricolour flag, red, yellow and purple (the same that was finally adopted by the Second Republic on 1931), the national flag was finally not modified and it remained the same but removing the crown from the top of the shield. Most of the old flags were reused simply by cutting the crown from the coat and sewing a piece of yellow cloth on the hole.

This period of the Republic lasted until Brigadier Martínez Campos pronounced for Alfonso XII in Sagunto on December 29, 1874, and the rest of the army refused to act against him. The government collapsed, leading to the end of the republic and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy with the proclamation of Alfonso XII as king.

The Second Spanish Republic
On April 14, 1931 the Monarchy was overthrown and replaced by the Second Spanish Republic. The regime change was symbolized by a new tricolor flag, red, yellow and indigo, instead of the previous red and yellow bicolor, considered, at the time, monarchist. The purported aim of the new pink strip was to represent Castile and Leon in the flag's colours, assuming that the existing red and yellow represented the territories of the former Crown of Aragon. Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Castile

The Republican flag was officially adopted on April 27 and officially given to the army on May 6. Formed by three horizontal strips of the same width, red, yellow and indigo, with the shield adopted in 1868 by the provisional Government at the center (quarterly of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre, Enté en point for Granada, stamped by a mural crown between the two Pillars of Hercules). Another newness was the smaller dimensions of this flag in its military version, of 1 m x 1 m.

Despite the emphasis given to the new flag as a symbol of the new regime, it must be noted that the bi-color flag was not the monarchic one, as demonstrated in Royal Decrees. When talking about it, it was described as "national flag", while there was a separate Royal Banner privative to the monarch whose colour, at the time of Isabella II of Spain was, curiously, indigo.

As for the addition of the indigo to represent Castile in the national flag, it has been noted that the Castilian banner was not indigo, but crimson. The existing confusion about the color of the Castilian banner was born in the 19th century, when one of the multiple clandestine societies that proliferated took the name "Comuneros" and adopted the color indigo as a symbol, without having any relation with the original Comuneros which, four centuries before, had hoisted the crimson banner in Villalar, Valladolid.

The Spanish State
The Spanish Civil War officially ended on 1 April 1939, when Francisco Franco announced the end of hostilities. The Republican regime had been defeated and Franco became the undisputed leader of Spain. He ruled Spain until his death on November 20, 1975.

At the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War, and in spite of the army's reorganization, several sections of the army continued with their bi-color flags improvised in 1936, but since 1940 new ensigns began to be distributed, whose main newness consisted in the eagle of John the Evangelist added to the shield. The new arms were allegedly inspired in the coat of arms the Catholic Monarchs adopted after the taking of Granada from the Moors, but replacing the arms of Sicily for those of Navarre and adding the Pillars of Hercules on each flank of the coat of arms. In 1938 the columns were placed outside the wings.

On July 26, 1945 the commander's ensigns were suppressed by decree, and in October 11, a detailed regulation of flags was published, that fixed the model of the bi-color flag in use, but defining better its details, emphasizing a greater style of the Saint John's eagle, until then somewhat dumpy. The models established on that decree were on force until 1977.

On this period two more flags were usually displayed together with the national flag: the flag of Spanish Falange (three vertical strips, red, black and red, being the black stripe wider than the red, and the yoke and arrows emblem in red placed on the center of the black stripe) and the Carlist flag (the Saint Andrew saltire or Cross of Burgundy red on white) as representation of the National Movement.

Post Franco Interim period
From the death of Franco, in 1975, until 1977, the national flag continued with the 1945 regulation. On 21 January 1977 a new regulation was approved that differed from the previous one in the fact that the eagle had wings opened much more, ("pasmada" eagle), the Pillars of Hercules returned to be placed within the wings, and the tape with the motto UNA, GRANDE Y LIBRE (ONE, GREAT and FREE) moved from the neck of the eagle and was located over it. Not many flags with that coat were made. Finally, and after the restoration of the House of Bourbon in the Spanish Throne, in the person of King Juan Carlos I, the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was published, whose article 42 in its section 12, says: "the Flag of Spain is formed by three strips horizontal, red, yellow and red, being the yellow of double width that each of the red ones".

The National flag of Spain finally received its present day coat in December 1981.

Unofficial flags

* At some point during the 1990s an unofficial version of the Spanish flag sporting an Osborne bull superimposed as some sort of "coat of arms" began appearing in football arenas. This usage has become increasingly popular and this flag is easily seen nowadays during sports events, football or others, which include a Spanish team, player or the Spanish national team itself.
* The flag of the Second Republic, with the indigo strip, is often seen in rallies organized by those closely associated to the Spanish Communists or Republicans such as anti-NATO demonstrations and other leftist causes. In this context, sporting this flag is often perceived, not only as expressing a Republican sentiment rejecting the Monarchy, but as a reaction against the Franco regime, because the Francoist regime recovered the design of the old Spanish flag by force in the civil war and with the democracy back the tricolor flag was not restored.
* A Spanish flag with a superimposed kicked football was used as the emblem of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
* The yellow and red colours used on the "pecten" logo of Royal Dutch Shell are thought to relate to the colours of the flag of Spain as Shell built early service stations in the state of California which had strong connections with Spain.
* The Spanish flag is used in the reverse of the Texas state seal as one of the Six flags over Texas.
* When Hugo Chavez turns up at one of his rallies, some spectators may fly a Spanish flag without an emblem, but instead with the letters UPV written in the yellow field. One explanation is that stands for Unión Patriótica Venezolana, a pro-Chavez political party famous for its motorcycle thuggery that's used to repress the free press, and is led by Lina Ron.

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