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Crowns on Flags

Last modified: 2011-12-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: crown | malta | mural crown | austria | azores | portugal | russia | san marino | somalia | spain | uganda |
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I noticed that Europe's oldest Republic (San Marino) has a crown in its coat of arms (and flag). Can anyone accurately explain what the crown means (or SHOULD mean)?
André Serranho, 1 December 1997

The crown is widely used in Italy (and San Marino belongs to Italy when considering the "nation"). It's meaning is sovereignty.
Pier Paolo Lugli, 1 December 1997

I think this is something that has changed over time. Certainly back in the seventeenth century a crown was seen as a symbol of sovereignty, not monarchy, so when we English chopped our king's head off, the new Commonwealth adopted arms which retained a crown. However, what they did do was replace the traditional arms of England, the three lions passant guardant, with the Cross of St. George on the grounds that the lions were the Royal Arms and thus a royal symbol, yet the crown was simply a symbol of sovereignty. The lion rampant of Scotland was similarly replaced with the Cross of St. Andrew when the Commonwealth extended its rule there, but interestingly the gold harp on blue of Ireland was retained under the Commonwealth, presumably because Ireland did not have an alternative non-royal national symbol in the shape of a national flag at that time.

More recently, certainly since the American and French Revolutions where crowns were most certainly deprecated as royalist symbols, it has become more usual for republics to dispense with crowns, but they often retain the traditional arms of their countries as a symbol of national continuity. Interestingly republics might dispense with crowns crowning their coats of arms, as in the case of Portugal, but it's only been the communist states that have removed the crowns from *within* the arms - the non-communist republic of Finland retained the crown on the lion rampant in its traditional arms.

The Spanish Republic used a mural crown. This is a pretty good compromise, combining senses of civic republicanism and sovereignty in one emblem. I'm surprised more republics don't use it.
Roy Stilling, 2 December 1997

In the Portuguese republic, mural crowns are seen everywhere in the coats-of-amrs of sub-national entities. I don't know if these coat-of-arms had previously real crowns or not, but it is likely. I am only aware of one municipality that keeps a crown in its COAL: the city of Horta, in Azores.
Jorge Candeias, 2 December 1997

Interesting that the Azores as a whole use the old monarchist flag as the basis of their own. Are the Azores known as a hotbed of monarchism in Portugal?
Roy Stilling, 2 December 1997

Malta's arms are famous for the mural crown on top. And Guyana has a feathered crown on it's Presidential Flag.
Dave Martucci, 2 December 1997

And there's a crowned crane on the flag of the Republic of Uganda!
James Dignan, 3 December 1997

The Maltese presidential standard places the country's coat of arms in the centre of a blue flag which also has a small gold Maltese cross in each corner.
Vincent Morley, 3 December 1997

A mural crown is one which has a top line that kind of looks like

__    __    __
  |__|  |__|  |

To be a correct mural crown the stones should also show in the wall which is what mural means.
Rich Hansen, 3 December 1997

A quick scan through a couple of flag books and my archives reveals the following 'Republican crown" coat-of-arms:

  • Austria
  • San Marino
  • Russia (home of a presidential flag with a crown!)
  • Somalia (which has a mural crown as part of its arms)
James Dignan, 4 December 1997