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Famous Flag Images: Europe

Last modified: 2014-06-04 by rob raeside
Keywords: delacroix | princess diana | westminster palace | wolfe | reichstag |
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Flags in Paintings from the French Revolution

One painting from the French revolution pictures Marianne (?) leading the revolutionaries and holding the French tricolour.
Željko Heimer

Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People with "Marianne" as a personification of the French Republic came somewhat later IIRC - in any case being a republican symbol she wouldn't have been appropriate as the 1830 revolution the painting commemorates replaced the Bourbon dynasty with the Orleans dynasty but kept the monarchy. Good painting though - Delacroix really knew his stuff.

An image of La Liberté guidant le peuplecan be found at the WebMuseum (widely mirrored).

Talking about French revolutions and flags. I've just finished reading a book about the Paris Commune of 1871. The Communards used the plain red flag, the French tricolour being associated with the provisional government at Versailles which suppressed the Commune. Apparently strips torn from Communard red flags became prized relics in 20th century Communist political mythology and one was taken into space by the cosmonauts of Voskhod 1 in 1964!
Roy Stilling

Red Flag on the Reichstag

The photo shows a young soldier hoisting a red flag on top of the Reichstag and two officers looking at him, and behind, on the street some tanks and a car, and a tram. On the photo the flag is not the one described in FlagFax, it is plain red with the star and hammer and sickle, but without any text. There could be several reasons for that:

  1. The side of the flag shown on the photo is the reverse of the flag from FlagFax. Maybe the reverse had no inscription.
  2. The flag in FlagFax, i.e., the one in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow, is fake (anything is possible dealing with Soviet propaganda, isn't it?)
  3. The flag on the photo is fake - that is highly possible, since the photo itself is a fake, made a few days after the actual event. But as far as I know the people on the photo are the same as those who hoisted the flag for the first time, and therefore it is possible that the flag is the same.

Any further evidence? The photograph was later used in the film 'Battle for Berlin', and is fairly well known and published in many places.
Željko Heimer, 31 July 1997

A Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, carried an interview with the Russian photographer Yevgeny Khaldei some weeks ago. Khaldei is depicted holding a large copy of the Red flag on the Reichstag photo. Khladei is credited with taking the picture. Here are the main points concerning the flag:

Khaldei told the newspaper the flag was made by his uncle, who stitched the hammer, sickle and star on to a red table cloth taken from the TASS office in Moscow. Khaldei was then on a short stay in Moscow, but soon returned to the front. On 2 May 1945 Khaldei ordered the three soldiers in his company up to the roof of the Reichstag. Various arrangements were tried before the final famous picture was made. The day after the picture arrived in Moscow. However, a month later Khaldei was ordered to fix the picture because the soldier supporting the one holding the flag had two watches on his arm!
Jan Oskar Engene, 01 August 1996

Princess Diana

[Image of royal family standard] image submitted by Eric Martin

The Royal standard that draped Princess Diana's casket is a personal flag used by members of the British Royal family that aren't entitled to distinctive flags in their own right. It was adopted by the Windsor family in 1917. The flag has a white border with 10 ermine tails laid out quarterly. The flag is divided into quarters and the blue quarter represents the Irish kingdom. The yellow quarter represents the Scottish kingdom and the red quarters represent the English kingdom. Wales is not represented as it was not a kingdom when the flag was adopted.
Mark Sensen, 27 September 1997

According to "Flags of all Nations" published by the British Ministry of Defence (I have the 1989 edition), the flag is the "Standard for other members of the Royal Family"--other here means for members of the Royal family who do not have their own standard (i.e. other than the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, Prince Edward, the Princess Royal and Princess Margaret; as far as I know Diana never had a separate standard)
Norman M. Martin, 01 September 1997

See also: Why wasn't the Queen's Standard lowered to half-mast when Diana, Princess of Wales, died?

Wolfe's flag at Quebec

The flag carried by Wolfe at Quebec is not known for sure. Benjamin West's 1770 painting "The Death of Wolfe" takes liberties with what almost certainly happened: Wolfe is shown expiring elegantly and gracefully, as his friends and allies look on concerned. In the painting there is a furled flag, which I can't identify. Again, West probably put it in to add gravity to the occasion. Who can say if there really was vex. content?
David Cohen, 11 December 1997

The flag is the Union Jack of the period, but the West painting is so notorious for its concern for drama over historical accuracy that it is hard to tell if West meant it to be a King's Colour of one the regiments present in the battle. The 15th (deep yellow), 28th (yellow), 35th (orange), 43rd (white), 47th (white), 48th (buff), 58th (black), 78th (buff) Regiments and two battalions of the Royal Americans were in the battle, and each carried a King's Colour (Union Jack) and Regimental Colour (in the colours noted above for each regiment). Wolfe was at the head of the 28th Regiment when he fell. Edward Penny's 1764 painting of the death of Wolfe is far more accurate and shows the battle line in the background having advanced from the point where Wolfe fell, and a King's and Regimental Colour are faintly visible in the battle smoke.
T.F. Mills, 11 December 1997