Aug 31, 2014


If you had to choose a flag to be used forever, unchanged, how would it look like? Tonga made its choice already.

This is the flag of Tonga:

Since the 1840s, European missionaries arrived in the islands with the goal of converting the natives to Christianity. They were successful: according to last census, more than 90% of the population profess a branch of this religion.

When the first king of Tonga converted to Methodism, he adopted a flag consisting of a red cross on a white field, representing purity.

The flag was changed in 1866, putting the old flag as a canton of the red field, representing the Blood of Christ shed on crucifixion. A reason commonly attributed to the change was the fact it was identical to the White Cross' flag, adopted by the Geneva Conventions two years earlier. It's not clear if the similarity with a British red ensign was intended or not, since Tonga was then a British protectorate.

According the current Tonga constitution act, from 1875, this flag "can never be altered" and "shall always be the flag". Obviously, the flag could be changed after a new constitution. As this flag doesn't have political signs, the only reasons I can think to replacing it is either Christianism losing relevance on the country or people bore with this bold and elegant design. None of them seems near to happen, so it's a good bet if this flag lasts forever...

Comments are welcome!

Aug 19, 2014

Gibraltar (United Kingdom)

The flag of Gibraltar is one of most curious cases of symbolic transfer. It's currently carried as a strong symbol of loyalty to the British crown (as you can see on these photos), what strongly contradicts its historical origins.

This is the flag of Gibraltar:

This flag is a banner of arms (a rectangular version of a coat of arms) of Gibraltar. Although confirmed by the College of Arms after the English conquest of the rock, the original grant of arms was made by Queen Isabella the Catholic, of Castile, commemorating the Spanish "re-conquest" of the place.

And the coat of arms and, consequently, the flag, is emerged in Spanish symbolism: the castle is pun on "Castile" and the biggest symbol of that kingdom, now part of Spain. The key represents the nickname of "key of Spain", although this metaphor has its origins at the time the Arabs still controlled the rock.

The most ironic thing on this flag becoming a symbol of loyalty to the British crown, in my opinion, is the fact that the Spanish never stopped using it as their own symbol. At the English takeover of the rock, most of Spanish residents of Gibraltar moved to a recently-established city called San Roque (notice the pun on "St. Rock"). As most of San Roque's earlier government was strongly linked to Spanish Gibraltarian one, they kept using the coat of arms, and now fly this flag:

A "Gibraltarian" flag with a Spanish crown. Yes, this is something that would cause much confusion to an unsuspecting.

Comments are welcome.