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Emperor's Standard 1871-1918 (Germany)


Last modified: 2004-10-02 by santiago dotor
Keywords: emperor | kaisersstandarte | iron cross | cross: formy (black) | gott mit uns 1870 | crown: imperial | crowns: 4 (imperial) | eagles: 12 | scepter (yellow) | lion: rampant (black) | bordure: componny |
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In Meyers Konversationslexikon 1897 In Enciclopedia Hispano-Americana (from Flaggenbuch 1905)
[Emperor's Standard 1870-1919 (Germany), according to Meyers Konversationslexikon 1897]          [Emperor's Standard 1870-1919 (Germany), according to Enciclopedia Hispano-Americana and Flaggenbuch 1905]
by Zeljko Heimer by Jaume Ollé

Editor's note: a more correct image of the 1892-1918 model of the Imperial standard (scanned from Ströhl 1897) can be seen here at the Das Kaiserreich website.

See also:

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Emperor's Standard


The Imperial Standard (Kaiser-Standarte) was a square golden flag with a big iron cross touching the edges of the flag, with inscriptions at each end "GOTT-MIT-UNS-1870" ["God with us"]. In each golden quarter there are three black eagles and one golden crown. In the middle a golden shield with a black eagle, over it a golden crown, all surrounded with the chain of the Order of Black Eagle.

Zeljko Heimer, 27 October 1996

Some differences have been noted among various sources for the imperial standard. The version on the left here is from Meyers Konversationslexikon 1897, and the one on the right is from the Enciclopedia Hispano-Americana — the latter source is supposed to include the charts from Flaggenbuch 1905.

Unattributed quote

Constitutionally, Imperial Germany was a federated empire. When the empire was founded in 1871 the King of Prussia, William I, was proclaimed German Emperor (not Emperor of Germany, be it noted). However, he kept his position as King of Prussia, as did his successors, the short-lived Frederick III and finally William II. The standard [above] is that of the German Emperor. As King of Prussia, he also had a quite similar one with a red field. The central shield [was] surmounted by a crown — the German imperial version for the Emperor's standard and the Prussian royal version for the King's standard. Also the eagles were slightly different — that of Prussia being crowned with the cypher of Frederick the Great ('FR' [for Fredericus Rex]) on its breast and that of Imperial Germany being uncrowned with the Prussian shield and eagle on its breast.

Tom Gregg, 27 March 1997

On 3 August 1871 the emperor's standard was adopted, rather similar to the Prussian royal standard. The emperor's standard had from the beginning the words "GOTT MIT UNS" and the date 1870, this one relative to the Order of the Iron Cross (instituted 1813, renewed 19 July 1870), on it.

Mario Fabretto, 22 August 1998

Some of the information in Schlawe 1913 —published by Moritz Ruhl, who also published the Flaggenbuch 1905 for the German Navy— differs from the two images we show above by Zeljko Heimer and Jaume Ollé:

  • Schlawe 1913 shows a lighter shade of gold.
  • The Iron Cross is like Jaume Ollé's, but has more a elaborate border.
  • The shield on the eagle is closer to Jaume Ollé's but the Prussian inescutcheon is larger and does not have the chain of the order surrounding it.
  • The crown is all gold and is not matched by either image.
  • The chain of the order surrounding the large shield (Order of the Black Eagle) is all gold (Zeljko Heimer and Jaume Ollé seem to show different orders).
  • The small crowns on the field of the flag are German imperial crowns like Jaume Ollé's, not five-arched royal crowns like Zeljko Heimer's.

Joseph McMillan, 5 December 2001

Accurate illustrations that agree [with Schlawe 1913] can be found in Meyer's, reprinted in Crampton 1990, p. 42 and in Zamierowski 1999, p. 59. The latter also has good versions of the 1871-1890 standards.

Norman Martin, 5 December 2001

Armorial banner indicating H.M. is not receiving visitors

Insignia of the Imperial Arch-Chamberlainship, from the Brandenburg arms

[Armorial flag indicating H.M. is not receiving visitors (Germany)]
by Jaume Ollé

Ensign with scepter: According to Siegel 1912, this flag indicates "Their Majesties are not receiving (visitors)"

Jaume Ollé, 2 May 1998

Schlawe 1913 says about these flags on page 131:

Von den Wappenflaggen auf S. M. Schiffen, auf denen Kaiserstandarte und Grossadmiralsflagge wehen, bedeutet:
  • die blaue Wappenflagge (= Abzeichen der Erzkämmererwürde aus dem kurbrandenburgischen Wappen): "Seine Majestät empfangen nicht." (...)
I would translate this roughly as:
The armorial banners on H. M. ships on which the Emperor's standard and grand admiral's flag are flying signify:
  • the blue banner of arms (= insignia of the Arch-Chamberlainship from the Electoral Brandenburg arms): "His majesty is not receiving [visitors]."(...)

Joseph McMillan, 5 December 2001

Armorial banner indicating H.M. is not on board

Banner-of-arms of the Burggraves of Nuremberg

[Armorial flag indicating H.M. is not on board (Germany)]
by Jaume Ollé

Ensign with black lion: According to Siegel 1912, this flag indicates "His Majesty (or their Majesties) are not on board".

Jaume Ollé, 2 May 1998

Schlawe 1913 says about these flags on page 131:

Von den Wappenflaggen auf S. M. Schiffen, auf denen Kaiserstandarte und Grossadmiralsflagge wehen, bedeutet: (...)
  • die gelbe Wappenflagge (= Wappen der Burggrafen von Nürnberg aus dem brandenburgisch-preussischen Wappen): "Seine Majestät sind nicht an Bord."
I would translate this roughly as:
The armorial banners on H. M. ships on which the Emperor's standard and grand admiral's flag are flying signify: (...)
  • the yellow banner of arms (= arms of the Burggraves of Nuremberg from the Brandenburg-Prussian arms): "His majesty is not on board."

Joseph McMillan, 5 December 2001

German Emperor not Emperor of Germany discussion

The Emperor in the Holy Roman Empire was not Emperor of Germany, he was Roman Emperor. (...) In the German Empire of 1871-1918, the Emperor had the title "German Emperor" (Deutscher Kaiser). The first emperor wanted to have the title "Emperor of Germany" (Kaiser von Deutschland), but for political reasons this was not made so. The difference may be hardly recognisable, especially in our days, when the power and influence of monarchs are scarce. I do not know of the reason for the slight difference in title, but I suppose it had something to do with the other German kings and princes accepting the King of Prussia as Emperor. Emperor of Germany might perhaps sound more as being "over" Germany, while German Emperor could sound more like someone who might be primus inter pares, and/or perhaps more in connection with the old title of Roman Emperor.

Elias Granqvist, 4 September 2000

It is difficult to explain this topic to English-speaking people who can't distinguish the terms nation and state in their Central European meanings. Somebody styled "German Emperor" does not imply that there is something like "Germany", but "Emperor of Germany" does imply it. The king of Saxony would agree that [the king of Prussia] is actually German Emperor (i.e. German-speaking, German-feeling etc.) because this statement cannot belittle the existence of Saxony as a state, but he would strongly oppose to his claim to be the "Emperor of Germany" because it can suggest that Saxony is only a region within the state of Germany.

Jan Zrzavy, 4 September 2000

See Edward Crankshaw's Bismarck (Chapter XVI, Sedan, Paris and the New Reich) for a discussion of this issue. King William I of Prussia had wished to be styled "Emperor of Germany" or "Emperor of the Germans." The King was a Prussian particularist who feared that his kingdom and crown would become submerged in the new Germany. The idea of being first among equals in Bismark's Germany held no appeal for him. To this title, however, the south German states would not agree. Bismarck was willing to give the south Germans their way, and he browbeat William into going along. The King gave in with bad grace, so much so that on the day he was proclaimed German Emperor at Versailles, he refused to shake Bismarck's hand.

Tom Gregg, 4 September 2000

This story is also told in Theo Schwarzmüller, Otto von Bismarck, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1998, on page 95:

Vor einer uniformierten Versammlung proklamierte der Grossherzog von Baden in einem kurzen Akt Wilhelm I. zum Deutschen Kaiser. Der alte Herr würdigte bei der Gratulationscour ausgerechnet seiner Kaisermacher keines Blickes. Noch am Vorabend hatten sie wegen des neuen Titels gestritten. "Kaiser von Deutschland" wollte Wilhelm werden; den "Deutschen Kaiser" verglich er mit einem blossen "Charaktermajor" (dem Majorstitel, den ein Hauptmann beim ausscheiden gnädig verliehen bekam).
I would translate it as:
In the front of a crowd of uniformed people, the Grand Duke of Baden proclaimed Wilhelm I to be German Emperor. The old man did consciously not honour his Emperor-maker [Bismarck] with as much as a look during the ceremony. As late as the evening before they had been fighting about the new title. Wilhelm wanted to be "Emperor of Germany"; he compared the "German Emperor" with a mere "Charaktermajor" (the rank of major, which a captain graciously got when he retired).
On page 96 in the same book is a flag related part:
Als Reichsfarben bestimmte man Schwarz, Weiss und Rot; die neue Kokarde sei nicht wie die schwarz-rot-goldene Fahne von 1848/49 "aus dem Strassensmutz erstiegen", so Wilhelm. Auch Bismarck zog der freiheitlich-demokratischen Symbolik jede Grellheit vor: "Meinetwegen Grün und Gelb und Tanzvergnügen oder auch die Fahne von Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Nur will der preussische Troupier nichts von schwarzrotgelb wissen."
As national colours were chosen black, white and red; the new cocarde was not as the black-red-golden colours of 1848/49 "risen from the dust of the street", said Wilhelm. Bismarck also took any gaudy colours rather than the freedom/democratic symbolism: "As far as I am concerned green and yellow and dancing joy or for that matter the colours of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The Prussian troops just don't want to have anything to do with black-red-yellow."

Elias Granqvist, 6 September 2000