Buy State Flags from Allstate FlagsBuy US flags from Five Star Flags
This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Maritime Provinces (Spain)

Registration Flags

Last modified: 2005-12-17 by santiago dotor
Keywords: spain | registration flag | province: maritime |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Former Maritime Provinces, currently part of another Maritime Province:

Obsolete Colonial Maritime Provinces, currently independent countries:

See also:


I have prepared the flags usually known as matricular flags or register flags, of Spain. The origin of these flags goes back to King Phillip III's Real Cédula of 5th October 1607 when Spain was first divided into three Maritime Provinces (Ferrol, Cádiz and Cartagena), to order the different seaports and their ships. In September 1815 [1845?], a Royal Decree assigns a flag for each province and orders the merchant ships to fly the flag of his harbour's maritime province al tope mayor (English at masthead or on top of the main mast, I guess). That way it was possible to identify not only the ship's nation, but his local provenance, where was it registered. The maritime provinces went through many changes, but the most important Decree was the one of 1845, establishing the 36 provinces and their flags. Many of these flags are today the actual municipal flags of the capital cities of the maritime provinces, and, of course, the origins of the local yacht clubs' burgees.

José Carlos Alegría, 28 October 1999

Ole Andersen asked, "is Calvo and Grávalos 1983 your source?". No, this is not my main source. It does have these flags, but they have written a better work (text by Luis Gravalos and drawings by José Luis Calvo) on Banderas, numbers 7 and 8. This work, together with the more extensive ones by Emil Dreyer on number 11 and Sebastián Herreros on number 24-25, are my main source.

José Carlos Alegría, 30 October 1999

Among the original 1845 maritime provinces, apart from those of nowadays Spain, there were 6 overseas provinces, part of Spain back then. These were Filipinas (Philippines), Puerto Rico and other four belonging to Cuba. The difference between the European provinces and those from overseas territories are that the first were rectangular, while the latter were swallowtailed flags.

José Carlos Alegría, 5 November 1999

There were many changes to the 1845 maritime provinces until nowadays, due to independence of some countries and to administrative reorganization of the provinces. I just want to mention those involving changes in flags:

  • The first one was the creation of a new province in Cuba, called Nuevitas, around 1851.
  • On August 5th, 1858, Motril ceases as a province, taking her ships the flag of Málaga, at the same time that Vivero is moved to Ribadeo, with the same flag and covering the same province.
  • March 3rd, 1863 a flag is given to the new province of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic today).
  • Two new provinces are created on November 27th, 1867: Gran Canaria and Vinaroz.
  • In 1885 two new flags are created, both at overseas territories, Cienfuegos and Sagua la Grande, Cuba.
  • In 1886, the Philippine Islands are divided into two provinces, Manila, that takes the 1845 flag for Filipinas, and Ilo-Ilo, that is assigned a new flag.
  • On May 22nd, 1889, the first flag is given to a province in Africa, that of Santa Isabel, in Fernando Poo, Spanish Guinea [nowadays Equatorial Guinea].
  • On June 22nd, 1891, the flag of La Coruña is modified, leaving just one diagonal arm of the cross, "to avoid the difficulties that could arise, confusing the flag of the Russian Empire with that of the maritime province of La Coruña".
  • On July 7th, 1905, a flag is given to the new province of Pontevedra, that lasted until May 24th, 1933, when Pontevedra was assigned the red/white flag of Vigo.
  • On September 23rd, 1912 another new maritime province and flag: Melilla, in northern Africa.
  • On May 8th, 1914, another province in northern Africa: Ceuta. It is curious that 2 years earlier Melilla had been given a swallowtailed flag, like the colonial provinces, but Ceuta receives a rectangular flag, as any other province in Spain itself. To me this is significant. It seems that it was around this time when Spanish authorities definitely considered Ceuta and Melilla as part of Spain, even when being in Africa, like the Canary Islands.
  • In 1923, the Register of Ships publishes, for the first time, a colour chart with the [provincial] flags. Villagarcia de Arosa shows red and yellow colours, instead of the official red and white. This was probably a printing error, as there is no Royal Decree changing the flag, but the fact is that the new colours started to be used and successive charts kept the new flag.
  • On May 24th, 1933, flags are given to two new provinces in Spain: Gerona and Castellón.
  • In 1946 the last flag is assigned to a new province: Ifni-Sahara in Africa, what is now [Ifni (Morocco) and] the Spanish Sahara, a territory taken by Morocco in 1975, and awaiting a referendum since then to decide its future.

José Carlos Alegría, 7-13 November 1999

The flag of Corunna is the origin of the current flag of Galicia, the same way as the register flag of Santander is the origin of the current flag of Cantabria. This as far as autonomous regions [are concerned], but the impact on municipal flags is great. Cities like Gijón, San Sebastián, Huelva, Alicante, Bilbao, Tenerife, Vigo, Las Palmas (the flag of Gran Canaria), Algeciras... come from the maritime [provinces'] flags.

José Carlos Alegría, 10 November 1999