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Republic of Malta, Repubblika ta' Malta

Last modified: 2006-03-18 by santiago dotor
Keywords: malta | republic of malta | repubblika ta' malta | cross: george cross | coat of arms: per pale (white-red) | politics | partit nazzjonalista | bandalora | flag of convenience |
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[Malta] 2:3
by António Martins
Flag adopted 21st September 1964, coat-of-arms adopted 28th October 1988

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The Maltese civil flag and war ensign is a white and red per pale flag in the ratio 2:3, augmented by a depiction of the British George Cross —since 1942, when Malta was awarded this singular honour following its gallant defence against the Axis powers in World War Two— fimbriated (edged) in red. This flag is flown on all public buildings, police stations, vessels belonging to the Armed Forces of Malta, on the vehicle used by the Prime Minister, and Malta's ambassadors. In Malta it is frequently flown by any one, without restriction, as a sign of loyalty, and abroad by the Maltese emigrant communities, particularly in Australia, Canada and the United States.

Adrian Strickland [str], 30 November 2000


According to tradition the origin of the flag has various sources, however the most credible but not in any way verified (as yet) is the two colours, white/red, were originally squares, giving a ratio of 1:2. And these two squares come from the last two squares of the chequered flag of the Norman family of Hauteville. The Hautevilles (or Altavilla as they are called in nearby Sicily) were the Norman family that under Count Roger, conquered Sicily (and in 1090 also Malta). Shields of arms carved in wood and stone may be found all over Malta dating from before the arrival of the Knights of Saint John, notwithstanding the latters domination of these islands and their continuous erosion of the rights of the Maltese, during their 250 years of rule here.

The George Cross first appeared (on 28th December 1943) on a blue canton and this was the design until independence on 21st September 1964, when the arms and flag were changed again. This time the blue canton was removed and substituted by a narrow fimbriation or fringe of red.

Adrian Strickland [str], 28 March 1997

Legend has it that the original white and red come from Count Roger's flag which was chequered in white and red and before he left Malta he cut out a corner and gave it to the Maltese.

Philip Serracino Inglott, 2 December 1998

Flag Variants

All three versions of this flag [plain white-red, with George Cross on blue canton, with George Cross alone] may be found flying these days. Although the predominant one is the current official one, some elements, mainly in the southern part of the island still fly the undefaced version.

Adrian Strickland [str], 28 March 1997

Even though the correct flag shows the George Cross, there was a time when some individuals used to fly the version without it. This was the Malta flag for centuries and the augmentation of our national flag with the unique distinction of the George Cross, by the British Government, while Malta was still a colony, although an honour, was viewed by some as an alien addition to Malta's ancient flag. I believe, it is quite possible that individuals still feel that way, and one still finds the white-red flag flown on some private houses. Also one should not exclude the economic reason for flying this cheap flag.

Adrian Strickland [str], 3 December 2000

Courtesy Flag

The Maltese civil flag (...) is also the correct flag for merchantmen to fly as a courtesy flag when arriving in Malta's ports.

Adrian Strickland [str], 30 November 2000

I disagree: the correct flag for merchantmen to fly as a courtesy is the Maltese merchant flag (civil ensign). Since visiting vessels typically fly a country's merchant flag, it is the Merchant Flag and not the National Flag that visiting vessels should fly. This was the actual practice when we were there on our boat in 1998.

James L. Woodward, 26 March 2001

The Maltese Shipping Directorate issued the following Merchant Shipping Directive no. 29 regarding the national colours of Maltese ships, according to this website:

(...) The Merchant flag is not to be used as a courtesy flag.
Thus, Malta appears to be an exception to the ordinary practice of using the nation's civil ensign as a courtesy flag.

James T. Liston, 8 December 2002


[Coat-of-Arms (Malta)]
from the Maltese Government website, modified by António Martins

From the Maltese Government Official Website:

Coat of Arms: The emblem of Malta is described by the Emblem and Public Seal of Malta Act 1975 as a shield showing an heraldic representation of the National Flag of Malta; above the shield a mural crown in gold with a sally port and eight turrets (five only being visible) representing the fortifications of Malta and denoting a City State; and around the shield a wreath of two branches: the dexter of Olive, the sinister of Palm, symbols of peace and traditionally associated with Malta, all in their proper colours, tied at base with a white ribbon, backed red and upon which are written the words Repubblika ta' Malta [Republic of Malta] in capital letters in black.

Political Parties

This webpage (broken link, image available here) is the flag of the Partit Nazzjonalista (Nationalist Party) of Malta. It consists of the Malta coat-of-arms on a dark blue field and the letters 'P' and 'N' in the third and fourth corners respectively.

T.F. Mills, 11 December 1998

Political Parties have their own flags and these are frequently flown, not only over the clubhouses of the parties in the various towns and villages but also by individuals.

Adrian Strickland, 30 November 2000

Other Flags

At the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta embassy in Valetta and at many buildings with historical connections to the Knights I saw the white St. George cross on red field of the order.

Norman Martin, 26 November 2000

Various national institutions, such as the Central Bank, The Stock Exchange, other banks and commercial entities fly their own flags, sometimes these will be banners of their arms, often they are unfortunately paper flags designed by publicity agents unaware of the essentials of good flag design. The Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Industry, Retailers Associations and similar organisations also have their own flags.

Each town or village will have one or more band-clubs. These have been the focus of social life since the middle of 19th century and village life still revolves around them. They are invariably very conscious of their status. They are centrally located and usually have a very tall flag-pole on the roof and in the centre of the facade of the club house. Each club has an array of flags including several different versions of the band club flag.

Additionally there will be a number of flags relating to the club which are carried in procession on feast days and a very special type of gonfannon, heavily embroidered in gold and silver thread, which seldom if ever leaves the club premises. Called Bandalora this flag represents the club itself, rather like Regimental Colours in the military. New bandalori are made on special occasions, such as the centenary of the foundation of a club.

Each village will also have a number of confraternities, formerly drawn from men of the same profession or trade, rarther like a guild. These are pious associations, that participate in the religious feasts and have their own type of flags. These are very large heavy long pointed flags, usually made of silk. They are heavily embroidered in gold and silver thread with the symbols of the confraternity. They carried in procession on tall silver flag-poles and escorted by similar silver poles carrying lanterns.

Sports clubs also fly their own flags on their premises, football and bowls being the sports most frequently represented.

The many types of flags quoted above constitute the absolute minority of flags actually flown in the Maltese islands. The vast majority are flown by individuals, and on a village feast day, when a pleaseant north westerly wind is blowing, the entire skyline of a village will form one long line of colour, the individual flags overlapping each other, snapping and flapping in the breeze.

Adrian Strickland [str], 30 November 2000