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Netherlands East India Company

Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie

Last modified: 2003-05-17 by jarig bakker
Keywords: voc |
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[United East India Company (VOC)] by Mark Sensen, 14 November 1996

The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC, United East India Company) existed 1602-1798.
Mark Sensen, 17 November 1996

See also:

Other versions

[United East India Company (VOC), other version] by Mark Sensen, 14 November 1996

The upper stripe of the flags of the VOC and GWC was at first orange, and changed like in the Dutch flag to red between 1630 and 1660.
A variant of the VOC-cypher shows an "A" instead of the "V". Some say the "A" stands for Amsterdam and was used by this chamber, other say it stands for "Algemeene Oostindische Compagnie" ["General East India Company"].
The (six) chambers of the VOC (Dutch United East India Company) had their own flags: the town flag with the VOC-cypher, above this the initial of the town.
Eg. [geo17] National Geographic Oct.1917 gives this flag as the one Henry Hudson used when he was in service of the VOC during his 3rd expedition.
Mark Sensen, 17 November 1996

VOC Amsterdam Chamber

[VOC Amsterdam Chamber] by Mark Sensen, 19 November 1996

VOC Delft Chamber

[VOC Delft Chamber] by Mark Sensen, 19 November 1996

VOC Enkhuizen Chamber

[VOC Enkhuizen Chamber] by Mark Sensen, 19 November 1996

VOC Hoorn Chamber

[VOC Hoorn Chamber] by Mark Sensen, 19 November 1996

VOC Zeeland Chamber (in Middelburg)

[VOC Zeeland Chamber (in Middelburg)] by Mark Sensen, 19 November 1996

Other versions of the cypher showed a "Z" (for "Zeeland") above, some also with a "M" below:
[VOC Zeeland Chamber, other versions of the cypher]
Mark Sensen, 28 March 1998

VOC Rotterdam Chamber

[VOC Rotterdam Chamber] by Mark Sensen, 19 November 1996

VOC Rotterdam Chamber - Administrator?

[VOC Rotterdam Chamber - Administrator?] by Mark Sensen, 30 July 1998

A painting by Ludolf Backhuysen with a view of the Rotterdam harbour shows a yacht with a white flag with the Rotterdam cypher and red-white-blue stripes at the top and bottom. According to Jos Poels (in [vxn] Vexilla Nostra no. 214) white flags with tricolour stripes at the top and bottom were used by administrators of the Navy Admiralities in earlier centuries. Maybe this was a flag of an administrator of the VOC Rotterdam Chamber?
Mark Sensen, 30 July 1998

VOC at the Cape of Good Hope

[VOC at the Cape of Good Hope] by Mark Sensen, 30 July 1998

There was also a cypher for the Cape (with a small "c"), but it's unknown if it was used on flags.
Mark Sensen, 30 July 1998

VOC at the Cape of Good Hope doubtful flag

[Dutch East Indies Company flag] by Jarig Bakker, .28 Mar 2003

See also: Earliest flags over South Africa (ed)

This webpage shows a different version of the Netherlands East India Company Flag (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC for short) than what are shown at FOTW (as far as I can see).
Zane Whitehorn, 28 Mar 2003

There were quite a few different VOC flags, for use by different Chambers (places of settlement). This flag was for Cape Colony, see this webpage. The link just provided and an image in "Ensiklopedie van Suidelike Afrika", 1967, suggest that it was indeed used on flags after 1652. I've made a gif, using Mark Sensen's images, for this Cape Colony VOC-flag. On the cited FOTW-page Mark Sensen queries: "There was also a cypher for the Cape (with a small "c"), but it's unknown if it was used on flags."
Jarig Bakker, .28 Mar 2003

The version of the VoC flag on this page really should not have been placed on the Homepage of an article dealing exclusively with the Dutch East Indies, as the cypher used on this flag refers in particular to the Cape of Good Hope (Caab de Goede Hope in 17th Century Dutch).
In "National and Provincial Symbols" by F.G.Brownell (1993), page 10:
"More common was the use of the company's cypher, a combination of the letters VOC (Vereenigde Nederlandsche Oost Indische Compagnie), over which a small letter C for Cabo (Cape), was sometimes placed.
The flag flown was either that of the Netherlands, or that of the Company, which was the Netherlands flag bearing the Company's cypher".
Note that the above does not specifically mention a flag with the Company's cypher with above it a small letter C. It does show us that such a cypher combination existed however and that its use on flags used on ships with the Cape of Good Hope as their homeport must assumed to have been in use.
The cypher can also be viewed on the same page in the above mentioned book, as well as in C.Pama's Lions and Virgins (1965) Fig. 12.
Caabse Vleck was a very early name for Cape Town (Kaapstad) but I have not been able to find the material relating to this.
I have a few photocopies of early paintings of the Cape of Good Hope. The first is a watercolour dated 1655/56 and is the oldest known painting of the settlement. It is headed: Aldus Verthoont hem de TAFEL BAY Geleegen Aen CABO de BONA SPERANCA.
Three other drawings by Johannes Rach dated 1762 are handwritten underneeth: Gezigt van Cabo de Goede Hoop.
So more than a Century after the landing of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape it is still known as "Cabo". This is probably why a C was added to the cypher and not a K, which would have been the obvious choice if the settlement had been known as Kaap de Goede Hoop.
Although we know the cypher with the C was in use at that time by the Company in the Cape, I have never been able to find any evidence that a flag with such a cypher was ever used, whether on land or on ships, but would presume that when the Governor of the Cape boarded a ship for travel he would use such a distinctive flag. Other ships operating from the settlement might have used such a flag as well.
Andre van de Loo, 29 Mar 2003

Military units of the VOC

Military units of the VOC carried a Colonel's Colour and Ordnance Colours of regimental design. The Colonel's Colour was normally all white with the VOC monogram in the center. In one example I have seen (the Swiss mercenary regiment de Meuron, which later went over to British service) the Colonel's flag includes the regimental mottos "Terra et Mare" and "Fidelitas et Honor" inscribed across the top and bottom edges of the flag.
Todd Mills, 30 July 1998