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Tristan da Cunha 1970's Flag Proposal
Last modified: 2005-10-08 by zeljko heimer
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At 23.12.2002 our flagfriend Anton Jansen died at age of 87. See my Memorial
in Vexilla Nostra 237-26 [vxn]. Anton had his own project on designing flags.
Several times I've helped him by drawing out what he created, to have
presented these designs correctly, so too on Tristan da Cunha, his most
international project. Anton has been a little bit misrecognized in the
Netherlands, but he had his values! Now that Anton has died, I'd like to get
his design somewhere at Tristan da Cunha on the FOTW-site, for flag
historical reasons. Anton's ideas are better than the Blue Ensign with full
coats of arms, flown nowadays!
Antons letters and my drawigns speak for themselves.
Hans van Heijningen, 31 August 2003
Letter by A. Jansen
The Hague, February 5th, 1974
TRISTAN DA CUNHA,
Thank you still for your kind letter of September 3rd last, ref. 11/6/45,
contents of which have been noted with interest and satisfaction.
Meanwhile you will have received the letter of November 5th last from the
Burgomaster and Aldermen of the Municipality of KATWIJK on the subject of
partnership between TRISTAN DA CUNHA and KATWIJK, and I trust this contact
will lead to a fruitful and lasting friendship and help between your two
I am pleased to inform you that I meanwhile designed (with the
co-operation of Mr. Hans van Heijningen at Utrecht, Holland, who also made
the enclosed drawings) a coat of arms and a flag for TRISTAN DA CUNHA, to be
used together with the Union Jack, which has been in use in Tristan since
1813 (as far as I have been able to trace) when the captain of the naval
brig "Semiramis" presented the only inhabitant of Tristan, Tomasso Corri,
with an English flag (no doubt the Union Jack is meant).
But since, of course, the Union Jack is not significant of TRISTAN DA
CUNHA, I thought it justified to design a coat of arms and a flag that would
be specially significant for TRISTAN.
Enclosed please find a small drawing in colour of both coat of arms and
by Hans van Heijningen
by Hans van Heijningen
The description of the coat of arms is as follows: "A green saltire on a
yellow field, and accompanied four blue wedges, pointing to the centre of
the shield", whilst the description of the flag is as follows: "A green
saltire on a yellow field, and accompanied four blue wedges, pointing to the
centre of the flag". The thickness of the arms of the saltire is one-fifth
the width (height) of the flag.
by Hans van Heijningen
(Weather this drawing has the wedges intentionally oriented diferently then in the above black&white drawing as
an alternative design remains unclear. Ed.)
The blue wedges on yellow (gold) background are the essential symbol in
the coat of arms of the Portuguese noble family of Da Cunha ("cunha" is the
Portuguese word for "wedge", so Da Cunha coat of arms are a so-called
"canting" emblem: the emblem refers to the name of the bearer of the coat of
(The abovementioned descriptions are not the officially heraldic
designations, but much more comprehensive, and that's why I prefer to give
these the way I do above).
The length of the flag is to be 1.5 times the width (height). - (length 3
: width (height) 2).
Enclosed please find for reference and evidence material:
Photocopy of letter of October 30th last from the Embassy of Portugal here
at The Hague, and photocopy of the enclosure with same letter, vis.
Photocopy of plate depicting Nuno da Cunha, son of Tristan (in Portuguese:
Tristão) da Cunha, and the Da Cunha family coat of arms overhead (in the
second and third quarter of same coat of arms you will recognize three rows
of three wedges each). The drawing of this coat of arms has been done in a
rather primitive way, as you will note;
and further: Photocopy of Instituto Português de Heráldica, LISBON,
Portugal letter of December 30th last,
with photocopy of enclosure received with same letter, viz. drawing
depicting the coat of arms of the noble Da Cunha family. You will note that
the quality of this drawing is very much better than that of the
abovementioned drawing (showing Nuno da Cunha with coat of arms), and
moreover, the colours are indicated here (as you may know: horizontal lines
as shading indicate blue, whilst little dots as shading indicate gold (in
The sequence of the four quarters differs from that in the coat of arms
as shown on the plate with Nuno da Cunha, but no doubt the drawing on letter
paper of the Instituto Português de Heráldica, is the correct one.
The wedge(s) of blue colour on golden (yellow) background have been
incorporated in the most heraldic/banistic and artistic way in my design for
coat of arms and flag for TRISTAN DA CUNHA.
The saltire is taken from the coat of arms and municipal flag of KATWIJK
to memorize the fact that Pieter Groen, who has played a predominating part
in the life and history of TRISTAN DA CUNHA during several decades, came
from this Dutch village on the North Sea coast.
Whereas the saltire is of blue colour (on silver/white background) in the
coat of arms and flag of KATWIJK, here green has been chosen as the colour
of the saltire, as an allusion to the name of Pieter Groen ("groen" is the
Dutch word for "green").
Thus, a non-complicated composition contains a maximum of well-justified
symbolism, and it would be a great satisfaction indeed if your Island
Council would decide to accept this design and define the coat of arms and
flag for TRISTAN DA CUNHA accordingly.
Looking forward to your comments with real interest, and with best wishes
to all your people, I remain, dear Sir,
Sincerely yours, [signature A.Jansen]
cc to: Municipal Board, KATWIJK, Holland;
Embassy of Portugal, THE HAGUE, Holland, and
Instituto Português de Heráldica, LISBON, Portugal
Letter by Instituto Português de Heráldica
Instituto Português de Heráldica
Agregado é asociases des _____logues Portugueses [line bearly legible]
Largo do Carmo
Mr A. Cansen,
The Hague (Haia)
We don't know any seal or an ancient representation of the coat-of-arms
used by Tristão da Cunha, who was not exactly an admiral, but commander in
chief of armadas and ambassador of the King D. Manuel I to the Pope.
Tristão da Cunha, member of the noble family of the Cunhas, Lords of
Gestaçó and Penajoia, was great grandson of Gil Vaz da Cunha, son of Vasco
Martins da Cunha, Lord of Tábua and his wife D.Beatriz Lopes de Albergaria.
The Cunhas of Tábua used quarterly the arms of Cunhas and Albergarias, and
in the same way the Cunhas of Gestaçó, as we can see it in a portrait of
Nuna da Cunha, governor of India and son of our Tristão da Cunha. So we
admit that Tristão da Cunha had used the ancient arms of the Cunhas, Lords
That coat-of-arms was quarterly: I and IV, or nine wedges (cunhas in
Portuguese) azure 3.3.3; II and III silver a cross flory "empty" gules; a
bordure silver with nine escutcheons azure charged with five roundels silver
in saltire (quinas of Portugal); Crest - an issuant griffin or, winged
azure, semé of wedges counter changed. The I and IV quarters are the
canting arms of Cunhas, and the II and III are the arms of Soares de
Albergaria, considering the bordure, that are silver a cross flory "empty"
gules and in orle nine escutcheons azure charged each one of them with five
roundels silver in saltire. The crest is of the Cunhas.
A sketch of the coat-of-arms is enclosed.
We thank you very much if you send us the description of the arms and
flag you are going to order to the Tristan da Cunha.
O Secretário Geral,
(António Pedro Sameiro)
Letter by the Administrator of Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha,
Mr. Anton Jansen,
2nd June 1977
Your letter of 4 March arrived on 13 May. Unfortunately our next mail
does not leave until the end of October so some time will elapse before you
receive this reply!
Firstly I will deal with the matter raised in the last line of page 1 of
your letter of 17 September last. A flag and coat-of-arms cannot be used
"non-officially" as you suggested. Here, as in other dependent territories,
we use the national flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, i.e. the
"Union Jack" which is flown outside my residence. On special occasions the
flag of St. Helena, of which Tristan da Cunha is a dependency, is also
flown. This flag incorporates the coat of arms of St. Helena. In the same
letter of 17 September you mentioned that Tristan has its own postage stamps
which identified the island. This is correct - but we are a dependency of
St. Helena as I have said above. There is no connection between having our
own stamps and not having a separate coat of arms.
You asked for details of the arguments leading to the decision not to
have our own flag and coat-or-arms. I can do no more than repeat what I
said in my letter to you of 14 June 1976, i.e.
(a) it is unusual for a Dependency to have a coat-of-arms;
(b) any design would have to be properly drawn by a College of Heralds
and then submitted to Her Majesty the Queen for approval before being
(c) that (b) above is an expensive business for a small territory such
as ours (with a population of 300).
In conclusion I would add that we do not wish to proceed with the matter
at this state of development although once again I thank you for your
Second Letter by the Administrator of Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha,
Mr. Anton Jansen,
1st February, 1978
Your letter of 25 November arrived on 20 January, but this reply cannot
leave before the end of April, our next outgoing mail. No, there is no
airstrip here for emergency landings.
You asked for a straight answer why your design for a Tristan coat of
arms and flag was unacceptable. The answer is that, with respect to the
Portuguese admiral who first discovered the island some 472 years ago,
Tristan da Cunha is now a British territory. The British flag (the Union
Jack) is flown daily outside my residence whereas your design incorporated
the golden field and blue wedges taken from the coat of arms of the
Portuguese admiral. Your letter of 24 October 1974 offered an alternative
with two red wedges. This was equally unacceptable.
I do think we have pursued this matter long enough and I would conclude
by saying that the island is quite happy with the British flag and the flag
embodying the St. Helena coat of arms (of which we are a Dependency) which
is flown on certain occasions. I repeat an earlier comment that because we
have our own postage stamps does not necessarily mean that we must have our
own flag or coat of arms.
As requested I enclose two postcards of Tristan. These are the only ones