Last modified: 2005-09-02 by phil nelson
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image by Edward Mooney, Jr.
The flag of Norden is yellow with a red cross.
There are no fixed proportions.
Jan Oskar Engene, 12 March 1996
The flag of Norden is a (re)creation by people supporting the social and cultural ties between, and the closer cooperation among, the Nordic countries, taking as inspiration flag that may have been used as the flag for the Union of Kalmar (1397-1521). The Union of Kalmar united under a common king most of the territories presently belonging to the five Nordic countries.
Exactly when the idea of this flag was first launched in modern times, is not known to me. The first trace of the idea that I have been able to located is from 1979. The Norwegian vexillologist Atle Grahl-Madsen [mad79] then raised the idea of a flag to emphasize the common ties of the Nordic countries. He suggested a red cross on yellow as the natural choice and pointed to references in two letters from King Erik of Pomerania, the first union king under the Union of Kalmar, as historical references for the idea. An additional reason for Grahl-Madsen to choose the red-yellow colour combination, was that no flag of any other Nordic country used these colours. According to Per Andersson, [and89] and [and92], the flag was first hoisted in modern times on the occasion of the 900th anniversary celebrations of the city of Helsingborg in 1985.
Some disagreement exist as to the certainty of the union flag suggested by the historical sources. Norwegian vexillologist Jan Henrik Munksgaard follows a cautious approach and concludes that the yellow flag with the red cross is uncertain as the flag of Norden during the Union of Kalmar, but that the instructions in the two letters from the king might indicate an attempt on part of king Erik to introduce a flag of this kind. Danish historians and heraldists (see [pgh96], [ngb96], and [ngb97]) take a more firm stance in acknowledging the flag's existence.
In a detailed analysis of documents, seals and coats of arms from the period, heraldist Nils G Bartholdy [ngb97] places the union flag into context with other symbols of the union: The three crowns and the cross. As for the union cross, which separates the arms of the realms in several coats of arms of the time, Bartholdy is of the opinion that it was red on yellow. In other words, the union flag was based on this union cross from the arms.
As mentioned, the union flag is described in two letters, both dating from the year 1430. In these letters, king Erik of Pomerania wrote to the priests of Vadstena and Kalmar instructing them to wear on their robes the banner of the realms (union), which were a red cross on a yellow field. Bartholdy is of the opinion that the red cross on a yellow field may have been a conscious choice as new and distinct flag for the union, based on a universal symbol, the cross, and taking the most significant colours from the arms of the three united kingdoms, primarily that of Norway as an inherited realm (king Erik of Pomerania inherited Norway in 1389, several years before being elected king of Denmark and Sweden), but the yellow field also from the arms of Sweden and Denmark at the time. Theoretically it is possible that the union flag was introduced as early as the year of the foundation of the union, in other words 1397, but this is not known with certainty, event though the letters from 1430 uses terms indicating that the flag was already in existence.
References / bibliographical details:
Jan Oskar Engene, 25 October 2001
In my childhood, I remember seeing another (other than the one featured on
FOTW) Nordic flag on a book cover. As I remember it, it had yellow as its
background colour, but most notably, it also included not just an inner and an
outer cross, but in fact three superimposed crosses -- presumably in
order to accommodate all the remaining colours of blue, red and white (though
I cannot recall in what order they would have been). I have never seen this
since, but the book cover was, I believe, a photograph of an actual, flying
flag, rather than just a drawing. This was 20 years ago, but I might be able
to trace the book.
Mikael Parkvall, 13 August 2003
This flag was used sometimes in the early 1980's. It was, I believe, yellow
with a cross of from outside inwards blue, white and red.
Elias Granqvist, 17 August 2003
Norden is the name for the five countries of
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden (it thus covers more than
Jan Oskar Engene, 12 March 1996