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Earliest flags over South Africa

Last modified: 2006-01-21 by bruce berry
Keywords: voc | portugal |
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Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) - doubtful flag

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

This webpage shows a different version of the Dutch East India Company Flag (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC for short) than what is shown at FOTW.
Zane Whitehorn, 28 Mar 2003

There were quite a few different VOC flags, for use by the different Chambers (places of settlement). This flag was for the Cape Colony, see this webpage. The link just provided and an image in "Ensiklopedie van Suidelike Afrika", 1967, suggests 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 cipher for the Cape (with a small "c"), but it is unknown if it was ever 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 cipher 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) [brl93], it states on page 10:
"More common was the use of the company's cipher, 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 (in the Cape) was either that of the Netherlands, or that of the Company, which was the Netherlands flag bearing the Company's cipher".
Note that the above does not specifically mention a flag with the Company's cipher with above it a small letter "c".  It does show us that such a cipher 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 cipher can also be viewed on the same page in the above mentioned book, as well as in C. Pama's Lions and Virgins (1965) [pam65] as 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 water colour 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 have handwritten underneath: 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 letter "C" was added to the cipher 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 cipher 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 cipher was ever used, whether on land or on ships, but one 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

A photograph of a VOC (Vereenigde Nederlandsche Oost Indische Compagnie) flag taken by Santiago Tazón in the Cape Town Castle can be found in the Files Section. [Ed]

Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) - Cape Town seal

[VOC-Capetown seal] sent by Mark Sensen, 30 July 1998

Portuguese flag?

The Portuguese flag was the first and arguably the most important, since it stands for those who gave the very name "Good Hope" and actually built the first version of the castle.
Antonio Martins, 09 Oct 1999