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Austrian Empire since 1786

Last modified: 2013-07-24 by rob raeside
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This report concerns ensigns on Austrian (Hapsburg) ships from 1786. This report is heavily based on my paper prepared for the XXI ICV in Buenos Aires, 2005 [Heimer, 2005]. It is to be noted that these flags were not regulated with any precision of the design that we may think of for flags today, so mostly only the general pattern was followed (even when they were regulated more precisely). Also, the ensign was the responsibility of the ship's captain and he was ordering it from a flag maker - both the captain and maker took great liberty in interpreting the design.
Željko Heimer, 24 September 2007

See also:

Naval Ensign, 1786

[Naval ensign] image by Željko Heimer, 29 September 2007

The reformation made by Emperor Joseph II enlarged the naval presence on the Adriatic only a little. A new naval flag was required to match the new identity of the Austrian Empire. The red-white-red triband of Austria was finally introduced in 1786 as a naval and merchant ensign. It included a crowned Austrian shield off-set to the upper hoist. This remained in use unchanged in basic design virtually until the end of the Monarchy. Although it suffered some slight artistic changes and its usage was after a century limited to naval ships only, and it was de jure replaced with a flag with two shields in 1915, it was the ensign that was lowered at the surrender of the Austro-Hungarian ships in 1918. The triband design was retained by the new Austrian Republic in 1918 to be used still today as the basis of the national flag. [Deppermann and Ruschke, 1844; Rosenfeld, 1883; Lehnert, 1886; Siegel, 1912; Neubecker, 1939; Khuepach, 1941; Baumgartner, 1977]

While the ensign was adopted on 20 March 1786, Siegel notes the date of introduction of this ensign was 1 January 1787 in the Adriatic and 26 March 1787 for the Austrian Netherlands. The same flag was prescribed as the jack (only in smaller dimensions).
Željko Heimer
, 29 September 2007

Masthead Pennant, 1786

[Masthead pennant] image by Željko Heimer, 29 September 2007

The masthead pennant was also changed accordingly to red-white-red triband triangular pennant. Permission for the merchant ships to fly this pennant was revoked in 1804 after Austria gained the majority of formerly Venetian held possessions on the Eastern Adriatic in 1797 with the Peace of Campoformio, when the fleet rose in numbers. So since 1804, the triband with the crowned coat of arms is exclusively naval ensign.
Željko Heimer, 29 September 2007

- Baumgartner, Lothar, 1977: Die Entwicklung der Österreichischen Marineflagge, Militaria Austriaca, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, p. 29
- Heimer, Željko, 2005: The Naval Flags on the Eastern Adriatic, XXI ICV Buenos Aires Vexillobaires 2005 (proceedings in print)
- Khuepach, Arthur von, 1941: "Interessantes aus der Österreichisch-ungarischen Kriegsmarine", Marine-Rundschau, nr. 46,
Münch, Bonn, p. 301
- Lehnert, Josef von, 1886: "Beiträge zur Geschichte der k. k. Flagge. Vortrag, gehalten im militär-wissenschaftlichen Verein zu Wien am 13. März 1885", Organ der militär-wissenschaftlichen Vereine, nr. 31, Mayer, Wien, pp. 3-4
- Novak, Grga, 2004b: "Jadransko more u sukobima i borbama kroz stolječa II. Od 1409. godine do Drugog svjetskog rata", Marjan tisak, Split