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Kingdom of Greece: Decrees on the flags

Last modified: 2016-02-13 by ivan sache
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Decree of 4/16 April 1833

Decree of 4/16 April 1833
On the Naval and Merchant Flags of the Kingdom

The Naval Flag (l'enseigne) of the Kingdom of Greece shall be as the attached design, it shall have five blue and four white horizontal stripes of equal width so arranged that the top and bottom stripes are blue and those in between alternately white and blue. In the upper hoist canton shall appear the emblem of our state, said emblem to occupy one-third of flag length and cover the topmost five stripes.
The pendant (la flamme banderolle) shall be blue, and shall bear a small blue cross in the upper corner.
The Royal Standard for use on Boats (l'étendard) shall be a white equilateral cross on a blue field, and shall bear the blue and white rhomboidal* stripes of Our Ancestral House in its centre.
The merchant flag shall bear nine blue and white horizontal stripes in the same manner as the naval, but is without the emblem of our state. Also, it is forbidden for merchant ships to fly the pendant.

Two items of interest here (aside from the date). Firstly if made strictly according to law (and assuming proportions of 2:3) the canton of the naval ensign is not actually square; and secondly, this gives a merchant flag of nine stripes and no canton. This flag was certainly out of use by 1858 when it was felt necessary to add a crowned shield to the Naval Ensign in order to "distinguish naval ships from merchant vessels" (which if they had flown different flags it would not have been).

The Decree (published on 3 June 1833 in the Official Gazette of the Kingdom of Greece, No. 15; scan) also includes construction details, and these appear to differ slightly from the modern design. According to this Decree the canton "shall cover the first five stripes and occupy one-third of the length of the flag" which leaves us with three options (in - my opinion - descending order of probability; the first is, of course, by far the most likely):
- They made a mistake and the canton was intended to be square as on the modern flag;
- The canton of the original ensign was intended to be in proportions of 10:9;
- The canton was supposed to be square and the flag in proportions of 3:5.

Christopher Southworth & Tomislav Todorović, 3 July 2013

*The Bavarian lozenges are usually called "white and blue" and not "blue and white", which makes some difference.

M. Schmöger, 23 March 2004

Decree of 28 August 1858

[Naval ensign]

Naval ensign, resconstructed after the Decree - Image by Željko Heimer, 20 March 2004

Royal Decree of 28 August 1858
On the Naval and Merchant Flags of the Kingdom

Article One.
The insignia by means of which Our Royal Ships may be distinguished from those of Our merchant fleet shall be as follows:
The blue and white rhombs of Our Ancestral House shall occupy the centre of the white cross (of the flag), above the shield shall appear crown and this same shall be topped by an orb and small cross.
The white cross is upright with equal arms, and extends to the outer edges of the blue square on which it is set, (whilst) the crown, orb and cross shall extend to one-half the length of the upper arm, that is, to a height equal to the width of a stripe.

Article Two.
The ratio of the flag is defined as being two in width by three in length, and the width of the arms of the cross as being equal to that of the stripes, or one-ninth the width of the flag.

Article Four.
This same shall also act as a flag for Our Minister of the Navy.

As apparent confirmation of the above, a Greek flag bearing a crowned shield with the blue and white Bavarian lozenges, is shown in the flag-chart published by R.H. Laurie [lri42] around the mid-19th Century.
Since Otto von Wittelsbach - son of the King of Bavaria - abdicated childless in 1862 to be succeeded by Georges I, a Prince of the House of Oldenburg, on 31 October 1863, we may assume that the Bavarian lozenges were dropped from the flag (and a crown substituted) sometime around these dates.

Christopher Southworth, 20 March 2004