All About the Spanish Flag: History, Meaning, and Important Facts

Spanish Flag: History, Meaning, and Important Facts
The fifth-largest country in Europe, Spain has a varied geography and rich, colorful history. Historyplex provides interesting facts, history, and meaning associated with the flag of Spain.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Did You Know?
Since Spain is famous for bullfighting, an urban legend states that the color red on the national flag represents the blood of the bulls, and yellow represents the sand in the bull ring.
A flag is the identity and in some cases representative of a country's vast history and culture. The Spanish flag is no exception, and the flag provides an interesting glimpse into the past, when kings and queens ruled and kingdoms prevailed. The name Spain is said to have been derived from the word Ispania, which means the land of rabbits.

The flag of Spain, known as la rojigualda (the red-weld), consists of three horizontal stripes, two red and one yellow, the yellow stripe being double the width of the red ones. It also has the Spanish Coat of Arms on the yellow stripe, placed towards the hoist. The color red is said to depict hardiness, strength, and bravery, whereas, the color yellow color depicts generosity. The flag was officially adopted in 1981.
History
► The Spanish flag has undergone many changes over the centuries; back in the 16th century, the concept of a national flag was different to what we know today.

► The Cross of Burgundy is one of the most prominent and earliest flags used in Spanish history. A white or yellow flag with the Cross of Burgundy placed at the center was used by the army, and it also appeared on Spanish regimental flags. Its earliest use dates back to the 15th century, and it remained in use till the 18th century. This flag was first introduced in Spain by Phillip the Handsome (Felipe el Hermoso), and the flag was used under his reign.

► By the mid-16th century, when Spain was ruled by the House of Habsburg, each military company possessed its own flag, but when Phillip II, came to power, he ordered that each company should have one more flag with the Cross of Burgundy in red in addition to the previous one.

► In 1700, when Phillip V ascended the throne, he made certain changes on the royal arms, French Heraldists Charles-Rene d'Hozier and Pierre Clairambault designed the new arms for the king. He was the first king to give this country its own unified symbol, by placing the Cross of Burgundy and the Royal Coat of Arms on a white background, but it was not a national flag.

► In 1760, Charles III chose a flag, it had 2 red stripes, and 1 yellow stripe in the middle, this flag was used for war purposes, and the flag selected for civil ensign or for merchant marine consisted of 5 stripes of yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow.
Flag of the First Republic
Flag of the First Republic
Flag of the Second Republic
Flag of the Second Republic
► In 1873, following the abdication of King Amadeo I, Spain had its first experiment as a republic, which was short-lived―the monarchy was restored in 1874. In this short period, the flag of the First Republic consisted of the red and yellow stripes that we know of today, but the Coat of Arms contained only the lion and castle.

► On 14th April, 1931, the Second Spanish Republic replaced the previous king, and changed the color of the flag. Now it was red, yellow and murray, this Republican flag was officially adopted on 27 April, and given to the army on 6th May. The State flag had a Coat of Arms on the middle stripe.

► On 1st April 1939, when the Spanish Civil War ended, Francisco Franco became the dictator; however, in 1936, the red and yellow bi-color flag was again re-established as the flag of Spain, this flag was again replaced in 1938, by a flag which had the eagle of John the Evangelist, the pillars which are seen on the current flag was placed outside the wings.

► The national Flag of Spain received its present day Coat of Arms in December, 1981.
Facts About the Flag
Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms
► The symbols depicted in the Coat of Arms are as follows:
  • Castle represents the Kingdom of Castile.
  • The Lion represents the Kingdom of Leon.
  • Four Red and Five Yellow alternating, vertical stripes represent the Kingdom of Aragon.
  • Linked chains represent the Kingdom of Navarre.
  • Pomegranate fruit represents the Moorish Kingdom of Granada.
  • The two columns represent the Pillars of Hercules, Gibraltar and Cueta, they have "plus ultra" written across them, which means further beyond in Latin.
► The left half of the flag is called the hoist, and the right half fly. Hoist is the act or function of raising the Spanish flag.

► Grief and mourning is denoted by hoisting the flag half-mast, and at times, a black thread or ribbon is tied on the flag, and distress is denoted by hoisting the Spanish flag upside down.

► The etiquette and rules regarding the Spanish flag are fairly strict. No disrespect is to be shown, and careful measures are undertaken to make sure that the flag is not torn, damaged, or soiled.

► The national flag of Spain should never be flown above or below any other country's flag as it symbolizes superiority or inferiority.

► The Civil flag can be used without The Coat of Arms.

► You will find the Spanish flag flying only on government buildings.

► The jura de bandera is a flag oath which took place every year, when Spanish youth completed their military service.
As we can see, the Spanish flag has undergone numerous transformations, and though a flag may look like a simple assimilation of colors, it has meaning and significance behind it.