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Greece: Dubious flags

Last modified: 2007-02-17 by ivan sache
Keywords: cross (white) | error |
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Early XIXth century flag

[Unidentified Greek ensign, 1820]

Unidentified Greek flag - Scanned image by John Harland, 9 August 2000

The French etcher Jean-Jérôme Baubean published two books of maritime etchings c. 1810-1820.
Among 200 images, two show Greek merchant vessels. They fly an ensign with a cross reaching the ensign edges. Each quarter includes a smaller cross. Therefore, the ensign looks like the Jerusalem ensign, the Malta Grand Master's ensign, or a Vatican's banner. Anyway, the represented ensign does not show the crosses with a T ending the arms.
The caption of the plate is: Corvette marchande grecque, venant de mouillir, which translates as: "Greek merchant corvette lying at anchor".
At that time, Greek was under Ottoman rule, and the crosses with their Christian symbolic look weird.

John Harland, 9 August 2000

An analogous flag is labelled "flag of Jerusalem" in J.Siebmacher's Flaggenbuch (Nurnberg, 1878).

Victor Lomantsov, 19 August 2000

If the flag was white and the crosses red, I believe that this flag came from the Franciscan Order. It looks like the flag of the Custody of the Franciscan Order in Levant and Holy Land.

Jaume Ollé, 26 August 2000

We also have to remember that the Greeks' fight for independence became very popular among the Romantic cenacles in Western Europe (especially after Lord Byron's death in Missolonghi in 1824 and the monumental painting of Delacroix entitled Scènes de maasacre à Scio, showed to the Salon in Paris in 1824). It is possible that an enthusiastic artist did some false interpretation of a reported ensign.

Ivan Sache, 26 August 2000

Red and white flag (1822)

[Red and white Greek flag]

Red and white Greek flag - Image by Santiago Dotor, 14 March 2003

Quoting Carr [car 61]:

The first national flag of Greece, adopted in 1822, was red with a white cross, and it is generally believed that the change to light blue and white was made when Otto of Bavaria (the son of Louis I) became King of Greece in 1832, light blue and white being the colours of his family.
There is some reason to believe, however, that light blue and white were used in the wars against Turkey some time before the Bavarian prince ascended the throne.

Santiago Dotor, 14 March 2003

It is a fact that the first King of Greece, Otto, was Bavarian and because the Bavarian colours were blue and white, this has lead to an incorrect conclusion by some that the origin of the Greek colours are to be found here. The Greek colours were already determined in 1822, ten years before before the Bavarian Prince ascended the Greek throne.

Yannis Natsinas & Andre van de Loo, 14 March 2003

Flags shown in Colton's Delineation of Flags of All Nations (1862)

[Greek national flag, 1862?]         [Greek merchant flag, 1862?]

Greek flags shown by Colton - Images by Ivan Sache, 10 March 2001
Left, national flag; right, merchant flag

Colton's Delineation of Flags of All Nations (1862) (colour plate reproduced in Znamierowski [zna99]) shows two probably erroneous Greek flags.
The national flag, captioned "#142. Greece" is blue field with a decentered white cross and the arms in the middle ofthe cross.
The merchant flag, captioned "#143. Greek merchant" is similar to the current Greek national flag, but with a rectangular canton.

Ivan Sache, 10 March 2001