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Norway - a flag for Bergen in 1799?

Last modified: 2014-05-29 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: norway | bergen | historical |
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Description of a flag reported for Bergen in 1799

One of the items I took notice of [when visiting the Maritime Museum in Bergen] was a French flag-chart from 1799 called 'Flags of All the Nations'.

I found two of the flags especially interesting, one of them I had never seen before, while the other was something I had heard about before.

This flag [I hadn't seen before was] labeled 'P. de Bergen' (probably the reason the flag chart was on the wall in the first place), I could not find on FOTW. The flag is similar to no-1814.gif, but with the lion placed on a white field at the centre of the cross. This flag is previously reported by Jan Oskar [Engene] (that's why I knew about it) [see the page on Bergen].

This falls into the category of erroneous flags. If anything, this flag or a similar, might have been used by Norwegian merchant ships (some of them from Bergen), to distinguish them from Danish merchant ships. But, as far as I know, this have never been documented. The flag chart being from 1799, I find the labeling of Bergen strange. True, for centuries all the trade between Northern Norway, Iceland and North America, and the rest of the world, was channeled through Bergen. But by the end of the 18th century the ships from Bergen ought to have company of ships from other Norwegian ports.

Note, 'P. de ...' is short for 'Pavillon de ...', i.e. 'Flag of ...' [or in this case 'Ensign of...']
Jostein Nygård, 10 June 2001

It's apparently a Danish flag (no surprise).
- At the time Bergen was the capital of Norway. Flagbooks sometimes attribute flags to capitals that we would attribute to the country. Could it have been a flag for Norway?
- In style it's quite close to 104: High Admiral of Denmark. Could it have been a flag for an office to/in Norway/Bergen?
- (Who was this High Admiral of Denmark, anyway? Did he have an Admiral of the Norwegian fleet below him?)

Such a Norway-connection would also explain why the 1814 Norwegian flag isn't really all that close to Lundh's idea [see Lundh's proposals].
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 November 2001

A 16th, 17th and 18th century Norwegian merchant flag

[A 16th, 17th and 18th century Norwegian merchant flag]
image provided by Erik Sveistrup, 09 September 2012

I have some additional information on the eventual existence of a Norwegian (or Bergen) merchant flag of the 16th, 17th and 18th century, with "Dannebrog" (the danish flag), but with the Norwegian golden lion with a "hellebarde" and a golden Danish crown above it, placed in the white cross. Confer your small debate on "Norway - flag for Bergen in 1799??". Here it was concluded that historical planches describing such a flag must be erroneous, since no written documentation from the period exists. Here I give some further information that may indicate that such a flag did exist, and that such a flag could have been used all along the coast, not only for Bergen, i.e. an early Norwegian merchant flag. This flag must not be confused with the flag of the temporarily independent Norway in 1814, ant the merchant flag of 1814-21 in union with Sweden, where the Norwegian arms (the lion with hellebarde) is placed in the upper red hoist of the flag.
There is a picture documentation in colour with text in historical Danish/Norwegian: "En til staden Bergen fra Fogderiet Senjen i Nordlands Amts inlæbende Jekt", also given in German. Translated: "A Jekt [a merchant ship trading and transporting fish etc. from Northern Norway to Bergen] arriving into the City of Bergen from the Fogderi [Bailiff] of Senjen in the Amt [County] of Nordland". The Bailiffs of Senjen and Tromsö was merged into "Tromsö og Senjen Fogderi" in 1695, who again was transferred from Nordlands Amt to Finnmarkens Amt in 1789. This indicates that the picure is from before 1695, and at least before 1789.
The picture of the "Jekt" is taken from the picture gallery of "Norsk Folkemuseum" (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History), see this link.
This picture have also been displayed in Norwegian books like "The freighters of the Norwegian coast" and "The Norwegian national costumes."
Erik Sveistrup, 09 September 2012

This hand coloured engraving was made by a Swiss, Johann Heinrich Senn (1770-died about 1830), and published in the work Norske Nationale Klædesdragter (Copenhagen, 1812 to 1815). It is believed that Senn, who lived in Denmark from 1804 to 1818, copied the motives in this work from watercolours by the Norwegian artist Johan F. L. Dreier (1775-1833). See this page for the details.
Dreier made a number of paintings with interesting flags, not all of them easy to identify. As for our correspondent's identification of this particular flag, my view is that it is based on quite a bit of supposition. I am unable to spot a lion in the flag and would suppose the crowned royal cypher, as found in the merchant flag authorized for use in the Mediterranean, is actually a far more likely candidate.
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 September 2012