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España, Kingdom of Spain, Reino de España

Last modified: 2009-11-21 by eugene ipavec
Keywords: spain | españa | coat of arms: quartered (castle: yellow) | coat of arms: quartered (lion: purpure) | coat of arms: quartered (chains: yellow) | banderas | vexilología |
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[Spain] 2:3 | stripes 1+2+1 |
by Antonio Gutiérrez, taken with permission from the S.E.V. website
Flag and coat-of-arms adopted 19 December 1981

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Description and Origins

In 1981 the eagle disappeared from the Spanish national flag, leaving the current red/yellow/red with crowned arms (greatly simplified, including a small oval in the center with three fleurs-de-lis). The crowned pillars flank the shield.

Nick Artimovich, 10 April 1996

The basic design was one of twelve preselected in 1785 for a new war ensign, as King Charles III wanted to further differentiate the Spanish war ensign (up to then plain white with the Spanish arms in the centre) from those of other European countries (mainly Bourbon-ruled ones as France, Parma, Tuscany or Two Sicilies but also the British white ensign), in order to avoid confusion at sea.

Santiago Dotor, 26 May 1999

The current flag (with varying arms) was historically:

  • War Ensign by Royal Decree of May 25th 1785;
  • Flag for Navy buildings (harbours, maritime outposts...) by the General Navy Regulations 1793;
  • State and War Flag and Ensign by Royal Decree of October 13th 1843;
  • State and War Flag (including civil use) and Ensign by Decree July 27th 1938;
  • National flag 1977;
  • National flag (with the current arms) 1981.

Santiago Dotor, 26 May 1999


Most relevant legislation about the Spanish national flag is available online at the SEV website (Spanish text only), from where I have copied this bit:

Real Decreto 2964/1981, de 18 de diciembre (BOE nº 303, de 19 de diciembre de 1981). Escudo y su colocación en la bandera.

Artículo 3º. El escudo de España tendrá una altura equivalente a 2/5 de la anchura de la bandera y figurará en ambas caras de ésta en el centro de la franja amarilla.
Cuando la bandera de España tenga la proporción normal, de longitud igual a tres medios de la anchura, el eje del escudo se colocará a una distancia de la vaina de media anchura de la bandera.
Si la longitud fuera menor a la normal o la bandera tuviere la forma cuadrada, el escudo se situará en el centro de la enseña.

that is:
Royal Decree 2964/1981 of December 18th 1981 (published BOE no.303 of December 19th 1981). Coat-of-arms and its placement on the flag.

Article 3. The coat-of-arms of Spain shall have a height of 2/5ths the width [i.e. hoist] of the flag and shall appear on both sides of it on the middle [vertically speaking, read on] of the yellow stripe.
When the flag of Spain has the usual proportions, a length of three halves its width, the [vertical] axis of the coat-of-arms shall be placed at a distance from the hoist of half the flag's width.
If the length were smaller than usual [what happens when it is longer?] or the flag were square [a useless precision, since this is an instance of the previous condition...], the coat-of-arms shall be placed on the centre of the flag.

Santiago Dotor, 21 Sep 2000

Flag Protocol

[During a recent vacation, I noticed that] in Barcelona, Catalan flags were very common, but were nearly always flown alongside Spanish flags - usually the 'civil' variant without the arms. The Generalitat, the seat of the Catalan government, flew both flags at the same height, with the Spanish flag to the left. The Ajuntament, or Barcelona city council, on the opposite side of the same square, flew the flags of Catalonia, Spain and Barcelona in that order, with the Spanish flag higher than the other two.

Spanish flags in Madrid, unlike Barcelona, normally have the arms. The flag of the Madrid Comunidad Autónoma was common and was often flown along with the Spanish and European flags, the Spanish flag being in the middle and higher than the other two. Somewhat less common, but still not very scarce, was the flag of Madrid city.

In Toledo, the flag of Castile-La Mancha was commonly flown, again often appearing alongside the European and Spanish flags with the latter centered and higher. As in Madrid, the Spanish flags in Toledo are the 'state' version with arms.

In San Sebastián, the Basque flag was very widely flown, usually on its own. In fact, I only saw two Spanish flags in the city – one on the Palacio de Justicia where it appeared along with the Basque and European flags, centred and higher than the others; and the second on the main post office where it was flown to the left of the Basque flag. Interestingly, both the ayuntamiento and the main library flew only the municipal flag of San Sebastián.

Vincent Morley, 09 Oct 1999

Pledge to the Flag

Jura de Bandera

Albert Spratley asked, "Is there a pledge to the flag and/or a national anthem sung to the flag?" The jura de bandera (flag oath) takes place every year when Spanish youths end military service. This is not reserved to them however, and any Spaniard can request attending the ceremony and taking part in the oath. Citizens are not otherwise sworn in to the flag. This is most relevant, as compulsory military service will disappear in Spain in the short term. The national anthem (a Prussian score called "Marcha Granadera" or "Grenadiers' March," a gift from King Frederick the Great to King Charles III) is usually played – but not necessarily – when the flag is present and/or raised/lowered. There is no current official lyrics for the anthem.

Santiago Dotor, 26 May 1999

Flag Ratios, Proportions and Sizes

In Spain most flags follow the traditional 2:3 ratio of the national flag. There are exceptions however – the Madrid Community has a 7:11 flag, Castile and Leon a 76:99 flag, Castile-La Mancha a 1:2 flag and the Basque Country a 14:25 flag. Madrid City for instance has both 2:3 and 3:5 official versions of the flag.

Ensigns are generally 2:3. Rank flags as well as the king's and prince's standards are all 1:1. Of course most – if not all – military Colours, cavalry and armoured units' guidons etc. are 1:1.

Santiago Dotor, 14 Jul 1999

The largest Spanish flag displayed on land, seen in this image submitted by José Carlos Alegría, is flown permanently at Plaza de Colón (Columbus Square), central Madrid, since late 2001.

Santiago Dotor, 15 Oct 2002

The size of [that] Spanish flag is 316 m².

Jaume Ollé, 15 Oct 2002

Flag Mourning Customs

In Spain, the most frequent alternative to flying a flag half mast to indicate mourning is to stitch a small piece of black material (either a short cravatte or a squarish piece of material – occasionally even a black handkerchief) to the centre of the flag. This is done almost only with flags not intended for hoisting, such as long flags displayed horizontally on balconies etc. Flags not intended for hoisting but which would be inappropriately defaced by such an addition (namely military colours) tend to use a black cravatte attached to the finial.

Santiago Dotor, 27 Apr 2001

In a press photo linked yesterday or the day before, a flag of Spain was shown on an indoor staff behind Sr. Aznar with a black bow pinned over the COA in the center. This, evidently, in lieu of the cravat, which was discussed here a few weeks ago – that is, a black ribbon tied with a large bow at the top of the hoist and falling approximately the length of the fly straight down.

Bill Dunning, 13 Mar 2004

The black bow - known as the crespon negro ("black cravatte") – can and often does take the form of a torn piece of black cloth stitched to the centre of the flag.

As for the length of the cravatte tied a the hoist – it was, I believe, originally an actual black cravatte (neckerchief) so I suspect the length is not specific or laid down.

Marten Gallagher, 13 Mar 2004

Here (PDF) is the Royal Decree ordering half-staffing on public buildings and Navy ships during three days after Thursday's bombs.

Santiago Dotor, 15 Mar 2004

[Mourning Flag (Spain)]
contributor and date unknown

Earlier this year I saw a Spanish flag in Madrid, hanging from the top edge at the balcony of a household, with two black ribbons crossing it out, saltirewise [photo].

I think it was some kind of March 11 remembrance (Atocha train station bombings in 2004). I never saw this flag mourning use, either in Spain of anywhere else.

António Martins-Tuválkin, 16 Oct 2008