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Gibraltar (United Kingdom)

United Kingdom Dependent Territory, formerly Crown Colony of Gibraltar

Last modified: 2005-03-05 by santiago dotor
Keywords: gibraltar | united kingdom | banner of arms | castle (red) | key (yellow) | ensign: red | ensign: blue | flag of convenience | coat of arms (castle: yellow) | castle (black) |
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[Civil and State Flag (Gibraltar, United Kingdom)] 1:2
by Juan Manuel Gabino
Flag adopted 8th November 1982, coat-of-arms adopted 10th July 1502

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Gibraltar has the same status as Bermuda, Falkland Islands etc. They used to be called Crown Colonies but are now United Kingdom Dependent Territories. Gibraltar was never a Dominion. That is an almost obsolete term that used to be used in general for independent countries in the Commonwealth that retained the British monarch as Head of State. I think that only Canada has retained that title as such. The Isle of Man has a different constitutional relationship with the UK and is known as a Crown Dependency.

David Prothero, 9 October 1999

Civil and State Flag

[Civil and State Flag (Gibraltar, United Kingdom)] 1:2
by Juan Manuel Gabino
Flag adopted 8th November 1982, coat-of-arms adopted 10th July 1502

Gibraltar has a banner which shows the arms of the colony and is used as the colony's flag. The flag is white with a red stripe at the bottom with a three-towered, two-tiered red castle in the white section. Each tower has a door and a window and from the door of the middle tower hangs a gold key which mainly overlaps the red stripe.

Graham Bartram, 27 September 1996

Gibraltar's official flag is the Union Flag, though a banner of the original Spanish arms of the colony granted in 1502 has been in use by citizens since 1966. Crampton [Crampton 1990?] adds it was regularized in 1982. An unsubstantiated report I have read details that the British Government objects to a banner of Spanish arms over a British colony and has forbidden its use.

Steve Kramer, 27 September 1996

The city flag is a banner of the arms, and the arms are the flag badge for both the blue ensign and now the red ensign. However, the arms today are different from what they were traditionally — a white castle and gold key on red. The city flag, which was adopted in the 1970s [actually 1982 - Ed.], is a red castle on white but with a red stripe along the bottom into which the gold key hangs. It is this design that appears now as the flag badge, so presumably the regularisation Crampton speaks of was changing the arms to match the flag.

Mucha 1985 p. 55 confirms this. A heraldic purist would say that a change of this magnitude represents a whole new set of arms. I wonder if the College of Arms were involved or if it was a local change?

Roy Stilling, 28 September 1996

The Gibraltar blue ensign, used by the Government of Gibraltar vessels, used to be the official flag of the colony —Gibraltar is the only remaining Crown Colony, all the others are Overseas Territories— until the Gibraltar government decided to use the city flag instead.

Graham Bartram, 12 December 1998

The arms of a key suspended from a chain from a three-towered castle were granted to Gibraltar in December 1501 by Queen Isabella — Gibraltar was Spanish territory until 1714. It can be seen frequently all over Gibraltar, not just in modern day flags, but in old plaques dating back centuries.

Ken Ruiz, 19 January 1999

I am a trustee of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and have published a few articles on the Internet regarding Gibraltar's history etc. (...) Believe me I am ashamed to see that at least 98% of the flags waved in Gibraltar are not the proper one. The correct one corresponds with the original Deed of Arms (scan here) granted by Queen Isabella and King Alfonso to the then Spanish Gibraltar in 1502.

Tito Vallejo, 13 June 2002

I find very unconvincing the notion that the flag of Gibraltar must conform to the rendering of the Gibraltar arms in a 15th century Castilian grant. First of all, the argument is counter-heraldic; differing representations of a coat of arms can be equally correct provided they conform to the written blazon, and details not specified, such as the color of masoning, are at the artist's discretion. Secondly, the UK being the UK, I would bet that there exists a detailed specification and construction sheet of the official Gibraltar flag somewhere in some government office in London. That specification would be the authoritative source for determining the correct official design of the flag.

Joseph McMillan, 14 June 2002

Flag variant with more heavily built castle and detailed masonry

[Flag variant with more heavily built castle and detailed masonry (Gibraltar)]
by Željko Heimer

As always, the existence of variants in actual use is of interest, and if the variant were the one in predominant use, I would go so far as to say it was the de facto flag of Gibraltar. But it sounds as if the opposite is the case — that the flag with black masoning on the castle is the one in actual use.

Joseph McMillan, 14 June 2002

...including at the official website of the Government of Gibraltar.

Ned Smith, 15 June 2002

Curiously enough, Government of Gibraltar home page shows an actual flag similar to the one above while the flag in the national symbols webpage of that same website is similar to the one at the top but with masonry!

Blas Delgado, 15 June 2002

Graham Bartram's usually well informed World Flag Database used to show a flag (until ca. December 2003) similar to the one above, but currently (March 2005) shows a flag like the one at the top with no masonry.

Santiago Dotor, 2 March 2005

Flag variant with slant walls

[Flag variant with slant walls, actual flag (Gibraltar)]
by António Martins

Dov Gutterman sent a scan from an actual flag bought in Gibraltar, according to which I made the GIF above. Please note the perspective assymetry of the castle and the unusual ratio of ~54:83, where I would expect to find 2:3 or 3:5, both faithfully taken from the original image.

António Martins, 3 January 2000

I guess the unusual ratio is because of the piece of cloth used for the sleeve.

Dov Gutterman, 4 January 2000

Coat-of-Arms and Badge

[Old Badge (Gibraltar)]
scanned by Ole Andersen from Evans 1970

Gibraltar's coat-of-arms was adopted 10th July 1502. Source: Colonial Office 1932, supplementary page, volume II. The year, and information that the grant was made by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella seems to be generally accepted, but I have not seen the day and month quoted anywhere else.

David Prothero, 5 September 1999

This is the same badge used nowadays on the blue ensign, different from that on the red ensign (see this image in the World Flag Database).

Santiago Dotor, 28 September 2002

Unidentified Variant

[Unidentified Variant (Gibraltar)] 1:2
by Jorge Candeias

I have a photograph taken in Gibraltar with a lot of flags. These flags are white over red in a proportion of 1:2, like the flag of the colony, but, unlike this one, the castle is black and there is no key.

I doubt it is home-made. This photo came out in some magazine, and I cut it out in a time when I only cut from the photographs the flags themselves and not the whole photograph. So, I do not have the whole photo. But I have two pieces of it, each with one of these flags (very small), and I distinctly remember that there where a lot of flags, many hanging vertically from ropes streched across the street. All alike. This has to be industrially made.

Jorge Candeias, 9 March 1998

[Gibraltar UFE picture] [Gibraltar UFE picture (detail)]
by Jorge Candeias

I scanned these two photograph items. I remember that the photo showed one street filled with these ropes stretched from one side to the other, where several such flags were hanging, alternating with other ropes with small triangular pennants, plain red or blue, or with UJs in them, as seen in the detail of the blue rectangle. If you compare the two flags, you can see that they are identical and correspond more or less to my drawing (though to be really accurate I should have made it vertically) and description: the castle is black allright, but, if you watch closely the detail, you see what could perhaps be a black key beneath the castle.

Now, this was obviously took during some local festivity. In my opinion, the best explanation to these flags is that it is cheaper to produce flags with a black outline of the castle than those official flags with the red castle filled with black lines. In that case, I wouldd regard them as unofficial variations of the Gibraltar flag.

Jorge Candeias, 19 August 1999