GERMAN CONFEDERATION
 


 
FLAGS OF THE MEMBER STATES
 

The French Revolution sounded the death knell of the Holy Roman Empire, the loose association of states, usually under a Habsburg monarch, that had ordered the affairs of Germany since ancient times. With over 300 members ranging from large kingdoms, electorates and dukedoms to miniscule principalities and free cities, the Empire's lack of a strong central authority was a fatal handicap. It was dissolved by Napoleon in 1807 and replaced by the Confederation of the Rhine, a collection of consolidated client states. The Confederation of the Rhine in its turn collapsed with the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, leaving the Congress of Vienna with the daunting task of creating a new German polity.

It was accepted that many of the changes dictated by Napoleon could not be undone. The Holy Roman Empire was gone for good, along with scores of petty dukedoms, principalities, bishoprics and free holdings. The new German polity, simply titled the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund), was to consist of just 40 states. Fewer than a dozen of these were substantial states and two—the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia—were by far the most powerful. The Bund had no executive head and in the Federal Assembly votes were apportioned among the member states based on their size. The larger states were given one vote apiece; 23 smaller and tiny states shared five votes and the four free cities shared one vote. A common army was provided for, with each state contributing forces according to its size.

The design of the Bund reflected the desire of Europe's conservative statesmen to provide Germany with an organizing principle while preventing any one power from dominating the country. Up to 1848 it was generally conceded that Austria was the leading German state; thereafter tensions between Austria and Prussia steadily undermined the Bund. Over the years there were some changes in membership, e.g. due to the consolidation of the Saxon duchies. On this page are presented the flags of the member states as they stood in 1848. In that year of revolution hopes were raised that the weak Bund could be transformed into a true German nation under the black-red-gold flag of liberal nationalism, but these hopes were soon dashed. The Bund came to an end in 1866, after Prussia's victory in the Austro-Prussian War. The peace settlement excluded Austria from the management of German affairs, enlarged Prussia by the annexation of Hanover and other territories, created a North German Confederation dominated by Prussia, and set the stage for the unification of Germany in 1871.

Note on Flags and Flag Proportions: Most of the states of the Deutscher Bund had flags of simple design based on their Landesfarben (state colors), usually derived from the state or princely coat of arms. Sometimes in addition to the Landesfarben flag there was a state flag for use by authorities; I have illustrated some of these. I have chosen to depict most of these flags in 2:3 proportions though probably sizes and proportions varied with the whims of flag makers. Where unusual proportions are known to have been specified, I have shown these.

Other Flags of the German Confederation: See here for the naval flags of the Bund used from 1848 to 1852.
 



 

THE MEMBER STATES OF THE DEUTSCHER BUND IN 1848

 

HABSBURG MONARCHY

 

KINGDOM OF PRUSSIA  •  STATE FLAG

 

KINGDOM OF PRUSSIA  •  CIVIL FLAG

The Habsburg Monarchy, aka the Austrian Empire, was the largest and most powerful state of the Bund. However, only some of its territories were incorporated into the Bund: the German-speaking lands surrounding the Duchy of Austria, the Austrian Littoral (Trieste and coastal territories along the northern Adriatic) and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. The Monarchy's eastern territories, including those lands attached to the Hungarian Crown, lay outside the border of the Bund. The Kingdom of Prussia was the second-most powerful member of the Bund and those parts of its eastern territories that had been acquired in the partitions of Poland also lay outside the border of the Bund.

 

KINGDOM OF BAVARIA

 

KINGDOM OF SAXONY

 

KINGDOM OF WÜRTTEMBERG

 

KINGDOM OF HANOVER  •  STATE FLAG

 

KINGDOM OF HANOVER  •  CIVIL FLAG

The old Electorate of Hanover, which since 1714 had been united in personal union with Great Britain, was abolished by Napoleon in 1806. Its territory became part of the new Kingdom of Westphalia, a Napoleonic client state within the Confederation of the Rhine. But in 1814 Hanover was reestablished as a kingdom with the British monarch, George III, restored as its king. This personal union continued until the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Under the laws of inheritance prevailing in Germany she could not inherit the crown of Hanover and it passed to Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, the oldest surviving son of George III. The state flag with the crowned arms of Hanover was introduced in the year of his accession.

 

GRAND DUCHY OF BADEN

 

ELECTORATE OF HESSE

 

DUCHY OF BRUNSWICK

 

GRAND DUCHY OF HESSE  •  STATE FLAG

 

GRAND DUCHY OF HESSE   •  CIVIL FLAG

 

KINGDOM OF DENMARK
IN RIGHT OF HOLSTEIN & LAUENBURG

 

KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
IN RIGHT OF LUXEMBOURG & LIMBURG

 

MECKLENBURG-SCHWERIN
MECKLENBURG-STRELITZ

 

GRAND DUCHY OF OLDENBURG
 

 

ANHALT DUCHIES
 

Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz were both grand duchies whose rulers belonged to different branches of the same family. Their flags, whose colors derived from the family coat of arms, were identical. The Anhalt duchies—Anhalt-Dessau, Anhalt-Bernburg and Anhalt-Kothen—were also ruled by different branches of the same family and used the same flag. In 1863 they were merged into a single Duchy of Anhalt.

 

GRAND DUCHY OF
SAXE-WEIMAR-EISENACH

 

DUCHY OF SAXE-COBURG & GOTHA
 

 

DUCHY OF SAXE-MEININGEN
 

At the time of the establishment of the Bund there were five separate Saxon duchies. By 1848 the extinction of some ruling lines had reduced their number to three. Like the related Kingdom of Saxony, green and white were the basic Land colors of these duchies.

 

DUCHY OF NASSAU

 

LANDGRAVIATE OF HESSE-HOMBERG

 

PRINCIPALITY OF LIECHTENSTEIN

 

SCHWARTZBERG-SONDERSHAUSEN
SCHWARTZBERG-RUDOLSTADT

 

HOHENZOLLERN-HECHINGEN
HOHENZOLLERN-SIGMARINGEN

The Schwartzberg principalities were ruled by different branches of the same family and used the same flag. The rulers of the Hohenzollern principalities were related to the Prussian royal house but were Catholics. The two principalities used the same flag. In 1850 their rulers sold the principalities to their relative, the King of Prussia. The territories were united and became a province of Prussia, called the Hohenzollern State.

 

PRINCIPALITY OF WALDECK-PRYMONT

 

PRINCIPALITY OF SCHAUMBERG-LIPPE

 

PRINCIPALITY OF LIPPE 

 

PRINCIPALITY OF RUESS-GREIZ

 

PRINCIPALITY OF RUESS-GERA

Except for its proportions, the flag of Reuss-Greiz was identical to the black-red-gold Bundesflagge of 1848 (see below). This resemblance was coincidental, however; the principality's Landesfarben were derived from the princely coat of arms.

 

FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF HAMBURG

 

FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF BREMEN

 

FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF LÜBECK

 

FREE CITY OF FRANKFURT

 

THE BLACK-RED-GOLD FLAG OF 1848

The black-red-gold flag was adopted as the national flag (Bundesflagge) of the Bund by the Nationalversammlung (National Assembly), Germany's first elected parliament, in 1848. The Assembly also adopted a coat of arms for the Confederation: a black eagle, tongued red, on a gold shield. Various theories about the origins of these colors have been advanced, for instance that they were taken from the uniform of Lützow's Free Corps, a famous volunteer unit that had participated in the 1813-14 campaign against Napoleon (black coat, red facings, gold buttons). Black and gold were also the colors of Germany's imperial house, the Habsburgs. (The Austrian Empire was often called the Black-Yellow Monarchy.) The black-red-gold flag was not used by the Bund after 1852 but it evolved into a durable symbol of liberal nationalism, was adopted by the Weimar Republic and serves today as the German national flag.



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