GERMAN EMPIRE
 


 
FLAGS OF THE REICH & CONSTITUENT STATES
 

The German Empire (Deutsches Reich) was born on 18 January 1871, when King William I of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor. The venue was the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, still occupied by the Germans after their great victory in the Franco-Prussian War.

Formally, the new Reich was a federal constitutional monarchy that had been brought into being by a treaty agreement among the various German states. Its constitution was similar to that of the preceding North German Confederation, which had been drawn up by Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian minister-president who now became German Chancellor. The legislature, called the Reichstag, was elected by universal manhood suffrage. But in fact Germany was an autocratic state, with wide powers reserved for the Kaiser (Emperor) whose executive agent Bismarck was to remain for the next twenty years. The constitutional anomalies he promulgated, designed to preserve his imperial master's prerogatives and, not incidentally, to secure Bismarck's own grip on power, were eventually to prove Germany's undoing. Bismarck's system without Bismarck at the helm led the country he had created to disaster in the Great War.

Note on Flags and Flag Proportions: Most of the states of imperial Germany 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. The flags shown here are of the final patterns adopted before the imperial regime came to an end. 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 Imperial Germany: See here for naval and military flags.
 



 

DEUTSCHES REICH

 

NATIONAL FLAG & CIVIL ENSIGN  •  National- und Handelsflagge

 

STATE FLAG  •  Reichsdienstflagge

 

STATE ENSIGN  •  Reichsdienstflagge zur See

 

POST OFFICE FLAG  •  Reichs-Postamtsflagge

 

POSTAL ENSIGN  •  Reichspostflagge zur See

 

CUSTOMS FLAG & ENSIGN  •  Reichszolldienstflagge

 

STANDARD OF THE GERMAN EMPEROR

 

STANDARD OF THE GERMAN CROWN PRINCE

The national flag of the German Empire was the black-white-red tricolor devised by Bismarck for the North German Confederation. Supposedly he chose these colors because they symbolized the ancient electorate of Brandenburg (red and white) and the Kingdom of Prussia (black and white), thus flattering the dynastic sensibilities of his royal master, King William I of Prussia. The national flag was also the civil ensign. For government authorities on land the flag bore an imperial crown; with the crown over a foul anchor it was the government ensign. The Department of Posts had a distinctive flag: the tricolor with a postal horn under the crown. Ships carrying the mail flew a variant of the naval ensign with the postal horn in the lower hoist. Customs authorities used a similar flag and ensign with the initials K Z (Kaiserreich Zoll or Imperial Customs) flanking an anchor. The standards of the ruling house of Hohenzollern displayed the crowned imperial arms on a deep golden yellow field.


CONSTITUENT STATES OF THE REICH

 

KINGDOM OF PRUSSIA  •  CIVIL FLAG

 

KINGDOM OF PRUSSIA  •  STATE FLAG

 

KINGDOM OF PRUSSIA  •  STATE ENSIGN

 

KINGDOM OF BAVARIA  •  LANDESFARBEN FLAG

 

KINGDOM OF BAVARIA  •  BANNER OF ARMS

The civil flags of the constituent kingdoms were striped horizontally in the Landesfarben or livery colors of the state, e.g. white and blue for Bavaria. Prussia, by far the largest of all the constituent states, also had a state flag and a state ensign. The former displayed the black Prussian eagle and the latter was a variant of the Reich state ensign with the black eagle of Prussia in the upper hoist. Bavaria was the second-largest state. In addition to its Landesfarben flag a banner of the Bavarian arms was often used.


KINGDOM OF SAXONY


KINGDOM OF WÜRTTEMBERG

 

GRAND DUCHY OF BADEN

 

GRAND DUCHY OF SAXE-WEIMAR-EISENACH

 

GRAND DUCHY OF HESSE   •  CIVIL FLAG & ENSIGN

 

GRAND DUCHY OF HESSE  •  STATE FLAG

 

GRAND DUCHY OF OLDENBURG  •  CIVIL FLAG

 

GRAND DUCHY OF OLDENBURG  •  STATE FLAG

 

GRAND DUCHY OF MECKLENBURG-SCHWERIN
GRAND DUCHY OF MECKLENBURG-STRELITZ
CIVIL FLAG

 

GRAND DUCHY OF MECKLENBURG-SCHWERIN
STATE ENSIGN
 

Hesse also had an alternate civil flag, omitting the arms on the white stripe. Oldenburg's civil flag displayed the Landesfarben in the form of a red cross on a blue field; some sources depict a Scandinavian-style cross (vertical arm offset toward the hoist). 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. Mecklenburg-Schwerin, which had a Baltic coastline, also had a state ensign.

 

DUCHY OF ANHALT  •  CIVIL FLAG


DUCHY OF ANHALT  •  STATE FLAG

 

SAXE-ALTENBURG

 

SAXE-COBURG & GOTHA

 

SAXE-MEININGEN

Originally there were five separate Saxon duchies. By 1848 the extinction of some ruling lines had reduced their number to three. One, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, was a grand duchy; the other two were duchies. Like the related Kingdom of Saxony, green and white were the basic Land colors of these duchies.


PRINCIPALITIES OF SCHWARTZBERG-SONDERSHAUSEN & SCHWARTZBERG-RUDOLSTADT

The Schwartzberg principalities were ruled by different branches of the same family and used the same flag.

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. This resemblance was coincidental, however; the principality's Landesfarben were derived from the princely coat of arms.


FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF HAMBURG  • CIVIL FLAG
 


FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF HAMBURG
STATE ENSIGN

 

FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF BREMEN  • CIVIL FLAG
 

 

FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF BREMEN
STATE ENSIGN

 

FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF LÜBECK  •  CIVIL FLAG
 

 

FREE & HANSEATIC CITY OF LÜBECK
STATE ENSIGN (INLAND WATERWAYS)

The three Hanseatic cities with their ancient maritime traditions all has state ensigns. of the standard pattern. Lübeck also had a state ensign for use on inland waterways (illustrated). The ensign for use at sea was of the standard pattern: the Reich state ensign with the city arms in the upper hoist.



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