During the Revolution of 1848 a flag with horizontal stripes of black, red and gold was adopted as the national flag (Bundesflagge) of the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) by the Nationalversammlung (National Assembly), Germany's first elected parliament. 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 1812-13 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.) What is certain is that the black-red-gold flag quickly became identified with the liberal, nationalist aspirations of Germany.

Along with the new national flag and coat of arms, the Assembly adopted a set of flags for the navy of the Confederation. The war ensign was the black-red-gold flag with a canton of the Confederation arms; the jack was a square banner of the arms. The commissioning pennant was red with the arms at the hoist. All admirals were to fly the national flag, exact rank being indicated by the mast from which the flag was flown: at the main by a full admiral, at the fore by a vice-admiral and at the mizzen by a rear-admiral. The broad pennant for commodores was a swallowtailed version of the national flag.

The naval flags of the Confederation were not much used, since in 1852 conservative forces spearheaded by Prussia succeeded in dissolving the liberal Nationalversammlung and restoring the old princely Bundestag. The 1848 flags was never formally abolished, however, and many people came to regard the black-red-gold banner as the common German flag, symbolizing the hope of German unification at some point in\ the future. But it was not until 1918, with the advent of the Weimar Republic, that the black-red-gold banner of 1848 became the national flag of Germany.

Flag Proportions: The war ensign and admiral's rank flag were made in 2:3 proportions The jack was square.


WAR ENSIGN  •  Kriegsflagge


NAVAL JACK  •  Kriegsschiffgösch




ADMIRAL  •  Admiral


COMMODORE  •  Kommodore