Having acquired its hodgepodge of territories through conquest, inheritance and marriage, the House of Habsburg found no easy method of integrating them. The Kingdom of Hungary in particular posed a thorny problem that was only resolved by the 1867 compromise creating a Dual Monarchy, with the Habsburg sovereign as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. The resulting amalgam, usually referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, consisted of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. The former was made up of the so-called Austrian Crown Lands while the latter consisted of Hungary proper plus the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. The two parts of the empire enjoyed substantial internal autonomy, sharing responsibility for only a few areas such as foreign affairs and the armed forces. There was no common citizenship, subjects of the Dual Monarchy being citizens of either Austria or Hungary. These constitutional peculiarities were reflected on the vexillogical front: The Austro-Hungarian Empire possessed no national flag as such but rather a variety of flags and ensigns serving specific purposes. With the demise of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1918 many of these flags fell into disuse but some, especially of the former Austrian Crown Lands, remain in use today.




The Black-Yellow Flag


Civil Flag  •  1869-1918 (?)


Civil Ensign  •  1869-1918


Imperial Standard  •  1890-1918

The constitutional settlement of 1867, which established the Dual Monarchy, had no immediate vexillogical consequences since the Austrian Empire had never really possessed a national flag. The black-yellow flag, whose colors derived from the arms of the Holy Roman Empire, could perhaps be regarded as such, though really it was a flag of the House of Habsburg. But in 1869 a common ensign was introduced for Austro-Hungarian merchant vessels: the Austrian red-white-red and Hungarian red-white-green tricolors impaled and charged respectively with the Austrian and Hungarian arms. Some sources also describe a similar flag without the arms as the civil flag on land. This flag may indeed have existed, but so far as is known it was never officially authorized.




Archduchy of Austria


UPPER AUSTRIA (Archduchy of Austria)


LOWER AUSTRIA (Archduchy of Austria)


Kingdom of Bohemia


Duchy of Bukovina


Duchy of Carinthia


Duchy of Carniola


Kingdom of Dalmatia


Kingdom of Galicia & Lodomeria


Austrian Littorel


Margraviate of Moravia


Duchy of Salzburg


Duchy of Silesia


Duchy of Styria


Princely County of Tyrol



The territories comprising the Austrian Crown Lands (ruled by the Habsburg monarch in his capacity as Emperor of Austria) had been acquired over the centuries via conquest, inheritance and marriage. At their core was the ancient Archduchy of Austria, the Habsburg homeland, centered on the cities of Linz and Vienna and consisting of two parts, Upper Austria and Lower Austria. To the south and west lay the remaining German-speaking territories; to the north and east lay Bohemia, Moravia, Austrian Silesia, Galicia and Bukovina; and to the south lay the Austrian Littoral (Trieste and the surrounding territory) and Dalmatia. Variously titled kingdoms, archduchies, duchies, and principalities, these lands were of ancient lineage. Each possessed its own Landtag (provincial parliament) with limited authority over local affairs, and the monarch was represented by an appointed Statthalter (viceroy).

The flags of the Austrian Crown Lands were based on the state Landesfarben (heraldic or livery colors). Like the similar flags of the German states, these were simple designs, horizontally striped in two or three colors. Though the arms of the state were sometimes added, the plain variants were more common. It should noted that the Landesfarben could also appear as bunting, vertical banners, ribbons or cockades. Some of these designs, such as Salzburg’s red-white flag with the coat of arms, are still used nowadays by the states (Länder) of the Republic of Austria.




Kingdom of Hungary


Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia

The Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown (ruled by the Habsburg monarch in his capacity as King of Hungary) consisted of Hungary proper plus the Kingdom of Croatia-Slovenia. The former contained, in addition to Hungarians, many ethnic minorities: Germans, Romanians, Ruthenians and Slovaks. The latter contained, in addition to Croats and Slovenes, a significant Serb minority. Croatia-Slovenia enjoyed a degree of internal autonomy. Both kingdoms had their own flags, horizontal stripes of red, white and green for Hungary and of blue-white red for Croatia-Slovenia, charged with their crowned arms. (On the Hungarian flag the crown was the Crown of St. Stephan, the patron saint of Hungary.) Plain versions without the arms were also used



Authorities Flag


Civil Flag

Following a series of uprisings by the Christian subjects of the Ottoman provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a decision of the Congress of Berlin (1878) permitted Austria-Hungary to occupy and administer those territories with the understanding that they could be annexed at some unspecified future date. This finally happened in 1908. The Habsburg Monarchy governed Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single province, and its status was unique. Belonging neither to the Austrian nor the Hungarian crown lands, Bosnia was administered by the common government through its Finance Ministry. This was reflected in the coat of arms adopted for the province, which displayed neither the Austrian nor Hungarian crown. Instead a heraldic ancient crown was used, giving symbolic expression to Bosnia’s constitutional status as a land jointly held by Austria and Hungary as a corpus separatum. The arms themselves were derived from those of Stjepan Vukčić Hrvatinić, a fourteenth-century Bosnian noble. The flag of Bosnia during the period of Habsburg rule was of the Landesfarben pattern, its red and yellow colors being derived from the arms. Versions with and without the coat of arms are known to have existed, the former possibly being used by government authorities.










The cities of the Habsburg Monarchy usually had flags of their own, again of the Landesfarben pattern, repeating the colors of their coats of arms. An exception was Trieste, an “imperial free city” whose flag was the Austrian red-white-red tricolor charged with  the city’s badge, a golden yellow pike head. When the cities of Buda and Pest were joined together in 1873 the flag of the latter, with horizontal stripes of red, yellow and blue, was adopted for the new city. (The flag of Buda had been identical to the Hungarian national flag.) However, because the colors were the same as those of the Romanian flag, it was never popular and in 1930 green replaced blue for the third stripe.