KINGDOM OF SWEDEN
 


 

NATIONAL & REGIONAL FLAGS  •  FIFTEENTH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT
 

From 1397 to 1523 Sweden was part of the Kalmar Union, a personal union of the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (which at the time included most of present-day Finland) under a single monarch. The Union also embraced Norway's overseas possessions: Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Northern Isles (the Orkney and Shetland Islands) and some German territories south of Denmark. The Union came to an end in 1523 when Sweden became independent under King Gustav V. Finland was ceded by Sweden to Russia in 1814 and by way of compensation was to receive Norway. But Norway proclaimed its independence and a brief war with Sweden ensued. Ultimately the Norwegians accepted a personal union with Sweden, retaining its separate constitution and electing Charles XIII of Sweden as King of Norway. The new entity was officially titled the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway. Up to the 1860s the personal union was reasonably popular but thereafter the growth of nationalist sentiment in Norway undermined it. The personal union came to a peaceful end in 1905, the Swedish king and government concluding that it could not be maintained by force.

See also The Scandinavian Cross and Flags of Norway.


 

FLAGS OF OLD SWEDEN

 

Banner of the Kalmar Union  •  Fifteenth-Sixteenth Centuries

 

Swedish Flag circa 1520

 

Swedish Royal Flag & Ensign  •  Sixteenth Century-1818

 

Swedish Merchant Ensign •  Sixteenth Century-1818

 

Swedish Merchant Ensign circa 1815
 

The flag of the Kalmar Union, "the Banner of the Realms" is described in letters of King Eric of Pomerania, circa 1430, as a red cross on a yellow field. At that time Sweden used a blue flag with a white cross; subsequent to independence the shade of blue became lighter and the cross became yellow. These colors were probably adopted to conform with the ancient Swedish arms: three golden crowns on a blue shield,  which date from the thirteenth century. The forked flag denoted royal authority and was used for official purposes; the rectangular flag was used as an ensign by merchant vessels. An early nineteenth-century source depicts the ensign with a dark blue field and the cross centered rather than offset in the Scandinavian style. Such ensigns probably did exist, since in those days precise regulations concerning flag construction and colors were sketchy.

 

FLAGS OF THE PERSONAL UNION OF SWEDEN & NORWAY

 

Civil Ensign  •  1818-44

 

Civil Ensign  •  1844-1905

 

Postal Service Ensign  •  1844-1905

 

Postal Ensign for Merchant Vessels  •  1844-1905

 

Royal Flag for Sweden  •  1844-1905
 

 

Diplomatic & Consular Flag of Sweden-Norway  •  1844-1905
 

At the beginning of the personal union with Norway, a so-called Union Flag for both countries was adopted: the blue and yellow Swedish flag with a red canton bearing a white saltire cross for Norway. On land there were no Swedish or Norwegian flags for general use, only official and royal flags.

In 1844 the Union Flag was abolished and separate flags were prescribed for Sweden and Norway. Sweden kept its blue/yellow flag and Norway adopted a variant of its 1821-44 ensign. In the canton of both flags appeared the "Union Mark": the Swedish and Norwegian crosses conjoined. (This symbol came to be nicknamed the "herring salad" for its resemblance to a Scandinavian delicacy.) A tongued Swedish ensign was used by state authorities, usually with a department badge added. These ensigns had two rather than three tongues, probably to distinguish them from the war ensign. An example was the postal ensign for Sweden. This ensign was used by vessels belonging to postal service; merchant vessels contracted to carry the mail could fly the rectangular civil ensign with the badge added. The royal flag for Sweden was the three-tongued war ensign (1818 and 1844 versions) with the greater royal arms at the intersection of the cross. The Union Mark itself was used by the diplomatic service, which was maintained jointly by Sweden and Norway.

 

FLAGS OF THE KINGDOM OF SWEDEN SINCE 1905

 

National Flag & State/Civil Ensign Since 1905

 

Royal Flag

 

Flag for Other Members of the Royal Family

 

Flag of the Swedish Police Authority
 

With the demise of the personal union with Norway, the Swedish flag reverted to its appearance before 1818. For many years the field remained dark blue but eventually the original lighter shade of blue was reintroduced, this being considered historically proper. The rectangular national flag is used by all entities, official and unofficial, except for the armed forces and the royal family, which use variants of the tongued ensign. There are two royal flags: one for the monarch with the greater state arms on a white panel, and one for other members of the royal family with the lesser state arms. These royal flags are used on land and at sea.

Sweden's national police force has a distinctive flag: blue, with the lesser state arms over a badge consisting of an oak-leaf wreath and crossed fasces.

 

HISTORICAL PROVINCES OF SWEDEN

 

Bohuslän

 

Gotland

 

Öland

 

Skåne

 

Bohuslän

 

Dalsland

 

Södermanlands
 

The old historical provinces (landskapen) of Sweden no longer have official status, but they are still referred to informally when referencing areas of the country. All have flags based on their ancient coats of arms and some also have unofficial Scandinavian cross-style flags.

 

COUNTIES & MUNICPALITIES

 

County of Kalmar

 

County of Stockholm

 

Municipality of Sjöbo (County of Skåne)
 

The official administrative subdivisions of Sweden, some of which have the same name as a historical province, are called counties (lanen) or municipalities (kommuner). Those mostly contiguous with the old provinces use the ancient provincial arms and flag. Others that embrace portions of old provinces impale or quarter their arms. An example is Kalmar, whose flag quarters the arms of Småland and Öland provinces. The County of Stockholm has a flag combining the arms of Stockholm, Upsala and Södermanlands. Municipal Stockholm's flag is blue with the head of St. Erik, the patron saint of Sweden, in golden yellow. In general, the arms and flags of counties and municipalities are of much more recent date than those of the historical provinces.
 



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