National flags were first used as field signs and forms of identification during military battles on land and at sea. They often featured simple geometric shapes that could be recognized by soldiers from a distance. Today, flags are symbols of national pride flown by everyone from royalty to the government and general public. Some are simple patterns while others feature images of birds, dragons, ships, and other things considered representative of a country. Have you ever stopped to contemplate why a flag is a certain color, what the images stand for and who designed them? Read on to find out about the origins of four flags from around the world.
Antigua and Barbuda
Following its declaration of independence from British rule in 1967, the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda held a competition to design a new flag. Over 600 entrants submitted proposals, one of which was that of artist Sir Reginald Samuel, who was the winner. Legend states that Samuel decided to enter the competition at the last minute and spend just half an hour on his design.
The 7-point sun represents the dawn of a new era in the nation’s history. The golden color of the sun and the blue and white stripes symbolize the sun, sea, and sand, which are principal tourist attractions. The red refers to the blood of the nation’s forefathers and its V shape means Victory at last. The black background is for soil and African heritage.
Austria’s flag dates back to 1230, making it one of the oldest continuously-used flags in the world. The red horizontal stripes are a celebration of love, open-mindedness, supremacy, and war. The central white band means truth and honesty. This flag’s origins have connections with the Babenberg Dynasty, whose coat of arms had a silver fess set on a red background.
However, according to legend it was invented by Duke Leopold V of Austria after he fought in the Siege of Acre in the late-1100s. Upon removing his belt from his blood-soaked white battle gown, the duke noticed a striking red-white-red color scheme. So taken by the combination, he is said to have adopted it as the nation’s flag.
A Kalashnikov assault rifle is perhaps one of the last things that you’d expect to see on a flag but Mozambique has included one. The weapon, complete with a loaded bayonet, represents the nation’s fight for freedom from the Portuguese. Alongside it, a hoe symbolizes agriculture, and a book promotes the significance of education. The horizontal green, black, and yellow stripes are references to the county’s fertile soil, the black African people and mineral riches, respectively.
Adopted in 1983, the flag is influenced by the insignia of the Mozambican Liberation Front, a political party that was key to the war of independence. A proposal for a new flag was put forward in 2005, although it is yet to come to fruition.
Folklore states that Scotland’s national flag traces its beginnings back to a battle that took place in the village of Athelstaneford in 832 AD. When King Angus lead an army of Picts on a mission to take Lothian, he was confronted by the powerful Saxon troops of Athelstan. Believing he would be beaten, Angus led his soldiers in prayer. They were greeted with the sight of clouds resembling the saltire (St. Andrew’s cross) set against a blue sky. Angus promised to make the saltire the national flag and St. Andrew the patron saint if he won the battle, which he did. This story would make it the oldest flag in Europe, preceding that of Austria and Denmark’s 13th-century Dannebrog.