Flag Of Sweden: History And Meaning

The Swedish flag  has a light blue background, with a yellow cross distributed horizontally across the flag. Its design has changed little in more than 500 years. The current flag is believed to be based on one of the coats of arms of the Kingdom of Sweden in the 15th century.

This flag has been in effect since 1906, shortly after the union between Norway and Sweden was dissolved and a final color change was applied to the bluish tone of the Swedish standard.

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Being one of the Nordic countries, Sweden and its flag have been influenced by alliances and political changes in the region. However, unlike many other European countries, Sweden maintained its sovereignty during the Second World War and therefore the same national banner.

History

Kalmar Union Flag (1397 – 1523)

The Kalmar Union was an alliance in Scandinavia that brought together the kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark under one monarch. However, each country in the union did manage to maintain a relatively sovereign status, at least in terms of their form of government.

The Kalmar Union was created with the intention of stopping German expansion to the north and thus defending its sovereignty against the imminent conquest of the German armies.

The internal and external policies of each country were supervised and decided by the monarch of the union. The society did not have a longer life because the Danish and Swedish nobles did not agree with its existence and the king wanted to unify the three countries in a more formal way, something that the locals of each nation did not like.

The three Scandinavian countries that belonged to the Kalmar Union based themselves on the alliance flag and then created each of their own flags. The formal flag consisted of a yellow background with a red cross, distributed as the cross is today on the flags of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

State flag of Sweden (1523 – 1650)

In 1521, the Swedish rebels began a war against the Union troops, in what was called the War of Liberation or Swedish Civil War. This conflict was carried out as a civil war. It was promulgated by the Swedish nobleman Gustav Vasa, who later went on to become the first king of Sweden since their dissolution of the union.

The war aimed to remove Christian II, king of the Kalmar Union, from the throne. The conflict began after the growth of the Swedish independence movement, which began to grow much more during the early sixteenth century because they did not agree with the king’s policies.

However, the Swedish governor of the Union did intend to keep Sweden under the same Kalmar banner, but failed to contain the rebellion with the armies at his disposal. Thus, in 1523, Christian II was removed from the throne and Sweden left the Kalmar Union.

Norway and Denmark did stay in the union for almost three more centuries and it was not until the early 19th century that the Danes and Norwegians were fully politically separated. In 1523, Gustav Vasa became the first regent of Sweden under the name Gustav I.

Sweden adopted the traditional colors of the coat of arms it had under the union, with a yellow cross and a blue background on a flag shaped like a war banner. The cross was the same length, both in height and width.

Second state flag of Sweden (1650 – 1818)

Around the year 1650 a law was drafted authorizing the official use of the flag with the three tails as the official flag of the country.

The flag remained in effect until Sweden joined with Norway in the early 1800s, shortly after Norway broke away from union with Denmark. Today, this flag is only used as a Swedish military and naval insignia. It was replaced in 1818.

Flag of the union between Sweden and Norway (1818 – 1844)

From 1815 Sweden and Norway re-formed a Union, which this time would last almost a century. The first Union flag was proposed by a Swedish politician and served to represent the two countries within the alliance. The Norwegian flag was placed on the top left of the banner, this being the first thing seen when hoisted on a flagpole.

This was done with the intention of denoting the importance of both nations by representing both on the same flag. It should be noted that the flag of Norway, at that time, was identical to the flag of Denmark. Norway ceased to be part of the previous Kalmar Union in the early 1800s, but continued to use the same Danish flag as its national banner.

This new flag of the union between Sweden and Norway became the official flag of the alliance, but each country was allowed to continue to use its local flags when convenient. The Union flag was changed a few years later when Norway created a new flag to differentiate it from the Danish flag.

Second flag of the union between Sweden and Norway (1844 – 1905)

In 1844 a royal resolution was passed whereby Norway and Sweden would have a national flag with the same principle: each country would use its own flag with a representation of the Union mark in its upper left. The new Union symbol was a combination, in a small box, of the Swedish and Danish flags.

Each country went on to include this small box at the top of their respective flags. However, at the end of the 19th century, there was a growing state of discontent in Norway over the alliance between the two countries, and many citizens and politicians called for the union mark to be removed from the Norwegian flag.

There were a couple of votes in the Norwegian Congress to eliminate the brand, both being successful, but vetoed by royal decree. However, in 1898, a vote was taken to remove the union symbol from the flag and, as the vote had already been successful for the third time, the king approved the decision.

The Norwegian military flag kept the union’s emblem until its dissolution in the early 20th century, but the Norwegian flag no longer had the symbol. The Swede, however, did maintain it until the dissolution of the union in 1905.

Current flag of Sweden (since 1905)

The current flag of Sweden was adopted after Norway separated from the Union and Sweden became an independent country after almost a century of alliance.

A single clear modification was made to the flag, in addition to the removal of the union symbol from the top left. The dark blue color that had identified the Swedish national flag for over a century was changed to a lighter shade.

The design of the flag adopted in 1905 has not been altered since then, this being the Swedish flag today.

Meaning

The current Swedish flag design, while adopted in 1905, dates back much earlier. It is not known exactly what the colors of the flag represent, but the design is closely related to that of Denmark.

When Sweden belonged to the Kalmar Union and was under the Danish banner, the country did not have a flag of its own. Therefore, the design of the current Swedish flag is based on that of the Danish flag.

Denmark’s national flag was adopted, according to Danish legends, after Danish troops invaded Estonia to destroy the pagan peoples of the country.

However, it was very difficult for the Danish armies to invade the region, so God decided to “inspire” the Danish Christian troops by sending a flag with a cross from heaven. Following the invasion of Estonia, the Kalmar Union adopted this flag as its official flag, which later served to inspire the design of the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish banner.

References

  1. Timeline and History of Sweden, Ducksters Website, (nd). Taken from Ducksters.com
  2. Flag of Sweden, Flagpedia Website, (nd). Taken from flagpedia.net
  3. Sweden’s Flag, Anastasia Sampson for the Swedish Website, 2015. Taken from Sweden.org.za
  4. Flag of Sweden, Wikipedia, 2019. Taken from Wikipedia.org
  5. List of Flags of Sweden, Wikipedia, 2019. Taken from Wikipedia.org

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