Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, since 2010
Established in 2009, the Supreme Court took over the old judicial functions of the House of Lords. The gold omega symbolizes the court’s function as the highest and final court of appeal in the country. The floral device in the centre combines the Tudor rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the flax flower of Northern Ireland, and the er… leek of Wales. Not quite as romantic as the other three.
South Africa (proposed), 1927
The old South African tricolour was the end result of a long drawn-out political fight. Nobody could agree about what should be on there. Some folks wanted to give pride of place to the Union Jack, some wanted to include the flags of the old Boer republics, and others wanted a simple “clean flag”. (The majority black population probably would have had some opinions of their own too, but nobody thought to ask them.)
In the end, the House of Assembly passed the “shield flag”, an orange-white-blue tricolour with a quartered shield in the centre. In the first three quarters were the flags of Britain, the Orange Free State, and Transvaal. In the bottom right was a blue field with four white stars for the country’s four provinces.
The Senate countered with this particularly ugly design, which blew up the four quarters of the shield and divided them with a white cross. Note the weird effect this caused with the Orange Free State’s bottom white stripe.
In the end the two sides compromised. The tricolour returned, but the three flags were put on there in full, arranged into a cross. And thus was born the old South African flag. A cluttered ugly mess, designed by not just one but several committees, representing only a small minority of the country’s population. Let’s just say I’m not sad to see it gone.
Mauritius, since 1968
Official symbolism doesn’t always line up with actual history. On the flag of Mauritius, the four stripes are said to represent (from top to bottom) the struggle for independence, the Indian Ocean, a bright future, and lush vegetation. Reading that, you might think the flag was designed with those meanings in mind. But actually those colours were just chosen because they were the four main colours from the Mauritian coat of arms. All the other symbolism came later.
It’s not unusual for a colonial flag to be designed by someone outside the colony, but this flag wasn’t even designed in Britain. This was the work of one Alec McEwen, a commercial artist from Toronto. Her badge looked a lot like the original from 1903, but with better colours and composition. The two new additions were a sailboat to represent shipping traffic, and a second island in the background to stand in for all the small islands in the chain besides Mahé.
(designer: Alec McEwen)
Santiago del Estero, since 1985
The flag of this Argentine province features the blue and white of the national flag with a thick red bar to represent federalism. In the centre is an “Inca sun” emblazoned with the cross of the Order of Santiago. I don’t think there’s an explanation for the unusual length of the flag, and it doesn’t always seem to be manufactured that way in practice.
King of Italy, 1880-1946
Nowadays blue is most commonly associated with the Italian soccer team, but it used to be the colour of the House of Savoy, which ruled Italy until the end of World War II. This was the second Italian royal standard, and they both had blue as the main colour. This one also included a variety of royal doodads and whatsits.
This Liberian county might have the world’s only purple ensign. Those are five trees on a hill in the badge there. It looks a bit crude, but the drawing was based on a tiny little stamp, so the real life one is probably a bit more detailed.
Palau de Santa Eulàlia, since 1997.
Red, yellow, black, and a big old X. Kind of intimidating, eh?
Gelida, since 1993
Another example of a slight tweak making a whole new design. Gelida takes adds some sweeping curve to the “Czech pattern” to make its own flag.
Avinyonet de Puigventós, since 2008
The bottom half of this flag represents a fortress that once belonged to the Knights Hospitaller. The top half is a bit of a pun; Avinyonet sounds like vinya, the Catalan word for “vineyard”.
Castile-La Mancha, since 1986
The flag of Castile-La Mancha is divided in two. The left half is the old coat of arms of the kingdom of Castile, and the right half is a plain white field, representing the La Mancha region. The white colour was chosen to match the banners of the Orders of Calatrava, Santiago, and San Juan.
(designer: Ramón José Maldonado y Cocat)
No that’s not a typo. The Sorbs are a Slavic people that live in eastern Germany near the Polish border. Their flag is a simple-tricolour in the pan-Slavic colours of blue, red, and white. Despite how common those colours are, the Sorbs seem to be the only people who’ve put them in this particular order. Just goes to show there’s room for originality even in super basic flags.
Interfrisian Council, since 2009
The Interfrisian Council is an organization that represents Frisian speakers in the Netherlands and Germany. The flag brings together symbols from the three Frisian regions: the red lily pads of West Frisia, the yellow-red-black tricolour of North Frisia, and the black-red-blue tricolour of East Frisia.
Vice President of Brazil, since 1971
The Brazilian Vice President’s flag has a cross of 23 blue stars on a yellow field with the national coat of arms in the top left corner. I’m not quite sure what the significance of 23 is. Was that the number of states in 1971?