1. Tenerife, since 1989, maritime flag since 1845.

    There are quite a few legends about how this Spanish island came to have a flag that looks just like Scotland’s, but in reality it’s just a total coincidence. In 1845 Spain’s maritime provinces were assigned individual flags. These flags were just supposed to distinguish one province from another, and didn’t have anything to do with local symbolism. The designs were simple and geometric: crosses, saltires, cantons, borders, and basic divisions of the field, and they used just four colours: red, blue, yellow, and white. The Canary Islands maritime province was arbitrarily assigned a white saltire on blue. That province was split into Tenerife and Las Palmas in 1869, and the former kept the original flag.

    Even though the flags weren’t supposed to represent local symbolism, many of them turned into local symbols anyway. (The Galician flag is the classic example of this.) The Tenerife flag made its way onto land, and gradually evolved from a flag representing ships from the island to a flag representing the island itself. It was officially adopted on land in 1989.

     
  2. United Kingdom (minus Scotland), 2012 proposal 

    Okay just for the record: the idea that the rest of Britain would have to stop using the Union Jack if Scotland separated is just silly. Flags aren’t like automatically updated by a computer whenever the size of the country changes. If the people of the United Kingdom want to keep their flag they are entitled to do so, protestations of the deputy chairman of the parliamentary flags and heraldry committee notwithstanding.

    If you want to see this principle in action, look to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Before the split the Czechs and Slovaks had both agreed that neither would use the old Czechoslovakian flag, but then the Czech Republic decided to keep the old flag anyway and there was nothing Slovakia could do about it. Or look at the Comoros. They have a star and a stripe on their flag representing Mayotte, an island which has never even been a part of their country.

    Bottom line: if Scotland declares independence, the UK will be allowed to keep St Andrew’s Cross on their flag, just like Newfoundland was allowed to keep using the Union Jack after it became a Canadian province and New Zealand was allowed to keep the Union Jack on its flag after it became fully independent. So don’t worry about it.

     
  3. Aleppo, 1920-1924

    The French mandate in Syria produced some questionable flag design, and for my money the State of Aleppo’s flag was the worst of the bunch. The dinky French flag in the corner is totally unbalanced on the big empty field, and the gold stars on white make for a terrible colour scheme. This flag was thankfully abolished when Damascus and Aleppo were reunited.

     
  4. Central America, 1825-1838

    September 15 is Independence Day in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. And if you’ve ever wondered why all those countries have such similar looking flags, it’s because they were all once part of the same country. The Federal Republic of Central America only lasted for 15 years, but all five successor states kept using the blue-white-blue tricolour. 

    There were tweaks of course, but they were usually minimal. El Salvador and Nicaragua’s flags are nearly indistinguishable from each other and from the original flag. They both even still say “America Central” on them. Meanwhile Honduras literally just kept flying the old Central American flag for another 30 years. Today Costa Rica’s is the most different; they added a big red stripe during the Revolutions of 1848.

    (designer: Louis-Michel Aury)

     
  5. Pacific Community, since 1999

    The SPC flag nicely combines a regional organization look with a Pacific look. Each member is represented by one of the stars, and the emblem in the centre represents a sailing ship on the ocean.

     
  6. Bong County

    Another great Liberian flag here. Orange and pink are rare colours on their own and the two of them together are even rarer. Here the pink half is in the shape of a mountain range, giving the flag the look of a rugged landscape at sunset. The shield with the tools is a bit unnecessary but overall it looks great. 

     
  7. South Uist

    South Uist is one of the Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles. The Isles themselves don’t have a flag, but it’s been suggested that the South Uist flag could be adopted by the whole chain. The Shetland and Orkney islands already have offset cross flags to pay tribute to their Nordic heritage.

     
  8. Talysh National Movement

    The Talysh people are an Iranian-speaking group that lives around the border of Azerbaijan and Iran. Like the Tajiks over in central Asia, they use the Iranian red-white-green colours on their national flag.

     
  9. Bonaire, since 1981

    Bonaire’s Flag Day is September 6, even though the flag was adopted on December 11. Not sure how that happened but whatever. The blue, white, and yellow parts of the flag represent the sea, sky, and sun respectively. The six points on the star represent six regions (villages?) of the island, and it lies at the centre of a compass to represent people who have come there to Bonaire from around the world.

    There are some pictures from last year’s celebration on this blog.

     
  10. Portland, since 2002

    Douglas Lynch designed this flag all the way back in 1969, but his vision was only fully realized recently. The version adopted in 1969 had the city seal added on a blue field in the top left corner against the designer’s wishes. He was eventually able to convince the city to go back to his original design in 2002.

    The green field represents the forests of Oregon, the yellow lines represent wealth and agriculture, and the blue lines represent the Willamette and Columbia Rivers with a star where they meet for the city of Portland itself. A lot of times when people are assigning meanings to flags they make sure and cover every colour, but the white lines apparently have no meaning. They’re just there to make it look better.

    (designer: Douglas Lynch)

     
  11. FROLINAT, 1966-1993

    The National Liberation Front of Chad was an insurgent group from the north of the country in the decades following independence. Like the flag of the national government, the FROLINAT flag doesn’t look particularly African.

     
  12. San Marino, since 1862

    According to legend, San Marino was founded on 3 September 301. The Sammarinese flag is quite a bit younger. The most recent rendering of the coat of arms was only adopted in 2011, replacing an earlier version which had been used since 1862. The new design has cleaner, thicker lines and a defined set of twelve colours.

     
  13. Uzbekistan, since 1991

    I’m surprised I’ve never had an Uzbek flag on here before. There’s a lot of double meaning on the flag. Blue represents water but is also allegedly the colour used by Timur’s empire. Green represents nature and a crescent moon represnts the birth of a new republic, but both symbols can also represent Islam. 

     
  14. Honduras, since 1866

    Before 1866, Honduras didn’t actually have a legally defined national flag. It kept using the old Central American blue-white-blue tricolour mostly out of inertia. If you look on flag charts from that era they generally just don’t have an entry on Honduras at all. 

    Even after 1866 the five-star flag was only a merchant ensign, officially speaking. Flag charts from that time period, when they do show Honduras, almost always just show a plain blue-white-blue flag (or they get it mixed up with one of its neighbours). It wasn’t until World War I that foreign sources started consistently using the five-star version. In 1949 five-star flag was standardized and made the sole national flag.

    September 1 is Honduran Flag Day.

     
  15. President of Equatorial Guinea, 1986 proposal

    Equatorial Guinea has never had a presidential standard, but a couple of them were floated in the 1980s. The flag has the silk-cotton tree from the coat of arms, with three stars to represent President Obiang Nguema’s colonel rank.

    (designers: Tomas Rodriguez and Antonio Manzano)