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.
Sussex, since 2011
The cartographer John Speed, in his 17th century map of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, assigned the Kingdom of Sussex a coat of arms of six golden martlets on a blue field. This was an anachronism – the Anglo-Saxons didn’t have heraldry – but the symbol stuck. Around 400 years later, “Saint Richard’s Flag” was officially registered as the flag of Sussex and raised atop Lewes Castle.
It’s not clear why Speed chose these arms specifically, but it’s been suggested that the six martlets represent the six unfortunately-named “rapes” (districts) of Sussex. Incidentally, a martlet is a fucked up heraldic swallow with its legs cut off. Kind of a weird thing to have as a symbol.
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)
Helsinki, since 1967
June 12 is Helsinki Day. The Finnish capital’s most well known symbol is its coat of arms (dating to 1639), but the boat and crown do occasionally appear in flag form.
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.
Arsèguel, since 2010
And that marks the end of this Catalan week. Hope you enjoyed it! I’ll leave you with this weird little mint green thing to go out on.
Rellinars, since 2003
You might have noticed that most of the flags I’ve shown this week were adopted in the last 20 years or so. Well, flag design often comes in bursts like that. One town will adopt a flag, and the another follows suit, and then another, and pretty weird for a town not to have a flag.
The last few decades in Catalonia reminds me a lot of the ’60s in Canada, or the ’90s in Venezuela, where a mostly flagless country suddenly had an explosion of vexillological creativity. Even the world as a whole kind of worked the same way, if on a slightly longer timescale. The idea of a national flag barely existed before the 17th century, but by the start of the 20th there wasn’t a country without one.
But the recentness of this particular explosion really shows through in the designs. Take Rellinars for example. The crossed diagonals here represent the keys of St. Peter, a centuries-old heraldic element. In past decades they would have just been drawn on the flag, but here they’re reduced to their most basic elements. A yellow line overlaps a white line. The same core symbolism, but expressed in a way that really comes out of the principles of good flag design.
All of the flags I’ve shown this week have these kinds of touches. They’re simplified but never bland. They embrace bright colours and curves and diagonals. They even go for a bit of wordplay from time to time. In short, they feel contemporary. And in 100 years that contemporary feeling will have aged into a classic feeling that future generations will be able to appreciate.
Palau de Santa Eulàlia, since 1997.
Red, yellow, black, and a big old X. Kind of intimidating, eh?
Sant Hipòlit de Voltregà, since 1998
Good flags simplify. Sant Hipòlit’s coat of arms is a complicated symbol, with crossed keys, a bishop’s hat, and a goat. They Santhipolencs could have put all that stuff on their flag, but instead they took the main colours and made an attractive four-striped flag.
It’s probably a good thing this village is in Catalonia and not somewhere English-speaking. “Saint Hippolytus” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Sarrià de Ter, since 1991
You may think that serrated line is a mountain range, and… well, it is. But it’s also the teeth of a sawblade. How’s that for a cool flag symbol?
Oh, and it’s also also a pun. The word serra means “saw” in Catalan.
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.