Flag of Spain

The flag of Spain, as it is defined in the Spanish Constitution of 1978, consists of three horizontal stripes: red, yellow and red, the yellow stripe being twice the size of each red stripe. Traditionally, the middle stripe was defined by the more archaic term of gualda, and hence the popular name rojigualda (red-weld).

The origin of the current flag of Spain is the Naval Ensign of 1785, Pabellón de la Marina de Guerra under Charles III of Spain. Throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the color scheme of the flag remained intact, with the exception of the Second Republic period (1931-1939), being the only changes centered on the coat of arms.


Upon the current regulations there are two versions of the Spanish flag:

Flag of Spain

The flag described on the Spanish Constitution and the Spanish laws as the flag of Spain is the plain 'civil' variant, without the coat of arms.. This version is stated as for general use on the regulations, but its actual use is very limited.

Flag of Spain with coat of arms

The state and war flags and ensigns (Bandera de España con escudo de España) must be charged with the Spanish coat of arms. The coat of arms must be placed at 1/3 the flag's length towards the hoist, and the height of the coat of arms should measure two fifths of the flag's width (i.e. hoist).

This version is stated to be used on state, autonomic, local and institutional buildings and ships, but it is used everywhere by everybody in every circumstance, having acquired "de facto" the status of national flag.

The Spanish coat of arms

The current coat of arms was adopted on December 19 1981, when it replaced the model of 1977 which, in turn, replaced the model of 1945, considered the official coat of arms of Francoist Spain.

The present coat of arms consists of a quartered shield, each of the four quadrants representing one of the four kingdoms that were merged to form a unified Spain at the end of the 15th century. Namely, the kingdoms are: Castile, represented by the gold castle on red; León, represented by the purple lion on silver; Aragon, represented by the four red bars on gold; and Kingdom of Navarre, represented by the linked gold chains on red. Also the moorish kingdom of Granada is represented by the pomegranate fruit in the bottom of the coat of arms. In the centre of the shield is a inescutcheon with the emblem of the reigning Spanish royal Family, House of Bourbon (a blue oval with a red-edged border containing three golden fleur de lys). The coat is crowned with the Spanish Royal Crown and guarded on each side by two colums crowned and charged with a red ribbon with the motto "plus ultra" in gold letters. The motto means "further beyond" in Latin).

The columns on the Spanish coat of arms are the mythological Pillars of Hercules (of the Strait of Gibraltar, gateway to the Atlantic Ocean), and considered the end of the known World in ancient times. The "Plus Ultra" motto replaced the former "Non Plus Ultra" (something like "No further from here") before the discovery of America, since Spain was considered "the Westernmost point" on Earth (thus, "no further from here")

Other flags currently in use


Flags for the Armed forces

The flag used by the Spanish Armed Forces is the same one used as state flag and national ensign, though military units use a more square version (1,280m x 1,475m) charged with the name of the unit.

Naval jack (Bandera de Proa o de Tajamar)

]] The Spanish naval jack (Bandera de Proa o de Tajamar) is only hoisted at the prow of all Navy ships when docked or anchored in foreign waters, from sunrise to sunset. In national waters it is hoisted on Sundays, festivities and in presence of a foreign warship as soon as it moors at the dock. The national flag is always hoisted at the stern, when sailing, and from sunrise to sunset, when docked. It is a square flag (ratio 1:1) composed of 4 quarters:

  • First quarter, for Castile: Gules, a tower Or, masoned sable and ajouré azure;
  • Second quarter, for León: Argent, a lion rampant gules (differing from the one on the national flag) crowned, langued and armed or;
  • Third quarter, for Aragon: Or, four pallets gules;
  • Fourth quarter, for Navarre: Gules, a cross, saltire and orle of chains linked together Or, a centre point vert;

Royal Standards of Spain

See also: Royal Standard of Spain

The King of Spain (Spanish: Rey de España) uses a flag known as the Royal Standard. The Royal Standard of Spain consists of a dark blue square with the Coat of arms of the King in the center. It is usually hoisted at the King's official residence, the Palacio de la Zarzuela, others Spanish royal sites, present on its official car, as small flags and has a military use. The Royal Guidon (Guión) is regulated by Title II, Rule 1, of Royal Decree 1511/1977. It is identical to the Royal Standard except that the Royal Guidon has a Gold fringe. It is made of silk’s taffeta. The size of the guindon is 80 x 80 cm. It is the personal command sign or positional flag of the monarch and carried nearby him.

Also the heir of the crown, the Prince of Asturias, has its own standard and guidon. The Standard of the Prince of Asturias (Estandarte del Príncipe de Asturias) is regulated by Royal Decree 284/2001 that modified the Title II of Spanish Royal Decree 1511/1977. The Standard of the Prince of Asturias consists of a light blue (the colour of the Flag of Asturias) square flag with the Coat of arms of the Prince of Asturias in the center. The Guidon (Guión) is identical to the Standard except that the Royal Guidon has a Gold fringe. It is made of silk’s taffeta. The size of the guidon is 80 x 80 cm.

Civil authorities

Some high ranking officials of the Spanish state (i.e.: the president, the vice-presidents and the ministers of the Government, or the chairmen of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate) have the right to display a flag representative of their status. It is a square flag of Spain with the Spanish coat of arms on the centre.

Flag for sport and leisure boats

The flag for private sport and leisure boats (in Spanish: bandera de embarcaciones de recreo) is the flag of Spain charged with the royal crown in blue on the center of the yellow stripe. This flag was established in 1945 though with a blue coronet instead of the current royal crown.

Spanish flag legal frame and specifications

The present laws and regulations on the Spanish flag are:

La bandera de España está formada por tres franjas horizontales, roja, amarilla y roja, siendo la amarilla de doble anchura que cada una de las rojas.
Artículo 4 1 de la constitución española de 1978
The flag of Spain consists of three horizontal stripes: red, yellow and red, the yellow strip being twice as wide as each red stripe.
Article 4.1 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978


The colors of the flag, as officially defined by the Spanish Royal Decree 441/1981 of February 27th, are:

CIELAB values CIE (Illuminant C) Web color
COLOR NAME English (Spanish) H* C* L* x y Y HTML code
Flag Red (Rojo bandera) 35º 70 37 0,614 0,320 9,5 #AA151B
Flag Weld-Yellow (Amarillo-gualda bandera) 85º 95 80 0,488 0,469 56,7 #F1BF00


The basic design of the current flag of Spain with the coat of arms is specified by the Rule number 3 of the Royal decree 1511/1977, that states the following:

  • The coat of arms of Spain will high 2/5 of the hoist (width) and will figure on both sides of the flag.
  • When the flag of Spain were of regular proportions (length equal to 3/2 of width), the coat's axis will be placed at a distance from the hoist equal to 1/2 of the flag's width.
  • If the flag's length were less than normal or the flag were square-shaped, the coat of arms will be placed on the centre of the flag.

Flag protocol

The flag can only be flown horizontally from public buildings, private homes, businesses, ships, town squares, or during official ceremonies. While the flag should be flown from sunrise to sunset, government offices in Spain and abroad must fly the flag on a 24-hour basis (during the night, it must be properly lit). The flags must conform to the legal standards, and cannot be soiled or damaged in any way.

For mourning activities, the flag can be flown in either of the following ways. The first method, commonly known as half-staffing, is performed when the flag is hoisted to the top of the flagpole, then lowered to the pole's one-third position. The other method is to attach a black ribbon to a flag that is permanently affixed to a staff. The ribbon itself is ten centimetres wide and it is attached to the mast so that the ends of the ribbon reach the bottom of the flag. During the funeral ceremony, the flag may be used to cover the coffins of government officials, soldiers and persons designated by an act of the President; these flags are later folded and presented to the next of kin before internment.

When flying the Spanish flag with other flags, the following is the correct order of precedence: The national flag, flags of foreign states, the flag of the European Union, international NGOs, military and government standards, Autonomous communities flags, city flags and any others. When foreign flags are used alongside the Spanish flag, the flags are sorted according to their countries' names in the Spanish language. The only exception is when the congress or meeting held in Spain dictates a different language to be used for sorting. The flag of Europe has been hoisted since Spain became a member of the Union. While not mentioned by name in the law, the flag of NATO can be used in Spain, since it belongs to that organization as well.

When unfurled in the presence of other flags, the national flag must not have smaller dimensions and must be situated in a prominent, honorable place, according to the relevant protocol.


While not existing still in the Middle Ages the concept of National flag as we understand it at today, the true symbol of the nationality was constituted on the Royal Shield. It was frequent the use of other different flags, full of images and symbols, that represented all the values that the troops or the King defended.

The Standard of the Catholic Monarchs

In Spain the medieval kingdoms which merged in XVI century had their own heraldic symbols and their navys used to display their own flags and standards on both Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, where the Aragonese and Castilian Crowns had their respective areas of influence. The flag of the Crown of Aragon (the Senyera in catalan) was a yellow flag with four red stripes (the same of the present flag of Catalonia and basically the same than the Valencian, Aragonese or Balearic Islands autonomous communities in Spain, or the Roussillon in France). The Crown of Castile, since the final union between the kingdoms of Castile and Leon in 1230, used a quartered flag alternating the Castilian (a golden or yellow castle on red) and Leonese (a purple lion on white) emblems. Aragonese and Castilian flags and coats of arms merged when the Catholic monarchs created the new symbols of their reign in 1475.

Cross of Burgundy

]] See also: Cross of Burgundy Flag

It is one of the most important flags in the history of Spain. After the marriage of Joanna of Castile (Joanna the Mad), daughter of the Catholic monarchs, with Archduke of Austria and later Philip I of Castile (Philip the Handsome), it was introduced among the Spanish flags a piece that, although of foreign origin, would later become the Hispanic symbol by antonomasia, whatever the color of cloth where it will be embroidered would be (mainly white and yellow). It is more properly called "Cruz de San Andrés" (Saint Andrew's Cross) or, "Vane of Burgundy". This was the symbol of the Archduke. Since Emperor Charles I of Spain, the different armies used the flag with the Cross of Burgundy over different fields, first incorporated to the uniforms of the Archers of Burgundy and later to the rest of the army, painted on the dresses to distinguish themselves in combat. It soon appeared also on the flags that, up to present-day, wear the regiments of Spain.

Both, the Cross of Burgundy and the blazon of the Catholic Monarchs were the first European symbols to arrive to the New World.

Habsburg Spain

]] ]]

When the House of Habsburg took the Spanish throne by mid 16th century each military company had its own flag in which appeared usually the arms of its commander over the Cross of Burgundy. In order to represent the King, they used to have another one, the "Coronela", that was made of yellow silk (one of the colors of the Habsburg) with the embroidered imperial shield.

When Phillip II came to power, he ordered that, in addition to the flags of each company, each Tercio should have another one of yellow color with the Cross of Burgundy in red. The units of Cavalry took the same flags but of smaller size, called Banners.

However, at this time the concept of a national flag as understood nowadays did not exist, and so the true symbol of the nationality was represented by the Royal arms. It was frequent the use of other flags different from the mentioned ones, with various images or symbols. Some examples are the Flag of Santiago (Saint James the Great), the green one the own Emperor took during the conquest of Tunisia or the crimson one used by Hernán Cortés in Mexico.

Philip V and the new Bourbon dynasty

]] ]] The arms of Bourbon-Anjou were added in 1700 when Philip V became king of Spain. He introduced several changes on the royal arms. The king's new arms were designed by the French heraldists Charles-René d'Hozier and Pierre Clairambault in November 1700. Philip V also changed the philosophy and the design of the flags of Spain. He was the first to give Spain a unified symbol of its own when putting on white fabric the Cross of Burgundy and the Royal coat of arms. It still was not a national flag, but a first "try", in line with similar attempts in other European nations.

The flags were organized in three groups:

  • Standard or Royal flag: it continued being of crimson color, with the royal arms embroidered, the Golden Fleece and the necklace of the Order of the Holy Spirit.
  • Military flag: the color was reduced to white with the Cross of Burgundy and the Royal arms.
  • Pavilion of the Navy: again white, with the Royal arms.

The origins of the present ensign: Charles III

]] ]] In 1760 Charles III modified the shield of the Royal arms, suppressing the necklace of the Holy Spirit, maintained the Golden Fleece and added two new quarters, corresponding to the House of Farnese (six blue lilies on gold) and Medici (blue disc with three lilies of gold and five red discs, all on gold).

The military flag or Coronela of Spanish regiments was, during the Bourbon years, the Cross of Burgundy with different additions in each military unit depending on their territorial origin, commander, etc.

When Charles III became King of Spain, he observed that most of the countries in Europe used pavilions in which predominated the white color, and, since they were frequently in war to each other, lamentable confusions took place in the sea, not being able to distinguish if the sighted ship were own or enemy until practically the last moment. for this reason, he ordered to his Minister of the Navy to present several models of flags to him, having to be visible from great distances. The Minister selected twelve sketches which showed the king. The flag that was chosen as war ensign is the direct ancestor of the current flag. It was a triband red-yellow-red, of which the yellow band was twice the width of the red bands, a unique feature that distinguished the Spanish tribanded flag from other tribanded European flags. The flag chosen as civil ensign or for Merchant Marine use, meanwhile, consisted of five stripes of yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow, in proportions 1:1:2:1:1.

The origin of the colours is a source of controversy. One of the theories claims that the red and yellow colours of the Spanish flag are based on the heraldic schemes of the Crown of Aragon. Aragonese and Catalan ships used to wear a Standard with red and yellow stripes and those heraldic schemes were very present in the Kingdom of Naples where Charles III had been king, as Charles VII, before to be the monarch of Spain in 1759. Besides that, some historians argue in the same line the fact that the coat of arms placed on the flag was reduced to the Castilian arms, so the flag would represent both kingdoms: Yellow and red for Aragon, and the castle and lion coat of arms for Castile.

Anyway the only proven fact is that it was a personal decision of the king, allegedly based only on the visibility of yellow and red on the sea. Every other theory is purely a lucubration.

The First Spanish Republic

]] The First Spanish Republic started with the abdication on February 10 1873 of King Amadeo I, mostly as a consequence of the Hidalgo Affair, when he had been required by the radical government to sign a decree against the artillery officers. The next day, February 11, the republic was declared by a parliamentary majority made up of radicals, republicans and democrats. It lasted twenty-three months, between February 11 1873 and December 29 1874.

The First Republic had suppressed all the royal symbols (the royal crown and the scutcheon with the dynastic arms) from the coat of arms, and although it was debated the adoption of a new tricolour flag, red, yellow and purple (the same that was finally adopted by the Second Republic on 1931), the national flag was finally not modified and it remained the same but removing the crown from the top of the shield. Most of the old flags were reused simply by cutting the crown from the coat and sewing a piece of yellow cloth on the hole.

This period of the Republic lasted until Brigadier Martínez Campos pronounced for Alfonso XII in Sagunto on December 29 1874, and the rest of the army refused to act against him. The government collapsed, leading to the end of the republic and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy with the proclamation of Alfonso XII as king.

The Second Spanish Republic

]] On April 14 1931 the Monarchy was overthrown and replaced by the Second Spanish Republic. The regime change was symbolized by a new tricolor flag, red, yellow and indigo, instead of the previous red and yellow bicolor, considered, at the time, monarchist. The purported aim of the new indigo strip was to represent Castile and Leon in the flag's colours, that was assuming that the existing red and yellow represented the territories of the former Crown of Aragon, something which has not been proved.

The Republican flag was officially adopted on April 27th, and officially given to the army on May 6th. Formed by three horizontal strips of the same width, red, yellow and indigo, with the shield adopted in 1868 by the provisional Government at the center (quarterly of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre, Enté en point for Granada, stamped by a mural crown between the two Pillars of Hercules). Another newness was the smaller dimensions of this flag in its military version, of 1 m x 1 m.

Despite the emphasis given to the new flag as a symbol of the new regime, it must be noted that the bi-color flag was not the monarchic one, as demonstrated in Royal Decrees. When talking about it, it was described as "national flag", while there was a separate Royal Banner privative to the monarch whose colour, at the time of Isabella II of Spain was, curiously, indigo.

As for the addition of the indigo to represent Castile in the national flag, it has been noted that the Castilian banner was not of indigo colour, but crimson. The existing confusion about the color of the Castilian banner was born in the XIX century, when one of the multiple clandestine societies that proliferated back then, took the name from "Comuneros" and adopted the color indigo like a symbol, without having any relation with the true Comuneros which, four centuries before, had hoisted the crimson banner in Villalar, Valladolid.

The Franco years

]] ]]

The Spanish Civil War officially ended on 1 April 1939, when Francisco Franco announced the end of hostilities. The Republican regime had been defeated and Franco became the undisputed leader of Spain. He ruled Spain until his death on November 20, 1975.

At the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War, and in spite of the army's reorganization, several sections of the army continued with their bi-color flags improvised in 1936, but since 1940 new ensigns began to be distributed, whose main newness consisted in the eagle of John the Evangelist added to the shield. The new arms were allegedly inspired in the coat of arms the Catholic Monarchs adopted after the taking of Granada from the Moors, but replacing the arms of Sicily for those of Navarre and adding the Pillars of Hercules on each flank of the coat of arms. In 1938 the columns were placed outside the wings.

On July 26, 1945 the commander's ensigns were suppressed by decree, and October, 11 a detailed regulation of flags was published, that fixed the model of the bi-color flag in use, but defining better its details, emphasizing a greater style of the Saint John's eagle, until then somewhat dumpy. The models established on that decree were on force until 1977.

On this period two more flags were usually displayed together with the national flag: the flag of Spanish Falange (three vertical strips, red, black and red, being the black stripe wider than the red, and the yoke and arrows emblem in red placed on the center of the black stripe) and the Carlist flag (the Saint Andrew saltire or Cross of Burgundy red on white) as representation of the National Movement.

Post Franco Interim period

]] From the death of Franco, in 1975, until 1977, the national flag continued with the 1945 regulation. On 21 January 1977 a new regulation was approved that differed from the previous one in the fact that the eagle had wings opened much more, ("pasmada" eagle), the Pillars of Hercules returned to be placed within the wings, and the tape with the motto UNA, GRANDE Y LIBRE (ONE, GREAT and FREE) moved from the neck of the eagle and was located over it. Not many flags with that coat were made. Finally, and after the restoration of the House of Bourbon in the Spanish Throne, in the person of King Juan Carlos I, the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was published, whose article 42 in its section 12, says: "the Flag of Spain is formed by three strips horizontal, red, yellow and red, being the yellow of double width that each of the red ones".

The National flag of Spain finally received its present day coat in December 1981.


  • At some point during the 1990s an unofficial version of the Spanish flag sporting a Osborne's bull superimposed as some sort of "coat of arms" began appearing in football arenas. This usage has become increasingly popular and this flag is easily seen nowadays during sports events, football or others, which include a Spanish team, player or the Spanish national team itself.
  • The flag of the Second Republic, with the indigo strip, is often seen in rallies organized by those closely associated to the Spanish Communists or Republicans such as anti-NATO demonstrations and other leftist causes. In this context, sporting this flag is often perceived, not only as expressing a Republican sentiment rejecting the Monarchy, but as a reaction against the Franco regime, because the Francoist regime recovered the design of the old Spanish flag by force in the civil war and with the democracy back the tricolor flag was not restored.
  • A Spanish flag with a superimposed kicked football was used as the emblem of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
  • Until 2002, a flag oath called Jura de bandera took place every year when Spanish youths ended their initial training phase of their military service when it was compulsory. Any Spanish citizen could attend the ceremony and take part in the oath. Citizens are not otherwise sworn in to the flag.
  • The yellow and red colours used on the "pecten" logo of Royal Dutch Shell are thought to relate to the colours of the flag of Spain as Shell built early service stations in the state of California which had strong connections with Spain.
  • The Spanish flag is used in the reverse of the Texas state seal as one of the Six flags over Texas.

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