Cross of Burgundy flag

Cross of Burgundy flag
Cross of Burgundy
Coronela flag of the Spanish Tercios Morados Viejos Tercios division (old murrey or purpure)

The Cross of Burgundy (Spanish: Cruz de Borgoña) flag was used by Spain 1506-1701 as a naval ensign, and up to 1843 as the land battle flag, and still appears on regimental colours, badges, shoulder patches and company guidons. The year 1506 should be considered its theoretical earliest use in Spain (that is, it made appearance on the standards carried by Philip the Handsome's Burgundian life guards), although about 1525 might be perhaps a more likely estimate. The banner strictly speaking dates back to the early 15th century (allegedly 1408 at the earliest), when the Duke of Burgundy, claimant to the French throne, backed up the English in the Hundred Years' War. The design is a red saltire resembling two crossed, roughly-pruned (knotted) branches, on a white field. In heraldic language, it may be blazoned argent, a saltire ragulée gules.



It represents the cross on which Saint Andrew was crucified. It was chosen by Philip the Handsome of Burgundy after his marriage to Joanna of Castile, as it was the symbol of the house of his mother, Mary of Burgundy. Since Emperor Charles V (King Charles I of Spain), the different armies used the flag with the Cross of Burgundy over different fields. Nevertheless, the official field was still white. Eventually, in 1785 Charles III of Spain decided to change this flag due to the similarities with the English Cross of Saint George, which had brought some dissension in the Spanish navy. Under the new Bourbon king Philip V (1700–1746) and up to Charles III's 1785 new red-yellow-red naval ensign, it seems that the Spaniard naval ensign was white and bore a royal coat of arms in the centre. Allegedly the Burgundian flag was still flown as a jack ensign, that is, as a secondary flag.

It was re-taken by the Carlists, a traditionalist-legitimist movement which fought three wars of succession against Isabella II of Spain, claiming the throne of Spain for Carlos (who would have been the legal heir under the Salic Law, which had been controversially abolished by Ferdinand VII). In the First Carlist War (1833–1840) the Burgundian banner, however, was a banner of the Regent Queen's standing Army rather than Carlist. After 1843 the red Burgundian saltire kept on appearing on the new brand red-yellow army flag under a four-quartered Castilian and Leonese coat of arms on the central yellow fess. Eventually, under the leadership of Manuel Fal Conde, the Cross of Burgundy became the Carlist badge in 1934.

Overseas Empire of Spain

Banner of the foot regiments of the Spanish army: "Coronela" (King's Colour) with the Royal Crest of Spain (carried by the first battalion), and "Ordenanza" or "Batallona" (Battalion's Colour) with the Burgundian cross (carried by the second and third battalions); with four little coats-of-arms of the place for which it is named. If the battalions were merged by any reason, the flags Coronela and Batallona could be joined in a sole flag with the Royal Crest over the saltire. The flags with the Royal Crest of Ferdinand VII were used by the Spaniards in the Peninsular War and in the Spanish American wars of independence.

During the Spanish colonization of the Americas the Cross of Burgundy served as the flag of the Viceroyalties of the New World (Bandera de Ultramar). Nations that were once part of the Spanish Empire consider "las aspas de Borgoña" to be a historical flag, particularly appropriate for museum exhibits and the remains of the massive harbor-defense fortifications built in the 17th-18th centuries. At both San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico, and at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cross of Burgundy is daily flown over the historic forts, built by Spain to defend their lines of communication between the territories of their New World empire. The flying of this flag reminds people today of the impact Spain and its military had on world history for over 400 years.

Historical and modern uses

Cross of Burgundy alongside Puerto Rico and U.S. flags at Fort San Cristóbal

The Cross of Burgundy has appeared throughout its history, and continues to appear at present, on numerous flags and coats of arms of bodies having no connection to each other—in various colours and in combination with other symbols. Users mostly have some direct or indirect relation to the historical Burgundy, though such connection can be very vague and lost in the mists of time.

In Spain
  • A Biscayan merchant ensign (inclusive of the so-called Consulate of Bilbao) (c. 1511-1830)
  • A pre-1785 general Spanish merchant and privateering flag
  • The Spanish Carlist Flag, from the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) up to the present
  • The third co-official Flag of Spain during the Francoist régime (1939–1975)
  • In Spain some local flags and coats of arms flaunt the cross of Burgundy in Guipúzcoa (Anzuola,etc.), Navarre (Tafalla, etc.), Aragón (Huesca and Lidón), Andalusia (Bujalance), Castile-La Mancha (Las Labores) and Catalonia (Creixell).
  • A Basque Nationalist flag (for instance that of the Basque Alpinists in 1921-1978: Green Cross of Burgundy on white edged with red border)
  • Nowadays, the Cross of Burgundy is still a symbol of the Spanish monarchy[1]
  • A symbol painted on Spanish Air Force planes[2]

According to some scholars and aviation buffs, however, the Spanish rudder marking (a black saltire on white) derives from the National Air Force deletion of the Republican Air Force red yellow and purple flag, as a result of having lost some warplanes to friendly fire in the summer of 1936.[dubious ]

In France
  • A French army colour
    • Of the two line infantry regiments raised in the Franche-Comté of Burgundy: "Bourgogne" and "Royal-Comtois", both units raised in the late 17th-century, together with the Household cavalry companies "Gendarmes Bourguignons" and "Chevaux Légers Bourguignons" and the Dijon, Autun, Vesoul and Salins provincial militia regiments
    • In the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, the militian "gardes mobiles" from Dijon wore a red Burgundian saltire on their left cuff or shoulder)
  • Continuing Burgundian and "Comtois" regionalism in France is keen on the Cross of Burgundy
  • The coat of arms of Villers-Buzon (France) bears a sort of yellow or white Burgundian saltire on a wider red saltire
In Belgium and the Austrian Netherlands
  • The Austrian Netherlands' ensign in 1781-86 was a black double-headed eagle on a red Burgundian saltire over a background of red over white over yellow
  • As a Rexist Walloon Belgian Ultra-Right-wing flag and badge since 1940, including the Walloon Legion in German service on the Russian front, a unit eventually transferred to the Waffen-SS in 1943 (a red Cross of Burgundy, either on white or black)
  • As the merchant ensign and badge of the Ostend Company (Austrian Netherlands) in 1717-1731
  • The local flag and coat of arms of Philippeville (Belgium) bears a yellow Burgundian saltire on blue.
  • The current Belgian naval ensign, which dates from 1950, may well be an homage to the cross of Burgundy
In the Netherlands
  • The Military William Order, the foremost Dutch military decoration since 1815, bears a white Maltese cross and a green Burgundian saltire
  • A similar style flag was used by the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries, which had been part of Burgundy as well
  • The flag of the Dutch municipality of Eijsden bears a red Burgundian saltire since 1966 (same for the municipal coat of arms or crest).
In the United States
  • The Flag of Alabama uses a modified representation of the Spanish Cross of Burgundy. An unmodified version of the Cross was used in most of Alabama until the 19th century.
  • The Flag of Florida has adopted the Cross of Burgundy for historical reasons, as it was the Flag of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, to which Florida belonged, from the 16th to the 19th century.
In South America
  • In present-day Bolivia the Cross of Burgundy (which is represented with a golden crown in the center) is the official flag of the department of Chuquisaca.
  • The Flag of Valdivia, which is composed of a red saltire on a white field is thought to have originated from the Spanish Cross of Burgundy, as the city of Valdivia in southern Chile was a very important stronghold of the Spanish Empire.

See also

External links


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