Flag of Sweden

Use Civil and state flag, civil and state ensign
Proportion 5:8
Adopted June 22, 1906
Design A blue field with a yellow Scandinavian cross that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side. Dimensions: 5:2:9 horizontally and 4:2:4 vertically.

Variant flag of Sweden
Use War flag and naval ensign
Proportion 1:2
Adopted Dates back to the mid-1600s. Described in law on November 6, 1663.[1] Current design: June 22, 1906
Design Blue with a yellow Scandinavian cross that extends to the edges of the flag. Overall ratio, including the tails, is 1:2

The flag of Sweden is the national flag of the Kingdom of Sweden. It consists of a yellow or gold Nordic Cross (i.e. an asymmetrical horizontal cross, with the crossbar closer to the hoist than the fly, with the cross extending to the edge of the flag) on a field of blue. The Nordic Cross design traditionally represents Christianity.[2][3] The design and colors of the Swedish flag are believed to have been inspired by the present coat of arms of Sweden of 1442, which is blue divided quarterly by a cross pattée of gold, and modeled on the Danish flag.[4] Blue and yellow have been used as Swedish colors at least since King Magnus III's royal coat of arms of 1275.


State flag and civil ensign

The dimensions of the Swedish flag are 5:2:9 horizontally and 4:2:4 vertically. The dimensions of the Swedish flag with a triple-tail are 5:2:5:8 horizontally and 4:2:4 vertically. The colors of the flag are officially established through the Natural Color System to be NCS 0580-Y10R for the shade of yellow, and NCS 4055-R95B for the shade of blue.[5] The square-cut Swedish state flag is identical to the civil ensign. The Swedish law does not regulate the design of the Swedish pennant, but it's recommended that its color scheme should correspond with that of the flag.[6]

Military ensign

The triple-tailed flag (tretungad flagga) is used as a military ensign (örlogsflaggan). Its overall ratio, including the tails, is 1:2. The flag is also used as the Swedish naval jack (örlogsgösen). The jacks are smaller than the ensigns, but they have the same proportions. The Swedish swallow-tailed flag was originally the King's personal emblem, or the emblem representing a command conferred by the King. It was at first two-pointed, but by the mid-17th century, the distinctive swallow-tail-and-tongue appeared. The flag is also flown by the defence ministry, while civil ministries fly square flags.

Sovereign's flag

The Swedish royal flag (Kungliga flaggan) is still identical to the triple-tailed military flag, but usually includes in its center a white field with the greater or the lesser coat of arms with the Order of the Seraphim, which has the King of Sweden as its Grand Master. The King personally decides about the specific use of the royal flag.[7]



One of the oldest preserved Swedish flags. This banner was made in 1620 and was used by soldiers on board ships of the Swedish navy.

According to early modern legend, the 12th-century King Eric IX saw a golden cross in the sky as he landed in Finland during the First Swedish Crusade in 1157. Seeing this as a sign from God he adopted the golden cross against a blue background as his banner.

It has been suggested that the Swedish origin legend is chosen to counter a parallel origin story for the Danish flag, also recorded in the 16th century. According to this theory, the Swedish flag was created during the reign of King Charles VIII, who also introduced the coat of arms of Sweden in 1442. The national coat of arms is a combination of King Albert's coat of arms of 1364 and King Magnus III's coat of arms of 1275, and is blue divided quarterly by a golden cross pattée.

Other historians claim that the Swedish flag was blue with a white cross before 1420, and became blue with a golden cross only during the early reign King Gustav I, who deposed King Christian II in 1521.

Early history

Early variant of state flag and war ensign. This design was also used by the Swedish East India Company.

The exact age of the Swedish flag is not known, but the oldest recorded pictures of a blue cloth with a yellow cross date from the early 16th century, during the reign of King Gustav I. The first legal description of the flag was made in a Royal warrant of April 19, 1562 as "yellow in a cross fashioned on blue".[8] As stipulated in a Royal warrant of 1569, the yellow cross was always to be borne on Swedish battle standards and banners. Prior to this, a similar flag appeared in the coat of arms of King John III's duchy, which is today Southwest Finland. The same coat of arms is still used by the province.

Triple-tailed flag

Swedish historical flags at the Maritime Museum in Stockholm. The striped designs are some of the earliest variants on the general theme of the state colors of blue and yellow.

A Royal warrant of November 6, 1663, regulated the use of the triple-tailed flag, to be used only as a state flag and military ensign.[1] According to the same Royal warrant, merchant ships were only allowed to fly square-cut city flags in their respective provincial colors. In practice, however, the merchant fleet began using a square-cut civil ensign of the state flag. In a government instruction of ship building of 1730, this civil ensign should have the same proportions and colors as the state flag, with the notable difference of being square-cut.[9] In 1756, the use of pennants by private ships was prohibited.[10]

Blue ensign

A Royal warrant of August 18, 1761, stipulated that an all blue triple-tailed flag to be used by the archipelago fleet, a branch of the army tasked with defending the archipelago along the Swedish coastlines. The commander of the fleet also had the right to order the use of the ordinary war ensign instead of the blue ensign when that was "appropriate".[11] The blue flag was used until 1813.

Union between Sweden and Norway

Union flags of 1815 and 1818

Swedish and Norwegian civil ensign 1818–1844, with the saltire on red in the canton symbolizing Norway.

On June 6, 1815, a common military ensign was introduced for the two united kingdoms of Sweden and Norway. This flag was identical to the former triple-tailed military ensign of Sweden, with a white saltire on red to be included in the canton. Proposed by the Norwegian Prime Minister and unionist Peder Anker, the white saltire on a red background was supposed to symbolize Norway, as the country had previously been united with Denmark and initially continued to use the same flag as an independent country, but with the national arms in the canton.[12]

Norwegian ships continued to use the Danish civil ensign distinguished with the national arms in the canton north of Cape Finisterre, but had to fly the Swedish civil ensign in the Mediterranean to be protected from pirate attacks. A common civil ensign for both countries was introduced in 1818, on the pattern of the naval ensign, but square-cut. This flag was optional for Swedish vessels, but compulsory for Norwegian ones in distant waters. In 1821, Norway adopted a new national civil ensign, identical to the present flag of Norway.

Following the adoption of a separate Norwegian flag, a Royal regulation of July 17, 1821, stipulated that ships of both kingdoms use the common square-cut civil ensign (with the saltire included) in "distant waters" (i.e. beyond Cape Finisterre).[13] In "distant waters", they had the right to use any of the square-cut civil ensigns of their respective countries, or the uniform Union civil ensign. This system was in force until 1838.

Union flags of 1844

Flags of Sweden and Norway in 1899, after the removal of the union mark from the Norwegian merchant flag. Plate published by the foreign ministry of the united kingdoms to announce the recent change. Note the dark blue color and the correct proportions of the union mark in Swedish flags.
Union mark used in Swedish flags 1844–1905, with proportions 5:4. This version of the union mark was also used as a common naval jack by the navies of both countries, and as their common diplomatic flag. Norwegian flags had a square union mark.
Naval ensign of Sweden with union mark 1844–1905.
Swedish civil ensign 1844–1905, with the union mark in the canton.
Color change of the Swedish flag. (1906)

A Royal resolution of June 20, 1844, introduced new flags and heraldry to denote the equal status of the two kingdoms within the union. Both countries were granted civil and military ensigns on the same pattern, their respective national flags with the addition of a union mark in the canton, combining the flag colors of both countries. The naval ensign was based on the traditional triple-tailed Swedish model. In addition, the new union mark was to be used as the naval jack and as the flag for the common diplomatic representations abroad. The warrant also stipulated that the merchant fleet use their respective countries' square-cut civil ensigns, including the new union mark. Also, royal ensigns were introduced for both countries, their respective naval ensigns with the union mark, with the addition of the union arms at the center of the cross. The new union flags were well received by the Norwegians, who had demanded their own military ensign since the union was formed. In Sweden, however, the new union mark in particular became quite unpopular and was contemptuously nicknamed the Sillsallaten (Swedish) or Sildesalaten (Norwegian) after a colorful dish of pickled herring, decorated with red beets and apples in a radial pattern. It is believed that the name was first used in a speech by Lord Brakel in the Swedish House of Lords in Stockholm.[14]

During the 19th century, a number of regulations were issued regarding the use of Swedish flags. The military ensign was also to be used by civil government ships and buildings, such as the Customs, Harbor pilots and the Royal Mail. For this use, the military ensign would have a white field included with a golden marker: For the Harbor pilots (as of 1881, based on a proposal of 1825) an anchor with a star;[15] for the Customs (as of 1844) the letter "T" topped a royal crown;[16] for the Royal Mail (as of 1844) a postal horn with a royal crown. On May 7, 1897, an alternate State flag was introduced. This double-tailed flag was used by government owned ships and buildings, which did not fly the triple-tailed military ensign.

During the late 19th century, increasing Norwegian dissatisfaction with the union led to the demand for a return to the "pure" flag of 1821 without the union mark. Opponents of the union began to use this flag several years before it was officially recognized. During the 1890s, two consecutive sessions of the Norwegian parliament voted to abolish the mark, but the decision was overruled by royal veto. However, in 1898, when the flag law was passed for the third time, the king had to sanction it. On October 11, 1899, the union mark was removed from the Norwegian civil ensign. As the Norwegian military ensign according to the constitution of 1814 was to be a union ensign, the union mark remained on military flags until the dissolution of the union with Sweden. "Pure" military ensigns were hoisted on fortresses and naval vessels on June 9, 1905.

The union mark, however, remained a part of the Swedish flag until 1905, when a Law of October 28, 1905, stipulated the exclusion of the union mark as of November 1, 1905.[17]

Flag of 1906

On November 1, 1905, the triple-tailed flag also became the Swedish naval jack. The Flag law of June 22, 1906 further regulated the use and design of the flag, notably was a lighter blue color than was used before. The Swedish state flag became identical to the square-cut civil ensign, and all private use of the triple-tailed flag was prohibited.

Present recommendations

When used from a standalone flagpole, the size of the flag is recommended to have a width equaling a fourth of the height of the pole. When used from a flagpole extending from a building, the flag is recommended to have a width equaling a third of the height (length) of the pole. It is further recommended to fly the flag only during daytime, and to lower it no later than 9 pm. Only when the country is at war is it recommended to fly the flag also at night.

Royal flag

Royal Standard of Sweden
Standard used by the Royal Family

The king and queen use a royal flag with the greater national coat of arms. Other members of the royal house use a royal flag with the lesser national coat of arms. On naval ships the flag of the king is raised together with a split pennat with the greater national coat of arms. Likewise the flag of the heir apparent is raised together with a split pennat with the lesser national coat of arms on naval ships.

The Swedish Marshal of the Realm (Riksmarskalken) has published a series of decisions regarding the royal flag of Sweden. In a decision of April 6, 1987, rules are defined on how to fly the royal flag at the Royal Palace of Stockholm.[18]

Under King Carl XVI Gustaf, king since 1973, the plain triple-tailed flag has flown at the Royal Palace only once. This occurred on July 2-July 3, 1988, when the King went on a private visit to Wuppertal, Germany; at the same time, the Duke of Halland, his uncle and the only person in the line of succession, was on a private visit to Sainte-Maxime, France. The Government therefore ordered the Speaker of the Riksdag, Ingemund Bengtsson, to serve as Regent ad interim for two days.

Private use of the State flag

There have been a few notable exemptions regarding the prohibition of private parties to use the State flag. All these privileges were terminated in accordance with the new specific flag regulation of June 22, 1906.

National flag days

Swedish coastal defence ship HSwMS Wasa with the union jack (1903)
Coastal defence ship HSwMS Gustav V with the current navy ensign, and the greater coat of arms in the stern.
Main article: Flag days in Sweden
Date English Name Local Name Notes
January 1 New Year's Day Nyårsdagen
January 28 The King's name day Konungens namnsdag H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf
March 12 Name day of the Crown Princess Kronprinsessans namnsdag HRH Crown Princess Victoria
Moveable Sunday Easter Day Påskdagen First Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21
April 30 The King's birthday Konungens födelsedag HM King Carl XVI Gustaf
May 1 May Day Första maj
Moveable Sunday Pentecost Pingstdagen 50 days after Easter
June 6 National Day of Sweden Sveriges Nationaldag Flag day. Official holiday from 2005.
Third Saturday of June Midsummer Day Midsommardagen
July 14 Birthday of the Crown Princess Kronprinsessans födelsedag HRH Crown Princess Victoria
August 8 The Queen's name day Drottningens namnsdag HM Queen Silvia
Second Sunday of September Election Day to the Riksdag Dag för val till riksdagen Elections held every four years
October 24 United Nations Day FN-dagen
November 6 Gustavus Adolphus Day Gustav Adolfsdagen Battle of Lützen (1632)
December 10 Nobel Day Nobeldagen The Nobel Awards Ceremony
December 23 The Queen's birthday Drottningens födelsedag HM Queen Silvia
December 25 Christmas Day Juldagen

Use outside Sweden

Flag of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Flag of Verona, Italy.

The flag of Wilmington, Delaware in the United States is modelled after the Swedish flag in remembrance of the short-lived colony of New Sweden, with the cross affixed with the seal of the city. The flag of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which also lies within historic New Sweden, is a vertical triband rather than a Nordic Cross, but the blue and yellow colors of the flag were chosen to commemorate the Swedish settlement of the region.[21] The flag of Verona (Italy) resembles the flag of Sweden in colours and features. The former flag has a symmetric yellow cross, although the similarities between the two flags may be historically unrelated. According to a legend, the Argentine football team, Boca Juniors' flag and colors were inspired by the flag of Sweden.[22]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Flags of Sweden.


  1. 1 2 Plakat, av den 6. Nov. 1663, angående den åtskillnad som härefter bör observeras emellan de flaggor som Kongl. Maj:ts enskilda skepp och farkoster föra, så ock de skepps och farkosters flaggor, som private personer tillhöra och af dem brukas skola.
  2. Jeroen Temperman. State Religion Relationships and Human Rights Law. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. Retrieved 2007-12-31. Many predominantly Christian states show a cross, symbolising Christianity, on their national flag. Scandinavian crosses or Nordic crosses on the flags of the Nordic countries–Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden–also represent Christianity.
  3. Carol A. Foley. The Australian Flag: Colonial Relic or Contemporary Icon. William Gaunt & Sons. Retrieved 2007-12-31. The Christian cross, for instance, is one of the oldest and most widely used symbols in the world, and many European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Greece and Switzerland, adopted and currently retain the Christian cross on their national flags.
  4. Andrew Evans. Iceland. Bradt. Retrieved 2007-12-31. Legend states that a red cloth with the white cross simply fell from the sky in the middle of the 13th-century Battle of Valdemar, after which the Danes were victorious. As a badge of divine right, Denmark flew its cross in the other Scandinavian countries it ruled and as each nation gained independence, they incorporated the Christian symbol.
  5. Förordning 1983 nr. 826 med riktlinjer för färgnyanserna i Sveriges flagga.
  6. Sveriges flagga The Swedish State Herald, official website
  7. "Svensk författningssamling (SFS) - Riksdagen". Riksdagen.se. Retrieved 2010-04-12.
  8. Original quote: "gult udi korssvijs fördeelt påå blott"; Kongl. bref, den 19. April 1562
  9. Tomas Rajalin, Nödig underrättelse om skiepz-byggeriet och der utaf härflytande högnödige och siöväsendet samt taklingen tilhörige proportioner, Carlscrona : 1730
  10. Kongl. Maj:ts förbud, den 19. November 1756, emot vimplars bruk på kofferdi- och privata fartyg.
  11. Kongl. bref, den 18. Augusti 1761
  12. See further: Krigskollegii samt Förvaltningens af sjöärendena kungörelse, den 3 Maj 1815, om den för konungarikena Sverige och Norge fastställda örlogsflaggans allmänna anläggnade.
  13. Kungl. Maj:ts kungörelse, den 17. Juli 1821, om de förenade konungarikena Sveriges och Norges handelsflagga.
  14. The Brakel family was introduced to the Swedish House of Lords in 1756 and is best known for their participation in the Great Northern War in Finland. C.O. Brakel was a secretary of the Swedish House of Lords (Riddarhussekreterare), and his remark was made in a speech in 1868.
  15. Kongl. Maj:ts skrivelse 1825 till Förvaltningen af sjöärendena om förslag till en särskild lotsflagg
  16. General-tullstyrelsens cirkulär, 26. September 1844, till herrar tulldistriktschefer och tullkamrarne med tillkännagifvande, att en särskild flagga för tullverkets fartyg blifvit av Kongl. Maj:t fastställd.
  17. Lag, den 28. Oktober 1905, om upphäfvande för Sveriges del af den till bestämmande af de genom föreningen emellan Sverige och Norge uppkomna konstitutionella förhållanden antagna riksakt.
  18. Riksmarskalkens beslut den April 6, 1987, för flaggning.
  19. This is also one of the royal flags, and rumours that the three-tailed war flag is mainly chosen since the Royal Palace is the home of the Palace Guard - is not correct.
  20. One of the oldest flags preserved is a double-tailed flag from 1760 at the Maritime Museum in Stockholm
  21. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (U.S.) at Flags of the World
  22. Boca Juniors

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