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Principality / Kingdom of Montenegro (1782-1918)

Knjaževina / Kraljevina Crna Gora

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by
Keywords: montenegro | cypher | civil ensign | cross (white) | order of independence | army flag | vucji do | lion (yellow) | eagle: double-headed (white) | letters: hi | coat of arms: montenegro |
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History of the Montenegrin flag

Montenegro gained independence as a principality in 1852, and was proclaimed a kingdom in 1910. On 10 August 1910. the day of golden jubilee for his 50 years of rule and 50 years of marriage with Princess Milena, Nikola I proclaimed himself king.

Flags as the state symbols were introduced only in the time of Petar II Petrović Njegoš. Before him, the principal Montenegrin flag was the alaj-barjak (regimental color) with a single symbol on it - the cross (krst). The Montenegrins gathered around krstas either at meetings or before battles. The first written description of the Montenegrin flag dates from the time of Scepan Mali (the Imposter): white, with a red frame and a golden cross on top of the spear. The next comes from 1838: pale yellow with a small red cross, and in 1876 the flag was described as being red with the white cross.

In the time of Prince Danilo (1696-1735), the cross on the alaj-barjak was replaced by the double-headed eagle with the initials DI (Danilo I) on its breast, with the lion passant underneath.

Prince (1860) then king (1910-1917) Nikola made many different flags in his time. The first of the variants was the same as Danilo's, differing only in the initials - HI (Nikola I). Around 1910, two new variants appeared: one tricolor (red, blue and white) with the double-headed eagle bearing the initials HI on its breast and the lion passant on the sinister, the other with the double-headed eagle above the initials HI.

Source: Official information on the national symbols of Montenegro

Željko Heimer, 2 February 2004

Civil ensign (1881-1916)

[Civil ensign of Montenegro]by Željko Heimer

Internationaal Seinboek (c. 1920) shows the same flag as shown above but with the crown yellow instead of red. The Encyclopedia of Flags [zna99] also shows it on p. 117, with caption:

Montenegro (1881-1918)

Jarig Bakker, 18 August 2000

Kingdom's state flag (1910)

[State flag]by Andrey Rukkas

The state flag of Montenegro was horizontally divided red-blue-white with the royal coat of arms surmonting a golden lion.

Source: Kral' Nikola. Izbrane Diela (King Nikola, Selected works) Cetinje: Obod, 1997 - 1000 p.

Andrey Rukkas, 19 February 2001

Flag with Nicholas I's cross

According to Flagmaster [flm71] 075/076, the other well-known flag from this period was a simplified version which had the cross of the Order of Independance with the same initials. This flag was featured during the return of the king Nikola remains to Cetinje in 1989. It had also been proposed as the national flag for the independent kingdom reconstituted by the Italians on 12 June 1941.

Željko Heimer, 24 Febuary 1997

Nikola I's cross appeared on flags in Montenegro around 1860. The cross is white, with Nikola's' cypher in a shape similar to the German Iron Cross. The war flags (or flags of military units) had a large cross on a red field. They had a golden or white border and were square.

Željko Heimer, 23 May 1999

Civil ensign

Around 1880, Nikola's cross was placed in the canton of a red-white-red triband as the civil ensign, and soon afterwards on Montenegrin tricolour, also in canton.

Željko Heimer, 23 May 1999

The Encyclopedia of Flags [zna99] says:

In 1880 Montenegro adopted a merchant ensign, a tricolor similar to that of Serbia with a white cross in the center of the red stripe. A year later the cross had been removed, and a crown with the royal cypher H.I., for Nikola I, placed in the center.

Jarig Bakker, 18 August 2000

War flag

[War flag]by Mario Fabretto

This is the old Montenegrin Army flag, more precisely, the war flag used c. 1882-1916.

Dave Martucci & Jaume Ollé, 25 April 1998

Unidentified flag

[Unidentified flag]by Jorge Candeias

Here is a flag from Montenegro, red with a white border and a white cross in the centre with the initials HI in red in the center of the cross.

Jorge Candeias, 20 October 1998

The flag from Vucji Do is quite similar to the above flag, but with gold cross and border.
The Montenegro Heritage website shows pictures of this flag and says the following:

One of especially valuable exhibits kept in Historical Museum of Montenegro is a famous flag from Vucji Do. This warriors' flag, riddled with shots, symbolises a heroic struggle and victory of the Montenegrins in one of the last battles for liberation (1876), which preceded the recognition of independence of Montenegro at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. As a symbol of freedom the flag waved at Montenegrin Pavilion, at the Balkans exhibition in London in 1910.

Dov Gutterman, 8 April 2000

Coat of arms

The history of the state coat of arms begins with the Crnojević's dynasty in XVth century. Their family arms, a golden crowned double-headed eagle on a red background (Gules a crowned double-headed eagle or), laid the foundation of the Montenegrin state heraldry: the double-headed eagle became the standard symbol of the state. After gaining the power, the Petrović Njegoš dynasty took the golden double-headed eagle as the state symbol.

Vladika [Governor] Danilo (1696-1735) charged on its breast the greater arms of the Petrović Njegoš family (shield, crown, mantling), while his successor vladika Sava made major changes to the coat of arms: he removed the family greater arms from the eagle's breast, and added the scepter and saru ("the imperial egg") in its claws. He also added another symbol retained until present day [except the period of 70 years of ex-Yugoslavia], the golden lion passant, below the golden eagle.
With Petar I (1782-1830), further rearrangement of the coat of arms took place: he removed the royal insignia from the eagle and charged the eagle's breast with the middle arms of the Petrović Njegoš (the shield with the crown) while leaving the lion passant.

Prince Danilo (1852-1860) also reorganized the coat of arms: he charged the golden eagle's breast with the shield where on the blue background the golden lion passant was on green ground. In one claw the eagle held the saru, and in the other a sword and the scepter. The coat of arms was therefore: Gules a double headed eagle displayed or crowned with one crown proper holding in dexter claw a sword and a sceptre and in sinister the orb, and on escutcheon azure a lion passant or on a mount vert.

In the time of prince (1860) then king (1910-1917) Nikola, the sword was removed and later, in conformity with the Constitution of 1905, the color of the eagle was changed from golden to silver, as well as the colour of the background of the shield with the lion, to red instead of blue.

The Constitution of 1993 maintained king Nikola's "tradition": the coat of arms is a crowned silver eagle with the saru in one claw and the scepter in the other claw, charged on its breast with a red shield with the lion passant.

Source: Official information on the national symbols of Montenegro

Željko Heimer, 2 February 2004

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