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Historical Flags (Castile and Leon, Spain)

Castilla y León

Last modified: 2005-02-19 by
Keywords: castile and leon | castilla y león | leon | historical | quartered (red-white) | castle (yellow) | lion (purpure) |
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Kingdom of Castile and Leon 1230-1516

[Kingdom of Castile and Leon 1230-1516 (Spain)]
by Sergio Camero

Pascal Vagnat asked, "Was the flag of the Kingdom of Castile [and Leon] in 1493 the same flag as the present day flag of Castile and Leon?". In essence, yes.

Santiago Dotor, 27 April 1999

Please note that this is not 'the flag of the King of Spain', even if since 1512 the kings of Castile and Leon were also kings of all the other lands making nowadays Spain. It is a pity that the flag is apparently referred to as such in American schools.

Santiago Dotor, 30 November 2000

Until shortly after the 16th century, the castle of Castile was represented as an actual castle, i.e. an embattled wall with three towers emerging from it rather than the current tower-like representation.

Santiago Dotor, 17 July 2000

Even though the Kingdoms of Castile and Leon had been united from time to time under the same monarch since 1037 (King Ferdinand I) until 1157, it was in 1230 when both kingdoms became definitively united under King Ferdinand III (Saint Ferdinand), at which time the quartered arms were devised the first such design in heraldry as a way of marshalling arms. This flag became to a certain extent obsolete when the accession of the Catholic Kings in 1475 produced the union of the Castilian and Aragonese crowns, and definitively so when King Charles I (Roman Emperor Charles V) became the first King of all Spanish territories (Castile and Leon, Aragon and Navarre) in 1516.

Santiago Dotor, 29 January 2001

This was the ensign of the Castilian Navy from 1248 until 1516. It was adopted during the reign of Saint Ferdinand III, who united Castile and Leon. During the Middle Ages, large emblems of the knights on board were used to indicate the origin of the ships. The royal flag or the admiral's flag was placed on the stern and the top of the mast. It was also usual for merchant vessels to hoist on the mast a long pennant with the colours of the port of origin, bearing a cross, and ocassionally a pennant with the owner's colours as private signal. Source: Fernández Gaytan 1985.

Sergio Camero, translated by Santiago Dotor, 29 March 2002


Civil Ensigns of Castilian Ships

In 1200 the king of Castile had inherited the Lordship of Biscay and along the 14th century several cities in Alava and lordships in Guipuzcoa requested the protection of the Castilian crown to defend themselves better (for instance against English ambitions in the area). Basque vessels from these territories would only fly the banner-of-arms of Castile and Leon if they were royal vessels, belonged to the Castilian navy or had been in one way or another commissioned by the king (as was the case, for instance, with Columbus' ships).

The question could in fact be extended to, "which was/were the Castilian civil ensign(s) or 'merchant flag(s)'?, which is not easy to answer. As compared with military and other state flags which are quite documented in official records etc., there is little and frequently no evidence of the flags used by merchant vessels.

Calvo and Grávalos 1983 shows in pp. 60-61 two flags as galley flags but in fact describes them as ensigns used by merchant vessels, and says that these used to fly the flags of their home cities. The images shown are both eleven-striped horizontally, one red-yellow and the other white-green (with a quite simple coat of arms on it). The second one is reported to appear on a 1543 painting and according to the book may be of Cantabrian (i.e. from central northern Spain, not necessarily from nowadays Cantabria) origin.

There seem to be indeed many cases in which European civil ships displayed multistriped ensigns, for instance that of Rotterdam, one flag of Flensburg in 1614 and I also seem to recall a multistriped flag of Oporto.

So the only thing we can say with certainty is that the ensign flown by a civil vessel would not be the Castile and Leon banner (except if on official duty), and that possibly it might have flown a multistriped flag, perhaps in green and/or white and/or red.

Santiago Dotor, 4 June 2001

Editor's note: see also the Blue-White Civil Ensign used in the Spanish Netherlands.


Pre-autonomical Flag of Castile (late 1970s)

[Pre-autonomical Flag of Castile (late 1970s Spain)]
by Jaume Ollé

The first flag used in the pre-autonomous period was dark red with a yellow castle.

Jaume Ollé, 16 December 1996

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