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by Mark Sensen, 16 November 1996
adopted 9 July 1957.
When I was researching Friesland for one of my Up The Pole columns I was told that the 1984 Guinness Book of Records credits the Frisian flag as dating from the 9th century. Apparently no reason is given as to why
I was also told that the Frisian flag was designed by Dutch heraldist Heerke Wenning just before 1897 - is this true?
David Cohen, 20 April 1998
>From <http://members.tripod.com/~redbad/flag.html> Short history of the Frisian flag
The Frisian flag, as we currently know it, probably flew for the first time in the year 1895. The family De Zee from Jirnsum (Irnsum) designed it. Around 1897 it was produced commercially by the company De Leeuw & De Zee in Jirnsum. Mr. Sj. de Zee was inspired for his design by a historical drawing of a coat of arms. He had found drawings of a Frisian arms in a book by Hamconius (1620) and by one in a book by Schotanus (1718).
Hamconius took his image of the coat of arms from an elaborate description given by the first official
historian of Friesland, Suffridius Petrus (1527-1597). Suffridius states that a coat of arms was given to the legendary king Friso. It had a blue background and three slanting silver bars. On these silver bars lie seven red waterlily-leaves. The number seven is said to symbolize the "Seven Frisian Sea-lands" that make up Friesland. Suffridius says that examples of arms can be found in old heraldic books and on church windows.
Some of these armorials of the 15th century have survived to date. In a French armorial of around 1475 we find an arms of "Le Roy Frise". It has a blue background, slanting silver bars and nine red hearts.
There is evidence that the Frisian coat of arms originated from Denmark or one of its surrounding countries. Around 1525 Jancko Douwama writes that King Redbad (late 7th-/ early 8th century) borrowed parts of his fathers Danish arms and blended them with the Frisian coat of arms. In the 11th century poems of the Gudrun-song there are lines that indicate that in the regions between the Scheldt and Jutland a blue flag could be found with waterlily-leaves on it. Gudrun can be traced back to the 8th century. In the royal arms of the Swedish king Waldemar Birgersson dating from 1252 hearts can be found. These hearts resemble the leaves of the waterlily, and are often interchanged. (Just recently Mr. J. Nicolay, after doing research on gold hoards, has concluded that the aristocracy of Friesland in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th century came from Scandinavia.)
In 1957 the flag with the "pompebledden" (waterlily-leaves) was officially declared to be the Flag of the province Fryslân.
Source: De Fryske Flagge, in It Beaken (Tydskrift fan de Fryske Akademy), April 1956.
Jarig Bakker, 8 October 2000
Jos Poels in [poe90] Poels 1990 mentions another division of Frisia: West Frisia; the modern province of Friesland; Hunsingo and Fivelingo (both part of the Ommelanden); East Frisia; Jeverland; and North Frisia.
Mark Sensen, 20 April 1998
"Azure two lions passant in pale or, between seven billets of the same, placed horizontally two, two and three. The shield is crested by a coronet of four pearls between five leaves or. Supporters: two lions rampant or."
Friesland is a province in the North of the Netherlands. Friesland originally included a larger area, of which parts are now in Noord Holland, Groningen and Germany. The Frisians formed an independent state. The German Emperor Frederik Barbarossa made Friesland a condominium between the Counts of Holland and the Bishops of Utrecht. The counts of Holland, however, failed to establish their power in the area. They only obtained West-Friesland, now part of the province of Noord Holland. At the same time the Counts of Gelre claimed the eastern part of the area. They also failed to establish their power for a longer period. To establish their claim they used arms with two lions on a field with silver coins. The lion was the lion of Gelre. It symbolized Gelre and Friesland. When the province finally became part of the Netherlands the arms were continued. In the 16th century the coins were replaced by 7 rectangles, representing the seven districts of (ancient) Friesland. The arms haven't changed since then.
Jaume Ollé just sent images of Steenbergen's flagbook (c. 1870) to the Vexillum-list. Among them the flag of Friesland (#765), consisting of a blue field with two lions passant with on both sides three yellow blocks.
This is not mentioned in Sierksma's Nederlands Vlaggenboek, 1962, and neither in van der Laars' Wapens, Vlaggen en Zegels van Nederland (1913), although the last contains an image of a proposed flag for Fryslân with 7 yellow blocks (one below the bottom lion).
Searching a little more I found in Norris and Hobbs (1848) a flag of Friesland (#142), nearly identical to Steenbergen's image, except that the lions are regardant.
Jarig Bakker, 4 Jul 2003
According to Derkwillem Visser's Gemeentevlaggen en wapens Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (2001) a French book of 1858 contained an image of the Fryslân flag nearly identical to Steenbergen's image - the blocks are wider apart and there is a block below the bottom lion. That book is Legras "Album des Pavillons, Guidons, flammes", Paris, 1858, who apparently made a thorough search in the Netherlands - some authorities complained about his inquisitiveness.
<I've slightly altered Jaume's gif.>
The matter becomes more complicated because the Noord-Holland region of West-Friesland uses a blue flag with two yellow lions, with three rows of blocks, one left, one right, and one between the lions. Nine blocks in all. However the number of blocks seems to have varied. At present there is a discussion about how many blocks should be on the West-Frisian flag.
Jarig Bakker, 4 Jul 2003