Saturday, January 8, 2011

The national flag of Belgium

(UPDATE: The .svg files in this post are not viewable in Firefox but work perfectly in Google Chrome. Just saying.)

If you like flags, you're gonna love this.


During the period of Austrian rule (1713-95), the Austrian flag was the official flag of what we now know as Belgium. Inspired by the French, the population of Brussels protested by wearing colourful cockades. The colours were the same as for the lions in the flags of the provinces that would later make up the kingdom of Belgium: red for Hainaut, Limburg and Luxembourg, yellow for Brabant, and black for Flanders and Namur.

The flag of the province Hainaut.

The flag of the province Limburg.

The flag of the province Luxembourg.

The lion of Brabant. (Source)

The flag of Flanders.

The coat of arms of the province Namur.

A flag is born

The Belgian Revolution in 1830 was a reaction to a Dutch rule that diminished the power and status of the Belgian people, particularly the French-speaking community in the south. At the start of the revolution, the French tricolour was flown from the city hall in Brussels.

The flag of the United Kingdom
of the Netherlands.

The flag of France.

The French flag was soon replaced by a tricolour of red, yellow and black horizontal stripes which was almost identical to the one that had been used by the United States of Belgium during the unsuccessful Brabant Revolution of 1790, forty years earlier. The colours of said flag were adopted from the coat of arms of the historical Duchy of Brabant, which was disestablished in 1648.

The original Belgian flag from 1830.

Flag of the United States of Belgium (1790). (Source)
In 1831 the stripes were changed from horizontal to vertical, and the colours were rearranged with the black placed at the hoist side of the flag. There are at least two possible motivations for this: to make it more similar to the French tricolour and thus show support for France, and to make the flag more distinguishable from that of the Netherlands, something which was vital during naval combat.

The most common variant of the flag of Belgium, created in 1831.

Flag facts

What most people don't know is that the official national flag of Belgium is not in the 2:3 proportion seen above, but the more unusual 13:15, seen below. Nonetheless, nearly everyone - including most government buildings - use the 2:3 proportion, presumably for aesthetic reasons. According to Wikipedia, most Belgians are unaware that the 13:15 version even exists. (If you are one, please tell me in the comments.)

It is also important to note that the yellow in the flag is a true yellow and not the darker gold of the flag of Germany, which is somewhat similar.

The national flag of Belgium with its official proportion of 13:15.

The Belgian Senate building in Brussels is one of few places
where you can see the official  national flag in the 13:15 ratio.

I truly envy Belgians the secularity of their flag. Nordic crosses, anyone?

All images from Wikipedia unless stated otherwise.


  1. I was definitely unaware of those proportions... and I also think it's the first time I see the earlier flags of Belgium. Wow! Thanks for teaching me something new in every blog post! ^^ <3

  2. Thanks for reading every blog post ;) <3