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FLAG (or " FLAGGE," a common Teutonic...

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 458 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FLAG (or " FLAGGE," a common Teutonic word in this sense, but apparently first recorded in English), a piece of bunting or similar material, admitting of various shapes and colours, and waved in the wind from a staff or cord for use in display as a standard, ensign or signal. The word may simply be derived onomatopoeically, or transferred from the botanical " flag "; or an original meaning of " a piece of cloth " may be connected • with the 12th-century English "flage,"meaning a baby's garment; the verb " to flag," i.e. droop, may have originated in the idea of a pendulous piece of bunting, or may be connected with the O. Fr. flaguir, to become flaccid. It is probable that almost as soon as men began to collect together for common purposes some ki:'d of conspicuous object was used, as the symbol of the common sentiment, for the rallying point of the common force. In military expeditions, where any degree of organization and discipline prevailed, objects of such a kind would be necessary to mark out the lines and stations of encampment, and to keep in order the different bands when marching or in battle. In addition, it cannot be doubted that flags or their equivalents have often served, by reminding men of past resolves, past deeds and past heroes, to arouse to enthusiasm those sentiments of esprit de corps, of family pride and honour, of personal devotion, patriotism or religion, upon which, as well as upon good leader-ship, discipline and numerical force, success in warfare depends. History.—Among the remains of the people which has left the earliest traces of civilization, the records of the forms of objects used as ensigns are frequently to be found. From their carvings and paintings, supplemented by ancient writers, it appears that several companies of the Egyptian army had their own particular standards. These were formed of such objects as, there is reason to believe, were associated in the minds of the men with feelings of awe and devotion. Sacred animals, boats, emblems or figures, a tablet bearing a king's name, fan and feather-shaped symbols, were raised on the end of a staff as standards, and the office of bearing them was looked upon as one of peculiar privilege and honour (fig. 1). Somewhat similar seem to have been the customs of the Assyrians and Jews. Among the sculptures unearthed by Layard and others at Nineveh, only two different designs have been noticed for standards: one is of a figure drawing a bow and standing on a running bull, the other of two bulls running in opposite directions (fig. 2). These may resemble the emblems of war and peace which were attached to the yoke of Darius's chariot. They are borne upon and attached to chariots; and this method of bearing such objects was the custom also of the Persians, and prevailed during the middle ages. That the custom survived to a comparatively modern period is proved from the fact that the " Guns," which are the " standards " of the artillery, have from time immemorial been entitled to all the parade honours prescribed by the usages of war for the flag, that is, the symbol of authority. In days comparatively recent there was a " flag gun," usually the heaviest piece, which emblemized authority and served also as the " gun of direction " in the few concerted movements then attempted. No representations of Egyptian or Assyrian naval standards have been found, but the sails of ships were embroidered and ornamented with devices, another custom which survived into the middle ages. In both Egyptian and Assyrian examples, the staff bearing the' emblem is frequently ornamented immediately below with flag-like streamers. Rabbinical writers have assigned the different devices of the different Jewish tribes, but the authenticity of their testimony is extremely doubtful. Banners, standards and ensigns are frequently mentioned in the Bible. " Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his standard, with the ensign of their father's house " (Num. ii. 2). " Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?" (Cant. vi. ro. See also Num. ii. 10, x. 14; Ps. xx. 5, lx. 4; Cant. ii. 4; Is. V. 26, X. 18, lix. 19; Jer. iv. 21). The Persians bore an eagle fixed to the end of a lance, and the sun, as their divinity, was also represented upon their standards, which appear to have been formed of some kind of textile, and were guarded with the greatest jealousy by the bravest men of the army. The Carian soldier who slew Cyrus, the brother of Artaxerxes, was allowed the honour of carrying a golden cock at the head of the army, it being the custom of the Carians to wear that bird as a crest on their helmets. The North American Indian-s carried poles fledged with feathers from the wings of eagles, and similar customs seem to have prevailed among other semi-savage peoples. The Greeks bore a piece of armour upon a spear in early times; afterwards the several cities bore sacred emblems or letters chosen for their particular associations—the Athenians the olive and the owl, the Corinthians a pegasus, the Thebans a sphinx, in memory of Oedipus, the Messenians their initial M, and the Lacedaemonians A. A purple dress was placed on the end of a spear as the signal to advance. The Dacians carried a standard representing a contorted serpent, while the dragon was the military sign of many peoples—of the Chinese, Dacians and Parthians among others—and was probably first used by the Romans as the ensign of barbarian auxiliaries (see fig. 3). wY The question of the signs militaria of the Romans is a wide and very important one, having direct bearing on the history of heraldry, and on the origin of national, family and personal devices. With them the custom was reduced to system. " Each century, or at least each maniple," says Meyrick, " had its proper standard and standard-bearer." In the early days of the republic a handful of hay was borne on a pole, whence probably came the name manipulus (Lat. manus, a hand). The forms of standards in later times were very various; sometimes a cross piece of wood was placed at the end of a spear and surmounted by the figure of a hand in silver, below round or oval discs, with figures of Mars or Minerva, or in later times portraits of emperors or eminent generals (fig. 3). Figures of animals, as the wolf, horse, bear and others, were borne, and it was not till a later period that the eagle became the special standard of the legion. According to Pliny, it was Gaius Marius who, in his second consulship, ordained that the Roman legions should only have the eagle for their standard; " for before that time the eagle marched foremost with four others—wolves, minotaurs, horses and bears—each one in its proper order. Not many years passed before the eagle alone began to be advanced in battle, and the rest were left behind in the camp. But Marius rejected them altogether, and since this it is observed that scarcely is there a camp of a legion wintered at any time without having a pair of eagles." The vexillum, which was the cavalry flag, is described by Livy as a square piece of cloth fastened to a piece of wood fixed crosswise to the end of a spear, somewhat resembling the medieval gonfalon. Examples of these vexilla are to be seen on various Roman coins and medals, on the sculptured columns of Trajan and Antoninus, and on the arch of Titus. The labarum, which was the imperial standard of later emperors, resembled in shape and fixing the vexillum. It was of purple silk richly embroidered with gold, and sometimes was not suspended as the vexillum from a horizontal crossbar, but displayed as our modern flags, that is to say, by the attachment of one of its sides to a staff. After Constantine, the labarum bore the monogram of Christ (fig. 5, A). It is supposed that the small scarf, which in medievaldays was often attached to the pastoral staff or crook of a bishop, was derived from the labarum of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the' Great. The Roman standards were guarded with religious veneration in the temples at Rome; and the reverence of this people for their ensigns was in proportion to their superiority to other nations in all that tends to success in war. It was not unusual for a general to order a standard to be cast into the ranks of the enemy, to add zeal to the onset of his soldiers by exciting them to recover what to them was perhaps the most sacred thing the earth possessed. The Roman soldier swore by his ensign. Although in earlier times drapery was occasionally used for standards, and was often appended as ornament to those of other material, it was probably not until the middle ages that it became the special material of military and other ensigns; and perhaps not until the practice of heraldry had attained to definite nomenclature and laws does anything appear which is in the modern sense a flag. Early flags were almost purely of a religious character. In Bede's description of the interview between the heathen king lEthelberht and the Roman missionary Augustine, the followers of the latter are said to have borne banners on which silver crosses were displayed. The national banner of England for centuries—the red cross of St George—was a religious one; in fact the aid of religion seems ever to have been sought to give sanctity to national flags, and the origin of many can be traced to a sacred banner, as is notably the case with the oriflamme of France and the Dannebrog of Denmark. Of the latter the legend runs that King Waldemar of Denmark, leading his troops to battle against the enemy in 1219, saw at a critical moment a cross in the sky. This was at once taken as an answer to his prayers, and an assurance of celestial aid. It was forthwith adopted as the Danish flag and called the " Dannebrog," i.e. the strength of Denmark. Apart from all legend, this flag undoubtedly dates from the 13th century, and the Danish flag is therefore the oldest now in existence. The ancient kings of France bore the blue hood of St Martin upon their standards. The Chape de St Martin was originally in the keeping of the monks of the abbey of Marmoutier, and the right to take this blue flag into battle with them was claimed by the counts of Anjou. Clovis bore this banner against Alaric in 507, for victory was promised him by a verse of the Psalms which the choir were chanting when his envoy entered the church of St Martin at Tours. Charlemagne fought under it at the battle of Narbonne, and it frequently led the French to victory. At what precise period the oriflamme, which was originally simply the banner of the abbey of St Denis, supplanted the Chape de St Martin as the sacred banner of all France is not known. Probably, however, it gradually became the national flag after the kings of France had transferred the seat of government to Paris, where the great local saint, St Denis, was held in high honour, and the banner hung over the tomb of the saint in the abbey church. The king of France himself was one of the vassals of the abbey of St Denis for the fief of the Vexin, and it was in his quality of count of Vexin that Louis VI., le Gros, bore this banner from the abbey to battle, in 1124. He is credited with having been the first French king to have taken the banner to war, and it appeared for the last time on the field of fight at Agincourt in 1415. The accounts also of its appearance vary considerably. Guillaume Guiart, in his Chronicle says: " Oriflambe est une banniere De cendal voujoiant et simple Sans portraiture d'autre affaire." It would, therefore, seem to have been a plain scarlet flag; whilst an English authority states " the celestial auriflamb, so by the French admired, was but of one colour, a square redde banner." The Chronique de Flandres describes it as having three points with tassels of green silk attached. The banner of William the Conqueror was sent to him by the pope, and the early English kings fought under the banners of Edward the Confessor and St Edmund; while the blended crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick still form the national ensign of the united kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, whose patron saints they severally were. The Bayeux tapestry, commemorating the Dorman conquest of England, contains abundant representations of the flags of the period borne upon the lances of the knights of William's army. They appear small in size, and pointed, frequently indented into three points and bearing pales,.crosses and roundels. One, a Saxon pennon, is triangular, and roundly indented into four points; one banner is of segmental shape and rayed, and Alf bears the figure of a bird, which has been supposed to represent the raven of the war-flag of the Scandinavian Vikings (fig. 4). In all, thirty-seven pennons borne on lances by various knights are represented in the Bayeux tapestry, and of these twenty-eight have triple points, whilst others have two, four or five. The devices on these pennons are very varied and distinctive, although the date is prior to the period in which heraldry became definitely established. In fact, the flags and their charges are probably not really significant of the people bearing them; for, even admitting that personal devices were used at the time, the figures may have been placed without studied intention, and so give the general figure only of such flags as happened to have come under the observation of the artists. The figures are probably rather ornamental and symbolic than strictly heraldic, —that is, personal devices, for the same insignia do not appear on the shields of the several bearers. The dragon standard which he is known to have borne is placed near Harold; but similar figures appear on the shields of Norman warriors, which fact has induced a writer in the Journal of the Archaeological Association (vol. xiii. p. 113) to suppose that on the spears of the Saxons they represent only trophies torn from the shields of the Normans, and that they are not ensigns at all. Standards in form much resembling these dragons appear on the Arch of Titus and the Trajan column as the standards of barbarians. At the battle of the Standard in 1138 the English standard was formed of the mast of a ship, having a silver pyx at the top and bearing three sacred banners, dedicated severally to St Peter, St John of Beverley and St Wilfrid of Ripon, the whole being fastened to a wheeled vehicle. Representations of three-pointed, cross-bearing pennons are found on seals of as early date as the No man era, and the warriors in the first crusade bore three-pointed pennons. It is possible that the three points with the three roundels and cross, which so often appear on these banners, have some reference to the faith of the bearers in the Trinity and in the Crucifixion, for in con-temporary representations of Christ's resurrection and descent into hell he bears a three-pointed banner with cross above. The triple indentation so common on the flags of this period has been supposed to be the origin of one of the honourable ordinaries—the pile. The " pile," it may be explained, is in the form of a wedge, and unless otherwise specified in the blazon, occupies the central portion of the escutcheon, issuing from the middle chief. It may, however, issue from any other extremity of the shield, and there may be more than one. More secular characters were, however, not uncommon. In 1244 Henry III. gave order for a " dragon to be made in fashion of a standard of red silk sparkling all over with fine gold, the tongue of which should be made to resemble burning fire and appear to be continually moving, and the eyes of sapphires or other suitable stones." The Siege of Carlaverock, an Anglo-Norman poem of the 14th century, describes the heraldic bearings on the banners of the knights at the siege of that fortress. Of the king himself the writer says: " En sa banniere trois luparte De or fin estoient mis en rouge;" and he goes on to describe the kingly characteristics these may be supposed to symbolize. A MS. in the British Museum (one of Sir Christopher Barker's heraldic collection, Hari. 4632) gives drawings of the standards of English kings from Edward III. to Henry VIII., which are roughly but artistically coloured. The principal varieties of flags borne during the middle ages were the pennon, the banner and the standard. The " guydhommes " or " guidons," " banderolls," " pennoncells," " streamers " or pendants, may be considered as minor varieties. The pennon (fig. 5, B) was a purely personal ensign, sometimes pointed, but more generally forked or swallow-tailed at the end. It was essentially the flag of the knight simple, as apart from the knight banneret, borne by him on his lance, charged with his personal armorial bearings so displayed that they stood in true position when he couched his lance for action. A MS. of the 16th century (Hari. 2358) in the British Museum, which gives minute particulars as to the size, shape and bearings of the standards, banners, pennons, guydhommes, pennoncells, &c., says " a pennon must be two yards and a half long, made round at the end, and conteyneth the armes of the owner," and warns that " from a standard or streamer a man may flee but not from his banner or pennon bearing his arms." A pennoncell (or penselle) was a diminutive pennon carried by the esquires. Flags of this character were largely used on any special occasion of ceremony, and more particularly at state funerals. For instance, we find " XII. doz. penselles " amongst the items that figured at the funeral of the duke of Norfolk in 1554, and in the description of the lord mayor's procession in the following year we read of " ij goodly pennes (state barges) deckt with flages and stremers, and a m (moo) penselles." Amongst the items that ran the total cost of the funeral of Oliver Cromwell up to an enormous sum of money, we find mention of thirty dozen of pennoncells a foot long and costing twenty shillings a dozen, and twenty dozen of the same kind of flags at twelve shillings a dozen. The banner was, in the earlier days of chivalry, a square flag, though at a later date it is often found greater in length than in depth, precisely as is the case in the ordinary national flags of to-day. In some very early examples it is found considerably longer in the depth on the staff than in its outward projection from the staff. The banner was charged in a manner exactly similar to the shield of the owner, and it was borne by knights banneret and all above them in rank. As a rough guide it may be taken that the banner of an emperor was 6 ft. square; of a king, 5 ft.; of a prince or duke, 4 ft.; of a marquis, earl, viscount or baron, 3 ft. square. As the function of the banner was to display the armorial bearings of the dignitary who had the right to carry it, it is evident that the square form was the most convenient and akin to the shield of primal heraldry. In fact, flags were originally heraldic emblems, though in modern devices the strict laws of heraldry have often been departed from. The rank of knights bannerets was higher than that of ordinary knights, and they could he created on the field of battle only. To create a knight banneret, the king or commander-in-chief in person tore off the fly of the pennon on the lance of the knight, thus turning it roughly into the square flag or banner, and so making the knight a banneret. The date in which this dignity originated is uncertain, but it was probably about the period of Edward I. John Chandos is said to have been made a banneret by the Black Prince and the king of Castile at Najara on the 3rd of April 1367; John of Copeland was made a banneret in the reign of Edward III., he having taken prisoner David Bruce, the Scottish king, at the battle of Durham. In more modern times Captain John Smith, of Lord Bernard Stuart's troop of the King's Guards, who saved the royal banner from the parliamentary troops at Edgehill, was made a knight banneret by Charles I. From this time the custom of creating knights banneret ceased until it was revived by George II. after Dettingen in 1743, when the dignity was again conferred. It is true, however, that, when in 1763 Sir William Erskine presented to George III. sixteen stands of colours captured by his regiment [now the 15th (king's) Hussars] at Emsdorf, he was raised to the dignity of knight banneret, but as the ceremony was not performed on the field of battle, the creation was considered irregular, and his possession of the rank was not generally recognized. The banner was therefore not only a personal ensign, but it also denoted that he who bore it was the leader of a military force, large or small according to his degree or estate. It was, in fact, the battle flag of the leader who controlled the particular force that followed it into the fight. Every baron who in time of war had furnished the proper number of men to his liege was entitled to charge with his arms the banner which they followed. There could indeed be at present found no better representative of the medieval " banner " than what we now term the " royal standard "; it is essentially the personal battle flag of the king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It and other royal and imperial standards have now become " standards," inasmuch as they are to-day used for display in the same fashion, and for the same purposes as was the " standard " of old. The " gonfalon " or " gonfannon " was a battle flag differing from the ordinary banner in that it was not attached to the pole but hung from it crosswise, and was not always square in shape but serrated, so that the lower edge formed streamers. The gonfalon was in action borne close to the person of the commanderin-chief and denoted his position. In certain of the Italian cities chief magistrates had the privilege of bearing a gonfalon, and for this reason were known as " gonfaloniere." The standard (fig. 5, D) was a flag of noble size, long, tapering towards the fly (the " fly " is that portion of the flag farther from the pole, the " hoist " the portion of the flag attached to the pole), the edges of the flag fringed or bordered, and with the ends split and rounded off, _ The shape was not, however, byany means uniform during the middle ages nor were there any definite rules as to its charges. It varied in size according to the rank of the owner. The Tudor MS. mentioned above says of the royal standard of that time—" the Standard to be sett before the king's pavilion or tente, and not to be borne in battayle; to be in length eleven yards." A MS. of the time of Henry VII. gives the following dimensions for standards: " The King's had a length of eight yards; that of a duke, seven; a marquis, six and a half; an earl, six; a viscount, five and a half; a baron, five; a knight banneret, four and a half; and a knight four yards." The standard was, in fact, from its size, and as its very name implies, not meant to be carried into action, as was the banner, but to denote the actual position of its possessor on occasions of state ceremonial, or on the tilting ground, and to denote the actual place occupied by him and his following when the hosts were assembled in camp preparatory for battle. It was essentially a flag denoting position, whereas the banner was the rallying point of its followers in the actual field. Its uses are now fulfilled, as far as royalties are concerned, by the " banner " which has now become the " royal standard," and which floats over the palace where the king is in residence, is hoisted at the saluting point when he reviews his troops, and is broken from the mainmast of any ship in his navy the moment that his foot treads its deck. The essential condition of the standard was that it should always have the cross of St. George conspicuous in the innermost part of the hoist immediately contiguous to the staff; the remainder of the flag was then divided fesse-wise by two or more stripes of colours exactly as the heraldic " ordinary " termed " fesse " crosses the shield horizon-tally. The colours used as stripes, as also those used in the fringe or bordering of the standard, were those which prevailed in the arms of the bearer or were those of his livery. The standard here depicted (fig. 5, D) is that of Henry V.; the colours white and blue, a white antelope standing between two red roses, and in the interspaces more red roses. To quote again from the Harleian MS. above mentioned: " Every standard and guidon to have in the chief the cross of St George, the beast or crest with his devyce and word, and to be slitt at the end." The motto indeed usually figured on most standards, though occasionally it was missing. An excellent type of the old standard is that of the earls of Percy, which bore the blue lion, the crescent, and the fetterlock—all badges of the family—whilst, as tokens of matrimonial alliances with the families of Poynings, Bryan and Fitzpayne, a silver key, a bugle-horn and a falchion were respectively displayed. There was also the historic Percy motto, Esperance en Dieu. No one, whatsoever his rank, could possess more than one banner, since it displayed his heraldic arms, which were unchangeable. A single individual, however, might possess two or three standards since this flag displayed badges that he could multiply at discretion, and a motto that he could at any time change. For example, the standards of Henry VII., mostly green and white—the colours of the Tudor livery—had in one " a red firye dragon," in another " a donne kowe," in a third " a silver greyhound and two red roses." The standard was always borne by an eminent person, and that of Henry V. at Agincourt is supposed to have been carried upon a car that preceded the king. At Nelson's funeral his banner and standard were borne in the procession, and around his coffin were the banderolls—square, bannerlike flags bearing the various arms of his family lineage. Nelson's standard bore his motto, Palmam qui meruit ferat, but, in lieu of the cross of St George, it bore the union of the crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick, the medieval England having expanded into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Again, at the funeral of the duke of Wellington we find amongst the flags his personal banner and standard, and ten banderolls of the duke's pedigree and descent. The guidon, a name derived from the Fr. Guyd-homme, was somewhat similar to the standard, but without the cross of St George, rounded at the end, less elongated and altogether less ornate. It was borne by a leader of horse, and according to a medieval writer " must be two and a half yards or three yards long, and therein shall no armes be put, but only the man's crest, cognisance, and devyce." The streamer, so called in Tudor days but now better known as the pennant or pendant, was a long, tapering flag, which it was directed " shall stand in the top of a ship or in the forecastle, and therein be put no armes, but the man's cognisance or devyce, and may be of length twenty, thirty, forty or sixty yards, and is slitt as well as a guidon or standard." Amongst the fittings of the ship that took Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, to France in the reign of Henry VII. was a " grete stremour for the shippe xl yardes in length viij yardes in brede." In the hoist was " a grete bere holding a raggid staffe," and the rest of the fly " powdrid full of raggid staves."
End of Article: FLAG (or " FLAGGE," a common Teutonic word in this sense, but apparently first recorded in English)
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