What Does the Spanish Flag Mean? Welcome to Spain, home to bullfighting, world-class football teams, 89 cathedrals, beautiful beaches, and siestas.
Officially the Kingdom of Spain, Spain is kind of like a kingdom of kingdoms, much like how the United Kingdom is, as well.
The UK flag represents three different kingdoms that make up the country, England, Scotland and Ireland.
The Spanish flag is kind of the same by trying to represent the individual kingdoms that make up the whole nation.
When looking at the flag, we see symbols to represent the Kingdom of Castile, the Kingdom of Leon, the Kingdom of Aragon, and
the Kingdom of Navarre.
The pomegranate symbolizes the city and province of Granada.
The center fleur-de-lis is for the ruling house of Bourbon.
The pillars on either end are for the Straits of Gibraltar.
Never mind the awkward situation that Gibraltar, itself, is a British overseas territory, home to over 30,000 British citizens.
The motto plus ultra meaning further beyond, the red and yellow probably coming from previous Aragonese and Catalan influences.
And finally, the crown symbolizes the King who rules over all of this, minus Gibraltar itself.
But Spain is divided into 17 regions.
And the flag represents only a handful of them.
Here is Castille and Leon, Castille La Mancha,Aragon, Navarre.
Granada is located over here, and the Straits of Gibraltar are here.
But why you may ask, does the flag leave all these other regions out like Galicia, Asturia, the Basque Country, Catalonia, and others off the flag?
The question as to why that’s the case can be answered by a real-life game of civilization.
Over 1,000 years ago, the land that is now Spain was conquered by the Islamic Moors.
This thing called the Reconquista happened where Christian kingdoms started to take back the ground that they had lost.
The biggest of these Reconquista kingdoms were Aragon, Navarre, Castille, Leon, and Portugal.
But Castile became the very most important of these when the kingdom absorbed Leon in 1230 because of confusing
medieval inheritance laws.
But the union gave us this emblem.
Castile then set up the most famous arranged marriage in history when Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon got hitched, basically uniting the two kingdoms.
Their marriage started the use of this banner, which combined the symbols of Castile, Leon, and Aragon all together.
Castile would go on to conquer the last Moorish state of Granada in 1492, which ended Islamic rule in Spain.
And Castile finally annexed Navarre in 1515.
So at this point, Castile and Aragon were different kingdoms ruled by the same person.
But medieval succession laws are nothing short of crazy, and the flags often change with whoever was currently in power.
So let’s have a short summary.
Isabella, Queen of Castile, and Ferdinand, King of Aragon, had a daughter together named Joanna.
In 1496, Joanna married this apparently attractive guy named Philip the Handsome who was from a different royal
family, the house of Habsburg.
In a world where you can marry your daughter off to some family and gain a claim on their land and money and where that family in question ruled all of this, then it makes perfect sense.
Feelings of love be damned.
But Isabella died in 1504 and that made Joanna the new Queen of Castile.
She, unfortunately, gained the madness trait somewhere along the way, however, and became known as Joanna the Mad thereafter.
Her handsome husband, Philip, was crowned King in 1506, which meant that marrying their daughter off to gain those sweet claims kind of backfired.
And Philip Von Habsburg started making Castile use this flag.
But Phillip died just a few months after being King and poor, poor Joanna was declared insane and sent to a nunnery for the rest of her life.
Daddy Ferdinand must have had nothing to do with that decision, so he took his rightful place as Regent of Castile until he also died ten years later.
The eldest son of Johanna and Philip named Charles then became the King of Aragon after him and the Regent of Castile since Joanna technically was still Queen, but also technically bat shit crazy.
Charles was elevated to the full title of King of Castile the very next year in 1517 and ushered in nearly 200 years of Habsburg rule in Spain using this flag, known as the Cross of Burgundy.
Charles also first introduced the motto of Plus Ultra into Spain.
According to legend, that big strong guy from Greece built two pillars at the Straits of Gibraltar with the motto Ne Plus Ultra, or nothing further beyond, which symbolized the edge of the world.
And everybody listened to that warning, except for you, Leif Erikson.
Until Columbus blew everybody’s minds, except for you Leif Erikson, when he returned and said surprise, there’s actually
stuff on that other side of the ocean.
Charles laughed and Spain laughed and just changed the saying that had lasted for thousands of years to just Plus Ultra.
Yep, it turns out that Hercules guy had hindered thousands of years of discovery, the prick.
But the last Habsburg King of Spain died in 1700,and awkwardly stated in his will that he wanted Philip de Bourbon to succeed
him to the throne.
This started a really long and complicated war that basically established the Bourbon dynasty in Spain and also awkwardly gave
Gibraltar to the British.
With a new family in power, that meant an update to the coat of arms and the flags.
Philip became Philip V and established that this coat of arms and this flag with the first use of the blue fleur-de-lis that we see in the current flag.
His clever son, Charles III, slightly updated the flag in 1760 to look like this.
And then in 1785, came to the rational conclusion that it was really hard to see this flag from a distance and know what country
it actually belonged to.
He ordered that his Naval Minister create a new flag idea that would solve this problem.
So the Minister drew up 12 sketches and Charles really, really liked this one, which became the new flag of the Spanish Navy.
The Spanish monarchs and the people liked it so much that they finally adopted it in 1843 as the first national flag of Spain.
But dirty peasant Republicans overthrew the monarchy in 1873, but they still liked the flag.
So all they did was remove the crown from it.
But the monarchy took back the power the next year in 1874 and put the crown back on the flag, and ruled with that same flag
all the way until the dirty peasant Republicans overthrew the monarchy for the second time in 1931.
This time, the Republicans were serious about their flag change and came up with this idea, which really messed up the color scheme, but also first added the pillars of Hercules and the Plus Ultra motto.
This guy was disgusted by the thought of democracy and the weird purple-striped flag.
He wanted to end it and a lot of people supported him.
But a lot of other people didn’t.
They had a three-year-long fight and he won, removing filthy democracy from Spain and ushering in this flag design.
At first, he just removed that awful, awful purple stripe.
But then influenced by his love of fascism, he went a little further and he added this eagle to it.
Is Spain part of the cool kids in Europe club now?
Since Ferdinand and Isabella drove out the last Muslims from Spain and Franco drove out the last Republicans and communists, he tried to link his regime to them by using this similar shield in the center of his flag.
And he also added the ironic words, una grande libre, meaning one great and free.
The design was slightly changed to this in 1945 after all the fascist governments in Europe were obliterated except for his and remained that way all the way until 1977.
Franco didn’t die until 1975 when he was 82 years old and the Bourbon monarchy was restored just two days later after being
absent from Spain since 1931.
This flag was passed in 1977, which has some slight redesigns but Spain finally adopted a constitution the next year in 1978 that established the current official flag.
So this old flag is really rare.
Less rare these days is this flag, which if you attend any Spanish football matches you will likely see dozens of.
For more history story, please click here: