The Tri-Colored Flag

By Jackie Gruber, FFE 2015-16

While on break between semesters I decided to spend a week in Ireland, a country with some of the most beautiful panoramic views created by multiple different shades of green. On my trip I explored the three towns of Killarney, Cork, and Dublin as well as some of the main tourist destinations including the peninsula of Dingle and the Ring of Kerry. It was not until my first day in Dublin on a free walking tour when my tour guide sparked a new interest of mine – flags.

Countries take great pride in their flags as they fly hundreds of feet above their heads every day, and citizens are able to reflect on the hardships their country had to endure to achieve its independence. In my home country of the United States of America, we as citizens respect the flag and admire it as it stands for the main principles our country thrives upon: Freedom, Independence and what many people wish to achieve when coming to our country: “The American Dream”. But I am not trying to talk about how wonderful my home country is – I’m writing to talk about the history of tri-colored flags and how one country’s revolution inspired the creation of three different flags, including the Italian flag.

The History of the Flag:

Beginning in the year 1523 the French entered the race to discover the “New World”.  Giovanni de Verrazano was one of the first explorers to set sail and attempt to claim present-day Florida. The French created a marker of the french coat of arms and claimed Florida first. Prior to this time the French flag consisted of three gold fleurs-de-lis on a blue background. It was not until the year 1604 that the flag was changed from blue to white.

The Tri- Color Flag in France:

The tri-color flag of France was used as a symbol for the fifth republic. In the beginning of the French Revolution the colors blue, white and red formed a cockade. Blue and red were referred to as the “ancient colors” of Paris. When Louis XVI came to Paris to recognize the National Guard he had royal white added. The new symbol of France, the tri-colored flag, was created in 1790. Originally the orders of the colors were red, white, and blue. It was not until 1794 that the flag was reversed and officially became the national flag of France. The constitutions of 1946 and 1958 called for a “blue, white and red” flag in the National Republic of France .

What do the three colors on the first tri-colored flag stand for?

  • Blue: Original color of Saint Martin, who was a Gallo-Roman officer who ripped his blue coat with his sword. He gave one half of it to the poor. This quickly became a symbol of the duty that the rich have to help the poor.
  • White: Color of the Virgin Mary, whom Louis XVI consecrated the Kingdom of France to in the 17th Century, or Joan of Arc, who managed to drive out the British in the 15th century. But, when the flag first changed to tri-color it symbolized royalty.
  • Red: The color of Saint Denis who is the patron saint of Paris.


The History behind the Tri-color Italian Flag

The first tri-colored design was introduced in Italy in the year 1796 and represented a republic in the north. The red and white portion of the flag came from Milan while the green stood for the country’s military. But during the unification process, the tri-color design was abandoned and recreated within a year, taking inspiration from France’s national flag. When World War II ended, the new tri-colored flag became the country’s national flag.

What do the colors stand for?

The red and white come from the military origins in Milan and the green comes from the military colors. There is a theory that the white represents the country’s snowy mountains, the green represents the plains and hills, and the red represents the blood shed during the Italian independence wars. In religious the white can also represent hope, charity and peace.




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