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Austro-Hungarian Empire: Imperial Standards

Last modified: 2022-12-27 by martin karner
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If the Emperor was aboard of naval (or other?) ships before mid-19th century, I found no record of a special flag used - presumably some kind of imperial flag used on land would be hoisted aboard also - however, I have not studied this deep enough to claim either.

The final result of the long discussion over the change of the naval flags at the beginning of 19th century was the introduction of the distinction flags.

In 1825, Emperor Francis II determined that the pennant and the standard are to be displayed from the war ships only when the emperor or a prince was personally aboard, and that the merchant ships should not fly pennants at all. (As we know from previously mentioned sources, the right of merchant ships to fly the masthead pennant was revoked in 1804.)
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

1828 Standard

[Imperial standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

Adopted: 1828
Abandoned: late 19th century

The Standard for the Members of the Imperial House was regulated in 1828 in a square form, yellow with the border of four-coloured black-yellow-red-white flammulets and the coat of arms in the middle. The coat of arms consists of a black double-headed eagle, each head crowned with a royal crown and both topped with an imperial crown, holding in its talons a sword and an orb, with an escutcheon impaled of Hapsburg, Austria and Lorraine, and with a collar of the order of the Golden Fleece. [Lehnert; Baumgartner, 1977; Steenbergen; USNavy, 1862; USNavy 1899; Heyer etc.]

The 1828 standard remained in used for the rest of the century, until the introduction of the "1894 Muster", when the design was "upgraded" into the coat of arms depicting the arms of the crown-lands, and the designs were distinguished for Emperor, Empress and Archdukes. The wavy flammulets are now being shown as triangular (although, one may wonder if this is only due to the printing technique - it may well be that the flags produced retained traditional wavy forms?)
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

1894 Standards

1894 Imperial Standard

[Imperial standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

1894 Empress Standard

[Imperial standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

A photograph of this flag was posted on eBay in 2008 - image (stretched to orthogonal proportions) posted here. Information provided by poster:

"FLAG c. 1895 Empress of Austria 's STANDARD 88" x 92"
Personal flag representing the Empress of Austria ("personal" not referring to ownership but rather to representation of a person). The Lesser Austrian Imperial Arms are centered on a gold background with a gold, black, red and white triangulated border. The eagle is surrounded by eleven shields of the Empire's provinces: Hungary; Lombardo-Veneto kingdom (the snake azure of Milan and the lion of St. Mark of Venice); Illyria; Siebenergen (Transylvania); Moravia impaling Silesia; Tyrol; Austria above the Enns impaling Austria below the Enns; Salzburg; Styria; Esclavonia (sic, actually Galicia and Lodomeria); and Bohemia. Various orders are displayed beneath the shield of the Habsburgs. A depiction of the Crown of Rudolf II, later Crown of the Austrian Empire, is placed in each of the four corners indicating that this is the empress' " flag ".

This type of flag, called a "standard" would be flown to indicate that this personage was present at a location or presented to a person, organization or group indicating royal favour. This standard measures 88" x 92". It is made of a course fabric (wool) and is definitely a service flag having strong reinforcements for displaying or flying. Dates to the later part of 19th Century, though no later than 1915.
located by Bill Garrison, 4 August 2008

Having written my Honors Thesis on the Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary (known to one and all as 'Sissi'), I think I can speak with some authority on this flag. The Empress, who was a member of a cadet branch of the House of Wittelsbach, the Bavarian royal family, was married to the Emperor Franz Joseph in a typical loveless dynastic marriage. She was artistic, cultured, and above all very beautiful, and her husband had no idea what to make of this exotic creature with whom he had been saddled for dynastic reasons. For that matter, he had virtually nothing in common with her, a very dull, boring husband. She duly produced an heir, the luckless Archduke Rudolf, who allegedly shot himself and his mistress, the Bohemian Countess Marie Vetsers (Bohemian both in ethnic origin and in artistic proclivities), although there is apparently some doubt over this; recent research has suggested that Rudolf had been in negotiation with some Hungarian secessionist elements to become the ruler of a breakaway Hungarian kingdom. The Austrohungarian secret police, which was one of the few elements in the ramshackle Dual Monarchy, apparently got wind of this and presented a dossier to Franz Joseph, who may well have given Rudolf the classical officer's option, Vetsera being merely a pretext.

As for the flag itself, Elisabeth was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in the 1890s. When he was arrested the perpetrator insisted that his act should not be construed as being one of personal hatred. He said that he thought that Sissi was beautiful and sweet, but she had to die because of what she represented. In any event, the standard of the Empress to which Bill draws our attention would not have been flown after Sissi's death, or at least after her funeral. It would very likely have been draped over her coffin at her funeral. There was no Empress until 1916, when Franz Joseph's distant cousin succeeded him as the Emperor Karl VI, often known unkindly as Karl der Letzte (Charles the Last). I assume that his wife, Princes Zita of Bourbon-Parma, who was the last Empress and who died in the late 1980s, would have had an imperial standard of her own, although I have never seen a representation of it. I have seen Kaiser Karl's Imperial standard.
Ron Lahav, 4 August 2008

There was no specific separate standard for the Empress in ca. 1916, the only one that was prescribed on 12 October 1915 was that of Emperor and Empress and would have been presumably used when either of the two or both are present personally. It seems that this standard was rarely used, Baumgartner notes only a single occasion during Emperor's holidays on 22 December 1917 (was Zita there too?) and the possibility that it was used when the Emperor was visiting the front lines in 1918. There was no record of this standard being used aboard ships.

Regarding the Standard we have seen in the picture - it was prescribed only in 1894, named Standerte Ihrer Majestät der Kaiserin und Königin (Standard of HM Empress and Queen), and thus would have been used by Sissi (Elisabeth of Bavaria) until her assassination in 1898. Before that, since 1828 a single design of thr imperial standard was used for all members of the imperial house, of a similar basic design but without the crowns in the corners.

As Ron pointed out, there would be no purpose for this standard since 1898 until the succession of Emperor Karl I, to be used by his wife Zita, who would already have an other standard adopted in 1915. However, that does not mean that the Austrian naval ships would not have been equipped with such flag in their flag cabinets in the meantime and some probably remained there until the end of the Dual Monarchy. I wonder if that may not be the origin of the example we have seen.
Željko Heimer, 4 August 2008

Empress Zita would have used the 1915 pattern Empress' standard as she came to the title in 1916.
David Phillips, 29 December 2012

1894 Archduke Standard

[Imperial standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The Imperial and Royal Standard (Standerte Seiner Majestät des Kaisers und Königs) included nine imperial crowns surrounding the central coat of arms (although one of this nine was part of the coat of arms itself). The Empress's and Queen's Standard (Standerte Ihrer Majestät der Kaiserin und Königin) included four crowns in the corners (not counting the one on the coat of arms in the middle), while the Archduke's and Archduchess' Standard (Standerte der k. und k. Herren Erzherzoge und Frauen Erzherzoginnen) had no crowns beside the coat of arms. [Baumgartner, 1977; Normal-Verordnung 1895; Ruhl; HM Stationery Office, 1907; Neubecker, 1939]
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

1915 Standards

1915 Emperor's and Empress's Standard

[Imperial standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The imperial standards prescribed by the "1915" muster are in fact the only flags of that set that were actually put in any actual use. The Emperor's and Empress' Standard, now of a single design, on a wine red field with black-yellow-red-white-green triangular border. In the middle was set the coat of arms impaled Hapsburg-Austria-Lorraine crowned with two crowns the Austrian imperial crown and the crown of St. Stephen, and surrounded with the collar of the Order of Golden Fleece. It is noted that the Emperor Carl I used this standard on land during his holidays on 22 December 1917, and possibly during his visits to the front-line in 1918. [Baumgartner, 1977]
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

In 1915 the imperial flag were changed in colour.  The flag of the emperor and empress was called "purpur" and the illustration is a violet color very close to the Romanian royal flag as illustrated in Znamierowski (1999) "World Encyclopedia", p.58. The flag of the archdukes is an orangeish color, slightly redder than the bottom stripe of the current German flag, very much like that of the flag of the emperor (of the Holy Roman Empire) on Znamierowski (1999), p.55.
Norman Martin, 2 December 2001

In an image from a Spanish-language website, found at, the flag on Empress Zita's casket at her funeral in 1989 appears to be that shown above with the 1915 pattern.
David Phillips, 29 December 2012

1915 Archduke's and Archduchess' Standard

[Imperial standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The Archduke's and Archduchess' Standard was similar differing in the flag field colour here being orange, and the two crowns were replaced with a single heraldic crown. [Baumgartner, 1977]

An unidentified standard

[Imperial standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

In addition to those, there is a flag preserved in the Croatian Maritime Museum in Split that I visited in 2004 - being similar to the archducal flag of 1894 pattern, but rectangular and with slightly different bordure, also missing the crown-lands coats of arms and being different in some other minor details (this last may just be result of simplification in the manufacture). Most notably the flammuly bordure extends only along three edges. The fact that the hoist edge is equipped as a flag sleeve may suggest that this was no naval flag at all, but was used attached on a flag staff - possibly as a military (army) flag or guidon of some kind. The height of this flag is approximately 60 cm (length, possibly 80 cm?). Does this sounds as anything recognizable from the A-H military?

Due to the degradation of time, the parts of the embroidery in the coat or arms that should have been golden are now of rusty dark silver colour, indistinguishable from the supposedly silver parts of the embroidery. Also the outer flammulets, that should have been white and yellow, are now of the same grey colour - that presumably once was white - and painted yellow in appropriate parts (it seems that remnants of the yellow painting is visible at some places, although it may as well be some yellow dirt there - it is hard to tell). There is no record preserved in the museum of how the flag was obtained or what it source was. (There are some minor artistic differences in the coat of arms drawing of the original flag and my redrawing, which are not important for the eventual recognition of what it is.)


- Josef von Lehnert: "Beiträge zur Geschichte der k. k. Flagge. Vortrag, gehalten im militär-wissenschaftlichen Verein zu Wien am 13. März 1885", Organ der militär-wissenschaftlichen Vereine, nr. 31, Mayer, Wien 1886 p. 19
- Steenbergen (ed.): "Vlaggen van alle Natin / Pavillons de toutes les Nations / Flags of all Nations", Weytingh & Brave, Amsterdam, 1862 pl. 37
- "Flags of Maritime Nations, from the Most Authentic Sources", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, 1862. pl. 5
- "Flags of Maritime Nations", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Equipment, Washington, 1899. pl. 7
- Lothar Baumgartner: Die Entwicklung der österreichischen Marineflagge, Militaria Austriaca, Gesellschaft für Österreichische
Heereskunde, Wien, 1977 pp. 31-32
- Friedrich Heyer von Rosenfeld: "Die See-Flaggen, National und Provincial-Fahnen sowie Cocarden aller Laender", Verlag der kaiserlich-königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Wien, 1883 pl. 1
- No. 9. Normal-Verordnung vom 11. Jänner 1895, P.K./M.S. Nr. 2978 ex 1894 (Neue Standarten, Commando-Flaggen und Dienst-Flaggen). Normal-Verordnungsblatt für die k. und k. Kriegs-Marine 1895 (20.3.1895), p. 25-27 (+ 3 plates)
- Moritz Ruhl: "Flaggenbuch", Reichs-Marine-Amt, Berlin, 1905. pl. II-49 pl. II-48
- "Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations", H. M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, 1907. pl. 49
- Ottfried Neubecker: "Fahnen und Flaggen. Eine bunte Fibel", L. Staackmann Verlag, Leipzig, 1939 p. 63

Imperial and Royal Pennant

Pennant Red over White over Red, ratio 1:100.  Uncertain if the narrowing of the pennant eventually leaves only the middle
stripe or if each stripe tapers so they stay equally wide.

Source: Dienst-Flaggen und Standarten der k.u.k. Kriegs-Marine, Wien 1896 (Nachtrag 1902)

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 2 December 2001

Dr. Otto von Habsburg

At can be seen a news article in German, with the flag, from the funeral of Dr. Otto von Habsburg, the last crown prince of Austria-Hungary.
Elias Granqvist, 19 July 2011

On the same topic: with very nice pictures also shows the flag over the coffin of his wife Regina and the high attendance at the mass and the funeral.
Esteban Rivera, 19 July 2011

Otto von Hapsburg died in 2011, but I've just come across two videos on YouTube which shows part of his funeral procession, with many, many flags - presumably those of organisations of which he was president, patron, etc. etc, and not all of them are from Austria.
The first film is to be found at
- The Paneuropean Movement flag appears at about 1:40;
- I'm not sure I recognise any of the next batch - there's one with what looks like the Dalmatian arms at 2:55, so do they perhaps represent the Länder of the Empire?;
- the Teutonic Order at 3:20? followed by veteran's organisations (the flags look like Imperial Army colours and standards)?
- no idea about the next group - societies? A large yachting flag at 4:48
- following them, groups dressed in the Imperial Army uniforms of 1914 (dark blue) and c.1814 (white)
- following them, a group dressed as light infantry in light grey, but with three in dark blue with spiked helmets (police?) carrying a y/r/w triband at 7:26;
- another group in grey, followed by a group in 1918 grey at 8:05
- another, flagless group
- at 8:53 a large Croatian contingent (who sadly move away from the camera, so you can't see the detail on the flags quite as clearly);
- at 9:45 a group dressed in 1914 heavy cavalry uniforms, with standards;
- at 10:14 a group in 1914 hussar uniforms
- followed by 'not a clue' at 10:50
- followed by a contingent representing the Low Countries (the uniforms are reminiscent of those of the Belgian Army)? No Belgian flags, but an Imperial flag with a black and yellow border
- at 12:00, no idea
- at 13:09, are these perhaps shooting clubs?

Then go to the second film at
- at 0:01 no idea
- at 3:00 an unknown group following a sign that reads 'Trieste', but I'm not sure if the group with the flag are Triestese (if that's a word!)
- at 3:45 no idea
- followed by more flagless, groups religious orders, and the family (?) bringing up the rear

Most are ceremonial standards rather than flags; many appear to be based on the yellow Hapsburg Imperial flag, the white version used as a regimental colour, or the post-1918 Austrian flag.
Ian Sumner, 2 November 2012