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Norway - flag proposals

Norge, Noreg

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by christopher oehler
Keywords: norway | proposal |
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(Source: Aftenposten 10 December 1998: «Det rene flagget 100 år»)

On 10 December 1898, the Norwegian parliament voted a law about the Norwegian flag in its present form and colours (that is, without the «sildesalaten», 'herring salad'). The vote was made public in «Lovetiden» on 15 December 1898. A year later, the law came into effect, when the flag was hoisted over the Norwegian parliament.
Filip Van Laenen, 11 December 1998

Norway was in union with Sweden under a common king from 1814 to 1905. The pure Norwegian flag was adopted in 1821 and was used as civil ensign in Northern waters (that is, north of Cape Finisterre in Spain) until 1844 when king Oscar I decided to introduce the union mark as a common element to both Norwegian and Swedish flags.

The Norwegian parliament had already voted the law in 1893 and in 1896, but King Oscar II had turned it down. Also the third time, King Oscar II turned the law down, but according to the Constitution, it became law anyway.

The struggle for the "pure" Norwegian flag (Norwegian: Det rene flagg) was a struggle between the liberals, who were against the union between Norway and Sweden, and the pro-union conservatives. At the same time, the liberals wanted to limit the powers of the king. The king was what united the two kingdoms, so he was naturally opposed to anything that threatened the union or lessened his powers. To become law, and act of parliament needs the sanction of the king, giving the king the power of veto. However, if parliament passes the same law three times (with elections in between), then an act of parliament becomes law without the sanction of the king. This was what happened in 1898.
Jan Oskar Engene, 11 December 1998

Those with an interest in Norwegian flag history and an ability to understand Norwegian may now enjoy a new contribution - a thesis in law analyzing the debate in Norway and Sweden from 1893 to 1899 over the pure Norwegian flag. The publication is available in print but also on-line (Norwegian only): Flagg, juss og politikk: rettslig argumentasjon i flaggsaken 1893-99, (English translation of the title: Flags, law and politics: legal arguments in the flag debate 1893-99).


Images on these pages, unless otherwise noted, are presented with the permission of Stortingsarkivet, the Norwegian Parliamentary Archives. Some of the source documents are small and certain extracted images may not fully capture the flavor of the proposal. Text documents (in Norwegian) which may significantly add to the understanding of the development of the flag are available from Stortingsarkivet.

The images were extracted from the PDF source documents by Phil Nelson. Proofreading of the FOTW presentation was performed by Jan Oskar Engene.

The 1814 Proposals

The 1815 Proposals

The 1821 Proposals

There are no images available of proposals 4, 5, 9 and 17.

The 1836 Proposals

In 1836, Norway was still aligned with Sweden. The proposals from 1836 represent specific flags, not proposals for a Norwegian flag (adopted from Proposal 3 of 1821).

Many of the proposals reflect this union by using variations of the union mark.