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Your guide to the Swedish flag: The flag of Sweden

Sweden is the home of some of the world’s best-known pop music, miles of stunning scenery, and a pretty impressive royal family.

It’s also the location where you’ll find the Swedish flag, a gold and blue beacon that Swedish locals use proudly during some of the most important national celebrations of the year.

If you’re familiar with Sweden, you can probably picture the Swedish flag in your head already. If you’re not — don’t worry, the flag of Sweden is pretty easy to memorize.

In fact, Sweden’s flag looks very similar to many of the flags elsewhere in Scandinavia, from Denmark, to Norway, and even Iceland. That’s because they all share the same “Nordic Cross” design.

But just because Sweden’s flag shares crucial components with other Scandi emblems, doesn’t mean that it’s not special in its own right.

The history, legend, and colors of the Swedish banner all have their own unique stories to share. Today, we’re going to introduce you to everything you need to know.

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Swedish flag history: History of the Swedish flag

The design for the Swedish flag dates back to at least the middle of the sixteenth century, with many experts saying that it was originally inspired by the Danish flag. If you’re not familiar, the Danish flag (the Dannebrog) also features the Nordic cross.

However, there are actually dozens of countries that share a similar flag these days.

The Nordic cross flag is one of the most common designs for flags in the world. Virtually all independent Nordic countries have a version of the emblem these days.

The Scandinavian cross features a simple cross in a rectangular field. The center of the cross is usually closest to the hoist for the banner.

The Nordic cross apparently represents Christianity, which started taking hold in the Nordic region around the sixteenth century.

Although Denmark was the first to adopt this style, Sweden and Norway quickly followed, although the exact origin and age of the Swedish flag remains unknown.

As you might expect, throughout the history of the Swedish flag, the design has changed a little. In the 14th century, the Folkung dynasty used blue and white shields with wavy stripes and a golden lion as their coat of arms.

Additionally, the official coat of arms for Sweden, which dates back through the 14 century had the same colors of a blue shield with 3 gold crowns. Swedish experts say that the coat of arms for Sweden was originally created back in the 15th century, during the reign of King Charles Knutsson.

Apparently, it was based on the Danish flag and the Scandinavian cross.

Some people believe that the current design for Sweden’s flag has been in action since 1568 and the reign of King John the third.

Swedish flag colors: Why gold and blue?

If there’s one thing that instantly makes the flag of Sweden recognizable, it’s the choice of colors. Unlike other regions through Scandinavia, Sweden is one of the only countries to use the central color of gold.

The Aland islands also feature blue and gold in their flag, alongside a cross of red. The Aland flag mimics the Swedish flag because the region is under Swedish rule.

However, Aland is also an autonomous Finnish province, so it combines Finland’s flag onto it’s emblem too.

According to experts, gold and blue, or blue and yellow, have always been the traditional colors of Sweden.

As we mentioned in the history of the Swedish flag above, many royal coat of arms choices and dynasties in Sweden used gold and blue in their banners long before the official Swedish flag emerged.

Why is Sweden’s flag blue and yellow?

Though the Swedish flag is quite simple in its design, it’s something that instantly grabs a lot of attention from locals and visitors alike. The bright colors are definitely a bold choice for the country.

Groups that have researched the history of the Swedish flag for some time now think that the colors have a deeper meaning than we might think.

The sky blue field apparently represents loyalty, justice, truth, perseverance, and vigilance — all the great things you would usually associate with blue through color psychology.

On the other hand, the gold and yellow cross (slightly off center on the emblem), apparently represents generosity, rather than wealth, as some people might assume.

Some historians claim that the original Swedish flag actually didn’t feature any gold at all before 1420 — although it’s hard to confirm this belief. These historians say that the golden cross only emerged with the early reign of King Gustav the first.

Various provinces and regions in Sweden also have their own distinct flags, each featuring the Nordic cross, along with a selection of unique colors.

For instance:

  • The Osterlen flag (South East Skane) is a red flag with a yellow and green cross.
  • The Skane flag (Southern Sweden) is a red flag with a yellow cross.
  • The Oland flag (Sweden’s second-largest island) is a green flag with a yellow cross.

How was the Swedish flag created?

As we’ve mentioned already in this guide to the flag of Sweden, origins of the emblem are a little cloudy in places. Most experts agree that the Swedish flag is based on the flag of Denmark — the first location to embrace the Nordic Cross.

On the other hand, the colors of yellow and blue seem to data back to Dynasties in Sweden from the 16th century.

There are some slightly more interesting stories and legends floating around about the Swedish flag too — if you know where to look.

For instance, early modern language suggests that the Swedish flag came to King Eric IX as part of an almost divine moment. The story says that King Eric IX saw a golden cross in the sky when he landed in Finland during the Swedish Crusade of 1157.

Eric thought the shining golden cross in the sky looked great, so he decided to transform it into the flag for the country, according to legend. The golden cross against a blue background became his banner, and the rest was history.

The biggest issue that most people have with this story (outside of the idea of a floating heavenly cross), is that it’s a little too close to the origin story for the Danish flag. The 1219 origin story of the Danish flag traces its origins back to the Valdemar II of Denmark campaign.

According to the story, a lambskin banner fell to the ground depicting a white cross on a red background. Many say that before the flag fell, the Danes had almost lost their battle, but the arrival of the emblem spurred them to victory.

Both the legend of the Danish flag and the Swedish flag history appeared at around the same time (during the 16th century).

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Variations of the Swedish national flag

Due to various changes in the Scandinavian landscape and shifts in the ownership of land over the years, the flag of Sweden has had a few variations.

Interestingly, after the Congress of Vienna in the 1800s, Sweden and Norway were ruled by one king. Despite this, the two locations were “equal kingdoms”, which meant that they needed something to demonstrate this to the world.

A union mark appeared on the upper canton section for the Swedish and Norwegian flags. Initially, the earliest mark was a white cross (diagonal) on a red background.

However, later, a diagonally divided banner based on both the Swedish and Norwegian ensign became more common.

When Norway achieved independence in the 1900s, Sweden adopted its current flag in June 1906. Although the law came into effect on the 22nd of June, Swedes officially celebrate June 6th as “flag day”.

There’s a military ensign of the Swedish flag available, which comes in the form of a triple-tailed banner. The radio is 1:2 (including the tails), and it usually appears as the Swedish naval emblem too.

The naval jacks for the Swedish flag are a little smaller than the ensigns, but they usually share the same proportions overall.

Interestingly, the swallowtail flag for Sweden was originally the personal banner for the King of Sweden — only intended to for his use alone. At first, this special royal flag had two points, but by the end of the 17th century, it had earned it’s distinctive swallowtail finish.

Now, this flag also appears around the Swedish defence ministry, while other civil ministries just use square flags.

Royal rules for the Swedish flag

There are various ways to use the Swedish flag, depending on whether you’re part of the royal family or not. Unlike in Denmark, the civil and state flag for Sweden are usually the same.

The state and civil flags are the standard rectangular flag that you probably know pretty well by now.

Understanding the flag of Sweden becomes a little more complicated when you’re considering the Royal family. The king and queen use a royal flag with a larger national coat of arms on it.

On the other hand, other members of the royal family still use a flag that features the national coat of arms (just the lesser version).

Back in the 1980s, the Swedish Marshal of the Realm published a series of decisions regarding how people should be able to use the royal flag of Sweden.

He dictated that the royal flag with the greater coat of arms should always fly at the Royal Palace when the King is within the realm and working on his tasks as the head of the state.

If the King is out of the country, or not available to perform his duties for any reason, you would hoist the flag with the lesser coat of arms.

When the “Riksdag” appoints a person to serve on behalf of the Swedish king, according to government order, then the triple-tailed plain flag will fly instead. This is the version of the Swedish flag without the coat of arms — and the one that most people are more familiar with.

All of this information can be pretty complicated to take in for people who haven’t heard much about the Swedish flag before.

However, one thing that might be worth noting is that the Swedish flag under the current king, King Carl XVI Gustaf (since 1973) has only been the plain triple-tailed version once.

This single time when the triple-tailed flag flew happened when the King took a private trip to Germany during July in 1988.

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Common questions about the Swedish flag

Feeling a little overwhelmed by all of this information on the flag of Sweden? We don’t blame you. Like most national flags, the Swedish flag has a pretty intense history, and even some background in mythology too.

To help you stay ahead of the curve, here are some answers to the most common questions we found ourselves asking about the Swedish flag.

What does the Swedish flag look like?

The flag of Sweden includes a gold or yellow Nordic cross on a sky blue background. The Nordic cross is an asymmetrical cross that splits the flag with the crossbar closer to the hoist than the fly.

The dimensions of the Swedish flag are 4:2:4 vertically, and 5:2:9 horizontally.

If you’re using the triple-tail Swedish flag, those dimensions stay at 4:2:4 vertically but change to 5:2:5:8 horizontally.

What is the background color of the Swedish flag?

The base color of the Swedish flag is a delightful sky blue. According to the Natural Color system, the shade of blue is actually NCs 4055-R95B. It’s not a very pretty name, but it works.

The shade of yellow is NCS 0580-Y10R. If you prefer pantone colors, the Pantone blue shade is PMS 301 C/U, while the yellow shade is PMS 116 or PMS 109 U.

Why are all Scandinavian flags similar?

Most Scandinavian flags share a similar appearance because of the Nordic, or Scandinavian cross. This is the slightly off-center cross that appears in every Scandinavian flag.

The flags of Norway, Denmark and Sweden all share the Nordic cross, though various other countries around the world use the same design.

The Icelandic flag, the flag for the Aland islands, and various other groups also use a similar cross design.

Even the United Kingdom has its own version of the Nordic cross.

What is the meaning of the Swedish flag?

Experts say that the Swedish flag uses the Nordic cross as a symbol of Christianity — similar to most other Scandinavian countries. The golden cross demonstrates generosity while the blue background symbolizes perseverance, justice, and truth.

Who designed the Swedish flag?

The jury is still out on this one. The origin of the Swedish flag is difficult to trace exactly, so we don’t know who’s responsible for creating it completely.

Some experts say that the design came from King Eric IX in the year 1157, while others say that the Swedish flag was simply an adaptation of the Danish flag.

When was the Swedish flag adopted?

The Swedish flag that we’re familiar with today was officially adopted in 1906. However, versions of a similar Swedish flag have been around for a lot longer than this.

When does the flag of Sweden fly?

Like most proud citizens, the locals of Sweden love finding opportunities to fly their flag and celebrate their heritage.

You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a Swedish flag when you’re exploring places like Gothenburg and Malmo, many store owners and local people have mini versions of the flag fluttering outside of their homes and buildings.

Plus, Swedish flags are practically everywhere — on toothpicks, graduation cards, birthday cards, and various other decorative components around the country too. There are certain days throughout the year when the Sweden flag gets extra special attention too.

Here are some of the  most important days for the flag in the country:

  • The 1st of January (New Year’s Day): Hoist the flag to celebrate Nyårsdagen.
  • 28th of January (King’s name day): This is when everyone celebrates Konungens namnsdag, or the name day of the Swedish king.
  • 12 of March (Crown Princess name day): The princess of Sweden also gets her own name day too, complete with the hoisting of the flag.
  • First Sunday with a full moon after the 21st of March: We call this celebration Easter Sunday, it’s a celebration of a new season for the Swedes named Påskdagen.
  • 30th of April (The King’s birthday): The Swedish people love their royal family, so much so that they celebrate Konungens födelsedag for the king’s birthday.
  • 1st of May (May day): The Swedish call this day Första maj.
  • Seventh Sunday from Easter Sunday (Pentecost): The Pingstdagen day is another excuse to raise the flag in the Spring in Sweden.
  • 6th of June (Flag day): This is the national day of Sweden, or flag day, even though the official day for adopting the flag was much later in June. Swedes call it Sveriges Nationaldag.
  • Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June (Midsummer day): Swedish locals call this day Midsommardagen, and it’s the celebration of Midsummer.
  • 14th of July (Birthday of the apparent heir): On the 14th of July, Sweden hoists the flag to celebrate the birthday of their heir, Kronprinsessans födelsedag
  • 8th of August (Namesday of the Queen): Sweden can’t leave the Queen out of the name day celebrations. The 8th of August honors the queen with namnsdag.
  • 24th of October (United Nations Day): This is the day when the Swedes raise the flag to celebrate the united nations.
  • 6th of November (Gustavus Adolphus Day):The day known as Gustav Adolfsdagen celebrates the memory of the king of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, who is credited for Sweden’s rise as a European power.
  • 10th of December (Alfred Nobel day): The Swedes raise the flag on the 10th of December for Nobel Price day when Alfred Nobel signed his third and last will at a Swedish-Norwegian club in France.
  • 23rd of December (Queen’s Birthday): The country also raises the flag for the birthday of the queen. This day is called: Drottningens födelsedag.
  • 25th of December (Christmas): The flag hoists for the final time in the year on Juldagen — Christmas day.
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Your guide to the flag of Sweden

The flag of Sweden is one of the most eye-catching banners in Scandinavia, with a fantastic background.

Although the legend of the golden cross appearing in the sky is widely ignored today, we think it’s a wonderful way to remember the beautiful colors of this special emblem.

While Sweden’s flag might share the most important cross feature of most Nordic banners, it has plenty of elements that make it unique, too.

Remember to check out our other articles here on Scandification to learn more about the history of Sweden and the incredible things that the country is famous for.

Why not check out some of our other insights into Nordic and Scandinavian flags too?

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia. 

Now read these:
Your guide to the flag of Denmark
Guide to the Scandinavian flags
What the Nordic cross symbolizes

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