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Principality of Wallachia: 1848 Revolution flags

Last modified: 2008-09-27 by alex danes
Keywords: wallachia | romania |
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National flag

[National flag, 1848] by Alex Danes, 15 September 2008

The revolutionary government of Wallachia adopted, on 14 June 1848, an horizontal tricolour blue, yellow and red, with, in the central yellow stripe, the words DREPTATE ('justice' in the Wallachian language) and, in Cyrillic characters, FRĂŢIE ('brotherhood' in the Moldavian language). But in July of the same year "...because until now it was not clear how to make national flags..." the same government stated that "...the national flag is a vertical tricolour dark blue, dark yellow and carmine red: the blue at the hoist, the yellow in the middle and the red at the fly.". This flag become very popular in Moldavia and Transylvania too and was the origin of the Romanian tricolour. In September 1848 Russia and Turkey re-established the previous order and the flag temporarily disappeared.
Mario Fabretto, 10 September 1996


The Decree nr. 1 from 14/26 June 1848 of the provisional Government established the following:

"The national flag will have three colors: blue, yellow and red. The motto, in Romanian, which will be inscribed not only on flags, but on monuments and public decrees, are these two words: Justice, Fraternity."
The first flags of this kind had horizontal stripes, as can be seen in a painting with revolutionaries by Costache Petrescu. The motto was inscribed with black letters, in the middle of the yellow stripe: "DPEПTATE  ФPЪЦIE" ("DREPTATE  FRĂŢIE", meaning "Justice, Brotherhood"). The Army flags had a similar pattern. The day of 26 June is now celebrated in Romania as Day of the Flag because, for the first time, the blue-yellow-red tricolour was designated as national flag of the Romanians.
Alex Danes, 15 September 2008

[National flag, 1848] by Alex Danes, 15 September 2008

However, one month later, on 13/25 July, the provisional Government was obliged to come with additions in the decree nr. 252:

"Because until now it was not clear how to make national flags, we decree:
Art. 1. - The flags will be tricolour.
Art. 2. - The colours are: dark blue, light yellow1 and carmine red.
Art. 3. - Near the hoist is [the] blue [stripe], then yellow, then red, floating.
The Minister of Internal Affairs is asked to see that all the flags shall be made according to this decree."
This was the first time the Romanian tricolour, as known today, was used officialy as national flag. In 1867, when the Parliament of Romania had to decide the new flag of the country, the ex-revolutionary Nicolae Golescu proposed the 1848 pattern, which was eventually adopted, without the motto on it.

1 - Some sources say "dark yellow"; this is not true, the original decree clearly stipulates "light yellow".
Alex Danes, 15 September 2008


The origins of the national flag

The current flag of Romania has its origins, without any doubts, in the national flag of 1848. But why did the revolutionaries chose the colors and the pattern above it's hard to say. First of all, it is not the first time those colors were used together. They appear in the tassles of the Wallachian 1821 uprising flag, on the Wallachian military flags designed by prince Alexandru Dimitrie Ghica in 1834 and, most peculiar, on a flag used by the Romanian students in Paris, in March 1848, before the revolution started in Wallachia. The newspaper Gazeta de Transilvania, nr. 34 from 26 March 1848 (Julian Calendar) writes:

"After a few days, following the proclamation of the French Republic in Paris, [...] the young Moldo-Wallachian students from Paris unfolded their national flag with the colours blue, golden and red, as a symbol of the union between the Moldavians and Wallachians, [the colors being chosen] according to the Organic Statute."
The Romanian emisaries negotiating with the Ottoman Porte declared that "long time ago, our ancestors had this colours on their ensign and flags. They are neither borrowed or imitated after present colours, nor a future menance."

These scarce and somewhat controversial contemporary sources about the Wallachian and Moldavian flags led to several theories:
  • The national flag was adopted under French influence, the middle stripe being yellow instead of white. In heraldry, white means Argent, and yellow means Or, both metals and thus noble tinctures.
  • The national flag was created by uniting the colours established in the Organic Statuses for Moldavia (red and blue) and Wallachia (blue and yellow), expresing the desire of political unity between the two countries and being a symbol of the Romanian nation.
  • The national flag had its colours derived from the state flags of Wallachia (light yellow), Moldavia (red) and Transylvania (blue), the lands inhabited by Romanians. There is no record of blue Transilvanian state flags, but the authors of this theory argued that the Romanian noble families from Transylvania were not allowed to float their flag, yet they had coat of arms with blue shields on most cases.
  • The Wallachian revolutionaries were mostly military men, and thus they adopted the Army flag, upside down and without any charges except the motto, as the national flag.
  • The usage of the three colours as a symbol of the Romanian nation and unity was an old tradition (older than the XIXth century), with unclear origins.
All these theories have gained arguments and counter-arguments, followers and deniers, but the truth could be, as always, somewhere in the middle.
Alex Danes 18 September 2008


Army flag

[Army flag, 1848] by Alex Danes, 18 September 2008

In 1848, the Wallachian revolutionaries replaced the 1834 Army flags with new ones. These had the same pattern as the 1848 national flag, horizontal version, and besides the motto "Justice, Fraternity" on them was inscribed the county and city of the military unit. The flags used the old rods from 1834, but the crown above the eagle on top of each rod was cut. Only one flag of this kind survives, mainly because after the revolution was ended, they were confiscated and destroyed. The flag measures 124 cm by 110 cm and it's made of fine silk. On the blue stripe is written the motto "Justice, Fraternity" on the yellow stripe "Olt County" and on the red stripe "Slatina city". The flag is sewn in double tulle, for better preservation.
Alex Danes, 18 September 2008

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