Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Austro-Catalan Naval Ensigns

It might be worth going back to the image of my latest post -a black-and-white etching showing a vessel, the same one at this article very start. As it can be seen for the picture at left, that image has been taken from a propaganda brochure printed in Catalonia in 1705 to celebrate the Allied fleet arrival to Barcelona shores, so that it reveals to be a potentially key piece of information on the flags and ensigns carried by Austro-Catalan warships. The image depicts a 3-masts, apparently 2-decked, galleon-like ship with a flag on top of both fore and main masts, as well as a third, bigger one at the stern -which is the so-called ensign.

It is worth to be noted that the ensign reproduced there is undoubtedly a St. Andrew's or Burgundian Cross, and this becomes quite revealing. In spite of the Burgundian Cross flag is usually taken as a genuine, all-life Spanish device, continously used until its replacement by the contemporary red-yellow one, it must be pointed that by the War of Spanish Succession times burgundian crosses were no longer in use as Spanish Armada ensigns.

It is known that no later than 1670 Charles II Habsburg had burgundian cross ensigns replaced by a completely different flag design, consisting of a white flag embroidered in red, with the Royal Arms at the center. When Philip V Bourbon took the reigns of Spain in 1700, he followed that same basic pattern, except that the Royal Arms were now placed closer to the staff, and the red trim was removed. This later design remained unchanged until 1746 (see the linked article showing some contemporary drawings of Spanish battleships). So that it seems quite clear that Two Crowns' Spanish ships never flew the Burgundian Cross as an Ensign -although it shouldn't be plainly discarded they still were used as jacks.

Therefore, according to the brochure above, it is legitimate to guess that the Austro-Catalan side had restored the Burgundian Cross to its former dignity as Ensign, using it as the main flag of their warships. We might also guess that it would be decided not only with the aim of having them distinguished from the Bourbon ships, but also as a crucial propaganda feature. The flag at the mainmast top of our ship is unequivocally the red-yellow stripped flag of the Crown of Aragon, intentionally placed at its second highest rank emplacement to denote the Nation the ship belonged to. As for the third flag, that one placed at the foremast top, its real usage and meaning is still completely unknown to me -although its design is highly meaningful, for it combines the Burgundian Cross and the Aragon stripes.

It should be noted that, in case our hypothesis are confirmed by further proofs, its eventual validity should be restricted to the 1705-1711 period, before Archduke Charles' coronation as Holy Emperor -for it seems quite likely that Austro-Catalan flags might reflect somehow their sovereign's status change since 1711.


Rampjaar said...

I can check the Flags for the 1670's, and there are some more flag books around.

Nice blog!

Soldadets said...

Thanks for yout kind offer, Rampjaar. I'd be most grateful for any supplementary info on this subject :)

Rampjaar said...

Check your mail!

Soldadets said...

Rampjaar, mail checked and answered :)