The red, white and blue Nordic Cross design on the national flag of Iceland was selected after a two-year political battle and would not be formalized by law for another 30 years.
The national flag of Iceland is a horizontal cross on a royal blue background. The white left-of-center cross has a narrower red cross inset into it. The colors represent the natural features of Iceland – blue for the sea, white for snow and glaciers and red for the fire from the volcanoes. The flag shares features with Norway’s flag, where Iceland has ancestral ties, and with Denmark’s, which held Iceland as a territory until 1918. Designed by Matthias Thordarson, who would serve as Keeper of the National Antiquities, the flag is in an 18:25 proportion.
The Iceland flag design was adopted by royal decree on June 19, 1915, but was not without a struggle. Starting in 1913, multiple designs flag were considered. The most popular choice in Iceland was a white Nordic Cross on a blue background, but King Christian X in Demark would not approve the design, saying it was too similar to the flags of Greece and Sweden. The debate went on for two years. When the Icelanders offered the current flag design proposal, it was another seven months before the king issued a royal decree to approve it. However, the flag design was not added into the law until 1944, when Iceland became a Republic.
In the summer of 1809, as the Napoleonic Wars raged in Europe, Danish adventurer Jörgen Jörgenson sailed to Iceland as a privateer, took the Danish leadership hostage and declared the people free to govern themselves. He presented a flag with three white flattened cod in a triangle formation in the upper left corner on a blue background. The cod has been an emblem of Iceland since at least the 1500s. His revolution ended when he was arrested two months later. However, the so-called Jörgen’s flag was also proposed as a design for the national flag.
Minor changes regarding the Iceland flag were established by law in 1991. The background blue color was changed from ultramarine to a darker royal blue. Regulations for flying the flag and official flag days were also set into law at that time. The president’s flag is a swallowtail variation with the coat of arms of Iceland placed on the intersection of the cross.