Spain’s rich cultural heritage forms the basis for many of the elements in its national flag. The current flag celebrates the establishment of a parliamentary monarchy following decades of dictatorship.
Spain adopted its current national flag on December 6, 1978. The flag displays three horizontal stripes: red, yellow and red. The yellow interior stripe measures the combined width of the two outer red stripes and symbolizes generosity. The red in the flag represents the valor of the Spanish population. Immediately to the interior of the center of the flag, the yellow strip carries the coat of arms of the Spanish monarchy.
The royal coat of arms depicts a shield topped by a crown and attached to two supporting columns with red banners. The banner on the left displays “PLUS” in gold letters and on the right it carried the word “ULTRA”. This Latin expression “Plus Ultra” translates as “more beyond” and speaks to the promise of Spain’s future in the world, while honoring its many discoveries during the past.
The shield carries heraldic symbolism closely associated with Spain’s history and monarchy. It bears three fleur-de-lis symbols in the center, surrounded by a quadrant of four heraldic signs. Each symbol represents the heraldic shields of the four kingdoms which united to form modern Spain centuries ago. A red and yellow vertically striped shield on the bottom left denotes the Kingdom of Aragon. Above it, a golden castle on a red field signifies the Kingdom of Castile. The red lion on a white field in the upper right corner represents the Kingdom of Leon. The coat-of-arms in the bottom right hand corner belongs to the Kingdom of Navarre. The fleur-de-lis in the very center of the shield refers to the Bourbon monarchs of France. This symbol denotes King Philip V, who became the first member of the Bourbon dynasty to rule as King of Spain in 1700. His arrival marked the rise of modern Spain.
Over the centuries, Spain’s national flag has changed many times. Spain established an elected government in 1931. However, a bitter Civil War arose between 1936 and 1939 between partisans. General Francisco Franco’s forces won and he ruled Spain as a dictator until his death in 1975. He changed the flag to incorporate a Fascist party coat-of-arms instead of the traditional royal insignia alone. The Spain flag adopted in 1978 celebrates the restoration of a constitutional monarchy and self-government.