Even though it was first used sometime between 1845 and 1848, the flag of Luxembourg wasn’t officially adopted by the landlocked nation until 1978. As early as 1830, patriotic citizens of the grand duchy had identified the need for a symbol to rally behind, and they chose a tricolor design with horizontal stripes.
Luxembourg’s flag bears a striking resemblance to that of the Netherlands. However, there are two key differences: Luxembourg’s is longer, with a 1:2 or 3:5 ratio, and their shade of blue is a lighter color.
The colors, red, white and blue, were chosen as early as 1830, around the time of the Belgian Revolution. The most likely source of these colors are the coats of arms of Luxembourg’s nobility, which included counts, dukes and grand dukes. The choice to arrange these three colors in three horizontal stripes was made on June 12, 1845, but it would be more than 100 years before Luxembourg enacted laws identifying it as the official flag.
Those laws also defined the flag’s blue stripe as a very bright blue, differentiating it from the flag of the Netherlands. They also established ensign and roundel for any ships or aircraft that were registered in Luxembourg. The official ensign is a red lion, which is used for all kinds of shipping and aviation. Like the colors of the flag, the lion ensign is based on the heraldry of Luxembourg’s noble families.
In recent years, the resemblance between Luxembourg’s flag and the Dutch flag has been a point of contention. Legislation was proposed to replace the flag with the ensign on the grounds that it better represented the history of Luxembourg and was more popular among the people. The proposition was met with popular public support, but political participants and notable members of Luxembourg society opposed the change as unnecessary.
The lion ensign is commonly used to show support at sporting events, and in 2007, the government authorized its use as a civil flag within the borders of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, provided that it was used alongside the official flag and in the same proportions.
In 2015, a formal petition was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies to officially replace the horizontal tricolor flag with the red lion, but until such a measure is accepted, red, white and blue remain the colors of the official flag of Luxembourg.