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Principality of Bulgaria, 1878-1908, naval flags

Last modified: 2022-10-14 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
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[State Flag of Bulgaria of 1913] 2:3 by Željko Heimer
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The Bulgarian naval fleet was established with help from Russia in 1879. The documents are not consistent regarding the date when the Bulgarian naval ensign was first hoisted - 31 July, 1 August or 9 August - but all agree that it was the Bulgarian tricolour of white-green-red with red square canton with golden crowned rampant lion. The tricolour itself was at the time a very young flag.

Soon the whole set of naval flags was devised, and in the Russian flagbook (Belov 1904) "Албум Штандартов, Флагов и Вымпелов Российской Империи и Иностранных Государств'", St. Petersburg 1898, there are six flags of the Principality of Bulgaria mentioned. Ivanov (1998) contains descriptions of these flags as well as a B/W facsimile of the relevant page from the 1898 album. Ratios expressed in parenthesis are my approximations.
Željko Heimer, 03 September 2001

The first Bulgarian constitution (adopted on 16 April, 1879) says in its 23rd article: "The Bulgarian national flag is of three colors, and contain <consists?> of horizontally placed white, green and red colours".
Ivan Marinov,
20 March 2001

While the lion has officially served as an emblem of Bulgaria since 1879, it also was known as early as the late 14th Century, when it appeared on coins issued by a Bulgarian czar, Ivan Shishman. - Smith (1975).
Ivan Sache, 25 October 2003

Prince's Standard

[Prince's standard of Bulgaria of 1913] 5:6~ by Željko Heimer

Prince's standard (Knyazheskiyat shtandart). Red flag with border of white and green triangles and with crowned rampant lion in the middle. As I have a feeling that the exact artistic rendition of the time was not firmly established (that is apparent from several examples of lions used in the period in different sources) - I have allowed myself a certain freedom in rendition.

Red flag with yellow crowned lion rampant armed green and all bordered with green and white triangles (8 x 10 white triangles are shown along the inner border, and with white corner-pieces). The lion that I show is not entirely the same as the one in the 1898 Russian album, that one being rather odd, showing the lion with what seems to be a beak (probably misinterpreted tongue) and claws more appropriate to an eagle. I don't think that it was the intention to show such a beast; the original naval ensign from the same period photographed in the book shows the usual heraldic lion rampant.
Željko Heimer, 11 January 2004

Naval Ensign

[State Flag of Bulgaria of 1913] 2:3 by Željko Heimer

Naval Ensign. (Voennomorskiyat flag na Knyazhestvo B'lgariya). Tricolour of white-green-red with red square canton with golden crowned rampant lion. The canton is square with each side equal to half the hoist. See also Naval Ensign, 1908-1944.
Željko Heimer, 03 September 2001

The naval ensign is preserved in the naval museum (voenomorski muzei) in Varna. The size of the flag is 58 x 90 cm (though I guess that this was measured together with the rope, which added the 3 cm excess to the expected ratio.)
Željko Heimer, 12 January 2004

Commander-in-Chief of the Navy

[Commander Flag of Bulgaria of 1878] 2:3 by Željko Heimer

Commander-in-Chief of the Navy (Flag na komandvashtiya [morskata chast]). Tricolour of white-green-red with canton of red-green-white. Based on the alternative title of the flag ("morskata chast"), it may be that this was actually the commander's ensign?
Željko Heimer, 03 September 2001

Merchant Ensign

[Merchant Flag of Bulgaria of 1878] 2:3 by Željko Heimer

Merchant Ensign (Voenomorski flagove na Knyazhectvo B'lgariya). Tricolour of white-green-red.
Željko Heimer, 03 September 2001

Pilot Requesting Signal

[Pilot requesting signal of Bulgaria of 1878] 2:3 by Željko Heimer

A white flag with a horizontally divided rectangle in the middle - green over red. According to the drawing, the length of the rectangle is half the length of the flag, the height being slightly higher than half the hoist (I make it 0.55, but the half may have indeed been intended).
Željko Heimer, 12 January 2004

Masthead Pennant

[Masthead Pennant of Bulgaria of 1878]  1:4~ by Željko Heimer

White forked pennant with a green saltire over a red cross near the hoist. The crosses take up the area of a square next to the hoist; the indentation is about two hoists, the width at fly half the hoist, the width of the crosses about 1/6 of the hoist (all based on my impression of the image).
Željko Heimer, 12 January 2004


The 1878 jack is mentioned but not shown in Belov (1904), though it is not described in Ivanov (1998) until 20th Century flags, by the design of the masthead pennant we may suppose that the jack was already in use.
Željko Heimer, 03 September 2001

[Jack of Bulgaria 1878] 1:1, by Željko Heimer

Jack (1908) (Gyoits (nosovo zname) | Znamentse (nosovo zname)). White square flag with a red cross and a green saltire.
Source: Bogoslovski, 1912 as quoted in Ivanov (1998).  The crosses are named throughout Bogoslovski, 1912 as "Georgievski krst" and "Andreevski krst" meaning, of course, 'George's cross' and 'Andrew's cross'.
Željko Heimer
, 05 September 2001

The 1878 jack seems to have been as the one we show as 1908, with green over red.  This appears to have changed subsequently to red over green (see Jack).
Željko Heimer, 11 December 2006