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Norway - Fact Sheet

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by christopher oehler
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Civil/State Flag/Ensign
[Civil flag of Norway]

[Civil - land and sea] Proportions: 8:11

War Flag/Ensign
[State/War Flag of Norway]

[War flag - land and sea] Proportions: 16:27

Civil Flag Construction Sheet
[Civil flag Construction Sheet]

See also:


The flag of Norway is a rectangular Scandinavian cross.1. The cross is blue within a frimbriated white cross against a red field in the dimensions of 8:11.  The State and War (military) flag and ensign are a tongued swallowtail version of the state flag with the proportions of 16:27.

Vertical flag

[Vertical flag of Norway]
 image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 7 September 2010

The ratio is approx 3:1. The horizontal crossbar is shifted to the top, approx 4/7 of total width from top edge.
Source: I spotted this banner in front of Emden town hall on 15 September 2009
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 7 September 2010

Adoption Date and related information

Flag adopted 13 July 1821, coat of arms adopted circa 1280
Date of current legislation for flag: 10 December 1898; proclaimed 17 July 1898
Flag legislation published: 15 December 1898; effective date: 15 December 18992

The act was gazetted on 15th of December 1898, and the flag was hoisted a year later. The act is still in force, and the flags described by it are still seen. According to the spelling reforms early this century ('purging' the most Danish words), the customs now has a flag with the word "Toll" on it.

The Norwegian flag did not originate with this act of 1898, but by a resolution by the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, in 1821. This was not sanctioned by the King, and a period of flag confusion started. As a merchant flag it could only be used on shorter distances, because of the threat from the pirates of North Africa. They did not recognize the flag, and having them do so would be too expensive for the young Norwegian state. On longer distances, therefore, the Swedish flag was used. From 1844 to 1898/99, the Norwegian flag was used, but with a Union mark in the upper hoist corner, consisting of the combined Norwegian and Swedish colours (the 'herring salad'). This was subject to great controversy and intense conflicts between Norwegian nationalists and unionists (and the Swedes). This was ended, for the merchant flag (that was what mattered most), by the Act quoted above. However, the state flag (flag for Government institutions/buildings and for the Navy and military installations) continued to bear the union mark until the dissolution of the union on 7th of June 1905. The "pure" Norwegian state and naval flag was hoisted two days later.

Until 1814 Norway was united with Denmark, and used the Dannebrog. In 1814 however, Norway went through a political revolution, declared itself independent and adopted a constitution. A flag was also adopted, adding only the Norwegian lion (facing the fly) to the Danish flag. It was used as a merchant flag on shorter distances (north of Cape Finisterre in Spain) from 27th of February 1814 until 6th May 1821, when the new 'pure' Norwegian flag took over. In 1815, Norway was forced to accept the decision of the great powers that Norway should enter into a union with Sweden (a personal union with a common king and foreign policy, amalgamation in most areas was resisted). From 1815 to 1838, a Swedish flag with the Norwegian colours, red with a white saltire, in the upper hoist corner, was used. Of course, the red and white colours were unpopular with the Swedes, who saw a design to reunite Norway with Denmark in the use of them. The uniforms of Norwegian civil servants were also red, but the Swedes replaced them with blue ones, in their efforts to eradicate any visible sign of Norway's Danish history.

The flag of 1821 was the idea of Frederik Meltzer, Member of Parliament from Bergen. He got the idea of adding a blue cross to the Danish flag during a meeting in the parliament. The discussion on the flag circled around considerations about reflecting the past, that is the Danish colours, which enjoyed great popularity, and considerations that the union with Sweden should also be reflected in the flag. So we can say that the red and white came from the Danish flag, the blue from the Swedish. At the same time, the colour combination red, white, blue was also attractive to the Parliament because it reflected the colours of liberty, as in the flags of France, the USA, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. A story, still told today, that it was Frederik Meltzer's young son Gerhard that came up with the idea of the flag, is not true.3

Semi-official PMS matches recommended by the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

–For printing:
Red: 032U
Blue: 281U
–For textiles:
Red: 186
Blue: 2874

State arms

[Arms of Norway] state arms

Arms since about 1280;
date of current legislation for coat of arms revision: 19 March 19375

Flag Laws

Act of 10th December 1898 relating to the Flag of the Realm of Norway


Norway's Merchant Flag shall be a dark blue cross, bordered with white, set on a bright red ground, its width in the proportion of 16 to 22 parts of its length. When flown from a mast or jack-staff, the two red quarters closest to the mast or jack-staff shall be squares, each with a side equal to six sixteenths of the width and six twenty-second parts of the length of the flag, while the two red rectangles furthest from the mast or jack-staff, both having the same width, shall comprise twelve twenty-second parts of the length of the flag. The width of the blue cross shall be equal to two sixteenths of the width of the flag, or two twenty-second parts of its length, while the width of the white border shall be equal to one sixteenth of the width of the flag or one twenty-second part of its length.


The flag as described in 1 above shall be used on merchant vessels whenever in foreign harbours they wish to remain under the protection, or obtain the services, of embassies, consuls or commercial agents. On public buildings, mail and customs vessels, the same flag, but with a swallow-tail and tongue, shall be used, with this difference, however, that a white field shall be inserted in the centre of the mail and customs flag, bearing respectively the words "Post" or "Told", surmounted by a crown.


This Act shall come into force one year after the day on which it is published in "Lovtidenden" (Gazette).


1Defined in this document as a Saint George cross shifted towards the hoist. [Editor]
2Flags of the World, Flag Dates by country
3Jan Oskar Engene, E-mail of 30 August 1995
4Jan Oskar Engene, E-mail of 10 June 1998
5Flags of the World, Flag Dates by country

Artistic credits:

Civil flag by Antonio Martins
State/War flag by Jan Oskar Engene
State arms unknown
construction sheet: Edward Mooney, Jr.

Flags of the World
November, 2004