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Tonga Royal Flag

Last modified: 2012-01-07 by ian macdonald
Keywords: tonga | mullet | crown | clubs | swords | dove |
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[Royal Flag (Tonga)] 26:37 image by Željko Heimer, 1 April 2003

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Description of the Flag

Quartered: 1. or three mullets argent; 2. gules a royal crown or; 3. azure a dove volant holding in beak an olive branch vert; 4. or three swords in saltire handled gules; overall a mullet argent ensigned with a cross couped gules.
National Geographic (1917) shows slightly different flag: in the fourth quarter it does not show the swords, but clubs, described as "big sticks" (quotes in National Geographic, 1917). I would have been ready to dismiss it as an inaccuracy, but with help of Marcus Schmöger, I notice that similar clubs are shown in Flaggenbuch (1926). Flaggenbuch (1939) does have the swords (though not with red handles, but I would not take that as important). So, it seems that in late 1920's or early 1930's the clubs became swords. Ivan Sache quotes Smith (1975) "The current royal family is successor to three lines of kings — hence the three swords". However the same explanation might go for the three clubs.

From, here is a list of Kings/Queens of Tonga:

4 Nov 1875 - 18 Feb 1893 George Tupou I (b. 1798? - d. 1893)
18 Feb 1893 - 12 Apr 1918 George Tupou II (b. 1874 - d. 1918)
12 Apr 1918 - 16 Dec 1965 Salote Tupou III (f) (b. 1900 - d. 1965)
16 Dec 1965 - Taufa'ahau Tupou IV (b. 1918)

Queen Salote succeeded to the throne in 1918, and it may have been at that point when the sticks were dropped for swords, but the flag books possibly did not made the change immediately, or the change was not done at once... However, the change would have been also in her coat of arms.
The site does not mention any change in coat of arms, though.
Željko Heimer, 1 April 2003

Source: Talocci 1994. Its symbolism is:

  • Red cross: The blood of Christ
  • Three stars: The 3 largest groups of islands
  • Crown: The Kingdom
  • Three swords: The three dynasties
  • Dove: Peace

Marcus Wendel, 5 September 1999

Concerning the Royal Flag, Smith 1980 says: "The [three] stars stand for the main island groups united in Tonga (Tongatapu, Ha'apai, Vava'u). Christianity's dove of peace holds a myrtle leaf, emblem of national unity." Proportion of the flag is listed as 26:37. Another detail is available only in Smith 1975: "The current royal family is successor to three lines of kings — hence the three swords."
Ivan Sache
, 31 December 1999

The image in the World Flag Database web-site is derived from an actual Royal flag provided by Alfred Znamierowski. I don't believe many such flags exist in Tonga so an actual one represents a good source when an official design is missing. It could be that other versions exist, but not knowing them, I don't find correct to 'guess' the crown, or other details, design.
Mario Fabretto, 4 February 2006

I was presented with 3 Tongan Royal Flags by a friend who is from Tonga. A relative of his used to make the royal flags for official display when His Majesty was present. These flags are all in proportions 1:2, also, these flags are, (smallest to largest,) 4 x 8 feet, 5x10 feet, and 10 x 20 feet. I am informed that each one actually was used on several official occasions and each flag shows minor signs of being used but none are damaged, ripped or torn. I wonder if Tonga is one of the countries where the official proportions of the royal flag are actually ignored and the royal flags are simply made in the same proportions as the civil and state flag and ensign purely out of convenience. I was also presented with 3 Tongan national flags at the same time by the same friend, these flags are also all the same sizes as the royal flags that he presented me with. However these flags all bear stamps on the hoist where the rope runs through for raising them, the stamps show that the royal flags were all manufactured in 1970 which also happens to be the year Tonga became independent after more than a century of being a British Protected States. Therefore, the flags, while clearly stamped as "Made In The Kingdom of Tonga" may have been made prior to Independence Day which was 4 June, 1970, and maybe all flags in Tonga were made in British proportions prior to that date.
John Wild, 22 December 2011

Older version

[Royal Flag (Tonga)] image by Željko Heimer, 4 April 2003

Flaggenbuch (1926) shows an earlier version of the flag, mainly different by having clubs instead of swords in the fourth quarter, and a different crown.  The mullet and cross are also smaller.
Željko Heimer, 4 April 2003