The flag of Denmark was adopted in the fourteenth century and its origins trace back to 1219. Officially called the Dannebrog, this flag is the oldest state flag in the world that is still used by an independent nation. The flag is a red rectangle with a white cross, with the vertical part of the cross close to the hoisting side of the flag. Following Denmark’s adoption of the Dannebrog, other Nordic countries and regions, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, and Orkney, adopted the Scandinavian cross design.
Besides being the oldest state flag in the world, Denmark’s flag has an exciting legend behind it. The Danes were at Battle of Lyndanisse (also known as the Battle of Valdemar), in Estonia on June 15, 1219. The Danes were losing the battle and about to surrender, when the Dannebrog allegedly fell from the heavens. The king caught the flag before it could reach the ground, waved it before the troops, and led them to victory. According to this legend, God gave the flag to the Danes, and the flag remains a sign of a strong and resilient Denmark.
Although there is no historical evidence to support this legend, several written sources from as early as the 16th century tell the tale, and it is widely accepted as the legend behind the Danish flag.
Despite the legend, the earliest literary records of the Dannebrog’s use date back to only to the late fourteenth century. The Dutch armorial, the Wapenboek Gelre in Dutch, links the red flag with a white cross to a Danish King and includes a picture of a helmet, the Dutch coat of arms, and the Danish flag. A near-identical image has also been found in a 15th-century coat of arms book to further support the Dutch flag’s origins.