National Flags Over Florida – A History

National Flags Over Florida – A History
Since 1513, when the Spanish arrived in Florida, the state has seen the flags of five nations flying over her—Spain, France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Confederate States of America.

The first Spanish flag, the castle and lion flag of the king of Spain, was planted here by Juan Ponce de León on 3 April 1513. He named this land “La Florida” because of the profusion of vegetation he found and because it was close to Easter or “Pascua Florida” when he landed. The flag is rectangular with a red and white background that is further divided into four equal, smaller rectangles. Beginning at the upper left and going clockwise, the first section is red with a yellow castle imposed on it, the second is white with a red lion in its foreground, the third is the same as the first, and the fourth is identical to the second. The alternating background colors give it a checkerboard appearance.

In 1564, the French established a settlement, La Caroline, at the mouth of the St. Johns River. It was named for the French king, Charles IX. The French royal flag at that time was rectangular with a royal blue field and three golden fleurs-de-lys arranged to form a triangle with its apex pointing down. The Spanish attacked the settlement in 1565, so this flag flew for only about a year before being replaced by the Spaniards, who occupied La Caroline and renamed it San Mateo.

From 1565 to 1763, another Spanish flag, the Burgundian Saltire or Cross of Burgundy, flew over Florida. This is another rectangular flag with a red St. Andrew’s cross superimposed on a white background. It is an x-shaped cross or saltire on which St. Andrew the apostle is said to have been crucified. The two stripes or crossbeams display a series of nubs, representing where branches had been lopped off and indicating their rough-hewn nature. This flag is echoed in the current flag of Florida, which also features a red saltire on a white background.

In 1763 the Spanish traded Florida to Britain in exchange for control of Havana, Cuba, captured by the British. The British Union Flag flew over Florida until 1784. This historic flag looks very like the current United Kingdom flag, but differs in that only England and Scotland were represented by the St. George’s cross and the white St. Andrew’s saltire respectively. (Wales was then considered part of the Kingdom of England.) The red St. Patrick’s saltire of Northern Ireland was added in 1801.

In 1783, the Treaty of Versailles between Great Britain and Spain returned Florida to Spanish control. A third Spanish flag flew over Florida, a national flag created by King Charles III. This was a rectangular flag with three parallel stripes in its field. The top and bottom stripe are red; the center stripe is yellow. Imposed on the center stripe to the left of center is an oval shield topped with a crown. The oval is divided vertically into two equal parts. On the left is a yellow castle on a red background, to the right is a red lion on a white background. These are the same images that appeared on the flag of the king of Spain planted by Ponce de León in 1513. This flag flew until the United States took possession of Florida in 1821.

The U.S. flag in 1821 had the same design as the current flag, except that it had 23 stars. Florida was admitted to the Union as the twenty-seventh state on March 3, 1845. On January 10, 1861, Florida voted to secede from the U.S. and became the third of the six original Southern states to form the Confederate States of America. Three versions of the Confederate national flag, in addition to the “Stars and Bars” battle flag, flew over Florida during the American Civil War. After General Lee’s surrender in 1865, Union solders marched to the Capitol and hoisted the Stars and Stripes on May 20.

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