The flag of Spain was officially accepted as part of the Spanish Constitution in 1978, however its origins date back to the Spanish naval flag of 1783. The flag consists of three horizontal stripes: two thin red stripes on the top and bottom of the flag, and one thick yellow stripe that is twice the width of the red stripes. Slightly to the left on in the yellow stripe is Spain’s coat of arms.
Unlike flags of many other countries, Spain’s flag has remained largely the same since its first uses in the late 18th century. The one exception to this is during the Second Republic of Spain (1931-1939), when an indigo stripe, symbolizing a new non-monarchic Republic and also the Castile kingdom, stood in place of the bottom red stripe.
The Spanish coat of arms is complex and actually comprised of six other coats of arms. The top left section of the shield, a gold castle in a red background, symbolizes the kingdom of Castile. In the 9th through 12 centuries, Castile was an autonomous medieval kingdom. It unified in 1230 with León.
The red lion in the upper right corner symbolizes León. León was founded by the Romans in the first century BC and was a military camp in the early first century. Although the city struggled with Muslim invaders, it remained a Catholic city and officially became a Kingdom in 910.
The red and yellow stripes in the lower left corner symbolize the kingdom of Aragon, a medieval kingdom in the northeast region of Spain, near the French border.
The gold chains in the lower right corner symbolize the kingdom of Navarre, also in the northern region of Spain. During the Roman Empire, the Vascones occupied this region, maintaining their language and traditions despite the Roman rule. In 1513, Castile conquered the southern part of Navarre. Although the northern part of the kingdom remained independent for several decades, it voluntarily joined with France in 1589 and actually became part of the French Kingdom in 1620.
The pomegranate flower comes from the kingdom of Granada. Granada lies at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains and at the merging point of the Beiro, Darro, and Genil Rivers. Due to its strategic location, Granada is the oldest of the cities represented on the Spanish flag, and was part of the ancient Ibeo-Celtic, Phoenician, and Carthagenian settlements, and later part of the Greek and Roman empires.
Finally, the fleur-de-lis, in the center of the shield, represents the House of Bourbon. Bourbon rulers controlled Navarre beginning in 1555. The House of Bourbon, however, dates back to the early 13th century and Bourbon kings, including Henry IV, Louis XIII-XVIII, and Charles X ruled France and Navarre until the French Revolution in 1792.
The Pillars of Hercules are on either side of the coat of arms and the phrase “plus ultra,” meaning “further beyond,” appears on a banner wrapping around the pillars. “Further beyond” refers to exploring the Americas and former Spanish territories. The coat of arms also includes the Imperial Crown, used by King Charles I of Spain, and the Royal Crown on the right.