The flag of Belgium was adopted on January 23, 1831. The flag is rectangular with three vertical stripes: a black stripe on the left, a yellow stripe in the center, and a red stripe on the right. The official ratio of the Belgian flag is 13:15 (almost square, but not quite), but due to its unusual proportions, the flag is rarely produced this way and is usually seen in a 2:3 ratio.
The colors of the Belgian flag are based on the colors of Duchy of Brabant’s coat of arms, which features a black shield and a yellow lion with red claws and a red tongue. The Duchy of Brabant was located in the historic “Low Countries,” and is now known as three present-day Belgian provinces: Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant, and Antwerp. The colors of the Belgian flag are the same as those in the German flag and the vertical tricolor design of the flag is most similar to that of France.
Several flags preceded the current Belgian flag. When Belgium was part of Lotharingia in the ninth century, the territory flew a rectangular flag with two horizontal red stripes, one across the top and one across the bottom, and a white area in the center. When the area came under Spanish rule in the 1500s, a yellow stripe was added to the flag. During this time period, Belgium’s official colors became red, white, and yellow.
When Belgium was under Austria’s rule in the eighteenth century, the Emperor required Belgium to fly the Austrian flag, which was red and white. Belgians were opposed to this, however, and citizens began wearing red, black, and yellow cockades, knots of colored ribbons to display national pride.
The Belgian Revolution began in August 1830 when a French flag was waved at the Brussels City Hall. Shortly after this incident, some Belgian revolutionaries created a horizontal-striped red, yellow, and black flag at a fabric store. By January of 1831, the stripes were changed to vertical and the flag was made official.