Barbados is famed for it’s stunning beaches, vast ocean and delicious rum. But among vexillology enthusiasts, it is know for it’s beautiful flag! In this article, we’re going to give some insight into Barbados’ flag history, and what it’s current design symbolises. Let’s dive in!
A Brief History
Despite being known today as a Caribbean paradise, Barbados has not had the smoothest of histories. For a large chunk of time, the island was settled by Caribs, a people who originated in nearby South America. Then in the 16th Century, the Europeans started to arrive.
While the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese explorers did not bring Barbados it’s own flag, the ships that visited the island will most likely have flown their own flags over the island, at least for a while! (This is also a great opportunity to have a look at Spain’s fantastic former flag!)
In 1625 Barbados was finally purchased by a country. Any guesses as to who acquired this tropical island for part or their developing empire? It was, of course, the British!
While under British rule, the island saw an explosion in population. This was unfortunately due mostly to slavery. The combination of slaves, sugar cane and the Barbadian weather led to Barbados generating more money than all of the other British colonies combined by 1660. Fortunately, slavery was eventually abolished in 1837.
Over this lucrative, yet dark, period of history, the island was represented by the flags of it’s occupiers. England joined with Scotland to form the United Kingdom in 1707, with Ireland joining in 1801. Therefor, Barbados would have had 3 different flags during the early years of their settlement by the Brits.
But eventually, the British did get around to giving the Barbadian’s their own flag… sort of. The flag of the Colony of Barbados amounted to a blue field with the union flag in the canton, and the emblem of the island to the right. The emblem depicted Britannia atop two horses, one of which appears to have a fish tail, riding through the sea. Britannia is holding a trident, which will become important soon! This was the flag that served Barbados until it gained independence in 1966.
Now, you would be forgiven for thinking that this brings us up to speed with the Barbadian flag. Well… while the next national flag of the island is of course the one we have today, there is another interesting flag for us to take a look at before we get there.
In 1958, a number of islands in the Caribbean came together to form the West Indies Federation. This was a union created with the intention of joining the governments of the various British-controlled islands. The end goal was to eventually split from the United Kingdom as a single independent nation, as the Canadians and Australians had done.
While the Federation collapsed after only four years, due to numerous factors, it did have a really cool flag! It is believed the flag is meant to show the orange sun reflecting off the deep blue Caribbean sea. Four wavy white lines represent waves.
After the West Indies Federation didn’t work out, Barbados decided to try and do the whole independent country thing alone. In 1966, they were able to peacefully negotiate independence from the UK, and had a cool new flag to go along with it!
The Current Flag
After over 1000 public submissions, the newly formed Barbadian government announced the new national flag on the island’s first Independence Day (30th November 1966). And what a worthy winner!
The flag is a vertical tricolor, with a gold band in the center, flanked by two dark blue bands. The blue represents the sea and the sky, while the gold represents the colour of the sand found on beaches all around the island.
In the center of the flag is a black trident head. The trident is a symbol of the mythical sea god, Neptune. This nods to the importance of the sea that surrounds the island nation. The three prongs of the trident also represent the three principals of democracy:
- Government of the people
- Government for the people
- Government by the people
So not only does the flag of Barbados look amazing, it has a fascinating meaning behind it too!
What do you think of the Barbadian flag? Is it one of your favourites? Let us know by leaving us a comment down below, we’d love to hear from you!