Back in the days of peak European imperialism, the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal were two of the globes largest powers. But did you know that at one point, these two titans were unified under a single king? And since then, there have been some calls for another unification of the two nations? Let’s dive into it!
A Quick History
The Iberian Peninsula is an area of land in southwest Europe that is mostly made up of Spain and Portugal.
In the 16th Century, both of these nations was prospering thanks to their young global empires. However, by 1580 Portugal faced a crisis of ascension. This essentially meant that nobody sure which heir was entitled to the throne. After a battle, it was claimed by Philip II of Spain. He became Philip I of Portugal, though he promised to rule the country as a separate nation from Spain, not as just a province. And so the two kingdoms remained two separate kingdoms… with the same king. I guess it made sense to Phil.
The Iberian Union did not work out in the end. After two more Kings (both named also named Philip) and 60 years, war broke out. The war resulted in the restoration of a purely Portuguese throne in 1640.
Flags of the Union
Unfortunately the formation of the Iberian Union did not bring with it an innovative fusion flag of the two nations (looking at you, Union Jack!). In fact, it didn’t bring any new flags at all. As Portugal wished to remain a separate nation, they wanted to keep their own flag. Oddly though, Portuguese flag tradition at the time involved simply displaying the crest of the current monarch on a white field. However, as many weren’t keen on Phillip I, they simply chose to keep the flag of the king that proceeded him (Sebastian I). Seems a little lazy, right? Meanwhile, Spain continued to use it’s wonderful looking Burgundy Cross.
More Recent Chatter
The short-lived Iberian Union was not the end of talks of unification on the peninsula. A number of underground movements tried and failed to bring about a new union. Usually, this was with the intention of abolishing the monarchies of the two nations in favour of a new republic system. Since then, both Spain and Portugal have undergone massive metamorphosis, with both countries having failed republics, and serving under dictatorships. They are now settled however, with Portugal a republic and Spain a democratic kingdom. However, this doesn’t mean that everybody is happy. A 2011 study by the Spanish University of Salamanca asked participants whether they would be in favour of the formation a federation of Spain and Portugal. 39.8% of Spanish and 46.1% of Portuguese subjects answered yes. This was a study of less than 2,000 people, so is of course not representative of the attitudes of all citizens of the countries, but indicates some dissatisfaction.
With the Catalonia region of Spain desiring independence, there is an uncertain financial future for Spaniards. With Portugal also having had it’s fair share of financial issues in recent years, would a unification of the Iberian neighbors be beneficial for both parties? No government officials seem to have an official stance on either side of the border, so we never know. But, we can speculate on what the flag of the union would look like!
What Would The Flag Be?
The current flags of Spain and Portugal both feature a crest, with each representing the history of its respective nation. So one proposed unification flag combines the two crests, aswell as the Portuguese and Spanish colours (red/green & red/yellow, respectively). Posted on Reddit by user /u/uat2d, the hoist side of the flag is green, with the rest of the flag featuring a horizontal red-yellow-red design. The combined crests of the nations features towards the hoist side.
One of the best suggested flags for the hypothetical union was proposed in 1854 by Spanish writer/diplomat Sinibaldo de Mas i Sans. While the colours are now outdated in their representation, the quadrant design is striking and fairly unique (it doesn’t have any stars, Panama, don’t worry you’re still special).
The Spanish right hand side of the flag is still in-date, the yellow-red combination still deeply associated with the nation. However, Portugal’s colours on the hoist side would need updating before the flag could be adopted in the 21st century. The blue and white featured on the Portuguese flag from 1830-1910. Despite this, the design is a great way of combining colours of two nations.
So here it is: Our suggested updated flag for the Iberian Union. Sadly the colours of the current flags don’t mesh quite as well as the old ones do… But if it ever gets adopted, we are happy to take royalties via PayPal!