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Tristan da Cunha 1970s Flag Proposal

Last modified: 2019-01-05 by bruce berry
Keywords: tristan da cunha | proposal |
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Proposal by Anton Jansen

On 23 December 2002 the vexillologist Anton Jansen died at age of 87.  See my Memorial in Vexilla Nostra 237-26 [vxn].  Anton had his own project on designing flags and several times I helped him by drawing what he created. Below are his proposals for a flag for Tristan da Cunha.
Hans van Heijningen, 31 August 2003

A. Jansen,
Papaverhof 34,
Holland (Netherlands)

The Hague, February 5th, 1974

                                           The Administrator,
                                           Mr. J.I.H.Fleming,
                                           TRISTAN DA CUNHA,
                                           South Atlantic

Dear Sir,
Thank you still for your kind letter of September 3rd last, ref. 11/6/45, contents of which have been noted with interest and satisfaction.
Meanwhile you will have received the letter of November 5th last from the Burgomaster and Aldermen of the Municipality of KATWIJK on the subject of partnership between TRISTAN DA CUNHA and KATWIJK, and I trust this contact will lead to a fruitful and lasting friendship and help between your two communities.

I am pleased to inform you that I meanwhile designed (with the co-operation of Mr. Hans van Heijningen at Utrecht, Holland, who also made the enclosed drawings) a coat of arms and a flag for TRISTAN DA CUNHA, to be used together with the Union Jack, which has been in use in Tristan since 1813 (as far as I have been able to trace) when the captain of the naval brig "Semiramis" presented the only inhabitant of Tristan, Tomasso Corri, with an English flag (no doubt the Union Jack is meant).
But since, of course, the Union Jack is not significant of TRISTAN DA CUNHA, I thought it justified to design a coat of arms and a flag that would be specially significant for TRISTAN.
Enclosed please find a small drawing in colour of both coat of arms and flag:

          Images by Hans van Heijningen, 31 Aug, 2003

Image by Hans van Heijningen, 31 Aug 2003
(Whether this drawing has the wedges intentionally oriented differently than as shown in the above black & white drawing as an alternative design remains unclear. Ed.)

The description of the coat of arms is as follows: "A green saltire on a yellow field, and accompanied four blue wedges, pointing to the centre of the shield", whilst the description of the flag is as follows: "A green saltire on a yellow field, and accompanied four blue wedges, pointing to the centre of the flag". The thickness of the arms of the saltire is one-fifth the width (height) of the flag.
The blue wedges on yellow (gold) background are the essential symbol in the coat of arms of the Portuguese noble family of Da Cunha ("cunha" is the Portuguese word for "wedge", so Da Cunha coat of arms are a so-called "canting" emblem: the emblem refers to the name of the bearer of the coat of arms.
(The abovementioned descriptions are not the officially heraldic designations, but much more comprehensive, and that's why I prefer to give these the way I do above).
The length of the flag is to be 1.5 times the width (height). - (length 3 : width (height) 2).

Enclosed please find for reference and evidence material:
Photocopy of letter of October 30th last from the Embassy of Portugal here at The Hague, and photocopy of the enclosure with same letter, vis.
Photocopy of plate depicting Nuno da Cunha, son of Tristan (in Portuguese: Tristão) da Cunha, and the Da Cunha family coat of arms overhead (in the second and third quarter of same coat of arms you will recognize three rows of three wedges each). The drawing of this coat of arms has been done in a rather primitive way, as you will note; and further: Photocopy of Instituto Português de Heráldica, LISBON, Portugal letter of December 30th last, with photocopy of enclosure received with same letter, viz. drawing depicting the coat of arms of the noble Da Cunha family. You will note that the quality of this drawing is very much better than that of the abovementioned drawing (showing Nuno da Cunha with coat of arms), and moreover, the colours are indicated here (as you may know: horizontal lines as shading indicate blue, whilst little dots as shading indicate gold (in flags: yellow).

The sequence of the four quarters differs from that in the coat of arms as shown on the plate with Nuno da Cunha, but no doubt the drawing on letter paper of the Instituto Português de Heráldica, is the correct one.
The wedge(s) of blue colour on golden (yellow) background have been incorporated in the most heraldic and artistic way in my design for coat of arms and flag for TRISTAN DA CUNHA.

The saltire is taken from the coat of arms and municipal flag of KATWIJK to memorize the fact that Pieter Groen, who has played a predominating part in the life and history of TRISTAN DA CUNHA during several decades, came from this Dutch village on the North Sea coast. Whereas the saltire is of blue colour (on silver/white background) in the coat of arms and flag of KATWIJK, here green has been chosen as the colour of the saltire, as an allusion to the name of Pieter Groen ("groen" is the Dutch word for "green").

Thus, a non-complicated composition contains a maximum of well-justified symbolism, and it would be a great satisfaction indeed if your Island Council would decide to accept this design and define the coat of arms and flag for TRISTAN DA CUNHA accordingly.

Looking forward to your comments with real interest, and with best wishes to all your people, I remain, dear Sir,

Sincerely yours, [signature A.Jansen]

cc to: Municipal Board, KATWIJK, Holland;
Embassy of Portugal, THE HAGUE, Holland, and
Instituto Português de Heráldica, LISBON, Portugal

Letter by Instituto Português de Heráldica

Instituto Português de Heráldica Agregado é asociases des _____logues Portugueses [line bearly legible] Largo do Carmo Lisboa
                                           Mr A. Cansen,
                                           Papaverhof 34
                                           The Hague (Haia)

Lisboa 30/XII/73

Dear Sir,
We don't know any seal or an ancient representation of the coat-of-arms used by Tristão da Cunha, who was not exactly an admiral, but commander in chief of armadas and ambassador of the King D. Manuel I to the Pope.

Tristão da Cunha, member of the noble family of the Cunhas, Lords of Gestaçó and Penajoia, was great grandson of Gil Vaz da Cunha, son of Vasco Martins da Cunha, Lord of Tábua and his wife D.Beatriz Lopes de Albergaria. The Cunhas of Tábua used quarterly the arms of Cunhas and Albergarias, and in the same way the Cunhas of Gestaçó, as we can see it in a portrait of Nuna da Cunha, governor of India and son of our Tristão da Cunha. So we admit that Tristão da Cunha had used the ancient arms of the Cunhas, Lords of Tábua.

That coat-of-arms was quarterly: I and IV, or nine wedges (cunhas in Portuguese) azure 3.3.3; II and III silver a cross flory "empty" gules; a bordure silver with nine escutcheons azure charged with five roundels silver in saltire (quinas of Portugal); Crest - an issuant griffin or, winged azure, semé of wedges counter changed. The I and IV quarters are the canting arms of Cunhas, and the II and III are the arms of Soares de Albergaria, considering the bordure, that are silver a cross flory "empty" gules and in orle nine escutcheons azure charged each one of them with five roundels silver in saltire. The crest is of the Cunhas.
A sketch of the coat-of-arms is enclosed.

We thank you very much if you send us the description of the arms and flag you are going to order to the Tristan da Cunha.
Yours sincerely,
O Secretário Geral,
(António Pedro Sameiro)

Letter by the Administrator of Tristan da Cunha

TDC 1/10/126

The Administrator,
Tristan da Cunha,
South Atlantic.
                                           Mr. Anton Jansen,
                                           Papaverhof 34.
                                           THE HAGUE,

2nd June 1977

Dear Mr. Jansen,
Your letter of 4 March arrived on 13 May. Unfortunately our next mail does not leave until the end of October so some time will elapse before you receive this reply!

Firstly I will deal with the matter raised in the last line of page 1 of your letter of 17 September last. A flag and coat-of-arms cannot be used "non-officially" as you suggested. Here, as in other dependent territories, we use the national flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, i.e. the "Union Jack" which is flown outside my residence. On special occasions the flag of St. Helena, of which Tristan da Cunha is a dependency, is also flown. This flag incorporates the coat of arms of St. Helena. In the same letter of 17 September you mentioned that Tristan has its own postage stamps which identified the island. This is correct - but we are a dependency of St. Helena as I have said above. There is no connection between having our own stamps and not having a separate coat of arms.

You asked for details of the arguments leading to the decision not to have our own flag and coat-or-arms. I can do no more than repeat what I said in my letter to you of 14 June 1976, i.e.
(a) it is unusual for a Dependency to have a coat-of-arms;
(b) any design would have to be properly drawn by a College of Heralds and then submitted to Her Majesty the Queen for approval before being officially registered;
(c) that (b) above is an expensive business for a small territory such as ours (with a population of 300).

In conclusion I would add that we do not wish to proceed with the matter at this state of development although once again I thank you for your interest.

Yours sincerely
(S.G. Trees)

Second Letter by the Administrator of Tristan da Cunha

TDC 1/1D/215

The Administrator,
Tristan da Cunha,
South Atlantic.
                                           Mr. Anton Jansen,
                                           Papaverhof 34.
                                           THE HAGUE,
1st February, 1978

Dear Sir,
Your letter of 25 November arrived on 20 January, but this reply cannot leave before the end of April, our next outgoing mail. No, there is no airstrip here for emergency landings.

You asked for a straight answer why your design for a Tristan coat of arms and flag was unacceptable. The answer is that, with respect to the Portuguese admiral who first discovered the island some 472 years ago, Tristan da Cunha is now a British territory. The British flag (the Union Jack) is flown daily outside my residence whereas your design incorporated the golden field and blue wedges taken from the coat of arms of the Portuguese admiral. Your letter of 24 October 1974 offered an alternative with two red wedges. This was equally unacceptable.

I do think we have pursued this matter long enough and I would conclude by saying that the island is quite happy with the British flag and the flag embodying the St. Helena coat of arms (of which we are a Dependency) which is flown on certain occasions. I repeat an earlier comment that because we have our own postage stamps does not necessarily mean that we must have our own flag or coat of arms.
As requested I enclose two postcards of Tristan. These are the only ones available.
Yours faithfully
(S.G. Trees)

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