A Brief History
On January 7, 1797, the first use of the Green, White, and Red tricolor Italian flag was seen in use by the Cisalpine Republic (formerly Milan) after Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquest of that region in 1796. It seems obvious that the tricolor pattern of what became the modern flag of Italy was much influenced by the French tricolor flag adopted by the Revolutionary French Government in 1790.
Napoleon Bonaparte, former Emperor of the French, is one of history’s most influential characters, as evidenced by the fact that more has been written about him than any other person in history (except Jesus Christ, if you count deities). The Rosetta Stone, Napoleonic Code (a modern method of law observed in much of the world), spread of the French Language and culture, Napoleon Brandy and a host of other manifestations of the Great Man’s Legacy abound.
The flags of Italy went through many iterations over the years until 1946 when the flag we are familiar with today went into use, becoming official in 1948. The thread that connects all these flags is the tricolor Green, White, and Red pattern. Various reasons have been forwarded as why those colors were chosen, and here are some of the explanations.
First, Red and White were the colors of Milan, and Green was the color of the uniform of the Milanese Civic Guard. Another explanation tells us that the Green stands for the countryside, both hills and plains, the White represents the Alps (snow caps), and the Red stands for the blood of Italian patriots that fought for Italian independence. Yet another tale of the flag claims that the Green, White, and Red represent Hope, Faith, and Charity, the three virtues.
Italy today is one of the great nations of Europe, the world’s 8th largest economy in spite of having only the 23rd largest population of all countries. Italy remains a popular tourist destination and the country has provided a massive influence on the United States by immigrants of Italian heritage. (Pizza, need we say more???) The flag of Italy is instantly recognizable to most people. Question for students (and subscribers): Do you have a favorite national flag? Please tell us which national flags you find most attractive, iconic, or interesting in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Cuccia, Phillip R. Napoleon in Italy: The Sieges of Mantua, 1796–1799 (Campaigns and Commanders Series). University of Oklahoma Press, 2015.
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