At a time when Chile was still struggling for its independence, General José Miguel Carrera called for the creation of a rosette and a distinctive national flag.
The flag was hoisted for the first time in 1812 during the celebration of the 1st anniversary of the Government Assembly. On September 30th of that same year, the seal and the Old Country (Patria Vieja) flag were adopted, although their establishment was not well-known nationally nor was a decree issued on the subject.
For Camilo Henríquez, the flag represented the three values of the State: Majesty, Law and Strength. However, this flag did not last long and in May of 1814, upon signing of the Lircay Treaty, Coronel Francisco de la Lastra, Carrera’s enemy, ordered the flag to be removed and replaced by the Spanish flag.
It was last used on October 1 and 2, 1814 in the Battle of Rancagua. This milestone marked the beginning of the Reconquista, a time when Chile did not have its own flag. As a result, during the Battle of Chacabuco on February 12, 1817, Chile fought under the Argentine flag. It was then that the New Country (La Nueva Patria) began.
After the victory in Chacabuco, a new flag, called the Flag of Transition, was adopted. Its design is attributed to Juan Gregorio Las Heras.
This flag has three horizontal blue, white and red stripes. The new red color replaced the yellow that was used on the flag in 1812. The stripe and colors have their origins in verses by Alonso de Ercilla that say: “Por los pechos, al sesgo, atravesadas, bandas azules, blancas y encargadas” (By the chest, at an angle, crossing, blue, white and responsible), attributed to a Mapuche slogan during the Conquest.
The color red symbolized the heroes’ bloodshed on the battlefield; the white, the snow on the Andes mountain range; and blue, the Chilean sky.
Like the flag from the Old Country, this flag was not officially recognized and quickly disappeared.
The flag that flies over Chile today was designed by the Minister of War during Bernard O’Higgins Government, José Ignacio Zenteno, and legalized on October 18, 1817. This was the model used during the oath of Chile’s Independence in 1818.
In 1854 the exact proportion of the colors on the flag were determined, and in 1912 the diameter of the star was established. During this same year, the color order on the presidential sash was decided to be blue, white and red, from top to bottom, or from left to right as the spectator sees.
The current flag was also made official by the Supreme Degree Number 1534 of the Ministry of the Interior, which established that our national emblems are the Seal of the Republic, the National Flag, the Rosette and the Presidential Sash.
The Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile established that “All inhabitants of the Republic shall respect Chile and its national emblems.”
The first attempt
The first seal was established during José Miguel Carrera’s Government in 1812. It was designed in an oval; at the center there was a column that represented the freedom tree. On top of the column is a globe, and a crossing spear and palm leaf with a star above those three items. Next to the column are two indigenous people standing.
The seal has two Latin mottos. The wording above reads: “Post tenebras lux,” which means “Light after darkness.” Below the depiction reads: “Aut consilliis au tense,” or “By council or by sword.”
In 1817 two new seals were created, one in June and the other in October. The first kept the column, globe, and star in an oval with the word “Liberty” on the top section. The second added two flags on crossing flagpoles, this time without the word “Liberty” however.
On September 23, 1819, the Chilean Senate approved a new design. This seal was made up of a dark blue background with a column in the center atop a white marble pedestal. On top of this column was the New World: America. The top of the design featured the word “Liberty” and above that a five-pointed star representing the province of Santiago. On the sides of the column are two equal stars representing Concepción and Coquimbo. All of this is surrounded by two laurel branches tied together with a tricolor ribbon.
Stemming from the ribbon and laurel branches are all of the heraldry in order: Cavalry, Infantry, Dragons, Artillery and Bombing Squad. To complete the seal, an indigenous person held the symbol high above an American Alligator while one of their feet rested on the horn of Amalthea. In its jaw, the alligator was tightly squeezing a Castilian lion, whose crown had fallen off and who was holding the destroyed Spanish flag between its front legs.
This seal caused many criticisms and was not well accepted, causing it to eventually be replaced. During Joaquín Prieto’s government a contest was held to replace it and the winning model was proposed by artist Carlos Wood Taylor.
In August of 1832, with the approval signature of President Prieto and Minister Joaquín Tocornal, this new project was sent to Congress and approved on June 24, 1834. The design became the finalized national seal that we currently know.
This seal, which utilizes the same colors as the flag, is blue on the top half and red on the bottom. The symbol is held by a condor and a type of South American deer. Both animals are wearing a golden naval crown which symbolizes Chile’s glorious maritime traditions.
A crest of three red, white and blue feathers is at the peak of the seal. This crest was the distinction symbol that the Presidents of the Republic previously wore on their hats. Underneath, on the supports, there is a ribbon with a motto that reads “By reason or by force.”
Finally, on October 18, 1967, a Supreme Degree specified the characteristics of this seal in its entirety and named it, together with the flag, rosette and presidential sash, as a National Emblem.