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Empire of Brazil, 1822-1889

Império do Brasil

Last modified: 2014-08-14 by ian macdonald
Keywords: lozenge | coat of arms | armillary sphere | order of christ | crown (imperial) |
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[Flag of the Empire of Brazil (1822-1889)]image by Simon J. Frame, modified by Joseph McMillan
Basic design adopted 1 December 1822

See also :

Flag of the Empire of Brazil

The flag of 1822 was green with a yellow lozenge (like today), but with the arms in the center.
Mark Sensen, 5 December 1995

The flag for the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889) was a green field, with a large yellow rhombus that stretches itself to the edges of the flag (unlike the current Brazilian flag). Inside the rhombus lies the Brazilian Empire´s coat of arms. This coat of arms is similarly shaped to the Portuguese one (we may remember that the Brazilian Empire was ruled by the Portuguese royal dynasty that fled from Portugal during the Napoleonic invasions, but its badge is green. It shows a blue circular band, with 20 stars. Inside this blue circular band, we see the earth´s globe and, over it, a Cross of the Order of Christ (again, very typical of Portuguese iconography). Above the coat of arms, we see the crown of the Empire (worn by Emperors Pedro I and II), of which I have seen at least four different renditions (either in history books, web pages, and flag books). Around the coat of arms, we see coffee and tobacco branches.
Guillermo Tell Aveledo,10 February 2001

According to William Crampton, The World of Flags: A Pictorial History, on page 126, the yellow lozenge on the imperial flag did not go out to the edges of the flag but left green all around it, just as the present day flag of Brazil does. This image has the lozenge right out to the edges. What is right?
Elias Granquist,8 February 2001

The flag of the Brazilian Kingdom and the Brazilian Empire had the lozenge touching the edges. But that happened accidently, as nearly no manufacturer had read the description of the flag, which spoke of a green parallelogram, and therein a golden rhomboid (parallelogramo verde e nelle inscripto um quadrilátero rhomboidal côr de ouro). Old flags in museums are all of the same pattern with parallelogram to the edges. So William Crampton showed the de jure flag which was never in use. But even more complicated: as far as I know the decree of 1 December 1822 to introduce an imperial crown was not followed or not enforced. Clóvis Ribeiro shows the "imperial flag" with a king's crown and writes that the emperor himself had flags sent to São Paulo on 6 December 1822 to give them the correct flag. Those flags bore the king's crown.
[Ed. note: See Kingdom of Brazil for an explanation of this inconsistency.]
Ralf Stelter, 8 February 2001

The French Navy's 1858 Album des Pavillons, the US Navy's 1870 and 1882 Flags of Maritime Nations, and the German Navy's 1885 Die Flaggen der Kriegs- und Handels-Marinen aller Staaten der Erde, and the 1889 edition of the British Admiralty's flag book all show this flag with an imperial-style crown, as shown in Simon Frame's image above. Furthermore, the Brazilian Senate's official website has a photo of an actual imperial flag used in the war against Paraguay, also with an imperial crown.
Joseph McMillan, 17 April 2001

The website [no longer on line--Ed.] says that the designer of the flag was the French painter and designer Jean Baptiste Debret, who was a prominent figure in Brazilian cultural life between 1816 and 1831.
Joseph McMillan, 15 April 2001

According to the Brazilian Boy Scouts site, the lozenge on the imperial national flag, and by extension on the modern flag, was inspired by the designer's familiarity with French military colors of the period (the designer was the French painter Jean-Baptiste Debret). Many of these flags were similar to the honorary jack now used by French naval ships named after vessels of the Free French Navy in WWII-- parted vertically blue and red with a white lozenge throughout reaching the edges dividing the blue and red. This site explains the difference between the imperial and republic lozenges by noting that the imperial decree on the flag specified that the lozenge would be inscrito (inscribed) on the green field, while the republican decree specifies that it is colocado (located) on the field. It connects the celestial sphere with white band on the modern flag with the blue orb with white band atop the crown on the imperial flag.
Joseph McMillan, 17 April 2001

According to Clóvis Ribeiro, page 91, the shape of the shield on this flag varied over the years. At times different shapes were used for different purposes. The image at the top of the page shows the shape of shield used between 1849 and 1889.
Joseph McMillan, 20 August 2002

I went to the Brazilian Historical Museum today and I got confirmation about a doubt about the Imperial Flag of Brazil--whether the bottom of the crown was red or green. Until 1 December 1822 the crown in the flag was the same as on the old royal flag of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and Algarve with the red lining. On 1 December 1822, by a personal act of Pedro I, the Brazilian emperor, the crown was replaced by the imperial one with a green lining.
André Godinho, 8 May 2003

When Guillermo Tell Aveledo says "Above the coat of arms, we see the crown of the Empire (worn by Emperors Pedro I and II), of which I have seen at least four different renditions (either in history books, web pages, and flag books)", we should say that Pedro I and Pedro II had different crowns both in shape and in sizes and the the imperial flags varied accordingly. Probably this is the reason for him to see different renditions of the same flag. The two crowns can now be seen at the Museu Imperial in the city of Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro (

Although "the lozenge on the imperial national flag, and by extension on the modern flag, was inspired by the designer's familiarity with French military colors of the period" we should state that the colors of the "House of Bragança", the rulers of Brazil, were precisely both the green and the yellow gold. As such, the imperial flag would logically show these two colors no matter what the French military colors of the period were. If one goes to the Museu Imperial, former summer palace of the emperor Pedro II, you should easily see that some parts of the furniture like side tables, are made of hardwood with a green marble top ornamented with gold chandeliers and alike atop as a remembrance of who were the real rulers. In this picture of Princess Leopoldina's room ( her bed has a green satin bedspread with gold embroidery and also a dark green marbled side table depicting the two colors of the House of Bragança. Later, after deposing the emperor and changing the national flag to its present look, the republicans used to say that "the green represents the vastness of Brazilian jungle and the yellow represents the mineral richness of the country".
Rodrigo Girdwood Acioli, 14 January 2004

I would note that the connection of the colors green and gold to the jungle and mineral wealth, rather than to the royal houses of Braganza and Habsburg, is not wholly an invention of the republicans. Dom Pedro I's decree of 18 September 1822, creating a new national cockade, said that the symbolism was green for spring and yellow for gold--although admittedly he could simply have been ascribing new meaning to the existing dynastic colors.
Joe McMillan, 15 January 2004

From LeGras' Album 1858, the National Ensign is described as used "by the ports, cities and imperial representatives abroad" and also as the merchant ensign. The size of it calculated from LeGras' scale comes close to 400×700 cm.
Željko Heimer, 10 July 2014

Imperial Standard

[Imperial Standard (Brazil)]image by Devereaux Cannon

Source:US Navy Bureau of Navigation, Flags of Maritime Nations (1882).

Both this source and the French Navy's 1858 Album des Pavillons show this flag with the coat of arms all in gold, the charges outlined and detailed in dark gold/green. As in the case of the national flag, the crown is imperial in style with pearls on the arches. Album des Pavillons gives the proportions as approximately 4:7.
Joseph McMillan, 17 April 2001

From LeGras' Album 1858, the Imperial Standard is mentioned with a ratio 4:7, and the measurements are provided (as usual by LeGras by quoting a scale of the drawing, from which one may measure) as ca. 315×525 cm. It is said that the flag is used at the mainmast on the naval ships and also on boats when the emperor is on board.
Željko Heimer, 10 July 2014

Imperial Coat of Arms

Imperial Coat of Arms (Brazil)image by Velez Grilo

In the illustration of the Brazilian flag in the U.S. Navy's Flags of Maritime Nations (1882), there are 20 stars on the coat of arms.
Devereaux Cannon, 9 October 1999

Color of the Crown Lining

I looked into the history of the flag of Brazil as part of the research for my ICV21 Lecture : "Caudillos, Coups, Constitutions and Changes". From the various sources, I came to the conclusion that the flag of the Kingdom had the traditional Portuguese crown, with a red lining. The flag of the Empire was the same, except that the crown was changed to a Brazilian style, also with a red lining. For the Imperial flag, I had as my primary contemporary source the Les Gras book "Album des Pavillons" of 1858.

I did encounter the green lining, and came to the conclusion that the "official" drawing of the Imperial Coat of Arms has been modernised at some time in the past 20 years or so and it now has a more realistic reproduction of the crown and it now uses a green lining. Of course, the modern form of the imperial arms is that used only by supporters of the pretenders to the Brazilian throne (see
Ralph Kelly, 2 October 2009

It seems that that was indeed so. In the mean time we found some photos of the original old flags (and maybe a few modern reproductions among them), but all showing the red cap:
Željko Heimer, 2 October 2009

19 Star Flag

Imperial Coat of Arms (Brazil) image by Francisco Gregoric, 18 April 2005

In the first years of the Empire a 19 stars coat of arms was used. And from what I have seen, the original imperial flags had the coat of arms with the same design as the royal coat of arms (just with the imperial crown instead of the royal one). The coat of arms in the flag of the second period (modified by Pedro II) appears to have more details. I combined the image on this page with that on the Kingdom of Brazil page to create an image of the original version of the imperial Brazilian flag. The author of the original image is Joseph McMillan, with the crown drawn by Simon J. Frame. I only combined both images and changed the red of the crown to green according to the Brazilian Historical Museum information provided by André Godinho. This original variant was the imperial flag raised in the Provincia Cisplatina (occupied Uruguay) in that time (1822-1828).
Francisco Gregoric, 18 April 2005

In Crampton's World of Flags (1990), there is an old picture of the flag of the Brazilian Emperor bearing this coat of arms. The blue ring has 19 stars.
Dylan Crawfoot, 9 October 1999

On 18 September 1822, Dom Pedro I signed three decrees that were the first acts of independent Brazil. The third decree created the coat of arms and flag: "...henceforth the arms of this Kingdom of Brazil will be, on a green field, a gold armillary sphere superimposed on a cross of the Order of Christ, the sphere encircled by 19 silver stars on a blue circle; and a royal crown with diamonds set atop the shield, the sides of which will be embraced by two plants of coffee and tobacco, as emblems of its [the Kingdom's] riches, in their proper colors and tied at the bottom with the national bow-knot." Later, and without any official legal act, Emperor Dom Pedro II increased the number of stars to 20 to reflect the loss of the province of Cisplatina in 1829 and the creation of the provinces of Amazonas in 1850 and Paraná in 1853.
Joseph McMillan, 15 April 2001

Pilot Flag

Pilot Flag (Brazil) image by Željko Heimer, 10 July 2014

An interesting French flag chart is linked at Identified as ‘Tableau des pavillons de toutes les puissances maritimes du globe’ (i.e. Chart of the ensigns of all the maritime powers of the world) by François Auguste Delamare, publ. A. Logerot at Paris, dimensions given as 42.5 cm x 56.5 cm. Surely earlier than 1900, as Brazil is still an empire?

The Brazilian pilot flag, a simple bicolor of green above yellow, is shown.
The same flag may be seen here, near the end of this page:
Jan Mertens, 22 March 2010

From LeGras' Album 1858, the flag for calling a pilot when entering Brazilian ports - as noted by LeGras, as reported by a naval station commander. The drawing shows a square flag.

From LeGras' Album 1858 also reports:
Pilot Flag. Red bordered white flag (or white pierced red, if you wish). Used from mizenmast to call pilot. Cf. VI. above. It is shown in the 2:3 ratio.
Željko Heimer, 10 July 2014

Divine Service Triangle

Divine Service Triangle (Brazil) image by Željko Heimer, 10 July 2014

From LeGras' Album 1858:
Divine Service Triangle. (Triangle de Messe.) Used on board naval ships during the celebration of a mass. White triangle with voided cross patte. This is one of those figures that are scanned in black and white in the Google copy, so one may only guess the cross colour - I go for the red, but if anyone has a coloured copy, it would be appreciated to check it. (The dimensions i.e. ratio is not mentioned, it is show in ratio 1.2, just as the command triangle above it, for which the ratio 4:7 is stated. I follow the drawing. Also the drawing makes the cross longer the high, I retain that "distortion" for the lack of other proof that it should not be so :)
Željko Heimer, 10 July 2014