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Order of Saint Stephen (Tuscany, Italy)

Mistakenly reported as a Maltese flag in old charts

Last modified: 2013-12-07 by rob raeside
Keywords: order of saint stephen | tuscany | cross: maltese (red) | maltese cross (red) |
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[Malta 1771 (Encyclopedia Britannica)] image by Randy Young, 1 December 1998

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In the 1771 Encyclopedia Britannica Malta appears as a red Maltese cross on a white field.
Randy Young
, 1 December 1998

I did not see either the white Maltese cross on a red field (except as part of the civil ensign) or its reversed pattern even in battle pictures. One exception to this is a flag which was the reverse of the civil ensign, thus red Maltese cross on a white field with a red border which was part of the display of a flag and banner makers company at the Crafts Museum. Unfortunately, there was no caption or other indication of what the flag might be.
Norman Martin
, 26 November 2000

The red eight pointed cross on a white field is the flag of the Tuscan Order of Saint Stephen, now extinct. It is often (incorrectly) associated with Malta, appearing on several charts of maritime flags as such. There are cases where it is still used in this manner in Malta, notably the Band Club of Kalkara and by the national carrier Sea Malta, as shown in my book [str92] p. 34.
Adrian Strickland, 30 November 2000

According to Peter Bander van Duren, Orders of Knighthood and of Merit, p. 339, the Tuscan Order of Saint Stephen:

It was founded in 1562, by Cosimo de'Medici, Duke of Florence. Its members were of noble birth and had to belong to the Catholic religion (...) Abolished during the French Revolution, Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany revived the Order in 1817 (...) The Order was abolished in 1866, when the Grand Duchy of Tuscany became part of the Italian Kingdom, but the Grand Duke continued to award it because he considered the Order to be dynastic and belonging to the the House of Habsburg-Tuscany.
One can see from this that there has never been any connection with the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Malta.
Adrian Strickland, 3 December 2000

From Colton, Delineation of Flags of All Nations, 1862

[Malta c.1862 in Colton] image by Ivan Sache

Znamierowski 2000 [zna99], French edition, p. 6, shows a colour plate from Colton's Delineation of Flags of All Nations, 1862. Two Maltese ensigns are displayed on the plate, the second one (#130) labelled Malta, showing a white field with a decentered Maltese cross. This seems to be a variant of the flag of the order of St. Stephen, mistakenly reported as a Maltese flag in an old chart.
Ivan Sache
, 10 March 2001

Flags in 18th Century charts

[Malta in 18th C flag charts] image by Alex Danes, 17 October 2008

Bowles' universal display of the Naval Flags of the World (1873) (also available online) and Laurie & Whittle's flag chart (1794) (also available online) shows two flags of Malta. Is the white crossed red flag a true Maltese flag, or just a mistaken one?
Alex Danes
, 17 October 2008

At this page is displayed a red ensign with Union Flag canton and white cross overall as having been shown in various 19th Century sources, so the 1794 chart example may not be entirely a fabrication. On the other hand, the 19th Century version could be equally be a total fabrication based upon a mistaken 18th Century source.
Christopher Southworth, 17 October 2008

The white cross on red is the flag of the Order of St. John
David Prothero, 17 October 2008