Most Flags Over Somewhere
July 21, 2018 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Texas has a slogan, "Six Flags over Texas", because parts of Texas have been claimed as territory by six different countries. What place would have the most "flags"?

For Texas, the six flags are: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, United States, Confederate States. This will basically set the parameters for what I'm asking.
Place: It can be a small geographic area or a city. You don't get to claim the whole (nation/state/county) just because one part of it was one country and a different part was a different country.
Timeframe: Wikipedia tells me that national flags started to be a thing around 1500, so let's set that as the date to start counting. This will also allow a few historical New World empires to count.
What's a country: I want to count top-level nations. USA counts, Tennessee doesn't. Colonial territorial claims count (see Spain and France for Texas). Pre-colonial governments that had cities and exercised control over the area in question count (Aztecs, Inca). Pre-colonial nomadic populations don't count (Comanche for Texas, etc). Essentially, if they have a capital and would have had a flag if flags had been a thing there, they probably count. Post-colonial tribal allotments within the territory of e.g. the USA don't count (Cherokee lands in Indian Territory post-Trail of Tears).
Specific country notes:
Germany: Holy Roman Empire is one country. Austrian Empire, Austria-Hungary, modern Austria are one country, but independent Hungary is a separate country. North German Confederation, German Empire and various German Republics all count as the same country. East Germany is a different country. All the little German territories that used to be part of the Holy Roman Empire but weren't part of the Austrian Empire, in between Napoleon and 1870, count.
France: France is France is France; I don't care whether it was a kingdom, empire, or republic. Colonial possessions also count as France.
British Empire: Dominions count as independent countries. Colonial possessions count as part of Britain, even if they were established by England or by some sort of Geographic India Company. On the island, England and Scotland count as different countries from Britain, but that probably won't matter.
Russia: Soviet Union is a different country from Russia. But the Russian Empire and Russian Federation count as the same country.
China: Imperial China and the Republic of China count as one; People's Republic is different (this is arbitrary).
Ottoman Empire is different from Turkey.
Confederate States of America, and other rebellious territories: Since they count for Texas, they'll count for this. Any rebellion/secessionist movement that sets up a government, has (mostly-)defined territory and borders, has (or would have had) a flag, and exists in those borders for more than, say, 2 years (this is arbitrary), count.
Military occupation by an external power only counts if there's a treaty involved and it's generally internationally recognized. So German occupation of Belgium in WWI doesn't count.
posted by Huffy Puffy to Law & Government (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Googling "seven flags over" turns up a bunch of people referring to the Republic of the Rio Grande as the seventh flag that has flown over Laredo.

St. Croix in the Virgin Islands: "Spain, England, Holland, France, the Knights of Malta, Denmark, and finally, the United States"

Sonoma County: Spain, England, Russia, Mexican Empire, Republic of Mexico, California, USA (but this does count Mexico twice, and when did England rule in California anyway?)
posted by madcaptenor at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

How do you define 'flag?' The U.S. state of Georgia counts seven foreign, six confederate, five U.S., and doesn't delve into any flags or banners of the many American Indian tribes native to that area.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:27 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sir Francis Drake sailed up the coast of CA in 1579 and claimed it for good Queen Bess- but nothing ever really came of it except the naming of “Drake’s Bay”
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Depending on how you want to count the Hungarian turmoil after the First World War, the Burgenland goes something like: You might, however, argue that the various collapsing Hungarian post-First World War governments should count as one. I expect you can find many places in Central and Eastern Europe with similar chaos.
posted by hoyland at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just a note - the flag of Denmark is usually regarded as the oldest national flag, and dates to the 14th century.

Also, by your definition, the Holy Roman Empire, its constituent member states (such as Prussia ), its successor states (such as Prussia after the HRE's dissolution), the unified German Empire, Weimar Germany (and Bonn/West Germany), and Nazi Germany all count as the same country, but they all have different flags. This makes it less of a question as to which area has been under 'most flags' and more about which has been part of most countries.

For example, Szcezin has been part of the Hanseatic League, Sweden, Brandenburg-as-part-of-the-HRE, Prussia-as-part-of-the-HRE, the Napoleonic Empire, Prussia-as-not-part-of-the-HRE, the German Empire, Weimar Germany, Nazi Germany and independent Poland as part of its history, giving it arguably around 9 flags (counting HRE and post-HRE Prussia as one country), but if we include the HRE and all the Germanies as one country, that's only 5 (or 4 if you don't count the Napoleonic conquest).
posted by plep at 10:31 AM on July 21, 2018

Response by poster: Yeah, to clarify: for this purpose, by “flag” I mean “country”. Sorry.

Example: This is the case with Texas, as the white Bourbon flag is usually shown for France, but the tricolor would theoretically also have flown in 1803 (I think). Also, trivially, the USA flag has had 18 versions since Texas was added, as extra stars were added. This does not count.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:47 AM on July 21, 2018

Regarding Szczecin, is the Hanseatic League really a "country"?

Poland does seem like a good place to look.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:50 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Banja Luka and other ethnic Serb areas of Bosnia -

From the Middle Ages - part of the Ottoman Empire (flags)

1878 - Leaves Ottoman Empire, occupied by Austria-Hungary

1918 - Joins the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (flag )

1941 - Ceded to the (Nazi backed) Independent State of Croatia

1945 - Becomes part of Communist Yugoslavia (different from the royal flag )

1991 - Proto-state Republika Srpska, not internationally recognised

1995 - Post-war settlement, now recognised as part of Bosnia and Hercegovina

That's 7 flags, or 6 if you count the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Community Yugoslavia as one country (although they had different flags). Again not an uncommon situation in parts of eastern Europe.
posted by plep at 10:51 AM on July 21, 2018

Regarding Szczecin, is the Hanseatic League really a "country"?

Good question, however if we're counting the Holy Roman Empire as one country then I think the Hanseatic League should follow similar logic. Of course it's all quite debatable, which is why history is interesting and inexact.
posted by plep at 10:52 AM on July 21, 2018

I think it really depends how far back you want to go, and going far enough back would turn this into quite a project. The area that comprised Galicia might be a candidate.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:01 PM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

You can decide how many flags would count for Courland, the smallest European state to claim overseas colonies in the Caribbean and Africa during the Age of Sail, currently part of Latvia.
posted by XMLicious at 2:59 PM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The city of Trieste is often cited as a place where, because of its crossroads location, control has changed often over the centuries, with at least 16 different ruling entities:
-- 177 BC: becomes part of the Roman republic
-- 476: becomes part of the Byzantine Empire
-- 567: conquered by the Lombards, who establish the Kingdom of the Lombards. In 788, through conquest, Charlemagne becomes King of the Lombards.
-- 800: The Holy Roman empire is established with Charlemagne as its emperor.
-- late 1100's: the city becomes a "free commune", essentially a self-governing entity.
-- 1283-1287: occupied by the Republic of Venice
-- 1287: comes under the patronage of the Patriarchate of Aquileia
-- 1368-1381: again occupied by the Republic of Venice
-- 1381: voluntarily affiliates with the Duchy of Austria
-- 1508: occupied again by the Republic of Venice
-- 1509: control is returned to the Duchy of Austria, which evolves into the Austrian Empire
-- 1797, 1805 and 1809: occupations by the French Empire under Napoleon
-- 1809-1813: annexed by the French Empire into its Illyrian Provinces.
-- 1813: the city is returned to the Austrian Empire.
-- 1918: the city is annexed by Italy. This and other territory had been promised to Italy as reward for entering World War I on the side of the Allies.
-- 1943: after the Italian armistice in World War II, Trieste is occupied by German troops, as part of the Italian Social Republic, which was effectively controlled by Germany.
-- 1945: Most of Trieste is occupied by Yugoslav Partisans, who held it for 40 days. Thereafter, the city came under British-U.S. military administration.
-- 1947: The Paris Peace Treaty establishes Free Territory of Trieste, an independent city-state under the protection of the United Nations. There were two zones, Zone A governed by British and American military commanders, and zone B by Yugoslav military commanders.
-- 1954: The Free Territory is dissolved, with Zone A becoming part of Italy, and Zone B becoming part of Yugoslavia.
--1991: As part of the breakup of Yugoslavia, the former Zone B becomes part of Slovenia.
posted by beagle at 3:16 PM on July 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Amending the above: under the OP's rule that military occupations don't count, I come up with 12 different "flags" for the Zone B portion of Trieste, and 10 for Zone A.
posted by beagle at 3:25 PM on July 21, 2018

Tobago has changed hands 33 times since European discovery of it in 1498. Before 1498 is was divided between the Arawak and Carib peoples. Then the island was variously owned by the Spanish, English and British, Dutch, Courish (Lithuanian), French, and Trinidad & Tobago. In some cases subgroups of those big groups (dutchies etc) that you may count twice depending on how you decide on top-level rulers.

Palermo claims to be the most-conquered city in the world, though some of that is before your time period. In your period I think we can count Aragon, Spain, Savoy, the Two Sicilies, a very briefly independent Sicily (1848-9), and the Kingdom of Italy and its successors.

I also do think bits of the Holy Roman Empire would be good to look at ... lots of those places changed hands constantly as nobility intermarried.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:01 PM on July 21, 2018

Best answer: The territory that is now the Zakarpattia Oblast in western Ukraine has been part of
Greater Moravia
The Kingdom of Hungary
The Ottoman Empire
The Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth
The Austro-Hungarian Empire
The Western Ukrainian National Republic
The Hungarian Soviet Republic
Nazi Germany

It was captured by the Mongols in 1241-1242. And it was also part of the Carpatho-Ukraine Republic, which only existed on 15 March 1939, before it was immediately annexed by Hungary.
posted by chrisulonic at 5:59 PM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Spratley Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Vietnam.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 11:29 PM on July 21, 2018

Best answer: And here I've spent the past 20 years thinking that "Six Flags over Texas" was just an amusement park. Cue my embarrassment.

Estonia ranks fairly high as it was pretty much a big battleground between Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland for a long time.
Flags (I think): Kingdom of Denmark, the Livonian Order (an autonomous part of the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights), assorted Baltic German ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire, Livonian Federation, Swedish Empire, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Russian Empire and Russian Republic, German Empire, Independent Estonia of 1920-1940, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, (then the Soviet Union again and finally independence again).
posted by mkuhnell at 4:10 AM on July 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island in north Florida boasts that it has been under 8 different flags. Although some are a bit of a stretch, IMHO.
posted by Neeuq Nus at 6:09 AM on July 22, 2018

Response by poster: I thought about posting examples, but when I tried to use Trieste as an example, I quickly discovered that it was more complicated than I could explain. Zakarpattia/Carpathian Ruthenia and Estonia I think get the win here. Best Answer also to St. Croix, because the Knights of Malta.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:33 AM on July 23, 2018

A related question (asking only for history since 1900 or so) has been asked at history stackexchange.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:30 AM on October 18, 2018

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