The vexillology collection of the Army Museum includes not only flags, but also pennants, guidons, standards and banners, reaching over 2,500 items. The fragility of the materials with which they were made, as well as their use, are the reasons why only the more resistant parts are preserved in some of them: the embroideries.
The oldest preserved pieces belong to the sixteenth century: the banner of the “Santa Hermandad Vieja” of Toledo, the Mexican pennant of Hernán Cortés, the pennant of a light cavalry lancers troop, or a fragment of the flag used by Don Juan de Austria in the Battle of Lepanto. Prior to these, we only have reproductions. Since this date, our collection allows us to see the evolution of our ensigns from white flags to the “rojigualda” (red and yellow), established by the Decree of 1843. This evolution is well represented in the thematic Hall of Vexillology.
The materials and techniques used in the making of these pieces vary from each other. We find examples richly trimmed with thread gold or silver and pearls (mainly banners or guidons), which differ from the simplest (painted or industrially embroidered). Some of them even have been reused, using fabrics of different colors on those already existing. Some embroidered coats of arms stand out because they indicate the place of origin of the battalion.
In addition to national flags, we find some foreign flags, many coming from war actions, either taken to the enemy or as a gift for participating in such conflicts; some are from foreign units or from units made up by foreign personnel taking part in Spanish conflicts; or from formal events.
Although there are regulations governing the appearance and dimensions of the flags since the times of Philip V of Spain, some slightly different flags were created at certain moments of history. Some examples are some flags that participated during the Spanish War of Independence, or the flag of General Cabrera’s Carlist battalion (see Historical Tour Section).