The flag incident

Unofficial flag of Iceland from 1897 until 1913

The flag incident became a pivotal moment in independence battle and Iceland became a sovereign state five years later.

The white & blue was the flag of Iceland before the current Icelandic flag became legalized. An idea from Mr. Einar Benediktsson became the national flag of Icelanders who liked his idea, and the so-called white-blue became the informal flag of the country in the coming years. On June 12th, 1913, Mr. Einar Pétursson decided to row across the harbor of Reykjavík with the flag at the mast. It came to the attention of the captain of a Danish military ship, “Islands Falk” which immediately issued an arrest and confiscated the flag from the small rowboat. When the news of this incident became known, the townspeople became irritated with this intervention and thought it was interference with Icelandic sovereignty and prepared to protest. The day Einar sailed through the harbor, it directly impacted Iceland getting a new flag five months later.

June 1913, Einar Pétursson on his rowing boat at Reykjavík Harbor with the white & blue flag. Sailors on the Danish military ship “Islands Falk” confiscated the flag from Einar’s boat, as his actions were considered to be in violation of the maritime laws of the Danish kingdom. As a result, Icelanders resorted to protest actions, defying the captain of the Danish guard ship and sailing around the harbor with a number of white & blue flags and singing Icelandic patriotic songs. (Photographer: Þorleifur Þorleifsson)

Sources: Faxaflóahafnir SF & Reykjavík Museum of Photography