The current flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...
Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...
was instated when the country became independent in 1978, after the separation from the Gilbert Islands
Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population exceeds just over 100,000 , and is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, straddling the...
Like many former and current British
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
dependencies, the Tuvaluan flag is a blue ensign
The Blue Ensign is a flag, one of several British ensigns, used by certain organisations or territories associated with the United Kingdom. It is used either plain, or defaced with a badge or other emblem....
based on the Union Flag
The Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom. It retains an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth Realms; for example, it is known as the Royal Union Flag in Canada. It is also used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas...
, which is shown in the upper left canton of the flag; however, the field is a unique shade of light blue not seen on other blue ensigns. The previous flag (with the Gilberts
The Gilbert and Ellice Islands were a British protectorate from 1892 and colony from 1916 until 1 January 1976, when the islands were divided into two different colonies which became independent nations shortly after...
) was also based on the Union Flag but with the coat of arms created by Sir Arthur Grimble
Sir Arthur Francis Grimble was a British Civil Servant and writer.After joining the Colonial Office, he became a cadet administrative officer in the Gilberts and became Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony in 1926.Specialist in the myths and oral traditions of Kiribati...
in 1932, the resident commissioner of the British colony.
The stars represent the nine islands which comprise Tuvalu; the arrangement is geographically correct, with the east towards the top (i.e. north to the left).
Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls. Its population of 11,992 makes it the third-least-populated independent country in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants. It is also the second-smallest member by population of the United Nations. In terms of physical land size, at just 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi), Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, larger only than the Vatican City—0.44 km²; Monaco—1.95 km² and Nauru—21 km².
The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesian people. The islands came within the British Empire's sphere of influence in the late 19th century. The Ellice Islands were administered by Britain as part of a protectorate from 1892 to 1916 and as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony from 1916 to 1974. In 1974 the Ellice Islanders voted for separate British dependency status as Tuvalu, separating from the Gilbert Islands which became Kiribati upon independence. Tuvalu became a dominion in 1978.
Changes and controversies
The name "Tuvalu" means "eight together", referring to the eight islands which were inhabited. In October 1995 one of the stars on the flag was removed to conform with the country's name. By January 1996 the flag was replaced with a new one which was not based on the British flag, but the eight stars were retained. This flag, however, was not liked by the inhabitants, who felt that it was a move towards replacing the popular Tuvaluan monarchy
The monarchy of Tuvalu is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign of Tuvalu. The present monarch of Tuvalu is Queen Elizabeth II. Tuvalu shares the sovereign with 15 other Commonwealth realms...
with a republic. The old flag was re-instated in 1997, with all nine stars being restored. Population pressures have since resulted in the ninth island being settled.
- Kamuta Latasi#Flag issue
- Bikenibeu Paeniu#Second term as Prime Minister and flag issue