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The green and yellow on the Brazilian flag are references to the Houses of Bragança and Lorraine (of Francis I and II of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine), respectively. It seems that the diamond shape on the flag of the Empire of Brazil — which, like the background green and yellow, still remain in the present flag of the country — is a reference to Napoleon.

Flag of Empire of Brazil (1870-1889)

In the book Brasil: Uma Biografia (Brazil, a biography) of Lilia Schwarcz and Heloisa M. Starling, they say that the diamond shape in the flag was a 'stubborn tribute' to Napoleon made by Dom Pedro I of Brazil. The flag was made by Jean-Baptiste Debret, a French artist that worked for Napoleon and went to Brazil after the fall of Napoleon.

Even though the book says the reference was made by the Emperor, by citing the background of the creator of the flag I want to show that this reference isn't far-fetched at all. The tribute to Napoleon in the flag of the Empire was made (probably) because of the relocation of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil, which was caused because Napoleon invaded Portugal. Hence, Napoleon was the reason why Dom Pedro I of Brazil was in Brazil in the first place, having to declare independence. I can't see any other reason for a tribute.

As a curiosity, regarding the independence, Portugal wanted to undermine the political power Brazil got after it was elevated to part of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves (rather than a colony of Portugal) and Brazilians didn't accept it so they pressed Dom Pedro I to declare independence, if I'm not wrong, to avoid political instability. Actually if you think about it, it was only because of the monarchy that Brazil stayed together and didn't split into tiny republics, like it was the case with our not-so-tiny neighbours.

A question remains: in what way is a diamond shape a reference to Napoleon?

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    Only link I can see is that the diamond shape (called a lozenge in heraldic terms) featured frequently on Napoleonic flags. They seem especially common in the standards of imperial French military units and on the flags of Napoleon's puppet states such as the Kingdom of Naples. – Jort Feenstra Mar 5 '17 at 0:31
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The flag design most closely associated with Napoleon would be his personal command flag. If he had one.

Pending the discovery of the design of any personal flag of Napoleon, the flag design most associated with him would be the regimental colors carried on the same staffs as the eagles of his regiments.

This site:

http://www.warflag.com/napflags/flaghtml/franindx.htm1

Depicts the French regiment colors in the 1804, 1812, and 1815 patterns.

Thus the 1804 to 1812 pattern was the one with the lozenge and was carried for about eight years, longer than any other pattern associated with Napoleon.

Previous French military colors in the revolutionary era had very different designs.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/318911217340285242/2

Some flags of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy also had lozenges.

https://www.google.com/search?q=french+military+flags+revolutionary+wars&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=845&site=webhp&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiOoZLu0sLSAhWC7iYKHQxzAkIQ_AUIBygC#tbm=isch&q=flags+of+napoleonic+kingdom+of+italy&*3

As you can see, most military colors in that era did NOT use lozenge patterns and it is possible that only France and French client/puppet states used lozenges in their flags.

https://www.google.com/search?q=french+military+flags+revolutionary+wars&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=845&site=webhp&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiOoZLu0sLSAhWC7iYKHQxzAkIQ_AUIBygC#tbm=isch&q=military+flags+and+colors+napoleonic+wars&*&imgrc=_4

Thus lozenges in flag patterns did have an association with Napoleon. Perhaps Pedro I thought that as a self made and revolutionary emperor he had something in common with Napoleon.

Napoleon's lozenge military colors were probably inspired by some Revolutionary era colors. I have seen a lozenge in a picture of the color of the 106th regiment of revolutionary France.

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/napoleonic-standard/5

Pictures of the fight on the Bridge of Arcola done't agree on the design of the flag. Some show a lozenge design.

https://www.google.com/search?q=napoleon+bridge+of+arcole&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=845&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjqkqPp28LSAhWDQCYKHVzjC2sQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=_6

http://www.flagsforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=21937

The 32nd Demi brigade had a lozenge flag in 1794-1796.

https://books.google.com/books?id=bOeZBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA106&lpg=PA106&dq=why+did+napoleonic+flags+have+lozenges?&source=bl&ots=eNuMcOY3m5&sig=cXEy7bLhlhmWrgN-NCStxs5blWc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwisrYOl4cLSAhXCKCYKHefwALw4ChDoAQgeMAI#v=onepage&q=why%20did%20napoleonic%20flags%20have%20lozenges%3F&f=false8

If the Brazilian lozenge is based on the Napoleonic lozenge, it may be ultimately based on the design of the colors of one or more Revolutionary French regiments.

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The book A História dos Símbolos Nacionais, published by the Brazilian Senate, states that indeed,

[The flag] was conceived by Jean-Baptiste Debret, French painter and founder of our Academy of Fine Arts, inspired by some military flags used in his country at the time of the Great Revolution and the Napoleonic Era, from which he copied the ornamental model in Empire style consisting in a lozenge inscribed into a rectangle.

Comparison between French and Brazilian flags

The regimental flag depicted is the French 1804 pattern which was the one regimental flags were based on following Napoleon's coronation as Emperor in that year.

It is interesting to note that according to the book King João VI, Pedro's father, who remained King of Portugal after the independence of Brazil, had already asked Debret to design a flag for an independent Brazil in 1820, and it already included a lozenge on a green field.

1820 Brazilian flag design

The "tribute" is probably a figure of speech, though, as I do not think the King of the Empire of Brazil Pedro I (who became King of Portugal as Pedro IV) really asked for the flag to be a tribute to Napoleon.

  • Thank you for your answer. It backs up my thesis but it still doens't explain well why a lozenge became a reference to Napoleon. I'm sure there's still an explanation why lonzenge was used in Napoloen's military flags. – Yuri Borges Mar 6 '17 at 14:16
  • Did you mean 1820 or 1802? – Felix Goldberg Mar 6 '17 at 16:54
  • @FelixGoldberg 1820. It is just to mention that the idea of the lozenge was not necessarily Pedro's and that it pre-dated the actual declaration of independence of Brazil. – JMVanPelt Mar 6 '17 at 17:28
  • I think this does answer the question. It does not answer why Napoleon himself adopted a flag with the lozenge shape -- but that wasn't asked. – Aaron Brick Mar 6 '17 at 18:41

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