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Legal specification for the shades of the national colors has also changed with time. The shade of red was first legally specified as vermilion by a presidential decree of 13 December 1928.This verbal prescription was replaced with coordinates in the CIE 1976 color space by the Coat of Arms Act of 31 January 1980. The flag of the Grand Duchy of Posen, a Polish-populated autonomous province of the Kingdom of Prussia created in 1815, was a red-and-white horizontal bicolour. Its colours were taken from the duchy’s coat of arms which consisted of the Prussian Black Eagle with an inescutcheon of the Polish White Eagle. With Germany’s increasingly anti-Polish policy and a rising identification of white and red as Polish national colours, the red-and-white flag of Posen was replaced in 1886 with a white-black-white horizontal triband.

Many national flags have rules around how they can be used, and Poland is no different. Combine the legend of the Polish Eagle With the christening of Poland, and we get the origin of the colours of Poland’s national flag. The legend states that the first settlers of Poland saw a white eagle landing in front of a red sunset and use that as a sign that they should settle there (in what is present-day Gniezno). Polish national flag over the heads of people gathered at the Castle Square in Warsaw on the day of the Polish Independence Day. Flags in Poland are used according to a customary, rather than legal, flag protocol. Apart from the obligation to treat the flag with due respect, Polish law does not offer a detailed code of correct usage of the polish flag.

If a flag is flown from a wooden pole rather than a staff or mast, a black ribbon is attached to the pole as a sign of mourning or a black flag is flown to its left from the national flag. Until 1831, Polish soldiers wore cockades of various colour combinations. Though the once-powerful Polish kingdom was swallowed up by Russia, Prussia and Austria in the three partitions of the late eighteenth century, Polish nationalism remained strong. Napoleon Bonaparte gave it expression when in 1807 he stripped Prussia and Austria of lands gained in the partitions of Poland, using them to create the Duchy of Warsaw. The Emperor revived an old connection by appointing his German ally, King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, as Duke of Warsaw. Though the Duchy was little more than a vassal state of France, Poles hoped that it would make possible a revival of the Kingdom of Poland.

According to the Coat of Arms Act, everyone can use the Polish flag, especially during national and cultural events, as long as it is done in a respectful manner. This liberty in the use of national colours is a relative novelty. Until 2004, Polish citizens were only allowed to fly the Polish flag on national holidays. The use of both variants was restricted, but only flying the flag with coat of arms was, from 1955 to 1985, punishable by a fine or arrest for up to one year. After 1985, unauthorised use of any national symbol was an infraction. While hoisting a flag on 1 May was acceptable, no later than the following day it had to be taken down.

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