Flag of Tonga

The flag of Tonga consists of a red field with a white canton charged with a red couped cross. Adopted in 1875 after being officially enshrined into the nation's constitution, it has been the flag of the Kingdom of Tonga since that year. The constitution stipulates that the national flag can never be changed.

UseCivil and state flag, civil and state ensign
Adopted4 November 1875
DesignA red field with the white rectangle on the upper hoist-side corner bearing the red Greek Cross in the centre.
Variant flag of Tonga
NameNaval Ensign of Tonga
UseNaval ensign
Variant flag of Tonga
NameRoyal Standard of Tonga
UseRoyal standard
Tonga flags flying above a ceremonial gate to celebrate the coronation of Tupou VI


The British first arrived in Tonga in the late-18th century, when Captain James Cook made three visits to the islands between 1773 and 1777.[1] Approximately fifty years later, English Wesleyan Methodist missionaries came to Tonga and began converting the islanders to Christianity.[2] In 1831, they succeeded in converting "paramount chief" Taufa'ahau Tupou,[1] who became King George Tupou I in 1845.[2] It was during this time (circa 1840s) that the first Tongan flag was adopted. It consisted of a white field with a cross (either red or blue in colour) at all four corners, and the letters "A" (in red) and "M" (in blue) at the centre that symbolise the king.[3]

Upon his accession to the throne, the king sought to design a new flag for the nation,[3] one that would represent Christianity.[4] He befriended Shirley Waldemar Baker – a member of the United Kingdom's Tongan mission who later became the Prime Minister of Tonga – and they worked together to formulate a new flag, coat of arms and national anthem for Tonga.[2] The new design resembled the British Red Ensign, in that three-quarters of it consisted of a simple red field, with a "distinctive canton" featured in the upper hoist section; this was first used in 1866.[3] A new constitution for the kingdom was formulated and proclaimed on 4 November 1875.[2] It codified the new flag design,[3] and marks when it was adopted as the national flag.[4] Under Article 47 of the Constitution, the flag can "never be altered" and "shall always be the flag" of Tonga.[5]



The colours and symbols of the flag carry cultural, political, and regional meanings. The red couped cross alludes to Christianity,[3] the religion practised by approximately 97% of the country's population.[6] It is one of 28 national flags to contain overtly Christian symbols.[7] The white epitomises purity,[4][6] while the red evokes the sacrifice of the Blood of Christ, which he shed during his Crucifixion.[3][4][6]


The previous design of the flag featured a plain white field charged with the red couped cross. However, it was later discovered that this flag was almost identical to the emblem of the International Red Cross, which had been adopted in 1863. As a result of this finding, the Tongan flag was set at the canton of a red field instead, leading to the present design of the flag.[4] The previous design, nonetheless, remains a national symbol of Tonga.[6] The current flag of Tonga also has some similarities with the flags of Switzerland and Georgia.


Historical flags


  1. "Tonga profile". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  2. Fletcher, Matt; Keller, Nancy (2001). Tonga. Lonely Planet. pp. 14–15. ISBN 9781740590617. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  3. Smith, Whitney (24 November 2013). "Flag of Tonga". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 9 August 2014. (subscription required)
  4. Kindersley Ltd., Dorling (6 January 2009). Complete Flags of the World. Penguin. p. 235. ISBN 9780756654863. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  5. Peaslee, Amos J. (1985). Tonga. Constitutions of Nations. p. 1577. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-1147-0_13. ISBN 978-90-247-2905-0. (registration required)
  6. "Tonga". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  7. Green, Michael (20 March 2015). "Flags, for God's Sake". brandingthenations.com. Archived from the original on 3 February 2020. Retrieved 3 February 2020.