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The Swiss Embassy says:

THE SWISS FLAG

Among the flags of contemporary European countries, that of Switzerland is one of the most ancient and one of the most modern. It has a white cross in a red field; the cross is the same length on all sides and each arm is one-sixth longer than its width. The flag looks back upon 700 years of history. To trace the origin, one must go back to beginning of the Confederation. By the early Middle Ages the cross was commonly used on coins and seals and, as a symbol of the Christian faith, it was carried into battle on the banners of the various warring parties.

Documents and records show that the white cross, which appeared on the banner of Schwyz (one of the first Cantons which gave its name to Switzerland) in the year 1240, had been bestowed upon the Canton by the Emperor Frederick II as a token of its freedom. And from that time onwards, the citizens of the Confederation used a white cross, made of long strips of linen, as their common sign in battle to distinguish themselves from their enemies. Every man in the army either wore it on his tunic or on his armor. Although each Canton had its own flag in battle, every Swiss carried the white cross as his battle standard.

As the national flag, the white cross first appeared on a red background on the Confederation's seal in 1814. It has been officially in use since 1848, when Switzerland was transformed from a loose federation of different Cantons into the present Confederation with a central government. Its acceptance as the national flag is mainly due to the initiative of General Dufour.

The use of the red cross on a white background, which is actually the Swiss flag reversed, was granted to the International Red Cross to commemorate the organization founded by Henri Dunant, citizen of Geneva. Indeed, the plenipotentiaries of 35 nations, assembled in Geneva on July 6, 1906 to revise the "Geneva Convention," stated as follows in the enacting clause concerning the symbol of the International Red Cross: "To do homage to Switzerland, the heraldic arms of the Red Cross on a white field, which is formed by reversal of the Swiss Federal arms, shall be maintained as a distinctive emblem of the medical services of most armies.

This is a gross simplification. In fact, colours in flags rarely mean anything - there are soi few available. On the cantonal flags, the red represented, as it still does on many flags, freedom - the freedom of each canton to govern itself independently of anyone but the Holy Roman Emperor. The white cross was added to the dress of the Swiss because every nation in Europe employed Swiss mercenaries from time to time, and they didn't want to end up fighting each other.

Note also a curious coincidence: Because it was originally a battle standard, the Swiss flag is square. The only other national flag of that shape is the flag of the Vatican - which is also the only state left which employs Swiss mercenaries.

:)
the red stands for freedom the red stands for freedom

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Q: What do the colors on the Swiss flag mean?
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