Flag and seal of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Flag of Virginia.svg
Use Civil and state flag
Adopted February 1, 1950; 68 years ago (1950-02-01)[1][N 1]
Design Obverse of the Seal of Virginia on an azure field
Designed by Charles Keck[2][3]
The two sides of the state seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia

The Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia is the official seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a U.S. state. The flag of Virginia consists of the obverse of the seal against a blue background. The flag was first adopted at the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, and standardized by the General Assembly in February 1950,[1] the flag may be decorated with a white fringe along the fly; this is usually done when the flag is displayed indoors.[4][5]


The Virginian state flag that was used during the 1860s.[4][6][7]

In May 1776 the Virginian colony declared its independence from Great Britain, on July 1, 1776, a committee of four was appointed to make a proper seal for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The four men were Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, George Wythe, and Robert Carter Nicholas Sr.. Four days later the committee's report for a design of the seal was read, and George Mason presented it to the Virginia government, it was voted on and approved that same day. It is not known for certain which members of the committee were chiefly responsible for the design of the seal, but it is generally believed to be principally the work of George Wythe.

The seal makers did not want a design which in any way resembled the style of coats-of-arms used in Great Britain, because of the strong admiration for the Roman Republic felt by the Virginian leaders, the design of the new seal was taken from the mythology of Ancient Rome. They also chose a two-sided design, as shown above.



Bronze medals struck at behest of Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson and carried by Joseph Martin to give to Cherokee allies of colonial forces. Early variant of the official state seal with partially disrobed Virtus.

The obverse of the seal is the official seal of Virginia and is used on all the official papers and documents of the Commonwealth's government, as well as on its flag. On this side, a female figure personifying the Roman virtue of Virtus was selected to represent the genius of the new Commonwealth. Virginia's Virtus is a figure of peace, standing in a pose which indicates a battle already won, she rests on her long spear, its point turned downward to the ground. Her other weapon, a parazonium, is sheathed; it is the sword of authority rather than that of combat. Virtus is typically shown with a bare left breast; this is commonly recognized as the only use of nudity among the seals of the U.S. states.

Tyranny lies prostrate beneath the foot of Virtus, symbolizing Great Britain's defeat by Virginia. The royal crown which has fallen to the ground beside him symbolizes the new republic's release from the monarchical control of Great Britain; Maryland, Virginia and New York are the only U.S. states with a flag or seal displaying a crown. The broken chain in Tyranny's left hand represents Virginia's freedom from Britain's restriction of colonial trade and westward expansion. The useless whip in his right hand signifies Virginia's relief from the torturing whip of acts of punishment such as the Intolerable Acts, his robe is purple, a reference to Julius Caesar and the Etruscan king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus.

The motto selected for the obverse of the Virginia seal is Sic semper tyrannis, or in English, Thus always to tyrants. This is a derived quote from the famous events in Roman history, attributed to Brutus upon his participation in the slaying of Julius Caesar. (Caesar had been named perpetual dictator of Rome in the same year, and some Senators believed he had ambitions to abolish the Roman Republic and establish himself as a monarch.)

A joke referencing the image on the seal that dates as far back as the Civil War, is that "Sic semper tyrannis" actually means "Get your foot off my neck."[8]

In 2010, Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General of Virginia, gave his staff lapel pins with Virtus's bosom covered by an armored breastplate. His spokesman, Brian Gottstein, said the pin was paid for by Cuccinelli’s political action committee, not with taxpayer funds.[9]


The reverse of the seal pictures the blessings of freedom and peace, as represented by three Roman goddesses. In the center is the matron Libertas the goddess of individual liberties; in her hand she holds a wand showing her magical gifts, at the top of the wand hangs a Phrygian Cap, also called a Liberty Cap — later made popular by French revolutionaries.

To the left of Libertas stands Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture; in her left hand is a horn of plenty overflowing with the abundance of Virginia's harvests, while in her right hand is an enormous stalk of wheat, representing one of Virginia's leading crops. Aeternitas, representing Virginia's eternity, stands at the right of Libertas. In her right hand is a golden ball, an emblem of authority, and atop the ball is a Phoenix, symbolizing immortality. On the Virginia seal, the phoenix represents effective government.

The motto gracing the reverse with its trio of Libertas, Ceres, and Aeternitas is Perseverando, or in English, Persevering, a reminder to future generations of the need to persist in maintaining the blessings of liberty. The ornamental border on both sides of the seal consists of sprigs of Parthenocissus quinquefolia, or commonly, Virginia Creeper; in 1930 another committee was charged with standardizing the seal's design because of all the variations that came into use over the years. The seals that now adorn the doors of the Southern Portico of the Capitol in Richmond were designed by Charles Keck.[2][3] What the committee approved was basically adopting the 1776 seal as the standard; in 1949, another standard was implemented, when Virginia's Art Commission defined the official color scheme for the seal.[6]

The Great Seal and the lesser seal are the same except for size, the lesser seal is used on commissions of commonwealth officials and notaries, and on other papers which remain within the boundaries of, or relate only to, Virginia.

Legal description of seal[edit]

Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Seal of Virginia.svg
The seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Coat of arms of Virginia (1876).png
An illustration of the Virginia state historical coat of arms from 1876.
Armiger Commonwealth of Virginia
Adopted February 1, 1950[10]

The Seal of Virginia is officially described in the Code of Virginia (1950), §1-500, as follows:

Under Virginian state law, the Secretary of the Commonwealth is the Keeper of the Seals of the Commonwealth.[11]

Governmental seals[edit]


In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) surveyed its members on the designs of the 72 U.S. state, U.S. territorial and Canadian provincial flags. NAVA's members ranked Virginia's flag 54th out of the 72.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The very first Virginian state flag was adopted in 1861. It featured a similar design to the current flag.


  1. ^ a b Commonwealth of Virginia (February 1, 1950). "§ 1-506. Flag of the Commonwealth". Code of Virginia. Virginia: Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved January 28, 2015. The flag of the Commonwealth shall be a deep blue field, with a circular white centre of the same material. Upon this circle shall be painted or embroidered, to show on both sides alike, the coat of arms of the Commonwealth, as described in § 1-500 for the obverse of the great seal of the Commonwealth; and there may be a white fringe on the outer edge, furthest from the flagstaff. This shall be known and respected as the flag of the Commonwealth. (Code 1950, § 7-32; 1966, c. 102, § 7.1-32; 2005, c. 839.) 
  2. ^ a b 6 Hour Day (June 2, 2005). "The Great Seal of Virginia at the Capitol of Virginia". 6 Hour Day. 6 Hour Day. Archived from the original on March 22, 2010. Retrieved March 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Century Archives. "Charles Kek: Sculptor (1871–1951)" (PDF). Century Archives. Century Archives. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 7, 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Wyatt, Rick (August 8, 2017). "Virginia (U.S.)". Flags of the World. Flags of the World. Retrieved September 14, 2017. 
  5. ^ Commonwealth of Virginia. "3X5 Indoor VA Flag (Parade) with Fringe, Tassel". Store: Department of General Services. Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 3X5 Indoor Virginia State Flag (Parade) with fringe, tassel 
  6. ^ a b NetState (February 6, 2014). "Virginia State Flag". NetState. 88 Trotting Track Road, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire: NState, LLC. Archived from the original on December 30, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  7. ^ Virginia Convention (April 30, 1861). An ORDINANCE to establish a Flag for this Commonwealth. Ordinance No. 33. Virginia. 
  8. ^ von Borcke, Heros (April 1866). "Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence". Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. American edition, vol. 62. New York: Leonard Scott & Co. 99 (606): 462. Retrieved 21 August 2010. ...the coat of arms of the state of Virginia, bearing the motto, Sic semper tyrannis, which the soldiers translated, "Take your foot off my neck", from the action of the principal figure ... representing Liberty, who, with a lance in her right hand, is standing over the conquered and prostrate tyrant, and apparently trampling on him with her heel. 
  9. ^ Walker, Julian (May 1, 2010). "Cuccinelli opts for more modest state seal". The Virginian-Pilot. Virginia: The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on March 28, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Commonwealth of Virginia (February 1, 1950). "§ 1-500. The great seal". Code of Virginia. Virginia: Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved January 29, 2015. The great seal of the Commonwealth shall consist of two metallic discs, two and one-fourth inches in diameter, with an ornamental border one fourth of an inch wide, with such words and figures engraved as follows: On the obverse, Virtus, the genius of the Commonwealth, dressed as an Amazon, resting on a spear in her right hand, point downward, touching the earth; and holding in her left hand, a sheathed sword, or parazonium, pointing upward; her head erect and face upturned; her left foot on the form of Tyranny represented by the prostrate body of a man, with his head to her left, his fallen crown nearby, a broken chain in his left hand, and a scourge in his right. Above the group and within the border conforming therewith, shall be the word "Virginia," and, in the space below, on a curved line, shall be the motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannis." On the reverse, shall be placed a group consisting of Libertas, holding a wand and pileus in her right hand; on her right, Aeternitas, with a globe and phoenix in her right hand; on the left of Libertas, Ceres, with a cornucopia in her left hand, and an ear of wheat in her right; over this device, in a curved line, the word "Perseverando." (Code 1950, § 7-26; 1966, c. 102, § 7.1-26; 2005, c. 839.)) 
  11. ^ Commonwealth of Virginia (February 1, 1950). "§ 1-502. Custody; impressions displayed in The Library of Virginia". Code of Virginia. Virginia: Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved January 29, 2015. The seals of the Commonwealth described in §§ 1-500 and 1-501 shall be kept by the Secretary of the Commonwealth and used as provided by law, and at least three clear impressions of the seals shall be kept and displayed by the Librarian of Virginia in some suitable place in The Library of Virginia, for public inspection. (Code 1950, § 7-28; 1966, c. 102, § 7.1-28; 1994, c. 64; 1998, c. 427; 2005, c. 839.) 
  12. ^ North American Vexillological Association (June 10, 2001). "2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey" (PDF). North American Vexillological Association. MediaDezine, LLC. Retrieved June 24, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

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