History of the flag of the Island of Elba

The flag of Elba is white, with a red diagonal stripe from the top left to the bottom right with three golden bees on it.

The flag, that Napoleon had made when he arrived on the island while still aboard the English frigate called Undaunted, was hoisted in Portoferraio in Forte Stella on May 4th 1814, the very day the Emperor arrived on the island where he was to spend the next ten months of his life in exile.

Over the years more than one explanation has been given as to the significance of the bees, from the hard work of bees to a royal symbol. In actual fact the meaning of the three bees during Napoleon's reign had only one, important meaning, as Gloria Peria, director of the Historical Archives of the Communes of the Island of Elba, has pointed out in her research work.

Napoleon loved bees, because seemingly he chose them as a symbol to create some sort of union with the Merovingi dynasty, so much so that a golden bee was found in King Childerico's tomb. But bees were considered important as far back as the days of ancient Egypt, because they symbolised power, and above all obedience and trust. Napoleon had associated the three golden bees to those cities he most loved, called Bonnes Villes, that had more than 13.000 inhabitants. At that time, in 1814, the entire Island of Elba had just about that number.

Having chosen to give the Island of Elba three bees meant giving the island a sense of unity under his reign, even though from an administrative point of view it was divided into several Municipalities; (some months after he landed on the island he divided the territory into 10 Municipalities).Napoleon's flag of Elba was immediately a great success, so much so that, according to Pons de l'Herault in his Souvenirs et Anecdotes de l'Ile d'Elbe, even the Barbaresque pirates greeted it, because they saw in it the symbol of their war hero, Napoleon, in person, as they sailed the Tyrrhenian Sea.