There are 195 countries in this whole wide world but not a single one of them has a dash of the majestic purple in them. Why? Is it not a color worthy enough of representing an entire nation? Or is there some rational reason as to why no nation has ever put purple in their national flags?

There are a variety of unique patterns and designs we get to see when it comes to national flags of our countries. Some have used bright colors like orange and yellow while some have put stars and dragons in theirs.

purple in their national flags
Flag of SriLanka
purple in their national flags
Flag of Venezuela

But nowhere is the color purple seen in any of the flags.

There have been theories as to why this is so. One is that purple was mainly associated with monarchy and as the world was moving towards republics, it was not seen appropriate for the countries to include purple in their national flags.

But this is just a ‘theory.’

You would be surprised to know that the main reason is very similar to what we usually face in our daily lives.

Because purple fabric was expensive as hell back in those days and the countries just couldn’t afford such an extravagance back then!

 Purple: The Royalty When It Comes To Colors

There is a reason why the color purple has an air of regality around it and is referred to as the Royal Purple.

It was so expensive in the 16th and 17th centuries that only the super rich and the royalty could afford to adorn the color. Hence, it was seen as a symbol of opulence.

Interesting Fact: Queen Victoria I, in the Sumptuary Laws which were established rules to control the expenditure of its people, literally forbade anyone to wear purple except the royal family! Imagine it was that big a deal back then.

purple in their national flags
Queen Victoria I wearing a beautiful purple gown

And the reason it was damn costly was because it was rare and the only way to produce it was naturally.

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Origins of purple dye are traced back to the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre (situated in present-day Lebanon) located at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. People of Tyre used to produce purple dye from a sea-snail known as the spiny dye-murex native to that region. The process included finding thousands of sea snails on the shores of the sea, cracking open their shells and extracting the slimy mucous from their glands which was then exposed to sunlight.

 purple in their national flags
Shell of the Spiny Dye Murex snail

What happened thereafter was no less than magical. In the sunlight, the mucous used to turn white, then yellow-green, then red and finally a deep, vibrant purple color was obtained. This purple dye was popularly known as the Tyrian Purple.

 purple in their national flags
A jar of Tyrian Purple dye

However, as you can imagine, the process was very time consuming and labor intensive. On top of that nearly thousands of snails were required to produce just a gram of the dye which clearly explains why it was more costly than its weight in gold.

Check out this video to understand it better.

How And Why Is Purple Popular Now?

Purple was expensive af. Fair enough.

But it isn’t now.

And the credits for this go to the English Chemist William Henry Perkin, who in 1856 accidentally invented the synthetic way of producing the purple dye when he was just an eighteen-year-old chemistry student!

purple in their national flags
A portrait of William Henry Perkin holding the purple colored fabric

He was actually trying to make synthetic quinine used to treat malaria but instead ended up making the color purple.

 purple in their national flags
The actual cloth dyed by William Henry Perkin

He went on to patent this synthetic method of making purple dyes, built a factory and started producing tons of the royal color which made it accessible for the not so rich crowd as well.

Why Is Purple Still Not Seen In National Flags?

Sadly, even though the color became popular after the 1900s, all the national flags had already been designed by the countries and haven’t been changed since.

There is only one country Dominica whose modern flag, which was adopted in 1978, has a hint of purple on it. Mind you, just a hint!

purple in their national flags
Dominica’s flag with a hint of purple

So now we know why purple, which still has a “wow” factor about it, is never spotted on any country’s national flag!


Image source: Google Images


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