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Nieuw Holland


Republica Pernambucana

Confederação do Equador

Estado do Pernambuco



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History & Heraldry


Originally inhabited by various indigenous peoples, Pernambuco was first settled by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The French under the french admiral  Bertrand d'Ornesan tried to establish a French trading post at Pernambuco in 1531.

Shortly after King João III of Portugal had created the Hereditary Captaincies in 1534, Pernambuco was granted to Duarte Coelho, who arrived in Nova Lusitânia (or “New Lusitania”) in 1535.

His arms were:

The arms of Duarte Coelho Pereira,

the first owner of Pernambuco (1534-1554) and son of Gonçalo Coelho


Arms: Or, a lion passant Gules, a chief Argent, five five-pointed stars Gules, and a base Vert a latin cross Sable; and a bordure Azure, five castles Argent.

Crest: On a helmet to the dexter lambrequined Or and Gules, the lion of the arms.


These arms are derived from the arms of Coelho which were: Or, a lion Azure, langued Gules, within a bordure Azure, five rabbits Argent and the lion of the arms issuant as a crest.

Duarte did not bear these arms because he was a bastard.


Duarte directed military actions against the French-allied Caetés Indians and upon their defeat in 1537 established a settlement at the site of a former Marin Indian village, henceforth known as Olinda, as well as another village at Igarassu.

After him Pernambuco was ruled by a large number of Governors of Pernambuco (1534—1822) of which seven members of the Albuquerque familiy held the office in the 16th and 17th century. The arms of this ancient Portuguese family were:



Arms: Gules, five fleurs de lis 2, 1 and 2, Or.

Crest: A wing Sable, charged with the fleurs-de-lis of the arms.


Nieuw Holland


In 1630 Recife was captured by the Dutch at war with king Philip III of Spain, the possessor of the Portuese colonies in America. The Dutch established the colony of Nieuw Holland which, under the governorship of John Maurice of Nassau-Siegen, soon comprised all of north-eastern South America from the Rio Tocantins to the Rio Real.


Província de Pernambuco


Portugal reconquered Recife in 1654 and Olinda regained its status of political center. Recife remained the commercial / port city. When the Dutch were gone, however, the threat of the now unified quilombo of Palmares remained. In spite of a treaty negotiated in 1678 with its ruler Ganga Zumba, a war between the two remained. Zumbi who became ruler following the peace treaty and later repudiated it, fought the Portuguese government until 1694 when soldiers brought from the south eventually defeated him.


After the restoration of Portuguese rule in Pernambuco the use of the royal arms of Portugal was resumed:


Royal arms of Portugal supported by two angels

On a map of the province of Pernambuco by Andrea Antonio Oraci, Rome, 1698.


In 1710 the Mascate War took place in Pernambuco. This conflict set the mascates (traveling salesman) from Recife against the establishment hosted in Olinda and led by the Senhores de Engenho (owners of the sugar mills, literally: sugar mill lords).


Pernambuco was the scene of the most important rebellions and insurrections in Brazilian history, especially in the 19th century.


Republica Pernambucana 



1817 was the year of the Pernambucan Revolution, a republican separatist movement which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Pernambuco. The main cause of the revolution was dissatisfaction with the colonial administration. The republic was declared on 7 March 1817. After military intervention, the secession ended on 20 May 1817. The current flag of Pernambuco is actually the flag of that Republic.


The general layout of the flag used by the revolutionaries still endures today, as the flag of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco. The first flag was formed from the requirement for a flag to replace the Portuguese flag that had been hauled down from the Recife fort after the provisional government took control of the city. The government originally considered hoisting the French tricolor, but instead appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Father João Ribeiro Pessoa to develop a design. The design was copied in watercolor by the Rio de Janeiro artist Antônio Álvares - a painting that still existed when Ribeiro was writing in the 1930s - essentially the same as the modern state flag with the field dark blue over white, a single star above the rainbow. The flags were produced by the tailor José Barbosa, who was also a captain in the militia. The first flag was publicly blessed by the dean of the Recife cathedral on 21 March 1817. The original drawing is preserved in the National Library of Rio  de Janeiro and was published in the Anais Pernambucanos of Pereira da Costa. [1]


Confederação do Equador



As a reaction to the Emperor Dom Pedro I dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the Confederation of the Equator was set up on 2 July 1824. The Confederation was another separatist movement which comprised the provinces of Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, and Ceará. On 29 November 1824, the Confederated forces capitulated to the Imperial army.

About the flag and the arms of the confederation Clovis Ribeiro writes:


“On 24 November 1824 the Presidential Office of the province of Bahia  presented a design of the flag of the Confederation of Equador to the Court of Rio de Janeiro, captured by the Imperial forces fighting the republic in Pernambuco. Of  the arms on the flag a drawing was made for the court by the Captain of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Francisco Paes Barreto, later marquess of Recife. This drawing was a copy of the one send to France to be engraved on the arms and objects of the republic. The drawings, according to Mello Maraes, were immediately presented to Emperor Dom Pedro I, and came into the hands of José Maria Besquó, later marquess of Cantagallo but its later fate is not known.

The republican flag according to A.S. de Mello Moraes  was as follows:

“A sky blue field with a yellow quartered shield in the middle, surrounded by a stalk of sugar-cane and a branch of cotton. On the shield was a white ring on which was written RELIGIÃO - INDEPENDENCIA - UNIÃO - LIBERDADE, the words separated by four scarlet branches. The disc was divided into two equal parts by a white fess. Its color was dark blue and it had a scarlet cross fleurdelisé with two white stars below the extremities of the arms, and two other ones below the fesse and in base nine stars in a semi-circle.

On the upper part of the shield rose a scarlat sleeve from which came a hand in the centre of which an Eye of Providence was drawn, encircled by six white stars. The hand pointed to a white scroll on which the word “CONFEDERAÇÃO” was seen.

When  the councillor Pedro de Alcantara Bellegarde  presented “a model of the flag used by the rebels of the Confederation of Equador” to the Istituto Historico Brasileiro in 1861, together with the note with the description of Mello Moraes, he wrote the following about a difference between the first and the second version: ‘The note says that on a sky-blue background of the flag was a quartered shield of “light yellow”, the drawing shows a square shield of the color indicated in the note. But nor from the design nor from the rest of the note can be understood that the shield is quartered, that is divided in four parts. Thus we have to say “a square shield” and have to draw it conform the original.’

The drawing was certainly one of the two of the president of Bahia send to the court by Francisco Paes Barreto mentioned before. With these data at his disposal Alfredo de Carvalho made a coloured drawing of the “Bandeira da Confederação do Equador” which was published in the ‘Revista do Nosso Instituto Pernambucano’ n° 58 of 1903.” [2]


After all the achievement was:

Arms: Or, a disc Argent, inscribed with the words LIBERDADE - INDEPENDENCIA - UNIÃO - RELIGIÃO in orle, separated  by two sticks in saltire Gules; charged with another disc Azure, a fesse Argent charged with a latin cross bottony Gules, between four five-pointed stars, two in chief and two in base of the fesse, and nine five pointed stars in orle in base Argent.

Crest: An arm issuant vested Gules, the hand, charged with the Eye of Providence proper, pointing at a scroll with the motto CONFEDERAÇÃO, and surrounded by six five-pointed stars Argent.

Garland: A stalk of sugar-cane and a branch of cotton.


ð See ilustration in the head of this section.


In 1848 the brief liberal republican Praieira revolt took place in Pernambuco. It was Brazil's response to the European year of failed liberal revolutions. Deodoro da Fonseca, the marshal who crushed the revolt, much later overthrew Emperor Pedro II, and served as the first president of the Brazilian republic.


Estado do Pernambuco


In the time of the Empire the imperial arms were used in Pernambuco. Coats of arms were permitted to the states after the proclamation of the Republic in 1889.

The arms of Pernambuco were adopted by Law n° 75 of 21 May 1895.They are:



Arms: A shield charged with an oval showing a lighthouse and a fortress on a pier and the Atlantic coast and a sun in the distance.

Crest: A lion couchant guardant proper

Garland: A stalk of sugar-cane and a branch of cotton tied with a blue and white ribbon inscribed with the dates 1710, 1817, 1824 and 1889.


The law reads:


O Congresso Legislativo do Estado de Pernambuco decreta:


Art. 1.° - O escudo que deve servir como sello do Estado de Pernambuco para authenticar os actos officiaes, conterá uma faixa estreita, ellipitca, ornada de tantas estrellas quantos foram os municipios do Estado e cercado o desenho ao extremo norte do Recife, que confronta a Capita com o fraol e o fortim da barra, destacando-se ao longe a cidade de Olinda e á direita o sol erguendo-se sobre o oceano. Encimando o escudo ver-se-á o leão em repouso, á esquerda e aos lados a canna de assucar e o algodoeiro em flôr, enlaçados, na extremidade inferior, por uma fita azul e branca, tendo as datas 1710, 1817, 1824 e 1889.

Art. 2° - Revogam-se as disposições em contrario.-


Camara dos Deputados do Estado de Pernambuco, 21 de maio de 1895.

(a) José Marcellino da Rosa e Silva, presidente

Palacio do Governo do Estado de Pernambuco, em 25 de maio de 1895.

(a) Alexandre José Barbosa Lima


The dates are important dates in the history of Pernambuco: 1710: Mascate War, 1817: Pernambucan Revolution, 1824: Confederation of Equador and 1889: Proclamation of the Republic of Brazil


The arms were abandoned in 1934 but readopted in 1946. This last version in modern rendering lacking the Atlantic coast, the shield barry Argent and Azure.


ðSee illustration in the head of this essay.


Armed Forces







Pernambuco is a part of the 7th Military Region together with the states of Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba and Alagoas.

Seat of the command: Recife (PE).






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© Hubert de Vries 2011-12-01


[1] Ribeiro, Clovis: Brazoes e Bandeiras do Brazil. Editoria Sao Paolo. Sao Paolo, 1933. Pp. 135-142.

[2] Ribeiro op. cit.. Pp. 143-144. Citing: Pereira da Costa in: Diario de Pernambuco, 2 July 1924.

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