Meanings of Ensign

By | August 10, 2020

The classical Arabic word fāris, which can be translated as “gentleman,” was derived in Spanish Arabic alfáris. This term later came to our language as ensign: the officer who, in certain armed forces, has the lowest rank.

According to Digopaul, the concept of ensign arose in the Iberian Peninsula, where it was used with reference to the representative or second head of a king. Over the years, however, the junior officer began to be called an ensign. The students of an academy are thus ensigns before becoming lieutenants.

Whoever was in charge of carrying the flag in a troop received the name of second lieutenant. The king’s ensign had a similar task, a magistrate who carried the monarchy’s banner in those battles in which the king himself participated.

Currently the notion can refer to different ranges according to the country. In Argentina, for example, Ensign is the initial degree in the Air Force officer. When a student graduates from the military academy, he becomes second lieutenant and then promoted to lieutenant. Also in the Gendarmerie there is the rank of lieutenant, preceded by sub-lieutenant and followed by first lieutenant.

In Colombia, the Police, the Army, the Air Force and the Navy have the rank of ensign. In all cases it is linked to the last year of training and applies to those who are about to graduate from the cadet school.

If we focus on the land of the maritime, we can find the ensign of frigate (the officer of lower rank) and the ensign of ship (the rank that follows ensign of frigate), to name two cases.

Ensign of the Incas

Centuries ago, there was an Indian-type institution that allowed the appointment of a Royal Ensign of Naturals, Royal Ensign of Noble Indians or, as can be seen in the title, Royal Ensign of the Incas. Its creation took place throughout the Viceroyalty, specifically in the Peruvian city of Cuzco (also written with s instead of z, Cusco), in the mid-16th century and through the Royal Decree.

Carlos I of Spain supported the birth of this kind of leadership specifically to recognize the support of Christopher Paullo Inca during the conquest of Collao (also known as the Titicaca plateau, the Andean highlands, the Collao plateau or the South American highlands) and the victory against Manco Inca Yupanqui, the first rebel from Vilcabamba of the four who demonstrated.

Christopher Paullo Inca was, therefore, the first royal ensign of the Incas, but later other people enjoyed the same honor, and among them were Ynga Pascac, Cayo Topa, Guallpa Roca and Don Felipe Cari Topa.

While the viceroy Toledo remained in Cuzco, the Inca nobility had to undergo a change of organization to become formed by twelve houses (lineages or panacas), which corresponded to each of the Incas who had ruled before the Spanish invasion. From the year 1595, it was decided that these houses would be represented by two electors, who together would form the Cabildo de los Indios Nobles.

The twenty-four electors who were part of the Cabildo had to appoint a Royal Ensign by suffrage. He was to go out during the procession that took place at the feast of the Spanish patron Santiago Apóstol, wearing typical Inca clothing and carrying the royal banner. Underneath the llauto, the garment that Inca rulers used to wear, you could see the mascapaicha, a tassel of red wool, gold threads and feathers that was used in events such as parades.

The Royal Ensign of the Incas was accompanied by the correspondent from Spain. In the series of fifteen paintings called Corpus Christi, whose authorship is uncertain, it is possible to appreciate several of the ensigns of this time.