The origin of the Albanian flag, a red field with a Byzantine double-headed eagle, is supposed to go back to the Albanian medieval hero Skanderbeg (Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu) who fought for many years against the Turks in the late 15th century under the double-headed eagle flag, "Flamur e Skënderbeut". In the 19th century, the Albanian independentist circles opposed to Ottoman rule again used this flag, that had never been forgotten.
It was used by the Albanian chief Isa Boletin in 1910 when he rebelled against Turkey. An autonomous government was proclaimed in June 1911 and a red flag with the black double-headed eagle was raised in Prishtina (now in Kosovo). A few weeks later, the flag was flying all over Southern Albania as well. In May 1912 the Albanians took Üsküb (now Skopje, Macedonia), and Turkey recognised the autonomy of Albania in June 1912. During the First Balkan War, on 28 November 1912, Albania's independence was declared by Ismail Qemali in Vlorë and a flag with the black eagle of Skanderbeg on a red field was raised. The Provisional Government of Albania was created by the Assembly of Vlorë in 4 December 1912. A white six-pointed star was added to the flag, symbolising unity between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims.
After the second Balkan War in 1913, Albania was split among Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, but on 29 July 1913 at a conference in London, the then six great powers proclaimed Albania's independence as a Principality under rule of Wilhelm Von Wied, a German prince. He landed in Durrës on 7 March 1913 but left six months later as he lacked international support and faced a revolt by the Muslims in central Albania. The flag used had a redrawn double-headed eagle, now with yellow beak and talons, and a white five-pointed star.
During the First World War, various armies occupied the country and in 1920, when the Italians had finally left, a Congress in Lushnja proclaimed a new government and 17 July 1924 Fan Noli, an orthodox priest, who had lived in the U.S.A., became Prime Minister and Regent. Earlier that year 1924 Ahmet Bey Zogu, a chieftain from the north who earlier had served as Minister of the Interior and Prime Minister represented the conservatives, had been forced to flee the country; he came back with financial help from Yugoslavia and Britain in December the same year and overthrew Fan Noli's government. In 1925 a republic was proclaimed with Ahmet Zogu as President; the flag was changed to a simpler design. Three years he declared the country a monarchy with himself as King Zog I. The flag for the monarchy was again redesigned and now had Skanderbeg's helmet added to the double-headed eagle. The flag's field was a very dark red until 1934, when a much lighter shade was adopted. Under Zog's rule Albania allied itself with Mussolini's Italy.
On 7 April 1939 Albania was invaded by the Italians, who had King Zogu I deposed and replaced by the Italian king, Vittorio Emmanuele III. The flag now had Fascist symbols added: two black fasces, two Savoy ribbons (symbolising the rule of the House of Savoia to which Vittorio Emmanuele belonged) and a black scroll, with three times the Savoia Latin motto FERT (Foedere Et Religione Tenemur, We are held together by Pact and Religion). After Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, German troops occupied the country. On 20 October 1943, the monarchical Constitution of 1 October 1928 was re-established by the National Assembly. Though militarily controlled by the Germans, the Albanians retained autonomy in internal affairs and on such basis refused to hand over the Jewish residents and refugees.
Meanwhile Enver Hoxha, whose communist partizans had been fighting the fascists, constituted a provisional autonomous government for the liberated zones and adopted the flag used before the Italian occupation, with a yellow star placed in the canton. The Germans withdrew from Albania in the fall of 1944 and on 10 October 1944 Enver Hoxha proclaimed the constitution of the Democratic Government of Albania as a provisional government. Although the flags with the yellow star continued to be used, other flags emerged with a hammer and sickle, the emblem of the Albanian Communist Party that had led the liberation struggle. In the liberation festivities held in Tirana on 29 November 1944, the national flag with the black eagle was used, but without the star or the hammer and sickle.
In elections held on 2 December 1945, 80% voted for the National Democratic Front coalition led by the Communists. On 11 January 1946 King Zogu I was declared deposed and the People's Republic of Albania was proclaimed. On 7 March 1946 a Constitution came into effect which established a new national flag with a yellow-bordered red star placed above the double-headed eagle. In 1976 a new Constitution was adopted and the state's name was changed to the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, but the flag wasn't changed. This lasted until 1992 when communist rule came to an end and the communist star was removed from the national flag on 7 April 1992: once more Albania flew the "Flamur e Skënderbeut" (Skanderbeg's flag), a red field with a black double-headed eagle.