The history of the British flag

ScottButler1988Starred Page By ScottButler1988, 6th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>History

Read a bitesized article about the interesting history of the British flag here.

The British Flag

The official flag of Great Britain/United Kingdom is called "The Union Flag". But is better known and officially referred to by its common nickname, Union Jack.

The Union Jack represents the four countries of Great Britain in a union, which are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Union Jack is a combination of the English flag (Saint George Flag), Scottish flag (St Andrew Flag) and Northern Irish flag (Saint Patrick Flag).

The main red cross in the centre represents England (Saint George). The white crosses in the four corners represent Scotland (St Andrew) (before Ireland was added, these crosses were blue). The red crosses in the four corners represent Northern Ireland (St Patrick).
Wales does not have a cross on the flag, despite being a member of Great Britain, because Wales is a principality, not a kingdom.

What is the origin of the Union Jack?

In 1603 Queen Elizabeth I of England died. King James VI of Scotland inherited the throne and became King James I of England. It was a union of the two royal crowns.
In 1604 King James I proposed that both countries should be one united kingdom, rather than two separate nations. However both the English and Scottish Parliaments rejected this.
So, King James I gave himself the official title of "King James Of Great Britain", which officially united both countries into one kingdom.
However, the English hated the Scottish flag, and the Scottish hated the English flag. Therefore, to stop the two countries bickering, King James put the two flags together. At this time it was known as the "Flag Of Britain".

Later on in history another cross for Ireland was added.

Where did the name Union Jack come from?

Firstly it was nicknamed "The Union" by British naval officers who flew the flag on their ships, because it represented a union of nations under one kingdom. Soon enough, the flag officially became known as the Union Flag.

The name "Jack" represents the bowspirit which the flag flew from on naval ships.

The two were added together to form the nickname "Union Jack".

Anything else?

The Union Jack might be changing soon!
In 2007 Wales declared that they felt pushed aside by the United Kingdom because they are not represented on the Union Jack despite being part of the Kingdom.
There is a debate whether Wales should be added to the Union Jack. If Wales is added, the flag will look even different.
The image to the left is an approximate artists representation of what the flag could look like if Wales is officially added.


British, Flag, Union Jack, United Kingdom

Meet the author

author avatar ScottButler1988
I am a male in his mid-20's from the UK.

I like researching science, history, food, and society issues (disability discrimination, unemployment, etc)

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
7th Sep 2013 (#)

Interesting to know the history behind the flags and the emotions and compromises involved. Thanks for the share - siva

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