Known as one of the most recognizable flags in the world, the United Kingdom’s Union Flag has a rich and fascinating history spanning over hundreds of years. When the queen is away, the flag can been seen flying above Buckingham palace, the Windsor castle, and Sandringham with its intercepting red, white and blue stripes forming the combination of three representative crosses.
To be exact, the Union Flag is a grouping of the flags of three countries and their representative patrons. Those being England and the cross of St. George, Scotland and the cross of St. Andrew, and Ireland and the cross of St. Patrick. Ultimately, the Union Flag is a representation of the unionization of these three countries.
Today’s Union Flag is shown with a slightly asymmetrical design of two red, and on white cross, with a blue back drop. Each piece of the flag tells a historical story of how Great Britain became the country it is today.
The Evolution and History of the Union Flag
The evolution of the Union Flag began in 1603 when Queen Elizabeth I of England was on her death bed and requested that King James VI be her successor after her passing. At this time, England and Scotland were functioning as separate countries each with their own parliament. After the death of Queen Elizabeth I, King James VI ruled both Scotland and England, but ruled England separately as King James I.
At that time, the England flag was presented as a thick, red, cross ascended across a white back drop. Shortly after in 1606, King James VI conjoined both Scotland’s flag with England’s creating a flag that symbolized the unionization of these two countries. The flag was then the cross of St. George paired with the cross of St. Andrew suspended across a blue back drop. The name ‘Union Flag’ was officially coined during the process of the unionization of these two countries. At that moment, the Union Flag was strictly used as a symbolic banner, as King James VI requested that all ships fly the flag to officially represent their new administrative union.
Years later, the Union Flag would then take on another form as Scotland and England joined parliaments creating Great Britain. During this process, Great Britain officially adopted the 101 year old banner, making it the country’s official flag.
Still, the evolution of the Union Flag would not come to an end after the conjoining of parliaments of England and Scotland. During 1801, Ireland then became a part of Great Britain’s national government. The flag was then redesigned a third time to include the cross of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, to represent the coming together of these three countries. At this time, the Union Flag was considered a ‘royal’ flag and it was ordered by the king to be flown only in royal castles and forts, but not elsewhere.
Interesting Facts about the Union Flag
Although the Union Flag shows a representation of the conjoining of 3 countries, it is technically the representation of the unionization of four countries. The countries include England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The Wales dragon was actually left out from the flag design. Although, wales was considered a principality because of their unionization with England in 1536. When designing the England flag, prior to the evolution of the Union Flag, Wales was already considered to be a part of England. It has been reported that if one of the countries were to remove themselves from the Great Britain Parliament, then Wales would have its mark on the Union Flag.
In addition, many people are familiar with the Union Flag and its distinctive design, but most refer to this flag as ‘Union Jack’ which has been said to have been coined during the reign of King James VI after the joining of Scotland and England.
Considering the popularity of its distinguishable design, the United Kingdom does not have flag degradation laws meaning that the flag is represented everywhere from seat cushions to t-shirts and unlike some countries, like the United States, there is no particular way to fold, or handle their country’s flag. This has created an extensive availability of the flag creating not just a historical and iconic political figure, but a statement that citizens can wear to show patriotism for their country. The Union Flag has even crossed over to other countries as a staple fashion accessory.
The United Kingdom Flag, or now more popularly known as the Union Jack, possesses a historical quality that many countries have not experienced within the evolution of their flag. This flag is a perfect interpretation of the binding of each country to form the nation that Great Britain is today. It is a flag that has not only formed historical value, but social value as well that carries forward outside of its own country.