Flag of Great Britain

Last updated
Great Britain
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg
Name King's Colours
Use Civil and state flag
Adopted1707
DesignFour stripes of white, horizontal, diagonal, and vertical on a blue field, with a red cross in the middle.
Red Ensign of Great Britain (1707-1800).svg
Variant flag of Great Britain
Use Civil and naval ensign
DesignA red field with the flag of Great Britain in the canton
Naval Ensign of Great Britain (1707-1800).svg
Variant flag of Great Britain
Use Naval ensign
DesignA cross of St George with the flag of Great Britain in the canton

The flag of Great Britain, commonly known as King's Colours, the Union Jack , or the British flag, was used at sea from 1606 and more generally from 1707 to 1801. It was the first flag of Great Britain. [1] [2] It is the precursor to the Union Jack of 1801.

Contents

The design was ordered by King James VI and I to be used on ships on the high seas, and it subsequently came into use as a national flag following the Treaty of Union and Acts of Union 1707, gaining the status of "the Ensign armorial of Great Britain", the newly created state. It was later adopted by land forces, although the blue of the field used on land-based versions more closely resembled that of the blue of the flag of Scotland.

The flag consists of the red cross of Saint George, patron saint of England, superimposed on the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland. Its correct proportions are 3:5.

The flag's official use came to an end in 1801 with the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. At that time Saint Patrick's Flag was added to the flag of Great Britain to create the present-day Union Flag.

Creation

By James I of England, King of Scots, Orders in Council, 1606:

By the King: Whereas, some differences hath arisen between Our subjects of South and North Britaine travelling by Seas, about the bearing of their Flagges: For the avoiding of all contentions hereafter. We have, with the advice of our Council, ordered: That from henceforth all our Subjects of this Isle and Kingdome of Great Britaine, and all our members thereof, shall beare in their main-toppe the Red Crosse, commonly called St. George’s Crosse, and the White Crosse, commonly called St. Andrew’s Crosse, joyned together according to the forme made by our heralds, and sent by Us to our Admerall to be published to our Subjects: and in their fore-toppe our Subjects of South Britaine shall weare the Red Crosse onely as they were wont, and our Subjects of North Britaine in their fore-toppe the White Crosse onely as they were accustomed.

King James had the habit of referring to a "Kingdom of Great Britain", considering that it had been created by the Union of the Crowns. However, despite the personal union which he represented, in practice England and Scotland continued as separate kingdoms, each with its own parliament and laws, for another century. The Kingdom of Great Britain finally came into being in 1707. [3] The flag of the new Kingdom was formally chosen on 17 April 1707, two weeks before the Acts of Union of 1707 were to take effect. Sir Henry St George, Garter Principal King of Arms, had presented several possible designs to Queen Anne and the Privy Council. [4]

Scottish variant

The principal alternative for consideration was a version of the flag with the saltire of Saint Andrew lying on top of that of Saint George, called the "Scots union flag as said to be used by the Scots", but this was rejected.[ citation needed ]

Proposed versions

In the wake of the union between England and Scotland, several designs for a new flag were drawn up, juxtaposing the Saint George's Cross and the St Andrew's Saltire: [5]

However, none were acceptable to King James. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Union Jack National flag of the United Kingdom

The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though no law has been passed officially making the Union Jack the national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become the national flag through precedent. The flag has official status in Canada, by parliamentary resolution, where it is known as the Royal Union Flag. As they are localities within the British state, or realm, it is the national flag of all of the British overseas territories, although local flags have also been authorised for most, which may be flown in place of, or along with the national flag. Governors of British Overseas Territories have their own flags, which are the Union flag with the distinguishing arms of the colony at the centre. The Union Flag also appears in the canton of the flags of several nations and territories that are former British possessions or dominions, as well as that of Hawaii. The claim that the term Union Jack properly refers only to naval usage has been disputed, following historical investigations by the Flag Institute in 2013.

Acts of Union 1800 Acts of the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland which united those two Kingdoms

The Acts of Union 1800 were parallel acts of the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland which united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The acts came into force on 1 January 1801, and the merged Parliament of the United Kingdom had its first meeting on 22 January 1801.

Flag of England National flag

The flag of England is derived from Saint George's Cross. The association of the red cross as an emblem of England can be traced back to the Late Middle Ages, and it was increasingly used alongside the Royal Banner in the wake of the English Reformation, especially as a maritime flag referred to as a white ensign. It was used as a component in the design of the Union Jack in 1606.

Flag of Scotland National flag

The flag of Scotland is the national flag of Scotland, which consists of a white saltire defacing a blue field. The Saltire, rather than the Royal Standard of Scotland, is the correct flag for all private individuals and corporate bodies to fly. It is also, where possible, flown from Scottish Government buildings every day from 8:00 am until sunset, with certain exceptions.

Red Ensign Civil ensign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Red Ensign or "Red Duster" is the civil ensign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is one of the British ensigns, and it is used either plain or defaced with a badge or other emblem, mostly in the right half.

Saint Georges Cross Red cross on a white background

In heraldry, Saint George's Cross, also called the Cross of Saint George, is a red cross on a white background, which from the Late Middle Ages became associated with Saint George, the military saint, often depicted as a crusader.

Saltire Heraldic and vexillogical symbol in the form of a diagonal cross

A saltire, also called Saint Andrew's Cross or the crux decussata, is a heraldic symbol in the form of a diagonal cross, like the shape of the letter X in Roman type. The word comes from the Middle French sautoir, Medieval Latin saltatoria ("stirrup").

Duke of Rothesay Dynastic title of heir apparent to British throne

Duke of Rothesay is a dynastic title of the heir apparent to the British throne, currently Prince Charles. Charles' wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is the current Duchess of Rothesay. Duke of Rothesay was a title of the heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of Scotland before 1707, of the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1707 to 1801, and now of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the title mandated for use by the heir apparent when in Scotland, in preference to the titles Duke of Cornwall and Prince of Wales, which are used in the rest of the United Kingdom and overseas. The Duke of Rothesay also holds other Scottish titles, including those of Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. The title is named after Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, Argyll and Bute, but is not associated with any legal entity or landed property, unlike the Duchy of Cornwall.

Flag of the United Kingdom National flag

The national flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Jack, also known as the Union Flag.

Flags of the English Interregnum

There were a variety of flags flown by ships of the Commonwealth during the Interregnum of 1649–1660.

White Ensign

The White Ensign, at one time called the St George's Ensign due to the simultaneous existence of a cross-less version of the flag, is an ensign worn on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments. It consists of a red St George's Cross on a white field, identical to the flag of England except with the Union Flag in the upper canton.

Union of the Crowns Personal union of the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland from 1603

The Union of the Crowns was the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of the Kingdom of England as James I and the consequential unification for some purposes of the two realms under a single monarch on 24 March 1603. The Union of the Crowns followed the death of James's cousin, Elizabeth I of England, the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

Royal arms of Scotland Royal arms of Scotland

The royal arms of Scotland is the official coat of arms of the King of Scots first adopted in the 12th century. With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, James VI inherited the thrones of England and Ireland and thus his arms in Scotland were now quartered with the arms of England with an additional quarter for Ireland also added. Though the kingdoms of England and Scotland would share the same monarch, the distinction in heraldry used in both kingdoms was maintained. When the kingdoms of Scotland and England were united under the Acts of Union 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, no single arms were created, thereby maintaining the convention that the royal arms used in Scotland would continue to differ from those used elsewhere.

Royal Banner of Scotland Royal Banner of Scotland

The Royal Banner of the Royal Arms of Scotland, also known as the Royal Banner of Scotland, or more commonly the Lion Rampant of Scotland, and historically as the Royal Standard of Scotland, or Banner of the King of Scots, is the Royal Banner of Scotland, and historically, the Royal Standard of the Kingdom of Scotland. Used historically by the Scottish monarchs, the banner differs from Scotland's national flag, the Saltire, in that its correct use is restricted by an Act of the Parliament of Scotland to only a few Great Officers of State who officially represent the Monarchy in Scotland. It is also used in an official capacity at royal residences in Scotland when the Head of State is not present.

North Britain

North Britain is a term which has been occasionally used, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries, for either the northern part of Great Britain or Scotland, which occupies the northernmost third of the island. "North Britains" could also refer to Britons from Scotland; with North Briton later the standard spelling. Its counterparts were South Britain, generally used to refer to England and Wales and West Britain, usually referring to Ireland.

Saint Patricks Saltire Red saltire on a white field

Saint Patrick's Saltire or Saint Patrick's Cross is a red saltire on a white field. In heraldic language, it may be blazoned "argent, a saltire gules". The Saint Patrick's Flag is a flag composed of Saint Patrick's Saltire. The origin of the saltire is disputed. Its association with Saint Patrick dates from the 1780s, when the Anglo-Irish Order of Saint Patrick adopted it as an emblem. This was a British chivalric order established in 1783 by George III. It has been suggested that it derives from the arms of the powerful Geraldine or FitzGerald dynasty. Most Irish nationalists and others reject its use to represent Ireland as a "British invention" "for a people who had never used it".

Kingdom of Scotland Historic sovereign kingdom in the British Isles (9th c.-1654; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of Scotland was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England. It suffered many invasions by the English, but under Robert the Bruce it fought a successful War of Independence and remained an independent state throughout the late Middle Ages. Following the annexation of the Northern Isles from the Kingdom of Norway in 1472 and the final capture of the Royal Burgh of Berwick by the Kingdom of England in 1482, the territory of the Kingdom of Scotland corresponded to that of modern-day Scotland, bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, joining Scotland with England in a personal union. In 1707, the two kingdoms were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain under the terms of the Acts of Union.

Crosses in heraldry Cross symbols used in heraldry

A number of cross symbols were developed for the purpose of the emerging system of heraldry, which appeared in Western Europe in about 1200. This tradition is partly in the use of the Christian cross an emblem from the 11th century, and increasingly during the age of the Crusades. Many cross variants were developed in the classical tradition of heraldry during the late medieval and early modern periods. Heraldic crosses are inherited in modern iconographic traditions and are used in numerous national flags.

Flag of the East India Company

The flag of the East India Company was used to represent the East India Company, which was chartered in England in 1600. The flag was altered as the nation changed from England to Great Britain to the United Kingdom. It was initially a red and white striped ensign with the flag of England in the canton. The flag displayed in the canton was later replaced by the flag of Great Britain and then the flag of the United Kingdom, as the nation developed.

References

  1. "British Flags". Flaginstitute.org.
  2. "The Union Jack or The Union Flag?". Flaginstitute.org.
  3. Michael Lynch, The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (2001), p. 356
  4. Linda Colley, Taking Stock of Taking Liberties: A Personal View (British Library, 2009), p. 46
  5. 1 2 3 Duffy, Jonathan (10 April 2006). "Union recognition". BBC. Archived from the original on 30 November 2020.
    · Graphic (archive of Graphic)