UK

The Flag of UK

The Union Jack: The Flag of the United Kingdom History of the British Flag The flag of the United Kingdom is called the Union Flag, or more traditionally, the Union Jack. It is official flag of the United Kingdom, but also has an official or unofficial standing in many of the countries of the British Commonwealth. It has been used by the UK in its current form since 1606, to signify the union of England, Ireland and Scotland under King James VI and I. This union is significant because it joins together the Flag of St. George, an ancient symbol of England (red cross on a white background), the Flag of St. Andrew (white x-shaped cross on a blue background), an ancient symbol of Scotland, and the Flag of St. Patrick (red x-shaped cross on a white background), an ancient symbol of Ireland. At first it was used mainly at sea, on both naval and merchant ships, to announce their national identity, but in 1707, it became the official flag of Great Britain. At that point it was used by the army as well as royal and governmental houses and organizations, and began to be used throughout the Commonwealth in 1801. It is still used in all official capacities both within Great Britain and throughout the Commonwealth today. The Meaning of its Colors and Symbol The Union Jack is more complex than it looks at first sight. It is the combination of three national symbols from three countries: St. George’s Cross, St. Andrews’s Cross, and St. Patrick’s Cross. Those symbols look like this: When laid one on top of the other, the blue field becomes the dominant background, and three crosses rest in a complimentary though stylized way. Even the decision to use all three crosses in the Union Jack was controversial. Scottish loyalists, for example, were not happy that the St. George Cross, the symbol of England, is the only one that isn’t interrupted by the other two. They felt it gave England dominance over the others. The flag is also not symmetrical in its design, because the diagonal red bars that form the St. Patrick’s cross run on the bottom of the upper left, top of the upper right, bottom of the lower left, and top of the upper right. Therefore, when it’s flown upside down, it’s wrong, because those diagonal bars show in the wrong position—as recently happened at a state meeting! Different Variations of the Flag of the United Kingdom The different variations of the British flag usually derive from the individual countries which comprise Great Britain. The Union Jack itself appears in some form in the flags of many nations and states, including Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji, Bermuda, Tuvalu, the Canadian Red Ensign, South Africa, Hong King, Manitoba, Ontario, and early United States’ flags. The red, white and blue of the US flag is taken from the stars and bars of the Union Jack. Other flags include coats of arms and symbols more applicable to local contexts than the unified nation.