The Great British Flag guide

We are a flaggy nation. The history of the United Kingdom stretches back thousands of years and we have literally hundreds of different flags thanks to a long and complicated history. As well as the United Kingdom being made up of 4 separate countries, many of our counties and cities have their own flags and a number of which were once under independent rule themselves.

As you travel around Britain, you will see many different flags especially in London as there are so many buildings each relating to different armed services, different countries and different political affiliations. Below we have put together a sample of just 12 flags that you might see around the country.

Union JackIt would only be right to start with the most familiar, the Union Jack. This flag is technically called the Union Flag unless it is flying from a ship which is several miles off the coast however, the name Union Jack has been commonly adopted by Brits who tend to prefer the name. This flag is the flag of Great Britain and incorporates England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. When the flag was created in 1801 it showed the red and white St Georges Cross of England on top of the red diagonal Irish cross of St Patrick. That then sat on top of the white diagonal cross of the Scottish saltaire of St Andrew. Wales is not represented as at the time of creation Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.

In September 2014 Scotland are holding a vote to decide whether or not to stay as part of Great Britain. Many have joked that the Union Jack would need to change if Scotland leave the Union but of course, the Irish cross of St Patrick has been represented on the flag long after Ireland became independent so it's unlikely to change!

St George's crossWhilst many of our sports teams opt for a red English rose as part of the logo design, the white flag with a red cross is most definitely the flag of England. Despite being used to represent England since the middle ages surprisingly it has no official status within the United Kingdom! As other members of the British Commonwealth have become increasingly nationalistic over recent years the English have followed suit with the use of St Georges cross becoming more widespread than ever over the past 30 years.

ScotlandDuring a visit to Scotland you are likely to see far more of St Andrew's cross than any other type of flag. The Scottish are fiercely nationalistic and most are very proud to be 'Scottish' as opposed to 'British'. Whilst many Scots prefer to be known as Scottish than British, there is one thing you should never ever call a Scot and that, is English!

WalresDespite being left off the Union Jack, Wales has a strong identity itself in the form of the red Welsh dragon. This flag is widely used throughout Wales and it's far more common than that of the Union Jack. The dragon itself is not standardised and lots of variations appear whilst the green and white background was added by the house of Tudor, a Welsh dynasty that ruled Britain for generations.

Royal StandardNext is the Royal Standard. There are many variations of this flag depending on which member of the Royal Family it represents. This particular flag is used by the United Kingdom but not Scotland who have a slightly different variation. The flying of this flag means that you are in the presence of Royalty and the flying of the flag above Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle signifies that the Queen is there.

Northern IrelandThis flag is the controversial representative flag of Northern Ireland. Until 1972 it was the official flag but after the government was disbanded it became illegal to fly this flag from government buildings. The flag is very much a symbol for Ulster unionists which makes this flag a statement of political allegiances rather than one of pride. The Union Jack is the National Flag of Northern Ireland but this flag is still used for want of another universally accepted symbol. You may spot it at sporting events where it is often used.

CornwallWhilst many of our county flags are now hard to spot and recognise, the Cornish flag is one of the exceptions to the rule. St Piran's flag can be spotted on popular car bumper stickers and many Cornish folk choose to fly the flag proudly at their homes. The sense of identity is so strong in Cornwall that a group called the Cornish Nationalism is a cultural, political and social movement which claim that Cornwall should be an independent country like Scotland or Wales rather than an English County. Despite various political and constitutional claims the argument is not taken seriously by the British government.

lancashireYorkThe old flags of the Houses of Lancashire and York were the symbols of the 'War of the Roses'. For those fortunate enough to have seen the recent television adaptation of the White Queen will be more than familiar with the incredible battle for the English throne between the symbolic white and red roses. Although not used so much today, the city of Lancaster and the city of York are both incredibly proud of their history and their association with this age old symbol of English Nobility.

WarwickA key player in the War of the Roses was the Earl of Warwick, known as the 'Kingmaker'. His money, position of power and influence put him in a unique position and enabled him to maneuverer men of his choosing into positions of power. The story of the Earl is told at the incredible Warwick Castle which is beautifully preserved and simply drips with history. Originally described by Shakespeare in Henry VI and referring to Richard Nevil (the Kingmaker) himself, the heraldic symbol of Warwickshire itself is now that of a Bear and Ragged Staff which is still proudly used today.


By Ruth Lancey

Date: 2017-11-28 13:17:35