Union Flag

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					Honours Proposal
Edwin Crump

             An Example
             Case Study:
            The Union Flag

 Research Question: "In what way does the design of a flag
 (including the symbolic representations in a flag's design)
 expose the political construction and attitudes of the flag's
    The Union Flag

    The Union Flag (or Union Jack) is the state flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
    and Northern Ireland. It was created as the Union Flag in 1606 to demonstrate that
    England and Scotland were under combined rule. It has evolved over time to
    incorporate Ireland to make the flag known today. The flag is composed of three
    Patron Saint Crosses or saltiers. The original Union Flag is composed of the St
    George cross and the St Andrewʼs Cross (pictured below). The merging/
    superimposing of flags represents the merging of two governments, and the creation
    of a new power identity.


       St Andrewʼs Cross

      St Georgeʼs Cross

        The Union Flag, while created in 1606, did not gain legal status as the flag of England or
        Scotland until those countries were combined into one nation with the Acts of Union in 1707.
        Before that time, it was used as the “Royal Union Flag” by the monarchs who held both the
        crowns of Scotland and England (starting with James VI/I in 1603, who commissioned the
        flag) in a “personal union” rather than a political union.

        The Union Flag has become synonymously associated with the Union Jack, which is the
        Union Flag flown off the jack of a ship. Common, incorrect references to the “Union Jack”
        demonstrate the importance of the British Navy in the history of the United Kingdom.

        The Union Flag, was used by the UK government as the official flag of its colonies, and
        when flown with a colonial statesʼ flag had to be flown higher, and was the object of salute.
        This helped to increase the perception of colonial citizenʼs notions of “being British”.

        The Union Flag also shows the political importance of England over Scotland, even though
        James VI/I was Scottish. This can be seen in the imposition of the St George Cross over St
        Georgeʼs cross, rather than the St Andrewʼs Cross over the St Georgeʼs Cross(1).

            Wales has not been included within the 1606 and the 1801 Union Flag. Wales, as
            incorporated into England under subservient status (in 1282, then formalised in 1535), was
            not viewed as a distinct, separate or noteworthy addition to the identity of the new “United
            Kingdom”. It was regarded as wholly part of the Kingdom of England. This reflects traditional
            English attitudes towards the Welsh, and the suppression of their national identity, including
            its symbols, culture and language.

            There was also stylistic reasons for leaving out the Patron Saint Cross of Wales, the Flag of
            David, and these reasons should be considered equally important as the political reasons.
            The Cross of David (picture 4) does not lend itself well to inclusion in the Union Flag.
            Literally, there is no space for symbolic representations in a possible “Four-Cross” flag. The
            contemporary Welsh flag, (picture 5) also does not lend itself into a Union Flag(2). This flag
            however was only granted official status in 1959. The Welsh dragon is a long-held symbol of
            Wales but not as part of its Patron Saint Flags, of which the Union Flag was comprised.
            Together, with the perceived lesser importance of Wales in the United Kingdom, as it was
            incorporated as part of England, meant that Wales was and is left out of the Union Flag.

     St Davidʼs Flag
       Welsh National Flag (Y Ddraig Goch)

2. For a representation of an attempt to combine these flags, see the appendices.

         The later addition of Ireland directly into the United Kingdom (rather than as a colony)
         resulted in a further modification to the Union flag. Historical struggles with Ireland, both
         political and religious meant that the now British government wished to demonstrate that
         Ireland had lost its independent political identity and was now part of the United
         Kingdom. One way I which the British decreased Irelandʼs political autonomy was by
         taking the flag of the Patron Saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick and including it within the
         Union Flag in 1801.



         When considering the inclusion of St Patrickʼs cross into the Union Flag, it is an important
         issue to note that the St Patrickʼs cross was never considered by the Irish as either their
         national flag or as the flag for their Patron Saint, St Patrick as was true in the case of
         England and Scotland. While not having an official flag for the entirety of the isle of
         Ireland, each province in Ireland had their own flag. Unofficially, the Flag of Leinster
         depicting a lyre on a green background could stand to represent Ireland as a whole
         (picture 9).

         The use of a non-Irish symbol on the Union Flag has political important because it
         demonstrates how the British, and specifically the English (non-celts), viewed the Irish. By
         utilising a British depiction of what is meant to
         represent the Irish, the British were continuing
         their process of Anglicising and Protestantising
         Irish culture and, as with the Welsh, denying the
         Irish their traditional symbols cultural icons.

         Later attempts were made to include these
         symbols within the Union Flag of 1801, such as
         the Lord-Lieutenant(3) flag previously used in
         Northern Ireland. However, the design of the

3. Available in the appendices.
Post-Colonial Union Flag

The British Isles are slowly devolving. While official policy is that devolution created
sub-national independent units, in reality new nation-states are being created. In
1919 the Irish Republic was proclaimed (quickly followed by the Irish Free State),
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland now have independent legislatures
(Assemblies), and Scotland is set to vote on complete independence in the near

The only currently available example is Irish Independence in the early twentieth
century. However, this example holds limited relevance as the isle was divided into
British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State (Eire) in the South and not
therefore removed completely from the political spectrum necessary for inclusion
within the Union Flag.

Will this radical shift in the political landscape
initiate a process of change for the Union
Flag. If there is no, or limited union within what
is currently the United Kingdom, will the Union
Flag change to accommodate this?

If the Scotch vote for independence then the
St Andrewʼs Cross should be removed from
the Union Flag to keep the flag representative
of the states within the United Kingdom. To the
right is a mock-up of a Union Flag containing the St Patrickʼs Cross superimposed
on a St Georgeʼs Cross to create a “Two-Cross” Union Flag. St Patrickʼs cross, it is
important to note, only reflects Northern Ireland and not the entire isle.

The most likely outcome is that the states and micro-states within the United
Kingdom will use their own flags as a foil to the Union Flag and the Union Flag will
eventually lose it importance and relevance. Scotland will use the St Andrewʼs
Cross. Wales will use the 1959 Welsh Flag rather than St Davidʼs Cross. The Isle of
Man continue to use its flag but in a more officious manner. England will use St
Georgeʼs Cross. Ireland uses the Irish Tricolour. The development of a distinctive
Northern Irish flag will be interesting, and purely dependent on the political process
within Northern Ireland.


The Union Flag provides a complex and interesting example of all aspects of the
political importance of a flag, that is, political representations, political symbols
and flag design. The issues within and about the Union Flag continue to occupy
an important place in the United Kingdom. The Union Flag provides a microcosm
of the major issues of flags in the world today, ranging from the political issue of
who is represented in the flag, symbols creating meaning in the flag and the
design of flags affecting the political representation and importance of the flag. As
in every country, the Union Flag is an enduring brand for the United Kingdom,
one of its great symbols with which UK citizens identify, yet at the same time the
political importance of the Union Flag is fading in the face of the last stages of
decolonisation and the new re-territorialisation of the political landscape.

             Lord-Lieutenant flag of Northern
             Ireland while under British rule. It is
             interesting in its addition of a lyre to
             make the Union Flag more
             representative of Northern Irish
             interests. The design of the Union
             Flag clearly suffers from this

             An attempt to introduce the St
             Davidʼs cross to the Union Jack. As
             clear, the design of the Union Flag
             suffers immensely with this addition.

             The Union Flag with the addition of
             the Welsh Dragon. Again, the design
             of the Union Flag suffers with this

             The Union Flag, but with the Cross
             of St Andrew imposed over the
             Cross of St George. This would
             implicate Scotland as the dominant
             force in the Union.

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