The Union Jack--what does it symbolize?

I know about the Stars and Stripes, but can anyone give me the history of the Union Jack?

OK, very brief and probably woefully inadequate description.

The Union Jack is a superposition of the red cross on a white background flag of St.George, patron saint of England, with the cross saltire of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland - a diagonal blue cross on a white background and the diagonal red cross on a white background of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

The Cross of St George was the flag of England from the late 13th century, until 1603 when James I of England (but James II of Scotland) became monarch of England.

The Crosses of St Andrew and St Patrick were already part of a Union flag, since James was king of both Scotland and Ireland (IIRC). The Act of Union of Ireland, England (and Wales) and Scotland, of 1801 created the Union Jack as we know it today, combining the Crosses of Sts George, Andrew and Patrick.

The Welsh dragon doesn’t appear on the Union Jack, since when the first flag of the Union was created in 1606, Wales was already a principality of England, without its own sovereign.

A bit more info

Slight nitpick. I do believe it’s properly called the Union Flag, not Union Jack.

Ok then, follow up question: why is the Union Flag also known as the Union Jack?:stuck_out_tongue:

Wasn’t it called that when flown on ships under some circumstances? Sorry, I’ve got a lecture in 2 min, or I’d google for you.

The Irish flag is interesting too - aparently it’s supposed to be green and orange representing protestants and catholics, and white for the peace between them.

OK, the Union Jack is a naval term, but was given Parliamentary approval in 1908 to be used as the national flag. That is to say that “Union Jack” is the correct term to use, but was historically used in a naval context. That is of course, according to the Flag Institute. The Royal Navy claims that the term “Union Jack” should only be used in its naval context, and “Union Flag” should be used otherwise, but admits that most people do mix it up.

Also, James I of England was significantly further down the number of James’ of Scotland than II

:smack: Yes he was. He was James VI of Scotland.

Here is FOTW’s page for the history of the UK’s flag.

James I wasn’t king of Ireland prior to his accession to the English throne. The English monarchy had claimed to be kings of Ireland for several centuries, but with varying success in practice. James became King of Ireland when he inherited the English throne.

friedo gives a link to the Flags of the World website, which gives a good history of the flag. The first Union Flag was adopted by royal proclamation in 1606, and was a combination of the Scots saltire of St. Andrew with the English cross of St. George.

The supposedly Irish saltire of St. Patrick wasn’t added for an additional two centuries, until the 1801 Act that added Ireland to the United Kingdom. However, as a skim through the linked page indicates, there’s little in the historical record to indicate that the so-called St. Patrick’s cross was ever actually used by the Irish prior to its inclusion in the Union flag.

Thanks for the correction. I did know that really. My brain’s just not been in gear today.

St. Patrick’s cross is not a red saltire, in any case. That was first used by the invaders’ Order of St. Patrick. Some examples of the opinion of the Irish on this matter:



Thus, this so-called “cross of St. Patrick” is actually an ANTI-Ireland symbol, if anything.