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The Flag of Englandmarker is the St George's Cross. The red cross appeared as an emblem of England during the Middle Ages and the Crusades and is one of the earliest known emblems representing England. It achieved status as the national flag of England during the sixteenth century.

Saint George became the patron saint of Englandmarker in the thirteenth century, and the legend of Saint George slaying a dragon dates from the twelfth century.


The flag appeared during the Middle Ages. The first known recorded use of the St George's Cross as an emblem (but not as a flag) of England was in a roll of account relating to the Welsh War of 1275. The English royalist forces at the Battle of Eveshammarker in 1265 used a red cross on their uniforms, to distinguish themselves from the white crosses used by the rebel barons at the Battle of Lewesmarker a year earlier.

The use of a red cross on a white background was a symbol of St. George in the Middle Ages. This is seen, for example, in the flag of Georgia, another country with Saint George as their patron saint. The St George's cross may not have achieved the full status of national flag until the sixteenth century, when all other saints' banners were abandoned during the Reformation. Thereafter it became recognised as the flag of England and Wales. The earliest record of the St George's Cross at sea, as an English flag in conjunction with royal banners but no other saintly flags, was 1545.

Another theory as to the origins of the flag is that the flag of Genoamarker was adopted by England and the City of Londonmarker in 1190 for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the powerful Genoese fleet. The maritime Republic of Genoa was rising and going to become, together with its rival Venice, one of the most important powers in the world. The English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege.

Influence on crusaders

At the beginning of the Crusades, a red cross on white was already associated with England because this was St. George's cross, the emblem associated with England's patron saint. Although the Pope decided English crusaders would be distinguished by wearing a white cross on red, and French crusaders a red cross on white (Italian knights were allocated a yellow cross on a white background), English knights soon decided to claim "their" cross of red on white, like the French. In January 1188, in a meeting between Henry II of England and Philip II of France, the two rivals agreed to exchange flags (France later changed its new white cross on red for a white cross on a dark blue flag). Some French knights carried on using the red cross however, and as English knights wore this pattern as well, the red cross on white became the typical crusader symbol regardless of nationality.

Flying the flag


Since 1982, the English flag has become more strongly affiliated with supporters of the English football team. Up to and including the World Cup in Spain, the vast majority of England fans had carried the Union Jack. A few English flags eg with WWFC in the corners, appeared in Bilbao [see film of the England versus France game]. Mass production of the St. George Flag took off for the Euro96 tournament hosted by England. When England and Scotland were drawn in the same group for this tournament, English fans were encouraged not to display the Union Jack but to use the St. George flag instead. More recently though it was claimed that 27% of English adults had bought a flag during the 2006 World Cup.

The flag is also seen during other sporting events in which England competes, for example during England Cricket matches (the Cricket World Cup and The Ashes) and during Rugby Union matches.

Before 1996, most of the flags waved by supporters were Union Flags (it is now arguable that this situation has now reversed).

Church of England

Churches belonging to the Church of England (unless for special reasons another flag is flown by custom) may fly the St George's Cross. The correct way (since an order from the Earl Marshal in 1938) is for the church to fly the St George's cross, with the arms of the diocese in the left-hand upper corner of the flag.

City of London

The flag of the City of Londonmarker is based on the English flag, having a centred St George's Cross on a white background, with a red sword in the upper hoist canton (the top left quarter). The sword is believed to represent the sword that beheaded Saint Paul who is the patron saint of the city.

Royal Navy

The flag used by the British Royal Navy (the White Ensign) is also based on the flag of England, consisting of the St George's Cross and a Union Flag in the canton. In addition to the United Kingdom, several countries in the Commonwealth of Nations also have variants of the White Ensign with their own national flags in the canton, with the St George's Cross sometimes being replaced by a naval badge.

Far Right

In recent years, the flag of England had come to be associated with far-right political groups such as the British National Party and the National Front. Although adoption of the flag by sports supporters and other groups has gone some way to reclaim the flag from the far right, displaying the flag remains controversial in some cases.

Many black people living in England have stated that they still view the flag with suspicion: during a poll of readers of New Nation, "most black people interviewed said they felt alienated by the flag of St George and still associated it with the BNP". Despite this, some young, non-white people have been reported displaying the flags in support of the football team.

Incorporation into the Union Flag

The Flag of England is one of the key components of the Union Flag. The Union Flag has been used in a variety of forms since 1606, when the Flag of Scotland and the Flag of England were first merged to symbolise the Union of the Crowns. (The Union of the Crowns having occurred in 1603). In Scotland, and in particular on Scottish vessels at sea, historical evidence suggests that a separate design of Union Flag was flown to that used in England. However, following the Acts of Union of 1707, which united the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England to become the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker , the 'English' version of the Union Flag was adopted as the official Flag of Great Britain.

From 1801, in order to symbolise the union of the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, a new design which included the St Patrick's Cross was adopted for the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker. The Flag of the United Kingdom, having remained unchanged following the partition of Ireland in 1921 and creation of the Irish Free State and Northern Irelandmarker, continues to be used as the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irelandmarker.

Outside England

Due to the spread of the British Empire, the flag of England is currently, and was formerly used on various flags and coats of arms of different countries, states and provinces throughout the world, which were once ruled by the United Kingdommarker.


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Flag of New South Wales, Australia

See also

External links


  1. England (United Kingdom); Flags of the World; (c.1996 - Present)
  2. [1]
  3. Crusader Cross Flags 1188; Flags of the World; (1999 - 2005)
  4. Prof. J. Prawer, A history of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Hebrew, 3rd edition, vol. II, pp. 17-18)
  5. Adventist Media Response and Conversation: Art and the Crusader's Flag
  6. Conn, David; Sour English stereotypes linger amid the flag-waving; The Guardian; 12 July 2006
  7. England Rugby Football Union
  8. Church of England - Use of the flag; Flags of the World; 23 October 2008
  9. City of London,
  10. [2]
  11. Crampton, Robert; Dad, how come rich people don't fly flags and show they're patriotic?; The Times; 21 June 2006
  12. Royal Website
  13. Flag Institute
  14. Flags of the World
  15. Act of Union (Article 1)
  16. Flags of the World

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