The Union Jack

The Union Jack is not the Flag of England! Contrary to popular belief, the Union Flag (or Union Jack) is not England’s flag, but the flag of the “United Kingdom,” consisting of England, Scotland, (Northern) Ireland, and Wales. For this reason, it is  a composite of flags representing those four nations. The true English Flag is actually a red Cross of St. George centered on an all white field. The St. George’s Cross came to England during the Crusades, when devotion to that Eastern Saint was first spread in Europe.

The Irish Cross of St. Patrick (a red saltire on a white field) was never an Irish national flag, but the symbol of the chivalric Order of St. Patrick founded in 1782. It later came to be incorporated in various flags used in Ireland and possibly originated from the Fitzgerald family’s coat of arms.

Similarly, the St. David’s Cross of Wales (a gold cross on a black field) is not an official flag of Wales, but is apparently derived from the arms of the bishopric of St. David’s.

The Scottish Saltire, which is the official flag of Scotland, is a white St. Andrew’s Cross (an “X”) on a blue field.  (By the way, “saltire” comes from the French word for “jump” and refers to an x-shaped animal barricade that people can jump over; later it came to adopt the second meaning of any such cross used in flags or coats-of-arms.) St. Andrew, who was crucified on an x-shaped cross, is the patron of Scotland. His relics are said to have been brought to Scotland from Patras around AD 345 by the Greek monk, St. Rule. A Scottish tradition has it that during a decisive battle against the Northumbrians in 832, the white saltire appeared in the blue sky thus assuring the Scots the protection of their beloved patron. From that incident, it is said, the Saltire became the Flag of Scotland.

So the next time you look at a Union Jack, invoke Sts. George, Patrick, David, and Andrew, and ask them to bring all the people of England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland to the true Faith that once made them great centers of piety and evangelism. May they be nationally independent, but united in God’s kingdom: the Church!