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Union Jack

Flag Ratio: 1:2

The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the national flag of the United Kingdom. "Union Flag" has been the name preferred in official documents since the late 19th century. "Union Jack" is the traditional name, and remains more popular; this name derives from its early use as a jack, a small flag flown at the bow of a ship. In Canada the flag is officially called the Royal Union Flag.

To fly the flag the correct way up, the broad white band on St. Andrew should be above the red band of St. Patrick in the upper hoist canton (the corner at the top nearest to the flag-pole).

Table of contents
1 History
2 Status
3 Use in other flags
4 External links
5 Related flags
6 See also


Original Union Flag

Original Union Jack of 1606

The creation of the original Union Jack started in 1603 when James VI of Scotland also became James I of England and on April 12, 1606 the first 'Union Jack' was created. It was a superposition of the red cross of St. George of England and the saltire of St. Andrew of Scotland. Note however that the ground of the Union Flag is a deep "navy" blue. The blue ground of the Scottish national flag, the saltire, from which the blue ground of the Union Flag is derived, is a lighter "sky" blue. The Welsh flag never became part of the Union Flag, as Wales had been annexed by Edward I of England much earlier on and so was considered part of the kingdom of England.

Current Flag

The current Union Flag dates from January 1, 1801 with the Act of Union with Ireland. The new design added the red saltire cross attributed to St. Patrick for Ireland. The saltire is counterchanged to combine it with the saltire of St. Andrew. The red cross actually comes from the heraldic device of the Fitzgerald family who were sent by Henry II of England to subjugate Ireland and has never been used as an emblem of Ireland by the Irish.


The Union Jack was originally a royal flag, rather than a national flag. In fact, no law has ever been passed making it a national flag, but it has become one through usage. Its first recognition as a national flag came in 1908, when it was stated in Parliament that "the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag". A more categorical statement was made by the Home Secretary in 1933, when he stated that "the Union Flag is the National Flag".

At the close of the Great Flag Debate of 1964, which resulted in the adoption of the Maple-Leaf Flag as the Canadian national flag, the Parliament of Canada voted to adopt the Royal Union Flag as the symbol of Canada's membership of the Commonwealth and her allegiance to the Crown. It is commonly flown alongside the Maple-Leaf Flag on Commonwealth Day and other royal occasions and anniversaries.

Use in other flags

The Union Flag was found in the canton (top left-hand corner) of the flags of many colonies of the UK, while the ground (background) of their flags was the colour of the naval ensign flown by the particular Royal Navy squadron that patrolled the region of the World.

Several former colonies, notably Australia and New Zealand continue to retain the Union Flag and the coloured ground in their own national flags. In both countries, the Union Flag was used semi-interchangeably with their national flags for significant parts of their early history. This was also the case in Canada until the introduction of the Maple-Leaf flag in 1965. It is also shown in the canton of the state flag of Hawaii.

External links

Related flags

Flags of Countries within the United Kingdom

England - Northern Ireland - Scotland - Wales

Flags of the Channel Islands

Alderney - Guernsey - Herm - Jersey - Sark

Naval/Airforce/Army Flags

British ensigns

Other flags

Bermuda, Fiji, Saint Helena, Tuvalu

See also

UK topics