20 marzo 2014

Union Jack: the British Flag

The Union Flag, popularly known as the Union Jack, is the national flag of the United Kingdom. Therefore it is the official British flag for a kingdom formed by four different countries: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
It is called the Union Flag because it symbolises the administrative union of these four countries under the same sovereign. The flag is the sum and combination of the individual flags of three of the Kingdom's countries. The flags that were combined to create The Union Jack were:

- England: represented by the heraldic cross of St. George. This flag, a red cross on a white ground, was introduced by king Richard I in 1194. It is still the flag of England as a single country.

- Scotland: represented by the heraldic cross of St. Andrew, a diagonal white cross on a blue field. In 1603, King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne after Queen Elizabeth's death, becoming the new King of England as well (James I). In other words, he was the King of two rival kingdoms. But only a year later, James I combined both his thrones into a united kingdom of "Great Britain". In 1606, after hard political disputes, the new flag was created by unifying the English and Scottish flags in the so called "first Union flag".

-Ireland: represented by the heraldic cross of St. Patrick, a diagonal red cross on a white ground. In 1801 Ireland joined the United Kigndom and the creation of a new flag was necessary. It was then that the present British flag was designed. 

* Wales is the fourth country in the United Kingdom, but since it is a Principality, not a kingdom, it could not be included on the flag. Its flag is represented by a red dragon on a green and white field.

And finally, Ireland. Here is its flag. Since 1921, only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom. The rest of the island belongs to the Republic of Ireland, an independent country with a completely different flag (green, white and orange). Remember that the two Irelands are different countries and historically bitter rivals.