The flag of England is a flag for civil and military use in the country, usually displayed in conjunction with the Union flag, which represents the United Kingdom. The flag is based on the emblem of Saint George, the patron saint of the English. It has been in force since the Middle Ages , although the exact date it was created is not known.
This national flag was used, in 1606, to create the flag of Great Britain when Scotland and England unified their crown under the command of James VI of Scotland, who inherited the throne from Queen Elizabeth I.
The historical origin of the flag is believed to be at the time of the Crusades. British troops used the symbol of the cross as their main banner, which generated a cultural appropriation of the symbol until it became the national flag of the country. This symbol is commonly associated with Ricardo Corazón de León.
Confusions at its origin
The first official instance in which the English began to use the cross as an official representation of the country was during the crusades that began at the end of the 12th century. However, the original colors of the soldiers’ uniform and banners were not red; the crosses that the English used were blue.
In fact, Henry II of England and Philip II of France agreed that both armies would dress similarly and send their troops on a crusade in the name of the Church. The agreement determined that the English would use a white background with a blue cross and the French would use a white background with a red cross.
Therefore, it was the French who first used the insignia that today represents England. It is not known exactly when countries agreed to change colors, but red was always much more associated with England than with France.
Richard the Lionheart
It is said that Ricardo Corazón de León was the one who adopted the use of the banner with the cross during one of his crusades. However, there is no historical evidence to substantiate this fact. It is common to believe this in England and many of its inhabitants repeat this analogy as if it were true, but it is impossible to confirm it.
In any case, according to legend, Ricardo Corazón de León would have adopted this banner during his visit to Genoa, where a similar flag is also used.
First use of the flag of Saint George (XIII century)
The first banners with the flag of Saint George, used by English troops to represent their nationality, began to appear in the second half of the 12th century.
It is not known exactly when it happened, but it is believed that it was less than 100 years after Enrique II and Felipe II had agreed to use the blue cross for England and the red cross for France. That is, the French used the red cross for less than a century before exchanging it with the English.
It is presumed that Edward I was the first English king to make official use of the cross of Saint George in the clothing of his troops.
According to historical records of purchases of the time, Eduardo I commissioned the use of red cloth to create the emblems of the troops in order to put the army in the arms of Saint George. For this reason, it is considered that it was Eduardo I who made the use of the banner official at the national level.
Other saints in England and the influence of St. George on the flag
Although Saint George gained very strong popularity during the time of the Crusades, many Englishmen still had Edward the Confessor as their main saint. However, after the English Reformation in the mid-16th century, Saint George once again became the patron saint of the country as he had been during the 12th century.
In 1552, when the country’s religious prayer book was updated, all uses of flags of saints other than that of Saint George were abolished, thus giving this flag much greater significance in English culture.
The Cross of Saint George began to be used on English ships in the mid-16th century, even before the rest of the holy flags in the country were abolished. From this point on, the use of the St. George’s flag in England was more than official.
It remained in effect as the sole flag of England until 1603, when Scotland and England were united under the command of James VI of Scotland and the first Union flag was adopted.
Saint George, the patron saint who is credited with the red cross, was the official saint of England during the 13th century. According to local legends, Saint George had been a brave warrior who slayed a dragon, inspiring the country’s armies to wear the emblem on their costume.
During the crusades, English warriors used the emblem of Saint George as a symbolism of strength and courage. In addition, it represented the attributes of the country’s patron saint and, symbolically, it protected soldiers in battle.
Another of the main reasons why this flag is used is that Saint George is considered a saint in various derivations of the Christian religion, which has always been present in England during its history.
Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox regard Saint George as a saint, which is why England has used the same flag even with the Protestant movements of the Modern Age.
Many soldiers from other countries (particularly from France) also used the red cross on their uniforms, which makes the red cross today associated with crusader soldiers from around the world. However, the historical significance of the flag is much more closely associated with the English troops.
- England’s Flag, The England Forever Website, 2013. Taken from englandforever.org
- Flag of England, Wikipedia, 2019. Taken from wikiedpia.org
- Flag of England, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018. Taken from Britannica.com
- England – Map, Cities, History. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019. Taken from Britannica.com
- A History of England, Local Histories Website, (nd). Taken from localhistories.org