About the Union Jack

Unions Jacks - Everything for the home, with a Union Jack!

The Union Jack flag is also known as the Union Flag, the flag of the United Kingdom. The current design of red, white and blue, dates from 1801, and the Union of Great Britain and Ireland. As such, the Union Jack flag includes a background of the flag of England - the white, with the red Cross of Saint George, along with the blue and white cross of Saint Andrew for Scotland, and the red cross of Saint Patrick for Ireland.

If you like Union Jack Designs...

The Union Jack has become something of an icon in design and fashion of all kinds. It was used by Mods in the 1960s, and punks with their Vivienne Westwood Union Jack t-shirts in the 1970s. These days you can find the Union Jack design on all sorts of clothing and items for the home, which is why we put this web site together. Union Jack cushions for example are hugely popular, but you can find the Union Jack design used on all types of furniture, kitchen items, crockery such as mugs and union jack tea pots, and of course, you can still find Union Jack bunting and flags.

History of the Union Jack Flag

The flag of England before 1606 was simple: a red St. George's Cross, with horizontal and vertical segments, on a white background. Henry VIII, already the King of England, had been made King of Ireland in 1542; after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, James VI, King of Scotland since 1567, inherited both the Irish and English thrones, and became James I. The three kingdoms were still considered separate from each other, but the fact was that one man was now the king of all three kingdoms.

In line with this union of three kingdoms, a new flag was decreed by James I on the 12th of April, 1606, to be the royal flag. The flag of the Kingdom of Scotland had been a white diagonal cross or saltire on a blue background, this design also being known as St. Andrew's Cross. Several proposals were designed and discarded, one with the St Andrew's cross in the upper left quadrant and St. George's Cross spanning the rest of the flag, and another with side by side crosses.

The new flag had a blue background, with the red English cross overlaying the white Scottish cross. This flag was at first used during the early 17th century on military and civil ships of both Scotland and England - British land armies used the original flag of their own kingdom. King Charles I, in 1634, further restricted the use of the new flag solely for royal ships. The Acts of Union of 1707 made the flag, now known at the Royal Union flag, the ensign armorial for the new Kingdom of Great Britain.

The Act of Union and today's Union Jack

The Act of Union of 1800 merged the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland. A new design element, a red saltire, also known as the Cross of St. Patrick, was incorporated into the previous design to signify Ireland, creating today's Union Jack.

In design, the Union Jack is described thus:

  • The background is an azure deep blue.
  • The diagonal white Cross of St Andrew is underneath the red Cross of St George.
  • The diagonal red Cross of St. Patrick is "countercharged" with the white St. Andrew's Cross, meaning that, when proceeding clockwise around the flag, white follows red -- this rule defines the correct orientation for the flag.
  • All three crosses are "fimbriated" or striped along their edges with a small line of white. Because St. Andrew's Cross is white to begin with, this addition makes that cross appear wider.
  • The "fimbriation" of the red Cross of St. George serves to separate it from the red Cross of St. Patrick, and from the background.

Wales as a fourth Kingdom of the British Isles has no design element in the Union Jack. Historically, Wales was annexed in 1282 by Edward I, and integrated into the Kingdom of England by the Laws in Wales Acts passed between 1535 and 1542. Ian Lucas, Wrexham's Labour MP, proposed in 2007 that an element representing Wales with the United Kingdom be added to the Union Jack. The Government conceded that the point was valid, and a globe-spanning contest is still continuing to select both an element to represent Wales and the placement of such an element within the Union Jack.

Besides being the official flag of the UK, the Union Jack flag retains either an official or a semi-official status in some of the Commonwealth Realms; the Union Jack is still being used as the official flag for several of the smaller British overseas territories.