Flag of England
Adopted 1277 [1][2][3][4][5][6][7]
Designed by (unknown)
Proportions 3:5 [7]

The flag of England is white with a red cross. The flag is St George's Cross.


The earliest reference to the cross of St George as an English emblem (not as a flag) was in an account relating to the Welsh War of 1277. [7] The flag shows the Cross of Saint George, who was the patron saint of England and Wales. During King Edward III's reign (1327-1377) Saint George was made patron of Edward's new knight-order, the Order of the Garter. [8] From the 14th century onwards St George was considered a special protector of the English [8]. All this led to the cross of Saint George being taken as a symbol during the crusades, however there are several theories about exactly how this came to be.

The first theory is that the flag was adopted during the Crusades. At the beginning of the Crusades, a red cross on white was already associated with England. Although the Pope decided English crusaders would be distinguished by wearing a white cross on red, and French crusaders a red cross on white [9] English knights soon decided to claim "their" cross of red on white. In January 1188, in a meeting between Henry II of England and Philip II of France, the two rivals agreed to exchange flags (France later changed its new white cross on red for a white cross on a dark blue flag).[10] Some French knights carried on using the red cross however, and as English knights wore this pattern as well, the red cross on white became the typical crusader symbol regardless of nationality.

A second theory states that St. George's cross was originally the flag of Genoa. The use of the flag by the Genoese, seems back to ancient times, when the Byzantine army abode in the city, (a red cross on a white field) was carried in the small tribute church of St. George, but it is certainly attested in 1096 and was adopted by England and the City of London in 1190. They did this so their ships entering the Mediterranean could benefit from the protection of the powerful Genoese fleet. The maritime Republic of Genoa was rising and going to become, with its rival Venice, one of the most important powers in the world. The English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege.[7]

St George's cross did not achieve any status as the national flag until the 16th century, when all other saints' banners were abandoned during the Reformation under Edward VI. [7]

The Flag of England is part of the Union Flag. The Union Flag has been used in a variety of forms since 1606, [11] when the flags of the Kingdom of Scotland and Kingdom of England were first merged during the Union of the Crowns. [12] In Scotland historical evidence suggests that a separate design of the Union Flag was flown to that used in England. [13] Following the Acts of Union of 1707, which properly united the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England, the "English" version of the Union Flag was adopted as the offical flag of England, Wales and Scotland. [14]

From 1801, in order to symbolise the union of the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, a new design which included St Patrick's Cross was adopted for the flag of the United Kingdom. [13] This design is what we know today as the flag of the United Kingdom.

Usage in modern day societyEdit

The English flag is still used in England, with the most famous example being the English national football team, which uses the English flag. The English flag is also seen in Rugby Union, and Cricket.

Before 1996, most of the flags waved by supporters at sport events were Union Flags, but it is now arguable that this situation has been reversed. [15]



The flag of Georgia.

The flag of Georgia uses a similar design, except that in each four corners there is a small red cross and that the color is different.


  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 England (United Kingdom) at Flags of the World
  8. 8.0 8.1 Saint George at BBC
  9. Crusader Cross Flags 1188 at Flags of the World
  10. Prof. J. Prawer, A history of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Hebrew, 3rd edition, vol. II, pp. 17-18)
  11. Union Jack at the Official Website of the British Monarchy
  12. Flag Institute
  13. 13.0 13.1 Flag of the UK at Flags of the World
  14. Acts of Union (Article 1)
  15. The Saturday Soap Box: We have to make Jerusalem England's national anthem (Daily Mirror)
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Countries: EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
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