Flag of Great Britain



The flag of Great Britain, commonly known as King's Colours, the first Union Flag, the Union Jack, or the British flag, was used at sea from 1606 and more generally from 1707 to 1801. It was the first flag of Great Britain. It is the precursor to the Union Jack of 1801. The design was ordered by King James VI and I to be used on ships on the high seas, and it subsequently came into use as a national flag following the Treaty of Union and Acts of Union 1707, gaining the status of "the Ensign armorial of
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island and the List of is ...
", the newly created state. It was later adopted by land forces, although the blue of the field used on land-based versions more closely resembled that of the blue of the flag of Scotland. The flag consists of the red cross of Saint George, patron saint of
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. It is separa ...
, superimposed on the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...
. Its correct proportions are 3:5. The flag's official use came to an end in 1801 with the creation of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state in the British Isles that existed between 1801 and 1922, when it included all of Ireland. It was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Great B ...
. At that time Saint Patrick's Flag was added to the flag of Great Britain to create the present-day Union Flag.


By James I of England, King of Scots, Orders in Council, 1606: File:Godspeed replica.jpg, A replica of the early 17th century '' Godspeed'' flying the flags of Great Britain and the Kingdom of England Flag of England.svg, The flag of England Flag of Scotland.svg, The flag of Scotland King James had the habit of referring to a "Kingdom of Great Britain", considering that it had been created by the Union of the Crowns. However, despite the personal union which he represented, in practice England and Scotland continued as separate kingdoms, each with its own parliament and laws, for another century. The Kingdom of Great Britain finally came into being in 1707. The flag of the new Kingdom was formally chosen on 17 April 1707, two weeks before the Acts of Union of 1707 were to take effect. Sir Henry St George, Garter Principal King of Arms, had presented several possible designs to Queen Anne and the Privy Council.

Scottish variant

The principal alternative for consideration was a version of the flag with the saltire of Saint Andrew lying on top of that of Saint George, called the "Scots union flag as said to be used by the Scots", but this was rejected. File:Union Jack 1606 Scotland.svg, "Scots union flag as said to be used by the Scots." File:Proposed Union Jack (Scottish, blue fimbriation of white).svg, Another early proposal for the Union Jack, consisting of a white St Andrew's saltire with blue fimbriation superimposed over a red St George's cross on a field of white. File:Proposed Union Jack (Scottish, blue on red, before 1617).svg, A reconstruction of an alternative version of the Union Jack that appears on a painted wooden ceiling boss from Linlithgow Palace (c.1617).

Proposed versions

In the wake of the union between England and Scotland, several designs for a new flag were drawn up, juxtaposing the Saint George's Cross and the St Andrew's Saltire: However, none were acceptable to King James.

Graphicarchive of Graphic

After 1801

With the 1801 change to the British flag, British ensigns and other official designs incorporating it nearly all changed as well, either immediately or when pre-existing stocks were used up. An exception is the Commissioners' flag of the Northern Lighthouse Board, whose old stock lasted so long that its anachronistic design became fixed by tradition. The old flag has been included in some later designs to mark a pre-1801 British connection, as with the coat of arms of the Colony of Sierra Leone adopted in 1914 or the flag of Baton Rouge, Louisiana adopted in 1995. The Flag of Somerset County, Maryland, briefly used from 1694, was revived after being rediscovered in 1958. The flag of Taunton, Massachusetts officially adopted a reconstruction of an American Revolutionary banner at the bicentennial of its 1774 introduction; similarly, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1973 adopted the 1775 flag of John Proctor's Independent Battalion of Westmoreland County Provincials.

See also

* List of English flags * List of Scottish flags * Protectorate Jack *
Union Flag The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the ''de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, whether or not they are officially recognized by laws or other formal norms. It is commonly used to refer to what ha ...
* List of flags of the United Kingdom


{{Kingdom of Great Britain National symbols of Great Britain Unionism in the United Kingdom 1707 establishments in Great Britain 1606 establishments in England 1800 disestablishments in Great Britain 1606 establishments in Scotland