Why British national flag is called the Union Jack?

It might just be a piece of cloth, with colors and emblems, but it represents each nation and its story. Whether it represents an organization, an armed force, an office, or an individual, it is a way of telling the world of one’s sovereignty. A flag is usually, but not always, oblong and is attached by one edge to a staff or halyard. (click here for more details)

Each national flag’s colors and designs are not randomly chosen but rather based on a nation’s history, culture, or religion. Many flags can be traced to a common origin, and such “flag families” are often linked both by common traditions and geography. (click here for more details)

United Kingdom’s National flag is called Union Jack or Union Flag. It had its name because it’s a combination of the three crosses of the three countries united under one Sovereign – the kingdoms of England and Wales, of Scotland and Ireland (although since 1921 only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom). (click here for more details)

As different countries make up the United Kingdom under England’s rule, the flag also has evolved. It was known as the British flag or the flag of Britain in the 16th century, which included the red cross of St George (England) and the blue saltire of St Andrew (Scotland).

However, the ‘Union’ first appeared in 1625. There are several theories as to how it became known as the ‘Union Jack.’ The most plausible one is that when a small flag was mounted on the front of a warship (and a selected number of other ships), it was called ‘the Jack.’

Sometime in 1674, the British flag was formally known as the ‘Union Jack’ when mounted on a warship, not in harbor. It was also known as the ‘Union flag’ on land. But in the early 19th century, the rule was more relaxed when the sailing term could be used when referring to the national flag everywhere.

The first version of the flag featuring only the English and Scottish flags was created in 1606. The name was then amended in 1801 to incorporate the cross of St. Patrick (Ireland). Welsh flag was never included because the Principality of Wales was already united with England and was no longer a separate principality of England by 1801.

You will see two flags flying in Wales. It includes the yellow St Davids Cross and the red dragon on a green background.

The Union flag is composed of three heraldic crosses. The cross of St. Goerge, a red cross on a white background. St George was a patron saint of England since the 1270s. Later, it was combined with the cross of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, when James I succeeded to the throne in 1606.

The cross saltire of St Andrew is a diagonal white cross on a blue ground while St Patrick’s (patron saint of Ireland) cross saltire, is a diagonal red cross on a white background.

On January 1, 1801, the Act of Union of Ireland with England (and Wales) and Scotland took place, and the designs were combined with the previous Union Flag of St George and St Andrew to create the Union Flag that has been flown ever since.

The Union Flag was initially a Royal flag. The modern design was made official in 1801 and ordered to be flown on all the King’s forts and castles, not elsewhere. (click here for more details)

Today, when the Queen is not in residence, the flag is flown above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Sandringham. To inform the public about a Royal death, the Union Flag (or the Royal Arms of Scotland (Lion Rampant), where appropriate) is flown at half-mast. While the Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast, as the Sovereign never dies because the new monarch immediately succeeds his or her predecessor.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport at The Queen’s command decides on the flying of the Union Flag on public buildings. It is flown on government buildings on birthdays of Royal Family members, Commonwealth Day, Coronation Day, Queen’s official birthday, Remembrance Day, and the State Opening and prorogation of Parliament.

The term ‘Union Jack’ perhaps appeared from Queen Anne’s time. However, the origin is uncertain.

The flag has a standard height-to-length proportion of 1:2. The war flag version used by the British Army had a modified proportion of 3:5 and crops two of the red diagonals. (click here for more details)