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The History of the English Flag

If you look at the Union Flag (or Jack) closely, you will see that it is actually made up of three different flags! One for England, one for Scotland, and one for Ireland. The English flag of St. George is a red upright cross on a white background, and was used as long ago as the 13th century in the crusades.

The Flag of St. Andrew of Scotland is a white diagonal (or to use the terminology of flag heraldry - "saltire") cross on a blue background. It was added to the St. George's flag on the unification of England and Scotland in 1603.

The flag of St. Patrick of Irelalnd is a red diagonal cross on a white background. It was added after the Act of Union in 1801. These three flags form the Union Jack we know today.

The flag is always flown with the broader white diagonal upright, nearest the top of the flagpole. If it is ever flown upside down, with the broad white stripe at the base, it is usually taken as a sign of distress! While this destress signal was usually limited to the high seas, it was also used when the English forces were under siege, as in the Boer War, or during the fighting in India in the late 18th sentury.

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