The Union Jack

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The Union Jack

If you look at the Union Flag (or Jack) closely, you will see that it is actually made up from 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 crusades.

The flag of St. Andrew of Scotland is a white diagonal across a blue background and was added to the St. George's flag on the unification of England and Scotland in 1603.

The flag of St. Patrick of Ireland which is red diagonal cross on a white background was added on the 'Act of Union' in 1801 - the three flags forming the Union Jack as we know it today.

The flag is always flown with broader white diagonal at the top, nearest the top of the flagpole. If it is ever flown upside down, with the broader white stripe at the base, it is usually taken as a sign of distress! Usually this only happens on the high seas, but was also widely used in this manner when forces were under siege, as in the Boer War, or during the fighting in India during the late 18th century.

Finally, the word 'Jack' when used in connection with the Union Jack is a reference to the 'jackstaff' or flagpole situated at the stern of naval vessels from which the flag was flown.

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