Monday, July 05, 2010


Gary Denness, of The Mexile, caught me trying to slip an anachronism past you in yesterday's post.

I told you I put the British flag out on Independence Day.  I realize it sounds a bit contrarian.  And, of course, it is.  Especially, considering my general dislike of symbols.

But I have always had a certain fondness for flags.  That may say more about my attention span than I care to admit.  But anything flapping in the breeze will cause me to sop conversation in mid-sentence.

Over the years, I have collected quite a few flags.  When I am in the mood, I will pick a favorite and post the colors outside my house.  They tend to be great conversation starters with my neighbors.  Several years ago, I got into a long discussion about the proper pronunciation of Liechtenstein.

But, I digress.  That little alpine principality is not the topic of this post.  The British Jack is.

My flag is the modern emblem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  It is the flag you would see if the British prime minister came to your house for dinner.  Or not.  The British are not as banner-oriented a we Americans.

But it is not the flag that flew over the colonies prior to July 1776.

The flag in 1776, looked like the flag at the top of this post.  If you take a close look at it, it looks very familiar.  But something seems to be missing.  As if Bruce Willis had failed to wear his toupee.

And there is something missing.  Because that flag is the flag of Great Britain -- representing the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland.

It really is a lot like arithmetic.  So, let's set up the problem.  If you want to end up with Great Britain, you take the cross of St. George -- the symbol of the Kingdom of England:

And add it to the cross of St. Andrew -- the symbol of the Kingdom of Scotland.

What you end up with is the flag at the top of the post.  The flag Lord Cornwallis and the Howe brothers fought under in their attempt to keep tea as the American breakfast beverage.

All of that was to change in a few years.  The flag, that is, not the tea. 

In 1801, Parliament added another cross to the flag.  This time the cross of St. Patrick -- to symbolize the Kingdom of Ireland.  Of course, the "kingdom" has now been truncated to Northern Ireland.  But the cross remains ensconced on the current flag.

In our little addition example, if you add the three crosses together, you get the current British flag.  The one I flew yesterday.  The one with a cross too many.

Now, I knew all of this before I posted the photograph yesterday.  And, in the back of my mind, I knew someone (most likely Gary, if not Kim) was going to catch it.

Even so, it gave me an opportuinity for another post.  And that is never a bad result.

The Mexican connection?  Well, there is one.  Gary caught me.  He lives in Mexico.

Now, I need to get my Mexican flag out.  It has its own tale.


Anonymous said...

i really like flags too but i never think much about their history. i wonder why the cuban and puerto rican flags are the same only with the colors reversed. guess i could read up on it. it actually took a while for me to remember which is which but i finally got it. guess if i had stayed in cuba i would have known without a problem. thank God that was not the case, i am so proud to be an american citizen. so, although it is 1 day late, thank you for your service to our country.

did you get my e-mail? i know i took forever to write so i don't expect to hear from you right away, but sometimes my e-mails end up in cyberspace, so thought i'd ask.

i'm going to visit cynthia and mike on wed. looking forward to seeing them and hoping you will make it up here before you head back south.


Gary Denness said...

And there is something missing. Because that flag is the flag of Great Britain -- representing the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland.

Tsk tsk. Gotcha again, amigo! At least it was me and not a Welshy. They have pet dragons to set on nefarious characters who displease them!

The flag represents the union of England and Wales and Scotland. I know, the Welsh flag is the only one of the four countries not represented on the Union Flag (or Union Jack - there is controversy over the name, but both are perfectly acceptable, for reasons I'll give in a mo...) but it still represents Wales the country, too.

I'll pre-empt anyone who wants to suggest Wales is not a country, but is in fact a principality. Here's the thing. The Union Jack is not officially the flag of the UK. Nor is God Save the Queen officially the national anthem. In fact the only official thing about the UK is that everything is unofficial. No purpose designed, written constitution. Nada.

We've just done things for hundreds of years the way we've done them, and rarely is it enshrined in stone. Why bother? The diktat came from a King or Queen and the breath of air excreted from their mouths was worth far more than any scratchings in stone. The king wants to call Wales a principality? Then it gets called a principality.

We've got so many grey areas in British law, culture, tradition. Wales being one. But at the end of the day, Wales (despite having a token prince) does not meet any political, legal or historically recognised definition of the term principality.

It does meet the required definition to be a country, albeit a country within a country, and is referred to as a country by Downing Street and it's own half hearted fudgy attempt of a government.

And they have their own football team! (Even if their greatest ever player, Ryan Giggs, did player for england at youth level :)

Like your new blog design btw!

Steve Cotton said...

Teresa -- There is a connection between the Puerto Rican and Cuban flags. They were both used as part of their respective uprisings against Spain. It appears the Cuban flag came first. Puerto Rican rebels simply reversed the colors. They are both classic-design flags.

I got your email. I will respond soon.

Gary -- Actually, you did not get me on this one. As you point out, Wales never had a king; it has always been a principality. (Of course, neither did Ireland -- at least, in the sense we now know monarchs.) Thus, not being a kingdom, it is not included in the United Kingdom.

In truth, that explanation has never been very convincing to me. At least, none of the Hanoverian symbols made their way into the national banner.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the discussion. How can you tell if the Union Jack is flown upside down? Gary? Steve?


Steve Cotton said...

Judy -- It is rather easy. If you notice, the crosses are not symmetrical. On the staff side, the wider white portion of the St. Andrew's cross (above the red stripe of the St. Patrick's cross) should be on top. If it is on the bottom, the standard is upside down.

Gary Denness said...

Tsk, Steve! Wales has had many kings, at least one of whom, albeit briefly, ruled the entire country. A couple more, perhaps, but their 'reigns' are less certain. The state of borders shouldn't be too much of an issue anyway -technically speaking there has never been a King or Queen of England as we know England today.

My point, anyway, was that Wales not being a real principality as defined by pretty much anyone anywhere, is a country and the Union Flag represents that country too, even if it has no influence on the design of the flag.

Your error (and I know I'm being pedantic, but bear with me for the sake of conversation...!) is akin to me listing 49 states of the US as being represented by the Stars and Stripes, and omitting Hawaii.

Gary Denness said...

Judy - that's easy. If an American put it up, it's upside down!

Otherwise the easiest way to remember the correct way, in my opinion, is to look at the red diagonal stripes. In the bottom left corner of the flag, the red stripe should hit the bottom of the flag, not the side.

Steve Cotton said...

Gary -- I give you point and match on Wales.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info on the cuban/puerto rican flags. now i don't have to look it up on the internet ;-)

glad you got my e-mail. cynthia is having trouble receiving mine so i don't know what's going on. i will go visit her and mike tomorrow.

how is your weather? we are finally getting some heat-maybe even 90 by thurs. i'm heading to the east coast on friday, to visit chris and matt. i'll be in n.y.c., salem, n.j., philly and boston. sounds like they're having quite the heat wave over there.

looking forward to your e-mail.


Anonymous said...

Thanks guys, I see 'it' now that. The left and right side sides are not the same or top and bottom. However, if you stitched the band that you hang a flag with(don't know the proper name)on the right side of the flag you could still fly the flag correctly. Was that on purpose? Dyslexic seamstresses? Judy

Steve Cotton said...

Teresa -- You are welcome. Flags are the closest thing I have to an obsession.

Judy -- The band is called a header. Even with one installed, you can see the difference in cross widths. As for the reason, I have seen only one given. The Cross of St Andrew has precedence in seniority on the flag. I have never verified whether or not that is accurate.

Bob in exile said...

I once took a Confederate Flag up on Mt. Popocatepetl, (several years ago as they won't allow anyone to go to the crater now), and unfurled it.
There were some Mexican Alpinists nearby and I heard them ask one another... What country is that???
One of them remarked.. "Francia".

Steve Cotton said...

Bob -- Well, it did have red, white, and blue.