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Flag of England: History and Meaning

Flag of England: History and Meaning

One of the most easily recognizable flags in the world is the flag of England. Meaning and history behind the flag is quite an interesting subject. Read on, to know more about the flag of England, its meaning, and its history.
Tanmay Tikekar
Did You Know?
The flag of Genoa, a city in Italy, is exactly the same as that of England.
The flag of England is a white rectangle with a red cross separating it into four equal parts. The flag has a proportion of 3:5, which means that the width of the flag is 5x if the height of the flag is 3x.

The meanings of the colors on the flag of England are: white for peace, and red for bravery and hardiness.

England is one of the states in the United Kingdom. As such, officially it has no flag of its own, and uses the Union Jack (the flag of the United Kingdom) as its flag. However, the states of the United Kingdom also have a fairly independent presence in many fields. For purposes that are not political, the flag of England is sometimes used. It is mostly used in sporting events, where all the four states of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) usually participate separately.

The English flag is just the St. George's Cross, used without any alteration.

Saint George's Cross flag of England
The flag of England


St. George's Cross originated around the medieval period as the symbol of the 'warrior saint' Saint George. This was based on a legend telling the story of how St. George defeated a dragon that was terrorizing a village and was asking for human sacrifices, including the beautiful princess.

The origin of the Cross and, particularly, its association with St. George probably occurred in the Republic of Genoa. The rulers of Genoa had adopted Saint George as the patron saint of the city in the 12th century CE. It emerged at the time of the Crusades as a popular symbol among the Christian armies.

It arrived in Great Britain after the Second Crusade. Interestingly, while departing for the Second Crusade, the British, under Henry II, had adopted a white cross, while the French, led by Philip II, had adopted a red cross. The timeline of the switch in flags is not reliably documented, and could have occurred during the return of the English soldiers. Richard the Lionheart is most often credited with bringing the St. George's Cross to England. It may even have been a tactical decision to include it as the symbol of England on the British Navy so that they could mimic the more powerful Genoese Navy in order to deter pirates from attacking British ships.

The English soldiers began using the Cross for the purpose of identification during the reign of Edward I. After the Order of the Garter was founded in 1348, George became the patron saint of England. In 1606, at the Union of the Crowns, St. George's Cross was merged with St. Andrew's Cross, the flag of Scotland, to form the first flag of the Kingdom of Great Britain. After the union of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland, St. Patrick's Cross was added to the flag of the Union to form the second Union Flag. St. George's Cross, holds a prominent place in the Union Jack, the modern flag of the United Kingdom.

The flag of London is also heavily based on St. George's Cross, with a sword in the canton (top left quarter) of the otherwise unaltered Cross.

St. George's Cross is also used in various other countries. As mentioned before, the flag of Genoa is the same, unaltered St. George's Cross. The flags of Milan and Freiburg im Breisgau are also the same, but they are not dedicated to St. George. St. George's Cross is also found in some form on the flags of Georgia (the country, not the American state); Huesca, Teruel, and Zaragoza, the three provinces of Aragon, an autonomous community of Spain; Montreal, a city in the Quebec province of Canada; Almería, a city in southern Spain; Padua, a city in northern Italy; Zadar, a city on the Adriatic coast of Croatia.

Coloring Page

Here are printable pictures of the flag of England for the little ones to color and enjoy.

Click on the pictures to obtain a printable version