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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
The Making of the Union Flag
Northern Ireland - St Patrick

St Patrick 

Ireland is represented by the cross of St. Patrick
(a diagonal red cross on a white background.)


On 1 January 1801, Ireland was united with Great Britain and it became necessary to have a new National Flag in which Ireland was represented. The cross St Patrick was combined with the Union Flag of St George and St Andrew, to create the Union Flag that has been flown ever since.


Union Flag

The cross of St. Patrick was inserted so the position given to St. Andrew's Cross in one quarter was the same as that given to the Irish one in the diagonally opposite quarter; in heraldry this is known as "counterchanging"

The Union Flag with the St. George's Cross removed showing how the saltires (diagonal crosses) are counterchanged.

The 'new' British flag is not symmetrical because of the counterchange.

As Scotland joined the Union nearly two hundred years before Ireland, St Andrew's Cross was placed uppermost in the top quarter nearest the flagstaff, this being the most honourable position according to heraldry, while the Irish Cross was given the second most honourable position, the top quarter of the fly.

In order to avoid having the red of the Irish Cross directly upon the blue field of the Scottish one an edging of the white field of the Irish Cross is used.

The symbols of Scotland and Ireland are placed sided by side on the Union Flag.

England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland were now all joined together and called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The name was later changed to United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland when the greater part of Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1921.

NB. The St. Patrick's Cross remains in the flag even though today only Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.

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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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