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(9th S. v. 414, 440, 457, 478.) What is probably the most complete account of the flag commonly known as the Union Jack is to be found in the Archæological Journal for December, 1891 (xlviii. 295–314), in a paper on the subject by Mr. Emanuel Green, F.S.A. The history of the flag is there fully set forth, with a series of coloured plates showing (1) the formation of the first Union Jack, (2) various alternative ways of combining the three banners of St. Andrew, St. Patrick, and St. George, and (3) the formation of the second or present Union Jack The several alternatives are interesting, as showing the superiority of the design eventually adopted.
I notice that ProF. SKEAT says of the official description of the flag that “no description can be more exact”; but Mr. Green points out that it contains no intimation how the fimbriation of the St. Patrick's cross is to be obtained, or that the same cross is narrower than that of St. Andrew; there is also nothing to show that the fimbriation is confined to one side of the St. Patrick's cross.
It is obvious, on drawing the flag, that, whether intentionally or otherwise, the saltire is actually composed of a fimbriated St. Patrick's cross dimidiated with the cross of
St. Andrew per saltire and counterchanged ; and I would venture to suggest as a more exact heraldic description of the flag the following :
Azure, the crosses saltire of St. Andrew and St. Patrick, the latter fimbriated argent, dimidiated per saltire and counterchanged, and surmounted by the cross of St. George fimbriated of the second.
With regard to the name Jack in connexion with the flag Mr. Green points out that as early as 1375 the same term was applied to the wadded or quilted surcoats or jackets worn by our soldiery, and covered with white charged with the red cross of St. George. Two hundred
years later such "Jackes” were ordered to be made for the furniture of the Queen's Majesty's ships, perhaps for use in the same way as in the well-known painting of the embarkation of Henry VIII. from Dover in 1520, where rows of what may be such Jacks are arranged along the quarterdecks of the vessels. It is not improbable that the early flags were also called Jacks, from being of a similar shape, an upright oblong.
I would add that Mr. Green maintains that owing to the restriction of the Union Jack to the Royal Navy and to forts and military garrisons, and of the White or St. George's Ensign as the flag of the Royal Navy, “there remains for general purposes the Red Ensign as the national flag, and this only,” he says, “should be generally and publicly used.”
Personally, I fail to see what bearing the very necessary and obvious restrictions on the use of particular flags by the naval and military and merchant services have upon the use of such flags at large, or why we may not use the Union Jack, and the White and Blue Ensigns or the Pilot Jack, and yet may use the Red Ensign. The Red Ensign was originally a naval flag like the Blue Ensign and the White Ensigy, and, by Admiralty orders, has been assigned a certain part at sea, namely, as the flag of the merchant navy. I suppose it will not be disputed that from at least 1300, when it was so borne as one of the English ensigns at the siege of Carlaverock, the banner of St. George has been a national flag, and as it did not cease to be so when combined with the banner of St. Andrew, and, again, with that of St. Patrick, so in the form of the Union Jack have we our national banner to-day.
The national flag is now happily flown on the Victoria Tower over the Houses of Parliament, and was flown on the Queen's last birthday on all the Government offices, thus giving an official confirmation that the flag of which an illustration is given is the national flag.
W. H. ST. JOHN HOPE.
* By an Order in Council of 7 August, 1899, the flag to be used by Her Majesty's Diplomatic Servants, Ministers Plenipotentiary, Chargés d'Affaires, &c., whether on shore or embarked in boats or other vessels, is the Union Flag, with the Royal Arms in the centre thereof on a white shield, surrounded by a green garland.
The flag to be used by Her Majesty's Consular Officers ashore, to distinguish their residences, is the Union Flag.
The flag to be used by Her Majesty's Consular Officers, when embarked in boats or other vessels, is the Blue Ensign, with the Royal Arms in the centre of the fly of the flag—that is, in the centre of that part between the Union and the end of the flag.