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The British Union Jack and Wales

Red Dragon of Wales

Red Dragon of Wales

Have you been following the flag story out of Wales?

Ian Lucas, who represents Wrexham in Wales as a member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, has sugested that the British Union Jack be modified to include a symbol of Wales. Wales, if you are fuzzy on the political geography of the United Kingdom, is one of four entities that make up the country. The other three are Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England.

To bring you up to speed: England has existed as an organized and unified country since the 10th century, and in 1284 the Principality of Wales yielded itself to Edward the I of England (with the Statue of Rhuddlan), an event that was finalized in 1536 by the Act of Union. No point in getting in a hurry I suppose.

Scotland and England (which included Wales) agreed to become Great Britian in 1707, and in 1801 the legislative union of Great Britain (now England, Wales, and Scotland) essentially enrolled Ireland into the kingdom.

British Union Jack

British Union Jack

Thus the flag of Great Britian in the present configuration:
1. A blue field in the very back, with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the
2. Diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland) which is superimposed on the
3. Diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland)

But Ireland eventually fought for independence, and the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 formalized a partition of Ireland; six northern Irish counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland and the current name of the country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was adopted in 1927. But the flag of the United Kingdom remained the same.

While the traditional Red Dragon of Wales has been incorporated so much into the British iconography, that I as an American can scarcely tell where being English or being Welsh begins or ends, those who are Welsh certainly know. And they would like for their corner of the country to be included on the flag.

St. David’s Cross

St. David’s Cross

The artistic and the not-so-artistic in the United Kingdom and around the entire world for that matter, plus genuine vexillologists, have been busy offering up illustrations for a new British Union Jack. Some of the ideas are excellent and bear consideration. The one I see most often that strikes me as a worthy suggestion adds the Cross of St. David, the patron saint of Wales.

A thin, heavily embroidered golden stripe laid atop the broad red St. George cross would look—to borrow a superlative—Smashing. And it would be easy for contemporary Union Jacks to be retro-fitted rather than discarded if the owner wanted to undertake the effort and expense.


Suggested Union Jack

This image does not convey the ornate, raised embroidery that I envision, but it needs to be something that reflects the recurring artistic themes of Wales

No, it’s not their beloved Y Ddraig Goch or Red Dragon, but it is in keeping with the other emblems, and would preserve the spirit and history of the flag, and its elegant linear quality. Surely George, Andrew, and Patrick would welcome David.

18 thoughts on “The British Union Jack and Wales

  1. What about Cornwall!?

    The Flag of St. Piran – Black with a white cross.

    When will that be included into the Union Flag =D

  2. Hi Dave—I’m glad you wrote. I didn’t know about the flag of St. Piran. Clearly, I am in over my head on this one!

    Underneath the red St. George Cross, there is a white cross shape. How about they make it bigger and call it St. Piran cross?

    Are there any more Saints or flags I should know about?

  3. How about the Cornish finally realise they are NOT a country on their own, not even a country, but a county of England. Cornwall is and always will be England. You don’t see the Yorkshire folk ranting and raving about not been English, and they are bigger than Cornwall. Get Over It!!

  4. Hi Paul,
    I think Dave was being more humorous than serious. But I am interested in how the United Kingdom resolves these issues.

  5. I am Welsh and I feel that (being a proud principality of England for centuries) Wales and her history within the United Kingdom is adequately represented by the St. George’s Cross. I have seen many designs to include Wales in the Union Flag, but let’s be honest, if it aint broke, dont fix it. Next the Welsh Parliament will be demanding the Red Dragon superimposed upon the EU flag.

  6. D.H.—thank you for writing. I honestly can’t imagine the Union Jack being changed, but it’s an interesting story to follow. On a bunny trail however—-I do think the national flags of Australia and New Zealand will be changed, and I wonder how those countries will sort out who they are.

  7. Hi im Welsh and i liked reading this and i think that Wales should have something to do with the Union Jack esspecially for its involvment within the Uk itself. I love Wales and the Uk too, but the Union Jack is well known as it is and i think that it should stay the same as it has to a long time.

  8. Ceryth, thank you so much for writing. When I posted this article in February, it never occurred to me that it would attract readers from the UK. I’m glad you found The Daily Flag, and I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  9. Isn’t the flag of St. David used by Cardiff City FC so including it in the flag would be a little partisan toward that football team and south wales generally. If we have to change the Union Flag lets bung in the dragon!

  10. Oh Rob—I live in Texas! What you call football and what I call football have only a ball in common, but not the same kind of ball. As for flags, see comment #2 where I said I was in over my head!

    I am pleased that you wrote, and hope you will stop by The Daily Flag again.

  11. @Dave – Cornwall is part of England… My word…

  12. Hi Deborah,

    I fear that you have opened a can of worms with the issue of the constituent parts that are or should be included in the flag of our Union.

    The fact that about which our nation now comprises so many nationalities is a matter about which those calling for recognition or even separatism seem oblivious. The historical rancour spans hundreds of years, now running into the thousands actually. The indigenous population of Wales and Cornwall are Celts and, largely because of this racial difference and other historical factors, many of them feel that they are not adequately represented in the Union. Some even feel that separation is an appropriate goal.

    The area now known as Cornwall was first inhabited by Neolithic and then Bronze Age peoples, and later (in the Iron Age) by Celts. Cornwall is part of the Brythonic (Celtic) area of Britain, separated from Wales after the Battle of Deorham, often coming into conflict with the expanding English kingdom of Wessex before King Athelstan in 922 A.D. set the boundary between English and Cornish people at the Tamar. Other Celtic regions include Brittany in France and, as mentioned before, Wales.

    I personally feel that in this era where we are moving towards even wider union with Europe, that the ancient boundaries (and peoples) should be recognised in a cultural sense and more made of these fascinating regional resources of language, culture and history.

    With regard to flags and the representation of these regions or peoples within the flag, why not? I am English and I love the history of my country and I am proud of being British: that includes all Britons, even the Celtic ones!

    1. Henry—I didn’t mean to open that can of worms! You are correct. I never imagined that this article would receive so many responses. Thank you for the short geography and history. As a Texan, I definitely understand the idea of regional resources of language, culture and history.

  13. we’re are doing a project at school,
    and can I use the Dragon of Wales image please?
    Wootton Upper School, Bedford

    1. Charlotte—you are welcome to use the Red Dragon image for your school project. It is an open source image that I found on Wikipedia here. Just click into the small flag image for a large one. Best Wishes and good luck on your project. Deborah Hendrick

  14. To put the cat amongst the pigeons, it might be noted that the St Patricks cross (diagonal red cross on white) notionally represents the whole of Ireland pre-partition (even though its historicity is debated – see wikipedia's_Flag#cite_note-hm38-0).

    Unionists in N. Ireland tend to use St George’s Flag with a Red Hand on white star.

    But a red dragon and red hand might be excessive.

    Also St George might have a go at the dragon.

    1. Oh dear. I hadn’t thought about St. George and the dragon! Thanks for writing Paul.

  15. It is a good idea.
    The Welsh should have representation on the Union flag, and the addition of the Welsh saint would symbolise this perfectly in nationality, culturally and religiously!

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