The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'union jack'


The Union Jack (or perhaps the Union Flag, depending on whom you ask) is 400 years old this week; the first early versions of the flag owe their existence to a royal proclamation from 12 April 1606, and initially represented merely the union of the monarchies of England and Scotland (which were otherwise separate states). The red diagonal bits (the "Saltire of Saint Patrick") didn't appear until the annexation of Ireland; oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be much evidence of the Irish ever having used them as a national symbol prior to this. As for the Welsh, they didn't get a look in, because they were considered a province of England at the time.

The Union Jack came into widespread use during the rise of the British Empire, which needed a flag to plant on all those bits of land, not to mention to wave at coronations, victory parades and such. Then came the decline of the Empire, Beatlemania, the Swinging Sixties, Mod (and several rehashings thereof), punk rock, neo-Nazi skinheads, Britpop, Cool Brittannia, New Labour, the Spice Girls and the Austin Powers movies, by when the flag had become a successful lifestyle brand, an example of what the pundits call "soft power". Somehow, in the interim, nobody actually remembered to pass a law enshrining it as a national flag, and hence its status is more a result of habit and precedent than anything more formal, which does seem like an appropriately British way to go about things.

Some other pieces of Union Jack/Flag trivia:

  • To this day, it is illegal to fly the Union Jack from a private boat
  • These people wanted to add the colour black to the flag to make it more inclusive of minorities or somesuch. They seem to have given up on the plan though.

culture flags history uk union jack 0


Proof that the Professional Australian commentariat don't have a monopoly for daft acts of grand symbolism: there's a movement in Britain to add the colour black to the Union Flag. The campaign, calling itself reFLAG are pushing the redesign of the flag to better reflect Britain as a multiracial society (the presence of white and not black, you see, reflects the inherent racism in British society, much like the word "manager" is a sexist term and the use of binary numbers in computers is phallocentric). Though wouldn't the inclusion of black marginalise the Queen's yellow- and brown-skinned subjects, by implying that they're invisible? And what about Wales?

culture political correctness psychoceramics race uk union jack 16

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