The flag of the United Kingdom combines elements of the flags of its constituent countries. But Wales is missing. In 1801 the Union Flag was updated to reflect constitutional changes. Two centuries later it seems fair to ask: What would the British Union Flag look like if Welsh elements were incorporated too?
The flag of England, Saint George’s Cross, was combined with the flag of Scotland, Saint Andrew’s Cross, for the first time in 1606. This first version of the Union Flag was ment for maritime use only. It wasn’t a national flag. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland had succeeded to the English crown and had become King James I of England, but Scotland and England remained two kingdoms, each with its own parliament.
A hundred years later the Acts of Union 1706/1707 united the two countries into one Great Britain, with only one parliament. Through yet another Act of Union in 1800 the Kingdom of Great Britain was united with the Kingdom of Ireland. A royal decree on 1 January 1801 changed the Union Flag, combining it with the flag of Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Cross.
Saint George’s Cross is a white flag with a red cross. It has been the flag of England since the Middle Ages, its origins going back to the Crusades of the 12th Century. Saint Andrew’s Cross is a blue flag with a white saltire. It has been the flag of Scotland since the 15th Century. Saint Patrick’s Cross is a white flag with a red saltire. It has been used to represent Ireland since the late 18th Century.
The British Empire spread the Union Flag to dominions, colonies, protectorates and dependencies on all continents. Today, the British Union Flag is still part of the flags of some independent Commonwealth countries as well as several overseas territories and states or provinces of former British dominions.
At the beginning of the 20th Century Ireland was partitioned, and today only the six northernmost counties of Ireland are part of the United Kingdom. At the end of the 20th Century considerable powers were devolved from the British parliament to new parliaments established in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Further devolution and future changes to the constitutional set-up of the United Kingdom are expected. The UK flag hasn’t changed since 1801, though.
Both before and after the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, flag enthusiast have speculated how the Union Flag would look without the Scottish blue-white Saint Andrew’s Cross. At the same time it has been suggested that elements symbolizing Wales should be incorporated into the Union Flag in order to reflect that country’s equal status with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.
The flag of Wales, the Red Dragon, was adopted in 1959. On two horizontal stripes of white and green it has the red dragon of King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd. Another flag is also used in Wales: Saint David’s Cross is a black flag with a yellow cross.