More than a thousand years after the Vikings conquered and settled parts of Scotland and England, and hundreds of years after the Dannebrog first inspired the designs of other flags, four British counties have chosen their own Scandinavian cross flags to celebrate cultural ties with Scandinavia.
1. The Shetland Islands is the northernmost part of Scotland. Together with Orkney, Shetland was raided and invaded by Norse, mostly Norwegian, Vikings as early as the 8th Century. The isles were officially part of the Kingdom of Norway until 1468.
The flag of Shetland was designed in 1969 and made official on 1 February 2005. The colours are Scottish (blue and white), the cross shape is Scandinavian. The Scandinavian, or Nordic, cross design has been adopted for all national flags and a number of other flags in the Nordic countries. Now, the design has also spread across the North Sea.
2. The Orkney Islands lie south of Shetland and north of Caithness. The Orkney flag, also known as the St. Magnus’ Cross, was adopted on 10 April 2007. The colours come from the coat of arms of the Orkney Islands Council which displays the galley of the medieval Earldom of Orkney (gold on blue) and the ax-carrying lion from the royal arms of Norway (gold on red).
3. Caithness is a county on the northern shore of mainland Scotland. The flag of Caithness was adopted on 26 January 2016. The colours represent the peatlands, the turf and the Caithness flagstone (black), the county’s beaches (gold) and the sea (blue). A golden galley with a black raven on its sail is a traditional emblem of Caithness, too. The raven was an important badge for the Vikings.
4. West Riding is a historical division of Yorkshire, the largest county in England. The West Riding of Yorkshire covers roughly half of the county’s area including cities like Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield.
The West Riding flag was adopted on 23 May 2013. It combines the white and red cross of St. George, patron saint of England, with the Scandinavian cross design. Norse, mostly Danish, Vikings ruled the Kingdom of Jórvik (York) in the 9th and 10th Centuries. The White Rose of York is a traditional Yorkshire emblem. The rose-en-soleil badge with a white rose and a blazing sun was used by the royal House of York (14th-15th Century) as well as by the West Riding Council (1927-1974).