The United Kingdom or British Flag is sometimes referred to as the Union Flag and is the flag of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The present design of the Union Flag dates from a Royal proclamation following the union of Great Britain and Ireland, and thus was adopted in 1801. The British Flag is actually three flags in one. It is made up from the flags of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The emblems or “flags” that appear on the Union Flag are the crosses of three patron saints: The England Flag is comprised of the Cross of St. George (Red Cross); the Scotland Flag is comprised of the Cross of St. Andrew (diagonal White Saltire); and the Northern Ireland Flag is comprised of the Cross of St. Patrick (diagonal Red Saltire).
The first version of the British flag came into being in 1606. After the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, King James VI of Scotland became ruler of England and came to be known as King James I of England. Since Queen Elizabeth was not married, she wanted King James VI, her cousin to succeed her. To represent the union between these two countries, King James I, had the idea of commissioning a new flag in 1606. When he designed the flag, he wanted to combine the two crosses of England and Scotland, so the Union Flag was born. Ireland’s famous cross of St. Patrick was not included at first due to Ireland not becoming part of the United Kingdom until 1801.
An interesting fact is that there is a United States State Flag with the Union Flag on it! The State Flag of Hawaii has the Union Flag in the upper left-hand corner to honor Hawaii’s friendship with the British. The King of Hawaii at that time sought to appease both British and American interests by creating a hybrid flag, and it’s still on it. When America took control of the islands, they chose to stick with the hybrid flag.
The British Flag is flown on government buildings on days marking Remembrance Day, Coronation Day, Commonwealth Day, official birthday of the Queen and on the days of the prorogation of Parliament and State Opening.