Flags for Great Britain
Size: H:290mm, W:425mm
Made in: Unknown
Made by: Unknown
Making a nation can be difficult. When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, he found himself ruling over two countries with different political and legal systems, different established churches, different currencies, and a long history of mutual dislike and suspicion.
His central ambition was to unite these two countries to form a new unified state – a Great Britain. But turning this dream into public reality was quite another matter. As these early designs for the new British flag show, it’s incredibly difficult to get the balance right and please everybody.
This object is from the National Library of Scotland
'Publish we this peace To all our subjects. Set we forward, let A Roman and a British ensign wave Friendly together.'
Cymbeline Act 5 Scene 5
- The Treaty of Union proposed by James I in 1604 followed half a century of unbroken peace between Scotland and England (if you don't count the usual border skirmishes)
- As King, James I could force through the designs for a symbolic flag even if both parliaments were blocking the proposal itself
- Heraldry is set up to indicate hierarchy and precedence and it was in fact heraldically impossible to unite the two flags in exact equality
- The position nearer to the flag pole is better, as is being positioned at the top
- The union flag remained unpopular in both nations and it took until the 1800s for it to reach its current, modern, form.
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