The Flag of England


Flag of England

I have always considered our Union Flag to look gaudy and crude alongside, say, the dignified and impressive flags of Imperial Germany or Austro-Hungary. I also believe it to be heraldically incorrect. That is why the so-called 'Union Jack' has never excited any patriotic fervour in me. I have always found the simple crosses of the individual saints of England, Scotland and Ireland to be more æsthetically satisfactory, unsullied by a superimposition that must always remind us of the Norman conquerors, whose arrogance and ambition forced us into an unnatural marriage. As an Englishman, the red cross of St George on a white ground always appeared to me to be a far better design artistically, although it is rather plain, and seemed lacking in some undefined particular.

The great problem with the cross of St George is that St George is not England's original patron-saint. St Edmund (Eadmund), King of East Anglia, has held that distinction since the 9th century, when he gave his life in defence of his faith and his homeland against the Vikings. Like St George the Great-Martyr, he was martyred in a particularly horrible manner, and his supreme self-sacrifice impressed the Righteous King Alfred the Great, strengthening the latter's resolve to hold Christian Wessex against all the odds.

St Edmund continued to be revered as the patron-saint of England long after the Norman Invasion. For example, the late fourteenth-century Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery shows him in a place of honour. However, when the Crusades really got under way (the first trial run against England in 1066 having been successful), the Norman oppressors of this country then went off to exotic lands to continue their unhappy holocaust of rape and pillage. This culminated in the sack of Constantinople in April 1204, when the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was desecrated and a prostitute was seated on the Patriarch's throne: an insult that Greek Orthodox especially find hard to forgive and will never forget.

During their sojourn in foreign climes, the Norman freebooters and their companions encountered St George, and when they returned home, they developed his cultus in this country. But the saint they venerated was not the Great-Martyr known to Old England. Instead they turned him into a mediæval knight in armour, battling against a dragon‡. In 1348 a small group of Norman soldiery, together with the contemporary representative of the depraved Plantagenet line, Edward III, formed the Order of the Garter: a small, privileged clique with the pseudo-St George as its patron.

It is possible that this patronage was adopted in order to mask the less pleasant attributes of the order, as some have seen in its ritual and numerology a pagan, and even Satanic influence*. St Edmund's relics had been stolen by the French in July 1217†, and without their presence in this country his influence faded. It was not long before the Norman military as a whole adopted the distorted version of St George, and from there he became accepted, by a people long deprived of their true heritage, as the patron of England.

Much later on, when the worst excesses of the Norman jackboot had been thrown off, the Barons had self-destructed in the Wars of the Roses and their remains had been crushed by the Machiavellian Tudors, a great Englishman, William Blake, conceived some inspired and inspiring words. He wrote the words of what some consider to be the true English National Anthem:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand.
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

These words burned themselves into my head in childhood, and have lasted with me throughout my adult life. Although the bow of burning gold has been elusive, I have endeavoured in a small way to carry on the fight.

Incensed by the unpatriotic celebrations of the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1966, in that year I raised a petition in Tenterden in Kent and presented it to Hastings Town Hall. One of the results of this was my founding of þa Engliscan Gesiþas (The English Companions), whose aim is to foster an interest in, and understanding of, all things English. It was no accident that the emblem of our true Patron Saint became the badge of the Fellowship - a gold crown and arrows on a red ground, surrounded with a blue circle. The background colours were chosen from Old English cloisonné enamel work and garnet jewellery.

The Old English did not have flags. The nearest they came to a flag, in the sense that we understand it, was a kind of elongated pennant in the shape of a dragon. They also had other standards, and there are various examples of this, such as the standard that was carried in front of King Edwin of Northumbria, in imitation of the Roman Emperors. So, apart from a one-off pennant consisting of a gold crown-and-arrows appliquéd onto a ground divided diagonally into red and blue, which I made to fly beside my tent when I visited the excavations of the Old English 'city' at Mucking in Essex, the question of a flag did not really arise.

Then Father Andrew sent me an email, asking me what I thought should be the national flag of England. He too felt that St George's Cross, now sadly deformed into the standard of the national football team, was not enough. I replied that I had not considered the matter, but that the crown-and-arrows should come into it somewhere. He then suggested something like the East Anglian flag, devised in 1902. This consisted of three gold crowns on a royal blue shield, imposed on the centre of a red cross. I rejected that idea, however, as being too provincial. I felt that many would resent the aggrandisement of East Anglia over, say, Wessex or Kent. Then Father Andrew told me that the red cross on a white ground was also the flag of Jerusalem, and mentioned William Blake. In a moment of inspiration, I superimposed the crown-and-arrows, with seven jewels in the crown, to correspond to the traditional seven kingdoms of the Old English, on the cross of St George. The feeling of 'something missing' disappeared, and the flag, whole and complete, was before me.

Of course also it has the great advantage that tradition is fulfilled. For all that St George's likeness has been twisted, and folk have attributed to him the honours due to St Edmund, he has acted as our patron-saint for many years, and has fulfilled his charge well. Devotees of St George can feel that the basis of the English flag has not been changed - it has simply been added to, complemented, made complete. If you feel that England should have her ancient heritage restored to her, then please show your solidarity by flying this flag, and using the image of it wherever possible. As a start, I plan to make available stickers bearing the design, which can be put on correspondence as well as other uses. Details of the price and contact address will be released shortly on this site.


‡ It was probably this mythical element, at least in part, which caused the Pope to 'demote' St George in 1969.

* See Pennethorne Hughes: Witchcraft: Penguin Books 1965, p. 109.

† See Bryan Houghton: Saint Edmund - King and Martyr: Terence Dalton 1970, p. 54. The relics were returned to England on July 25, 1901, when they were placed in the private chapel of the Duke of Norfolk in Arundel Castle, Sussex, awaiting the completion of Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral. The authenticity of the relics was then questioned, however, and they still lie in Arundel. Op cit, p. 78 et seq.