White Flag with Red Cross: England Flag History, Meaning, and Symbolism

flag of England
© Pavlo Lys/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Gaeng

Updated: January 15, 2023

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The Union Jack represents England, one of the four home nations that make up the United Kingdom. This design was inspired by the Cross of Saint George. Since the late Middle Ages, when the red cross was increasingly shown with the Royal Banner, it has been widely recognized as a symbol of England. It was adopted as the only saint’s banner allowed to be flown in public during the English Reformation. It also became the most prominent nautical flag, commonly known as a white ensign. Part of the Union Jack’s original 1606 design, it features prominently. Since the 1990s, it has been used often at big sporting events around the country. This is particularly true when England’s national football teams are being promoted.

The flag of England is one of the most instantly recognized flags in the world. The story of the flag and what it symbolizes is fascinating. Here you can learn more about the history and significance of the English flag.

The History of the Flag of England

flag of England

The flag of England has a long history dating back to 1098.


1098 – 1189

There is a shortage of clear data on the design, creation, and acceptance of the flag by England. This also pertains to its origin, its relationship with St. George, and its adoption. Additionally, there is a dearth of definitive data on the flag’s origin. In Fordington, England, at the church of St. George, there is a painting of Saint George riding a horse and holding a banner with a cross on it. This depicts the Crusaders’ triumph at the Battle of Antioch in 1098. The English Crusaders were known to have flown a red banner with a white cross on it in 1189.

13th Century

According to a second document that was written in 1277, the soldiers that served under King Edward I were known to fly pennants that depicted the red Cross of St. George on a white background. Even before St. George became renowned as the patron saint of soldiers, he was shown in art flying the same banner. This is because St. George is the patron saint of soldiers (then called the Banner of Victory). There is evidence to suggest that this plan was utilized on English ships as early as the 13th century.


The 17th of April 1707, just a couple of weeks before the Acts of Union went into force, was the official day the flag of the new Kingdom was adopted. For consideration by Queen Anne and the Privy Council, Sir Henry St. George, had presented many options. The cross of St. George was ultimately chosen.

The Cross of St. George continues to serve an important symbolic role even to this day as an element of the Union Jack and other British flags. This is the case despite the fact that Great Britain lost its unique international status in 1707. This is because the Cross of St. George is a design element that appears on all flags that represent the United Kingdom.

Its Use Outside of England

The flag of England is used on the flags and coats of arms of numerous countries, states, and provinces across the former and current regions of the British Empire. Some cities in northern Italy, including Milan and Bologna, as well as countries like Georgia, adopt the St. George’s Cross as their city flag.

The Flag of England Design

The St. George’s Cross is used on the English flag. A red cross that cuts across a white rectangle turns the flag into four equal quadrants. The flag’s breadth is five times as large as its height. 3:5 is the official ratio for this particular flag.

The Flag of England Symbolism

The cross in red on the white backdrop of the flag of England is meant to be seen as a representation of Saint George, who is the patron saint of England. This insignia is known as the Saint George’s Cross in common parlance. In the 12th century, the Cross of Saint George was employed for the first time as the official royal banner. The flag of Great Britain is called the Union Jack, whereas the Saint George’s Cross is a separate emblem altogether. The national flags of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are sewn together to create what is known as the Union Jack.

It is popularly believed that Richard the Lionheart, who commanded the English army during the Crusades, is responsible for popularizing the use of the red cross. The significance of the colors white, which represents peace, and red, which represents bravery and toughness, may be seen in the flag of England.

Click here to learn about every single flag in the world!

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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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