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The Union Jack is the flag which was designed to represent the four kingdoms in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), however, it only has links to three of them. The kingdom missing from the Union Jack is Wales. Why is this and how did the history of the United Kingdom impact decisions over the flag and who was/is represented on it?

Is Wales Represented on the Union Jack? 

The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The current design was made official in 1801 but had existed long before then.

The flag represents the union of the kingdoms under the British monarch – England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each is represented in the flag by their heraldic crosses. 

These crosses consist of the cross of St George (England) which is red on a white background. The cross of St Andrew (Scotland) which is a diagonal white cross on a blue background and the cross of St Patrick (Northern Ireland) which is a diagonal red cross on a white background1 (source: Britannica).

These are combined to make one flag which represents all the kingdoms. So, where is the Welsh dragon to represent Wales?

Wales is not represented on the Union Jack with a Welsh Dragon (the emblem of Wales) because when the flag was created in 1606, the Principality of Wales was already united with England. Wales was not seen as one of the separate kingdoms that made up the United Kingdom and did not warrant its own symbol on the flag2 (source: The Royal Household).

Should Wales Be on the Union Jack?

It certainly seems odd that Wales does not appear on the Union Jack, particularly when every other kingdom is represented. The debate has raged for a long time and was renewed with the Scottish referendum which inspired conversations about what would happen to the flag if the Union was to split.

According to BBC Wales, a poll found that 45% of people supported either a black dragon or a hint of green being added to the Union Jack. 36% said nothing should be added while 16% said they didn’t care because it was not their flag3 (source: BBC).

Charles Ashburner who is chief executive of the Flag Insitute (and a Swansea resident) told the BBC that he felt the Union Jack has been ‘mistreated’ and ‘neglected.’ He agreed that Wales should be included on the flag.

The issue has been taken as far as Westminster by Ian Lucas MP who held a debate over the issue. In November 2007 he went before the British parliament and asked why Wales was not represented on the flag. The version of the new flag purposed by Lucas would have the Welsh dragon in the middle of it. Despite his efforts, Lucas was evidently unsuccessful4 (source: Open Democracy).

Fun Fact: The Union Jack is Not Symmetrical! 

Despite appearing so, the Union Jack is not actually symmetrical. This is because of the order in which the flags of each kingdom were added. Because the cross of St Andrew was added before that of St Patrick’s it was entitled to a higher position. On the ‘fly side’ of the flag, this is reversed and St Patrick’s cross is higher. 

Why is Wales Not on the Royal Standard? 

The Royal Standard is a flag which contains the banners of arms of each of the countries in the United Kingdom. Together this makes the shield of Royal arms.

The flag is split into four quarters. The first and fourth quarters contain three lions passant to resemble England, the second quarter contains a lion rampant for Scotland and the third quarter contains a harp for Northern Ireland. 

The flag is flown over the royal residence when the monarch is at home. It also appears on the monarch’s car on official journeys, or on their aircraft when they are on the ground. It can also be flown over other buildings if the monarch is visiting. 

Wales is not on the Royal Standard because it was created in 1603 with the Union of the Crowns. At this time, Wales was a Principality of England which was considered a special position. This was recognised with the creation of the Prince of Wales. Because of this special recognition, long before the flag, Wales was not included when Scotland and Ireland were included in the Royal Arms5 (source: The Royal Household).

Related Questions

Why is There a Dragon On the Welsh Flag? 

There is a dragon on the Welsh flag because of the ancient legend that once a red dragon which represented the Celtic people fought a white dragon which represented the Saxons. Legend has it that the red dragon won. Throughout history, this red dragon has appeared in many texts and poems and eventually became the emblem of Wales. The flag was recognised by the British Government in 1959.

Is Wales a Country?

Yes, Wales is a country. It is a constituent country that forms part of the United Kingdom because it has its own government. However, it is not a sovereign country because the United Kingdom government retains authority in terms of law-making. Wales is recognised as a country by The Commonwealth Games and FIFA but is not recognised as a country by the United Nations, the Olympics, the World Health Organisation or the EU.

Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.