The red cross set on a white background, despite having many associations with historical events, represents England’s flag known as St George’s Cross or Cross of Saint George. Back in the day, this flag was used by the Knights Templar and the French and English troops of Henry II of England and Philip II of France, who proudly made it a part of their tunics. Generally, it is associated with the military saint of the 12th century, Saint George, who was a crusader from the Late Middle Ages, but the red cross on white background has appeared on many standards, emblems, flags, and coats of arms after that era.
Since it has been used extensively from the 16th century onwards, it has gained the popularity of being one of the most prominent symbols of England. St George’s Cross was an insignia of the highest order knighthood system of medieval times, the Noblest Order of the Garter. Because of the widespread recognition across England, St George’s Cross has been adopted as the emblem for the country’s official flag.
The Legend Behind St Georges’ Cross
Almost all nations have their own ‘patron saint’ who emerged in times of war and peril to save the country from devastation and restore peace and harmony. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, St Patrick of Ireland, and St David of Wales – St George holds the honor of being the patron saint of England. He was a priest of the Guard of the Diocletian and also a Roman soldier. There are many legends surrounding this brave saint, one of the most famous being his battle against a vicious dragon.
During the Crusades, the Roman soldiers had to wear a pure white tunic, which is where the white background became part of St George’s Cross. The red cross was used on the patron saint’s emblem during his battles and represented his religious capacities after he was martyred. Saint George is considered a patron saint in the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, and Catholic churches.
After his death, the Pope of the time made it mandatory for all English Crusaders to wear red tunics having white crosses. The French soldiers wore white tunics with red crosses. In 1188, the French and English kings exchanged their flags as the English wanted to reclaim their insignia.
Being an integral part of Union Flag and several other British flags, St George’s Cross continues to be an important emblem today, and replaced the individual flags of Scotland and England when they combined to form Great Britain in 1707. St George’s Day is also celebrated in England in the honor of the military saint on April 23rd.