The Union Jack: The Story of the British Flag by Nick Groom - review by Julia Keay

Julia Keay

Show Your Colours

The Union Jack: The Story of the British Flag


Atlantic Books 331pp £16.99

‘The Union Jack’, says Nick Groom in his masterly Story of the British Flag, ‘is an international flag, representing four nations and defining them in their relationships to each other.’ Bless him for trying to make it sound simple. In fact this most recognisable of (inter)national flags is so weighed down with political, religious and heraldic significance, so hung about with rules and regulations, and so widely misunderstood, misinterpreted and misappropriated, that it is surprising it can still summon the strength to flutter. 

For a start – four nations? Where, then, is Wales? According to a lofty being Groom calls ‘Garter Knight of Arms’ [sic], Wales is not represented in the Union Jack because ‘Wales has never been a kingdom’. ‘There is no more reason to add Wales ... than there would be

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