The Lister List

Origami Flags

As a supplement to Joshua Koppel's ( posting yesterday with his long list of mainly national flags that can be folded from a single piece of paper, suitably coloured on each side, I nominate the flag of England. This is white with a red cross throughout. In fact is the reverse of the flag of Denmark (which, incidentally is known as the Dannebrog and is the oldest national flag in use today). If you can fold a Danish flag, you can fold an

English flag merely by turning the paper over before you start. The Danish Flag is , curiously, the same as that of the Sovereign Order of Malta. Although the Order, formerly based in the ;Holy Land, then Rhodes an finally Malta, now has no territory, except, perhaps an office in Rome) it is still recognised as a sovereign state by several countries.

Although the flag of the Red Cross movement is also a red cross on white, in that flag, the arms of that cross are curtailed and are not "throughout". In other words it's arms are shortened, as in the Swiss flag, which was its inspiration.

Actually, The red cross on white is not strictly the flag of England. It is the flag of St. George. St. George is England's patron saint and during the crusades, English troops fought under his banner. But by transference, it did become the flag of England, nevertheless, England has to share St.George's Cross with many other countries and cities that also have him as patron. In particular, the same red cross on white is the flag of Genoa. All very confusing, but customs do not always evolve according to strict rules of logic or even of common sense.

When the crowns of England and Scotland were united under James I & VI in 160 in 1603. (The two kingdoms were not united until 1707). The English cross and the Scottish saltire of St. Andrew (a white diagonal cross on blue) were combined to form the first Union Flag (popularly known as the Union Jack). This was the blue and white cross of St. Andrew with and outline of the red cross of England with a narrow white border, superimposed. (Some Scotsmen preferred the white Scottish saltire to be on top and it did make an attractive design).This was the flag flown by the British during the American War of Independence. Then in 1801, Ireland was joined to the United Kingdom and a red saltire on white was selected to represent Ireland. It was chosen largely for the convenient way it could be fitted into the Union Jack and it wasn't really an Irish national symbol, though it did have some association with Ireland. The red saltire became known as the cross of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. despite the fact that Saint Patrick was not a martyr, but died in his bed and was not entitled to a cross.

The red and the white saltires were conjoined by the beautiful heraldic technique of "counterchanging". (I can't explain without a diagram). Then a thin stripe of white (known as a fimbriation) was added to the other side of the red saltire to keep it separate from the blue background. Over all, the cross of Saint George for England was placed over all, also with a narrow fimbriation, as it had before.. So we had the second Union Jack, which is still the flag of the United Kingdom today. No, it's not a simple design and one that is so easy to get wrong. British people travelling abroad usually explode when they see it flown upside down (as it usually is!)

As if that were not enough, the red cross on white is not really even the flag of St. George, either. It is properly the Flag of Victory, meaning victory over death. It is often seen in paintings of the resurrection of Christ (a notable example is by Piero della Francesca). The symbol of the Agnus Dei, the Lamb representing Christ, usually carries the red cross on white (In Scotland, the saltire of St. Andrew is sometimes substituted. St. John the Baptist is often shown often shown carrying the Agnus Dei, and the Red Cross was transferred to him personally. From there it was awarded to other martyrs who achieved the Victory, including St. George.

And here I must put on my other hat as Vice-President of the Flag Institute, which is the British flag society. It is definitely NOT okay to leave out those coats-of-arms from flags which have them. Either the flag is correctly depicted or it is not the flag. Some people will be highly offended if it is wrong.. Having said that, in many cases there is a version of the flag with a coat-of-arms (or other symbol) and another without. Usually, but not always, the one without the coat-of-arms is for use by the people, while the one with the coat of arms is for use by the government or the armed services.

Some other points: Julia Palffy of Switzerland has used origami to depict the coats of arms of the Swiss cantons. They are beautifully done and her designs could be adapted to be flags.

Mick Guy has also devised a number of origami puzzles using flags. The problem he sets is to fold the specified flag correctly from the given piece of paper.

But I still don't know how it is possible to fold a flag having more than two colours with a single sheet of paper!

I am now flagging and will close.

David Lister

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