Discover Now, What is the Union Flag? Part 4

The Union Flag

So we finally arrive at part 4, – in case you haven’t read part 1,2, or 3 yet – The Union Flag is the national flag of the United Kingdom. It got its name because it combines the crosses of the three countries united under one Sovereign – the kingdoms of England and Wales, of Scotland and of Ireland – although since 1921 only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom.

The flag of St Patrick

The last element to the Union Flag is the saltire of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, which is a diagonal red cross on a white ground.

This was combined with the previous Union Flag of St George and St Andrew, after the Act of Union of Ireland with England (and Wales) and Scotland on 1 January 1801, to create the Union Flag that has been flown ever since.

Who was St Patrick?

Like most of the patron saints St. Patrick wasn’t actually Irish! He was born in Britain, which was held under Roman rule, near the end of the fourth century. Despite knowing he wasn’t Irish, most of what is written about him is myth, legend, conjecture and up for debate! Some believe he many have been born in Brittany!

This far back in history many countries invaded each other and took people for slaves, at 16, Patrick was taken captive by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate, transporting him to Ireland where he spent six years as a slave.

Religious beliefs

During his time in captivity, as a shepherd Patrick turned to religion; he claimed that God came to him in a dream and told him that a ship was waiting to take him away, Subsequent to this dream he escaped Ireland to be reunited with his family.

Patrick then had another vision of the Irish people calling for his return so he travelled to France where he trained in a monastery and dedicated his life to learning before returning to Ireland. to preach. Even this version is disputed!

In 2012, Dr. Roy Flechner, a research fellow at Cambridge University’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic (ASNC), claimed that the traditional story of St Patrick was “likely to be fiction”.

Flechner’s study dismisses the story of enslavement and instead argues that Patrick fled Britain deliberately to avoid becoming a Roman tax collector.

“In the troubled era in which Patrick lived, which saw the demise and eventual collapse of Roman government in Britain in 410, discharging the obligations of a Decurion, especially tax collecting, would not only have been difficult but also very risky,”


Have you heard the story of St Patrick ridding Ireland of all the snakes? Chances are that there never were snakes in Ireland and tales are allegorical – meaning a story intended to communicate/explain an idea.

Snakes have been seen as symbols so the tale of Patrick ridding Ireland of all serpents is probably more to do with his Christian teachings and ridding the Irish of their sins. Other scholars thinks that the snakes may have symbolised Pagan deities that were deposed by the teachings of Christ.


No matter who he was or how you believe he became patron saint no-one can deny that St Patrick Day celebrations seem to be the largest celebrations of all the patron saints we have covered. This is primarily due to the mass emigration of the Irish people who took their culture and traditions, including Saint Patrick’s Day all over the globe.

Shamrocks adorn buildings, flags and bunting and many places turn green! According to yet another legend, Patrick used the three petals of the shamrock to demonstrate the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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