The Jersey flag
The old Jersey flag - was its use based on a blunder?
An 18th Century blunder?
The leopards are the official seal of the island and its Bailiff and their history can be traced back many centuries, but the cross of St Patrick, as it is more commonly known, or argent, a saltire gules, to give it its heraldic definition, which was previously used on its own as the island flag, has no such illustrious history. Indeed, its adoption as the island flat was based on a mistake in the18th century.
That, at least, is the claim of renowned local historian and expert on heraldry, the late Norman Rybot. Writing in the 1961 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise, Rybot said:”I am able to assert that ‘argent, a satire gules’ was of no local significance until ‘The Jersey Flag’ appeared here in the third decade of the 19th century.
“In the engravings and paintings in the Museum of the Société, printed or painted between the years 1550 and 1830, ‘The Jersey Flag’ on land and sea will be sought in vain.”
Rybot says that the flag came to be adopted because of a blunder in the 1783 work ‘’Universal Display of the Naval Flags of all Nations’’ by Carington Bowles. He found earlier Dutch charts showing the red cross with the headings “Ierse” and “Irlandois”, which he took to mean Jersey and Ireland, whereas they actually meant ‘’Erse’’ and ‘’Irish’’. However, others argue quite differently, claiming that French Admiralty charts show that Jersey was using the red saltire before the adoption of that symbol for the Order of St. Patrick and its incorporation into the modern Union Flag.
This is supported by the fact that the Earls of Kildare and Dukes of Leinster, members of the FitzGerald family whose use of the red diagonal cross in their arms predates other uses, originally owned land in Jersey.
However, there is another claim that the red saltire has a Norman origin, making its use in Jersey even older than in Ireland. There is little evidence to support this theory, however.
There is also an argument that when Jersey, along with the other Channel Islands, was granted neutrality by Papal Bull during periods of warfare between England and France, Jersey ships required a way of differentiating themselves from English ships. They therefore rotated the St George's Cross of the English Crown to form a saltire.
The use of the red saltire became more common during the German Occupation of World War II as the local population were not allowed to display the Union Flag in occupied territory. Although the heraldic symbols of Jersey were used by the Island's government during this time, however, all public buildings and landmarks (such as Fort Regent and Mont Orgueil) flew the Flag of Nazi Germany.
The new flag was adopted by the States on 12 June 12 1979, proclaimed by the Queen on 10 December 1980 and first officially hoisted on 7 April 7 1981. It is white with a diagonal red cross extending to the corners of the flag and in the upper quadrant, surmounted by a yellow Plantagenet crown, the badge of Jersey (a red shield holding the three leopards of Normandy in yellow).
A civil ensign for use by Jersey registered merchant ships was approved in June 2010. It is the British Red Ensign with the plantagenet crown in the fly.