United Kingdom Symbols

The United Kingdom's symbolic language reflects the many countries of the British Isles, its symbols showcasing the unity between them as well as their differences.

The flag of the UK, often known as the Union Jack, represents a fusion of the symbols of many of the individual countries that make up the UK. The red cross of England, Saint George's Flag, is in the center (edged with white to keep with the rules of heraldry), set over the red Saint Patrick's flag (for Ireland) and the white Saint Andrew's flag (for Scotland). Wales is the only one unrepresented, as it was part of England at the time of the flag's creation. Despite this omission, though, the layered crosses of the flag are a clear symbol of the true unity of the United Kingdom, harmonizing the symbols of each of the countries involved. Interestingly, until 2007 the flag was flown only on specific days, but the regulations have now been relaxed in order to promote the sense of British unity.

The coat of arms of the United Kingdom is similar, also representing a hybrid of many of the symbols of the countries involved. The shield bears, in four quarters, the guardant lions of England, the rampant lion of Scotland, and a harp for Ireland. In addition, the shield is borne on one side by an English lion wearing a crown and on the other by one of the unicorns from the Scottish coat of arms. The coat of arms bears an English crown, and the crest is yet another crowned lion. The background contains the symbol and motto of the Order of the Garter. At the bottom of the crest is the motto of the United Kingdom. Interestingly, in Scotland a similar but not identical variation on the coat of arms is used. This variation changes the balance of the shield's quarters to repeat the Scottish lion twice while using the English lion only once. In addition, the places of the unicorn and the lion are switched, and each carries the flag of their respective state. Still, both variations are strong symbols of the unity of the United Kingdom, showcasing the diverse symbols of its member states and harmonizing them.

The UK has its own national personification as well, known as Britannia. Serving as a symbol of unity and power, Britannia has come into favor because of her connection to all of the British Isles. She appears in art and the like frequently, often clad in light armor and with a lion serving by her side.

The symbols of the UK tend to emphasize the unity between the entities that compose it, hybridizing local symbols into larger wholes. This unique method of symbolic development has given the UK a unique iconography.