Last modified: 2012-01-21 by rob raeside
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On page 316 of the book "The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939" by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, it says that during the celebration of George V's silver jubilee in 1935, a very few die-hards "defiantly flew the old republican colors which had been used in the days of the Chartists : red, white, and green in horizontal stripes." I assume that this means that there was a republican and/or Chartist red-white-green horizontal tricolor flag used in England around 1848 (if such a flag had been invented after 1848, then presumably there would have been a greater awareness of potential conflict with the Hungarian flag).
Has anyone ever actually heard of this British republican flag?
Henry Churchyard, on rec.heraldry, forwarded by Mark Sensen, 26 April 2002
It is worth mentioning that the flag used by the Parti Patriote, the
republican party in Lower Canada around 1837-39, was a horizontal
green-white-red. I am no implying that one influenced the other, I just find the
Marc Pasquin, 28 April 2002
Yes, I have, and I'm very glad to read this message as I'd come to the
conclusion that I must have imagined it! I remembered reading about such a flag
being flown in an account of the 1819 "Peterloo" massacre (when
reformists were killed by mounted troops at St Peter's Fields near Manchester)
when studying for my pre university examinations back in the mid-1980s.
However, I never made a note of the reference and never came across it or any
confirmation since, until now.
Roy Stilling, 28 April 2002
In John Stevens "England's Last Revolution" (Moorland Publishing Co., Buxton 1977) there is a reference to a British Republican flag; "...William Oliver - 'Oliver the Spy' -...had talked of London waiting for the country to rise, and of people like Sir Francis Burdett waiting in the wings to lead the new British Republic with its red, white and green Tricolour." (p.32) As the Pentrich Revolution was greatly influenced by that of the French, I believed the flag to be a tricolour in the same sense as the French flag. As both sources mention the red-white-green combination, it is a logical deduction to believe the two are related.
The Pentrich Revolution (1817) was a good decade before the start of the
Chartist movement (early 1830s). The flag may have started as a vertical
tricolour (i.e. influenced by France), but when it was 'adopted' by the Chartist
movement it may have changed to horizontal, either to distinguish it from the
French flag or because flag from the Pentrich era was not known. Hence the
important fact is the colours (i.e. Republican colours) rather than the
direction of the bands.
Matt McCullock, 14 April 2003
This flag is carried in the masthead of James Linton's journal The Cause
of the People, 1848, with the wording "Fraternity - Liberty - Humanity"
Chris Ford, 17 April 2003
I have been interested in Welsh republican and English republican flags for some time. Republicanism began to revive in Britain circa 1750 and along with its revival politically it revived a version of the new model army's livery of "blue and buff" which could be interpreted as blue and orange, suggesting loyalty to the house of orange, i.e., the monarchy introduced by the glorious revolution. British flag colours at this time remained as they had been in the 17th century:
The first association of red with the working class /socialist cause is usually attributed to the Merthyr Tydfil uprising when in a bout of disorder in circumstances of extreme poverty a group of iron workers decided that people must be fed and captured a calf on Hirwaun Common and butchered it, bringing the bloody joints back in a sheet which they then displayed as a kind of hatchment and declared that the cow was a martyr to their just cause (1832?).
The question remains in my mind as to whether purple / violet is a definitely republican symbol in Wales, the hint being that around 1800 the most common kind of violet, wild heartsease, gets the name "trilliw" in Welsh, i.e., gets denoted by the same word used of the republican flag (it is a firect translation of "tricolour"). Heartsease has two upper petals that vary from a dark blue-purple to pinkish violet, and three lower petals that vary from orange-yellow through to a very pale yellow verging on white. It used to be a common button-hole that might have had a coded significance. The rest of the plant is of course green, and I find that purple yellow and green make a very satisfying combination of colours (especially with red symbols on the yellow).
Something that you have not mentioned in the design of your flag is proportions. The most popular proportion for modern flags is 2:1, but
that is not the majority. Look in a modern book of flags and there are some
very peculiar proportions. I have toyed with various republican flag designs as
I speculate about their history, and I find the most satisfying tricolour shape and division is one that hints at the mystical-religious side of
18th century republicanism's Deism. It is the irrational proportion of one to the square-root of three, which when divided into three vertical parts yields self-similar rectangles (suggesting both the
godhead and the equivalent importance of liberty, equality and fraternity) (or anything else you choose ...)
I would suggest that the republican flag developed like this (imaginative
exercise): the Foxite radicals were using blue + orange to symbolise government
+ crown, and the prince regent's lobby might well have imagined the crown to be
a moderator of extreme government measures against the people and placed orange
between blue (government) and green (people). The committed democrats however
would have dropped the orange after the French revolution, producing the early
tricolour scheme of blue + white + green (peace between government and people?).
The British empire emerged out of the government takeover of the East India
Company territories in the mid 19th century, when the new cheap "Perkin's
purple" was all the rage and favoured by Victoria, newly declared empress -
hence the later tricolour, post-chartist, of purple + white + green (peace
between the empire and its peoples) used by the growing British republican
movement that was finally bought off by manhood suffrage in 1885 and so
disintegrated into several factions (mainly home-rule and socialism that led to
the nationalist and labour political
movements in modern Wales). Those that had not got the vote in 1885, i.e. women, used the same colours reversed: green-white-violet for "give-women-votes".
David Barry Lawrence, 7 March 2004