Our Island Story  by H. E. Marshall

Anne—How the Union Jack Was Made

W ILLIAM and Mary had no children, so Mary's sister, Anne, the younger daughter of James II., succeeded to the throne. From the very beginning of her reign Britain was at war with France, and indeed not only Britain, but all Europe was fighting on one side or the other. The British troops were led by a famous soldier called Marlborough. He won many battles, the chief of which were called Blenheim and Ramillies. This War of the Spanish Succession went on for more than ten years, till all Europe was weary of fighting, and many places, where there had been houses and gardens and green fields, were nothing but deserted wildernesses.

At last a peace was made called the Peace of Utrecht. By this treaty Louis acknowledged Anne as the rightful Queen of Britain, and also promised to send James the Pretender, as the son of James VII. was called, out of his kingdom, and not to help him any more. Once before, Louis had promised something very like this to William, and he did not keep his promise. There were other agreements in this treaty, one of them being that Britain should keep the strong fortress of Gibraltar in Spain, which has belonged to the British ever since.

Marlborough was a famous soldier, but he was also a great statesman, and indeed he and his wife, the Duchess of Marlborough, ruled the Queen for many years. He was brave and clever, but he was greedy and not quite honest. He made many enemies, who succeeded at last in having him disgraced, and both he and his wife were sent away from court.

The Duchess had a very bad temper, and she was so angry when she had to leave court that she smashed all the furniture in her rooms, and threw the Queen's keys at the Duke's head, when he was sent to ask for them. It was no wonder that the Queen, who was gentle and kind, had been afraid of the Duchess, and had been ruled by her.

Other clever men succeeded Marlborough, and another clever woman succeeded the Duchess, for Queen Anne was not a strong-minded woman, and she allowed herself to be ruled and led by favourites and statesmen. Like Queen Elizabeth she had many great men around her, and although they thought more perhaps of making themselves famous and powerful than of what was best for the country, still the country prospered.

The greatest thing that happened in the reign of Anne was the union of the Parliaments of England and Scotland.

Since 1603 A.D., when James VI. of Scotland became King of England, there had been very little real union between the two countries. For union means "oneness," and although there had been only one King there had been two Parliaments, one in England, and one in Scotland, each making laws. Sometimes the Scottish Parliament would make laws which the English Parliament thought were dangerous; sometimes the English Parliament would make laws which the Scottish Parliament did not like. It almost seemed at times as if the union of the crowns had done no good at all, and the two countries were ready to quarrel and separate.

Wise men saw that there could be no real union until there was only one Parliament, until English and Scots met and discussed the laws together. Cromwell indeed had called English, Scottish, and Irish members to his Parliament, but it had been for so short a time, and in such troubled days that people had almost forgotten about it.

Even now it was not an easy thing to do, but at last all difficulties were smoothed away. It was agreed among other things that each country should keep its own law courts and its own religion, but that they should have the same King, the same Parliament, the same money, and the same flag, and that the country should be called Great Britain.

The English flag was a red St. George's cross on a white ground. The Scottish flag was a white St. Andrew's cross on a blue ground. So to make one flag, the two crosses were placed one on the top of the other, and they made something very like the Union Jack; but not quite. The Union Jack was not complete until the Irish cross of St. Patrick (which is the same as a St. Andrew's cross, but was red on a white ground) was added to the other two. Then the flag we love was complete.


The reason we call our flag the Union Jack is because James VI. used to sign his name in French—Jacques—which sounds very like Jack. His two flags, the English and the Scottish, came to be called the Jacks, and when the two were made one the flag was called the "union" Jack.

When the Queen gave her consent to the act of union, as it was named, she called both Lords and Commons together, and made a speech to them. "I desire and expect from all my subjects of both nations, that from henceforth they act with all possible respect and kindness to one another, that so it may appear to all the world they have hearts disposed to become one people. This will give me great pleasure." Then the last English Parliament rose, and, on 23rd October 1707 A.D., the first British Parliament met.

It was a great state ceremony. Each Scottish lord was led to his place by two English lords. The Queen in her royal robes made a speech from the throne in which she heartily welcomed the new members, and ever since that day, in spite of difficulties and troubles, England and Scotland have really been one country.

Queen Anne died on 1st August 1714 A.D. She was not a great Queen, yet her reign will always be remembered as great. Like Elizabeth, she had clever men as her soldiers and advisers; and, as in the time of Elizabeth too, there were many writers whose books are still remembered and read.