|The U.S. Stars and Stripes and the|
Scottish saltire of St Andrew.
How this evolved can be told through five stories associated with the Scottish flag. The first three of these stories are well known by vexillologists. The fourth and fifth stories and their implications represent my own contribution to explaining the origins of the Stars and Stripes.
|St Andrew is martyred|
in Greece. X=Ch[rist]
Scotland's flag is the cross of St Andrew, a white-on-blue saltire (i.e., a white X on a blue background).
St Andrew was the first Apostle and brother of Peter, who preached the Christian message in Scotland. By legend, he was crucified at his own request on a diagonal cross in Greece. Two explanations are offered: (1) The Greek letter Chi (X) represents the first letter of Christ's name; (2) St Andrew out of humility did not want to be crucified on the same kind of cross as Christ.
In AD 832, King Óengus II of Scotland had a dream the night before a battle, while encamped with his army of Picts and Scots facing the Angles under Æthelstan. St Andrew appeared promising victory to the Scots if Óengus promised to make Andrew patron saint of Scotland. The next morning, a white X cloud covered the blue sky. Awed, Óengus made his promise... and the Scots won the day.
|Spooky! St Andrew's Cross over Sebastian, Fla. Photo by|
JT Marlin on the Indian River.
The town is named after another martyr who is usually depicted as being killed by arrows but actually survived this execution and was then clubbed to death at the order of the Roman emperor Diocletian.
The Scottish flag symbolizes what Óengus saw in the sky in 832, namely the white X cloud on a blue sky.
Keep that in mind as we continue this thread in the direction of understanding what is behind the Stars and Stripes.
2. The First Union Jack, 1707
|English flag – St George's cross.|
The flags of St George and St Andrew were combined in 1707 when Scotland was formally united with England (for 22 years, 1603-1625, England and Scotland had been only temporarily united under James I of England, aka James VI of Scotland). The official British Parliamentary history says that the 1706 deal traded a promise from Scotland to accept the Hanoverian dynasty when Queen Anne died in return for England's promise that Scotland would get access to colonial markets.
|Combined crosses of Sts George and |
Andrew; the original Union Jack.
The Union Jack of 1707 is not the same as the one we know today, because it is lacks the red St Patrick's saltire, which was added in 1801, after the American Revolution.
3. The East India Company Flag
|The "Cambridge Flag", identical to the|
East India and Grand Union Flag, 1775.
The flag that was first raised to represent the 13 colonies in December 1775 had the Union Jack of the time in the canton. The rest of the flag was devoted to the 13 stripes that remain today, identical to the East India Company flag. Evidence for this includes six paintings from about 1732–numbers 36, 37, 40, 45, 46 and 48 in the Military Committee Room, #197, at the India Office in London. These sources are in the article by Fawcett.
|The Red Ensign.|
4. Scottish Influence on the Declaration of Independence
Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This Declaration is modeled on the 1320 Scottish Declaration of Independence, during the time of King Robert the Bruce. It was a letter to Pope John XXII from the Abbot of Arbroath Abbey, supported by 39 nobles, with the seals of at least that many. It asserted Scotland's position as an independent kingdom against the Pope's recognition in 1305 of the claim of Edward I to rule over of Scotland, based on the idea that independence was the prerogative of the Scottish people:
[F]or, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honors that we are fighting, but for freedom. (Translation from the Latin by Sir James Fergusson.)It justified the rejection of King John in whose name William ("Braveheart") Wallace and others rebelled in 1297. A contract between King and people was an explanation why Scotland did not accept rule by John de Balliol, whom the Pope favored. The Pope temporarily accepted the Arbroath request, doubtless hoping for Scottish knights' supporting another Crusade. The Pope asked Edward II to make peace with the Scots.
|Douglas (L) and Moray coats of arms.|
The Good Sir James Douglas was
called "Black Douglas" in England.
Thanks to the secret warfare, Scotland prevailed against Edward II. After he died regents for young Edward III in his name renounced English claims to Scotland, via the treaty of 1328.
The military prowess of Douglas and Moray would have been known to many Americans. At least one-third of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence were of Scottish origin. The American Constitution was subsequently written, largely by people of Scots ancestry, and was modeled on the constitution of the Scottish Kirk (the Presbyterian Church).
|Coat of arms of the Coldstream Guards,|
southeast Scotland. Note stars on azure (blue)
and vert (green). Motto: "Second to None."
As Gen. Braddock was dying after the costly but tide-turning battle for Fort Duquesne (in the area that is now Pittsburgh), he gave his red sash to Col. Washington, the only senior officer who survived the battle. Washington proudly wore Braddock's sash in portraits of him that were painted long after the Revolutionary War.
George Washington would also have been aware of the white stars on blue and green fields of Scotland's Coldstream Guards because General Braddock was a Coldstreamer.
5. The New American Flag, 1776
|Washington shield (L) with red stars and stripes and the|
U.S. Stars (white on blue) and Stripes shield at Sulgrave
Manor, Oxfordshire, UK.
The red stripes were fine, and the fact that there were 13 worked well with the fact that there were 13 colonies. All Congress had to do was change the canton.
Gen. George Washington presented a new flag to the Congress, substituting 13 white stars on a blue background for the Union Jack. So the Stars and Stripes flag was created by resolution of June 14, 1777. Washington explained to Congress that the white stars represented "a new constellation".
The Douglas Stars or Mullets
Where did the stars come from? My theory is that fans of Scotland and of George Washington played a big part. The stars may have originated on the Scottish side of the border, as the shields of the Douglas and Moray families, who were most responsible for Robert the Bruce's military victories, the men who were innovators of the "secret [guerrilla] war"–Douglas and Moray. Both have white stars on a blue background (azure, stars argent in Scottish heraldic language). The blue likely came from the blue in the St. Andrew's saltire, which in turn represents the sky in Óengus's vision of the St. Andrew's cross.
Why would the Washington family have adopted the arms of "Black" Douglas, as he was called on the English side of the border? Because he was viewed with respect, and by changing the tincture from azure to gules, blue to red, the association with the English side was maintained. Changing the blue of the Douglas and Moray arms to red would Anglicize the Scottish arms while honoring Douglas. It's a theory.
From Douglas to Washington – The Battle of Crécy
The origin of the five-pointed gules (red) mullets (stars) in the Washington coat of arms seems to be the historic Battle of Crécy (August 26, 1346), in Normandy. Edward III had successfully campaigned in Scotland and having established his rule there he claimed the throne of France as well. His victory at Crécy appeared to augur success. By that time, at any rate, the Scottish and English were not actively fighting.
|Washington's ancestors lived near Newcastle, just 100|
miles south of Edinburgh. The family coat of arms appears
in a stained glass window in the chapel of Selby Abbey,
south of York.
Records suggest that Edward III in 1346 awarded arms with three red stars and stripes (gules mullets and bars in English heraldry) to Washington ancestor Sir William De Wessyngton (or De Wessington), at the same time as the king awarded his son Edward (the "Black Prince") his knight's spurs. By that time, Scotland was no longer at war with England and it would not have been surprising for Edward III to acknowledge the battle skills of the Scottish soldiers who were now part of his army by awarding an officer from Durham a red (for the cross of St. George) version of the Douglas arms.
From the Washington Family to the Stars and Stripes
So how did George Washington's ancestral coat of arms, which were three red mullets/ stars in chief above two white and two red stripes, play in the decision to use the stars in the American flag?
In a late-19th century play at the time fo the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, the character of Benjamin Franklin says that Washington's supporters (not Washington himself) advocated using stars along with the stripes in honor of Washington. Washington's ancestors were from just outside of what is now Newcastle, in northern England, near the border with Scotland–just 100 miles from Edinburgh.
It was a small step in 1776 to put 13 white-on-blue stars in the canton of the Grand Union Flag, to pay homage to General George Washington and generate the Stars and Stripes. Forever.
Formally, the stars were proposed by General Washington to the Congress as signifying "a new constellation". But they also were reminders to the colonies of Scotland's history of both unity and independence:
- unity in 1775 through the combination of the St. Andrew's saltire with the St. George's cross nearly 70 years before. Unity among themselves is what the colonists were seeking in 1775.
- independence in 1777 because the stars were reminders of the long wars of independence by gallant and resourceful Scots.