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Scottish Red Ensign

Last modified: 2006-02-11 by
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Scottish Red Ensign

[Red Ensign of Scotland] by Rob Raeside


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The Scottish Red Ensign

The Scottish Red Ensign is shown in a number of flag charts of the 17th and early 18th centuries. While I have read nothing in positive confirmation, the consensus of informed opinion seems to be that it was actually flown before 1707 by the Scots merchant marine and by the tiny Scots navy. It is shown on the flag charts of William Downham 1685-6, Allard 1695 & 1705 and of B Lens c1700.

Following the Act of Union between England and Scotland of 1601 and up to the Act of (Political) Union of 1707, the English and Scots navies were still separate entities as before 1601, so flew the ensigns of their respective countries. When the two navies were combined in 1707 to become the British Royal Navy, the Scottish navy consisted of only 3 ships. (The English navy had 277 ships at this time.)

Christopher Southworth, 24 February 2003

There was also a Scottish Admiral's flag, referred to by Wilson (1999) 'Flags at Sea', page 23, which he describes as white with a horizontal blue anchor. However, it seems to have been used only by James, Duke of York between 1673 and 1685 (i.e. between when he was deprived of the post of Lord High Admiral, and when he succeeded to the throne as James VII/II). His source is apparently a contemporary drawing by one of the van der Veldes.

Ian Sumner, 26 February 2003

The flag you are referring to is that of 'Lord High Admiral of Scotland', and Perrin implies that it was invented by James, himself. I do not know whether the appointment existed prior to James's assumption of it, and was only in abeyance? For our non-British readers, James had been deprived of his office as Lord High Admiral of England because he had converted to Roman Catholicism (which according to the law of the time meant that he could not hold office under the crown).

Christopher Southworth, 26 February 2003

The title Lord High Admiral of Scotland existed before James. Probably its most famous holder was Sir Andrew Wood who was Lord High Admiral to James IV (and probably his father James III) circa 1500. He was generally regarded as the greatest seaman of his day. The Scottish Navy had existed in one form or another since around 1000 AD when it was created to combat the Viking attacks. At that time it was composed of Viking longboats, often captured from the Vikings themselves (well if they will leave them lying around cluttering up the beaches while they go raiding inland...). In 1511 it was reputed to have the largest warship in the world, The Great Michael, 240 ft long and weighing 1000 tons, with a crew of 300 and twenty seven cannons. Apart from the occasional dedicated warship like the Great Michael it was composed of armed merchantmen that could be "drafted" if needed.

Graham Bartram, 1 March 2003

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