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How large were British ensigns?

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At first I just looked at the first photo and focused on the difference from the flag today

Then I saw there were more photos but until I picked the next  one I hadn't realised those were people unrolling it.

Absolutely massive!

 

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Of course, that is only Howe's command flag on 'Queen Charlotte', flown at the main truck, not the ensign itself, which would be likely to be even larger. See de Loutherburg's painting of the action at https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/11962.html . Though this does not actually show the ensign, the command flag is clearly emphasised, though it is more conventional in pattern 'than the real surviving one already featured in this thread. The early French revolutionary ensign on Villaret-Joyeuse's flagship 'la Montagne', 120, is also worthy of note; that design was very soon thereafter replaced by the modern pattern French flag and ensign.

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There is even larger 🙂

White Ensign (before 1801) A pre-1801 White Ensign in hand-sewn wool bunting. It was said to have been worn by HMS 'Brunswick' at the battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794. The British fleet wore red ensigns during the battle to avoid confusion with the enemy so these may be 'Brunswick's' squadronal colours. The size and construction of this ensign are entirely consistent with a late 18th century date and it may well be the only complete naval ensign of this pattern to survive. AAA0937 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/937.html
large.jpg
flag: 6248.4 x 12065 mm

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Blue Ensign (before 1864) A hand-sewn silk, Blue Ensign (post-1801 design). Date made circa 1807. The linen reinforcement at the hoist and the rope for hoisting is in place. The size indicates that it was probably used as a boat ensign. The ensign was handed down through the Forbes-Robertson family with a diary kept by Lieutenant J. Robertson from 1798-1835. The ensign was said by the donor to have belonged to HMS 'Tigre' 1795 . 'Tigre' commanded by Benjamin Hallowell took part in Nelson's pursuit of the French Fleet to the West Indies but was not present at the battle of Trafalgar. Hallowell commanded the naval part of the expedition to Alexandria in 1807. AAA0746 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/746.html
preview.jpg
Flag: 1066.8 x 1371.6 mm

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A Red Ensign, hand-sewn and made of wool bunting with a linen hoist and a rope for hoisting. Date made before 1848. It belonged to Captain Sir Robert Oliver who died in 1848. AAA0777 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/777.html
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flag: 812.8 x 1498.6 mm

Naval ensign (before 1864). Hand-sewn wool bunting. Belonged to Lieutenant James Everard RN (1796-1825). Rope and toggle attached. Date made 1801-1825 AAA0773 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/773.html
preview.jpg

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British Union jack (post-1801 pattern). A hand-sewn, wool bunting flag with a linen hoist and a rope and toggle attached. The flag has been repaired and the design is inaccurately made up in a manner characteristic of early Union Flags. If used at sea, the flag would have been flown in harbour from a jackstaff on the ships bowsprit and is therefore a 'Union Jack'. The flag is said to have belonged to Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell (1757-1806). AAA0575 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/575.html
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flag: 1295.4 x 2336.8 mm

 

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I always love the "inaccurancies" of the scotish and irish crosses 🙂

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Also very impressive the size of the spanish and french ensigns.

 

Spanish naval ensign (1785-1931)
Spanish ensign captured with their warship, 'San Ildefonso', 74 guns, by the 'Defence' at Trafalgar (see PAD5735). It was hung in the crossing of St Paul's Cathedral during Nelson's funeral service on 9 Jan 1806 (see PAH7332) AAA0567 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/567.html
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preview.jpg
PAH7335 http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/147282.html
preview.jpg
Flag: 9830 x 14400 mm

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At the 1999 NRG Conference in San Diego, I had the opportunity to speak with a bloke who wrote a book on flags.  I wish I paid closer attention.  IIRC he indicated there was no real standard for flags except the length (fly) of the battle ensign was the same as the molded breadth of the ship.  For the next size, the fly was the same length as the hoist of the next larger size.   ...or something like that.

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Good Morning everyone;

 

Further to the above, see below a Navy Board proposal dated 1742, relating to flag sizes.

 

The height is given in 'brds', which is an abbreviation of 'breadths', being the width of a roll of the fabric used, when it was folded or cut in half. The fabric was called 'bewper', and was 22" wide. A breadth was 11", so an ensign of 34 breadths would be just over 31' high x 17 (half of the 34) yards (51') long. Note that the 'fly' of a flag is ambiguous, and can refer to both the free end of the flag, and its horizontal length.

 

There is also a list drawn up by Samuel Pepys in 1687 which lists the different sizes for five different rates.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P 

image.png.c9c6648e650ad850a322788fa6de492e.png

 

 

 

 

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