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Friday, July 23, 2021 was Historic County Flags Day in England.

Some of the flags — Cornwall (Cross of St Piran), Essex and Middlesex (sea axes) — are old. Others, such as Leicestershire’s, are new:

Wiltshire’s dates from 2009 and features a Great Bustard:

Some have been redesigned, such as Northumbria’s.

Hertfordshire’s is only 11 years old:

Even so, the design must represent heraldry and relevant historic symbols. British County Flags states in its entry on Hertfordshire that the county decided to use its banner of arms as its flag:

A few ideas were produced and contact made with the local council, as a result of which the body decided that the preferred option would be to release its banner of arms … flying at the council’s County Hall headquarters in Hertford, to the public, for use as the county flag.

Hertfordshire County Council, under the leadership of Robert Gordon, passed a resolution on 19th November 2008: “This Council has, for the better representation of the County of Hertfordshire and its people, decided that the banner of the County Council’s arms, namely ‘Barry wavy of eight Azure and Argent an Inescutcheon Or charged with a Hart lodged proper’ is a fitting and proper emblem for the county and its people and will from this day be the County flag of Hertfordshire. The use of the full achievement of arms, with supporters and mural crown as a crest, is still restricted to the County Council and those specifically authorised by it.”

It could be that Middlesex’s, nearly identical to Essex’s, has a crown to represent Hampton Court Palace as a royal residence centuries ago:

Unfortunately, county flags are not used that often other than in museums and in front of county council buildings:

Then there is confusion over what constitutes a county, as in the case of the Duchy of Cornwall …

… but this question also pertains to Sussex, divided into East Sussex and West Sussex some years ago:

I only know about this English flag day thanks to PARLYapp, which featured the county flag tweet on Monday, and the House of Commons.

Yesterday, Tom Randall (Con) discussed it in the summer recess debate. He spoke just after Dawn Butler (Lab) was expelled from the Chamber for the day after calling Boris Johnson a liar. More on that next week. Emphases mine below:

On a lighter note, I hope that before the House adjourns today we can celebrate the colourful display that we can currently see in Parliament Square. Tomorrow is Historic County Flags Day. It has been celebrated for some days now, with the flags of the historic counties of England, Scotland and Wales in Parliament Square. The flags on display span the nation and also time. We can see old flags such as the St Piran’s Cross of Cornwall and the Warenne Checks of Surrey, which dates from the 13th century, as well as some more modern designs.

Here is a video from 2014, indicating that Historic County Flags Day might be a moveable feast, as it was held on June 4 that year:

This video celebrates the Leicestershire flag. Alicia Kearns (Con) was present as was Tom Randall:

Randall continued:

Many of those modern designs are thanks to the work of charities such as the Association of British Counties and the Flag Institute. I declare an interest as a former editor of the Flag Institute’s magazine. People at that charity, such as Graham Bartram and Philip Tibbetts, have worked tirelessly to encourage community groups and individuals to design flags, with Philip Tibbetts in particular criss-crossing the country. I congratulate him on his recent appointment as honorary vexillologist to the Court of the Lord Lyon.

One very good example of a modern flag design is the flag of Nottinghamshire, which was designed following a competition organised by Andy Whittaker of BBC Radio Nottingham in 2011. I am pleased to see that a decade later Leicestershire has finally caught up, and as the vice-chair of the flags and heraldry all-party parliamentary group, I was pleased to be in Parliament Square this week to attend the first flag raising of the flag of Leicestershire there.

I did not know about county days, either:

However, Leicestershire does not yet have its own day. I am pleased that Nottinghamshire County Council has today voted unanimously for 25 August to be Nottinghamshire Day. I look forward to seeing the flag of Nottinghamshire flying across the county, in the Houses of Parliament and, I hope, also across the country.

Randall concluded:

Although we are forever one United Kingdom, as we leave this place I hope that we can admire the diversity of our country, return to our constituencies and see all the best that there is in our counties—and I believe that the best of our counties are embodied in our county flags.

British County Flags has detailed descriptions for flags across the United Kingdom. Fascinating for flag and history lovers!

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