The Union Jack by Nick Groom

Review published on August 26, 2017.

The story of ‘The Union Jack’, as told within these pages, is from mythology right up to the present day. The Union Flag, to give it its correct name, is quite possibly the most recognizable flag in the entire world. Colourful, and meaningful, it shouts from the flagpoles that the United Kingdom is represented here. How did it come about though?

Nick Groom, the author, must have spent an age researching all the varied historical routes that have made up this flag. I lost count of all the saints that are referenced within these pages. These saints, of course, bring in the religious aspect as well. Throughout history, heraldic symbols have changed nations, class status, politics, religious wars, territorial wars, national wars, and personal wars.

The joining together of four independent nations has taken centuries. The first time a ‘Union Flag’ flew was under James I, April 12th 1606. The making of this union was fraught with intrigue and hostility for years. I guess it still goes on even today, with Scottish Independence rearing its head again. England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales all have a part to play in the making of this flag, each has its own history, and the telling of these histories make up an abundance of this book.

I actually found the book interesting, but not at all engaging in an absorbing sense. Yes, it has factual, historical themes running through the narrative, some are very fascinating, but, and it is quite a big but, it also is all rather tedious to the average reader. I love looking at heraldic symbols, shields, armour and the like, but to have it all explained ad infinitum can be very wearing. For example, the Scottish Saltire, whilst it is important to get it right, most people refer to it as a diagonal cross, white on a blue background, simple and concise. There are any number of pages scattered here, telling the reader the self same fact, but in such minute detail that it bores. There are a few pages of colour pictures to enhance the reading pleasure, but some of those are a bit mediocre.

For an intensely written book about our heritage, this one is unsurpassed. Detailed information, all relative to the Union Jack, from before and after its inception make up the main narrative, plus all the known verses of The National Anthem and Rule Britannia. The legal ramifications of flying a flag are here as well in their glorious mundanity. No, overall, I found the book quite tedious to be honest, okay for the historically deeper minded amongst us, useful for a reference library, but for the layman, probably not a great read.

Reg Seward 3/1

The Union Jack by Nick Groom
Atlantic Books 9781786491480 pbk Aug 2017

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