Countess Bathurst: The importance of our Union Flag

Union Jack flag bunting hanging in a street, a festive decorations in Southwest England, UK

We should fly our Union Flag with pride - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lady B's no-nonsense banter from Cirencester Park

Recently, I had the occasion to chastise a well-known football player and pundit on Twitter. I did so in defence of our national flag, the beloved Union Flag. 

He tweeted: ‘I’ve tried really hard, but I just can’t get excited by flags. Any flags. They’re just pieces of cloth with a stick, right? Does it make me a bad person? I’m as patriotic as anyone, but flags? Now a Union Jack stick of rock: Oh yes!’ 

As you can imagine, I found this somewhat unacceptable and replied: ‘I’ve tried really hard, but I can’t get excited about crisps. Any crisps. They’re just slices of fried potato, right? Does this make me a bad person? No.’  

I don’t know how you feel about this, and perhaps it was a little harsh, but I found it profoundly sad that an individual, with an exceptionally high profile, and who has represented his country playing football, would say something so extraordinary – and I told him so. 

I’d like to think the majority of us are patriotic and deeply proud of our country, and so we should be – we have much to be proud of. But is our patriotism diminishing over time? Are we entering a period in our society when the respect for our national identity is wearing a little thin? 

I hope not, for our history is breath-taking. We have fought, and won, two world wars – where millions gave their lives for freedom, the freedom we all hold so dear, and they died for our national flag, many of them while they were still holding it.  

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Our fortitude in times of trouble has been unwavering, whether it be the pandemic we have just experienced, where communities have come together, or the determination to come through conflicts.  We have as a country contributed some of the most important inventions that have changed the world: clock-making was invented by Alfred the Great by using candles; the pencil came from Cumbria; the first moving picture was made in 1888; and the magnifying glass was defined by Roger Bacon in the 13th century. Not to mention the wonders of medicine. Aspirin, the smallpox vaccination, general anaesthetic, the clinical thermometer, the discovery of vitamins, penicillin and even Viagra – all these were invented in this country.  

Our armed and emergency services are the envy of the world, and each and every one of those who serve our country and our flag, do so with enormous pride.  

Charitable contributions are extraordinary. Through the generosity of ordinary people, lives have been completely changed, or saved, and the financial support has enabled ground-breaking research into diseases such as cancer. Our traditions are unique and are looked upon with affectionate admiration by other countries.  

Whether it’s chasing a round of cheese down a terrifyingly steep hill here in Gloucestershire, bog-snorkelling in Wales (yes, that is a thing), a British afternoon tea, the summer solstice at Stonehenge, or the annual swan upping of Her Majesty’s swans on the river Thames – these are all the things that make us proud to be British. 

And of course, we have the Royal Family. The celebrations of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June brought the country together in a way we have not seen for some time, and it was all because of Her Majesty The Queen, a phenomenal lady who has represented her country and our flag for over 70 years. In fact, her whole life has been devoted to us.  

So, should we dismiss our flag as just a piece of cloth on a stick? No, we should not. We should fly it with pride and remember that this great country of ours is so much more, and long may it continue to be so.

Follow Lady B on Twitter: @CotswoldLadyB