East Anglia’s flag was included on the registry from its inception. The flag combines the Saint George’s cross of England, with a shield bearing the arms ascribed by mediaeval heralds to the Anglo Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia and the Wuffingas dynasty which ruled it, three golden crowns on a blue background. The arms are effectively identical to the small arms of Swedenfrom where the Wuffingas are held to have originated. The archaeological discoveries at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk closely resemble those in southern Sweden both in general form and in details of equipment that the burial contains. It has therefore been suggested that the mediaeval choice of three gold crowns as the ascribed arms of the ancient kingdom was a purposeful reference to the ancient Scandinavian origin of the ruling East Anglian dynasty and that therefore the arms may have rather an ancient origin. The earliest record of the Swedish arms was in the fourteenth century however, so nothing can be definitively asserted.
In East Anglia, the emblem of the three crowns appears on the baptismal font of the parish church of Saxmundham, Suffolk, dating from approximately 1400
which is a notable record of their local recognition and usage. Their appearance in this church predates their inclusion in the 1611 atlas of Great Britain produced by John Speed where, as with the arms of other one-time Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Essex, Kent and Sussex they appear on the map of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy
They are also present on the title page of the work
although inexplicably appear there, doubled in number, with six crowns arranged three at the top, two at the centre and one at the base of the shield.
Speed features the three crowns,
again in his “History Of Great Britaine” (also from 1611, reprinted in 1623) and it also appears there in quasi flag or banner form.
The crowns then featured as the emblem of the Kingdom of East Anglia in “Divi Britannici”
by Sir Winston Churchill (direct ancestor of the famous twentieth century one), published in 1675. The three crowns are also present on this example of Goss ware china from the early twentieth century
Thus one might have expected a modern East Anglian flag to be a simple banner of these early arms
but perhaps because, unlike Sussex, Essex and Kent, East Anglia did not continue as a single entity but subsumed several counties itself, the arms used to represent it do not appear to have had a continued history of use in the manner of the seaxes of its southern neighbour, Kent’s rampant steed or the graceful martlets of Sussex. Their development as a flag, as transpired in these sister “kingdoms”, was therefore unlikely. However, these arms clearly remained in the consciousness of its inhabitants because an association of displaced East Anglians, resident in London, naturally selected the shield as the central element in their design of a flag for their “homeland” at the start of the twentieth century. George Hanry Langham, a member of this group, the “London Society of East Anglians”, is believed to have been the creator of the East Anglian flag. All references state that it was first mentioned in print in 1900 and was flown locally in various places in Norfolk although it is not clear in what publication the flag was first reported. However the flag does appear on a postcard
produced in Great Yarmouth by “Jarrold and Sons, one example of which
was posted in 1905. Lord Kitchener was perhaps the society’s most illustrious member, a memorial to him in St. Mary the Virgin Church in Lakenheath, Suffolk, erected by the society, includes an image of the East Anglia flag at its base
Another depiction of the flag is again found on a Goss ware china product
from the early twentieth century.
The flag was also to be found, in shield shape, in a stained glass window at the former East Suffolk County Council’s County Hall, in Ipswich, now derelict.
The emblem is further found
on the Essex and Suffolk Fire Office, in Colchester, in neighbouring Essex.
the onetime headquarters of the Essex and Suffolk Equitable Insurance Society. Originally constructed in 1820 as a corn exchange, a third storey was added in the early twentieth century when the building was assigned its new purpose. The additional storey included the East Anglia emblem
to indicate the Suffolk portion of the company’s remit. One may speculate as to why a more specific “Suffolk” emblem was not selected but presumably the building being renovated in the era when the East Anglian flag had been adopted, the emblem may have been very much in the local public eye and seemingly the obvious one to depict to indicate an East Anglian territory.
The three gold crowns shield of the Wuffingas also featured on the company insignia
of “The East Anglian” rail service which ran from Liverpool Street Station, London, to Norwich. And the flag is present at the base of this commemorative tea towel
from Bury Saint Edmunds dating from 1959.
Perhaps the most unusual instance of the East Anglian flag on display however, is its appearance at the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the occupation of Samoa by the German Empire!
where it can be seen on the front façade of the building in the picture, on the second storey, behind the pole bearing another flag; the date being about 1910. Its presence here is something of a mystery!
In the century since its apparent creation the flag has been rarely seen in standard reference works on British flags and symbols although it was known amongst enthusiasts and accordingly, as one of the first specifically created local flags in the country, it was naturally automatically included in the registry as its first “regional” flag. Unfortunately however, for decades, it was seldom seen in the region that it represents, where arguably loyalties to town or county and local rivalries, may overshadow interest in the wider region and its flag, although it has made a bit of a come back in recent years with the advent of more affordable versions, as shown further down the page. Notably, however, the East Anglian flag has been deployed often as an emblem. In the 1950s and 1960s it was used on the badge
of the ‘Eastern District Licensed Trade Association’ a regional branch of a national organisation, formed in 1888, as the ‘National Trade Defence Fund’, to campaign on behalf of the breweries and licensed trade against the temperance movement and measures to stifle their trade. Use of the flag by this body, whose remit covered the four recognised East Anglian counties, was particularly apt.
The flag was also seen on the labels
of a range of ales produced by Norwich brewer, Morgans
And in shield form, the flag of East Anglia is also present on several buildings in Norwich
It appears to feature here
although the evident colours of this device are difficult to determine; what might have been a blue shield at the centre seems sadly much faded by the elements, whilst the surrounding colour does seems to be red but may conceivably be a rusty patina.
One example of the flag’s use was in 2004 where it was raised by a supporter of the Cambridge University boat crew during the famous race along the River Thames, Cambridge University lying within the bounds of East Anglia. Here it is seen wielded alongside the flag of Wessex, in which regional territory, some hold, Oxford University is situated.
The three crowns have also been adapted for use in the logo of the Rugby League east division
and the borough of Bury Saint Edmunds
where the crowns are shown pierced with arrows to represent the martyrdom of St Edmund the last king of East Anglia. They were also included in the arms of the former Isle of Ely council
and are found in both the arms of Colchester
and the University of East Anglia
The same three crowns are also seen on the flag of Cambridgeshire, which, as stated, lies within East Anglia.
Although comparatvely rare, in recent years this regional flag has enjoyed a boost in popularity and has begun to be seen more often
It is displayed below with the East Anglia junior orienteering team
and flies here
over Norwich castle.