Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Flag of Britain Represents Hawaii?

The easiest way to answer the title phrase-question for this blog is, "yes."

I'll let that sink in for a moment and then I'll explain.

If you are familiar with the current and longstanding national flag of the United Kingdom (otherwise known as Great Britain, but not England) then you most likely recognize the flag below.


We see it everywhere when we see royal weddings or royal events on the TV news and we are likely to see it again when a majority of the US and global networks broadcast the Queen's next Jubilee (her 70th doesn't have a name yet) scheduled to be celebrated in 2022.

So what does this have to do with the United States, state of Hawaii?

Well it all goes back to when Hawaii was an island nation.  

That's right Texans, we aren't the only state that was once a true honest to goodness sovereign nation.  

Here is the list of all the states that were at one time a republic or nation to themselves, listed in order of occurrence:  

Vermont (1777-1791, 14+ years)


Florida (called Nation of Muskogee, 1799-1803, 4+ years)


Parts of Alabama, Mississippi & Louisiana (called Republic of West Florida, 1810)


New Hampshire (called the Indian Stream Republic, 1832-1835, 3+ years)



Texas (1836-1846, 10+ years)


California (1846)



In fact the state of California still has the words "California Republic" on there flag to this day, the only state that does, as seen above.

That brings us to Hawaii.

Hawaii was a sovereign Kingdom from about 1810-1893.  

However, the monarchy was dissolved by Americans and Europeans as well as landholders and Hawaii became its own Republic in 1894.  This nation lasted until 1898 when it was officially designated a territory of the United States.  

The islands remained a territory until August 21, 1959 when it ascended to be the official 50th state of the United States of America.  

If, as is expected Puerto Rico will become the 51st state later this decade or early in the '20s, it will be the longest period in our history without any territories becoming states.

But, back to our topic.  You are probably saying what does all of this have to do with the flag of Great Britain being on the Hawaiian flag?

Well it all goes back to life in Hawaii under the reign of King Kamehameha I.


As the story goes . . . he flew the flag of Great Britain in a place of honor, possibly over his home, as it was given to him by the British explorer Captain George Vancouver.  It was a token of friendship from then King George III.

Some say at that time Kamehameha I intended the British flag to be the national flag of Hawaii and others observed this.

It's also said that Kamehameha I lowered the British flag and raised an American flag to prevent Hawaii from becoming mixed up with the War of 1812.  But then British officers removed the American flag.

Trying to upset no side over the other; Kamehameha I commissioned a new flag, partly of his own concept and partly that of his commanders of the Royal Hawaiian Navy (who were former members of the British Royal Navy).  It was to be designed and used to avoid conflict with either nation.  It was a hybrid.  And the design was this:


The design took the flag of Great Britain and put it in the canton (that's the top left side of a flag, like the canton of area of the United States flag but we have stars on a blue field representing all current 50 states).  Then there were eight stripes (stripes being similar to the flag of the US) representing each of the main islands Hawaii.

It's said the original colorization of the stripes was to be red then white then blue from top to bottom.  Unfortunately someone didn't quite get that part right and the design was white to red then blue.  And the design stuck.

The flag above was used for the Kingdom, the Republic, the Territory and now the State of Hawaii.

So, though it might seem strange to be the only state to have the complete flag of a foreign nation on it (Mississippi's flag isn't complete from the one it references), it does make sense once the story is told.


Even today it seems we can't quite get away from our English past as anywhere you see the series of state and territorial flags flying, even at Sheppard Air Force Base, you will see the flag of Great Britain flying high above.

Interesting huh?

Bryan W. Rupp

(All photos were provided by Wikipedia without copyright or trademark infringement).