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Queensland (Australia)

Last modified: 2011-07-19 by jonathan dixon
Keywords: queensland | blue ensign | crown | maltese cross | brisbane | australia |
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[Queensland Flag] image by Martin Grieve, 26 Jul 2008


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Description of the Flag

The Queensland state flag was created as a colonial flag - a British Blue Ensign with the badge of the colony added to the blue field. Because some of the Australian state badges were originaly created to represent the Governor (as distinct from the Colony) they generally showed some element of British royal heraldry - the main criteria being that it be different from similar badges used in other parts of the Empire. Queensland uses a blue Maltese Cross (Malta used a red cross). The Crown [superimposed on the cross] on the Queensland badge represented the status of the Governor as representative of Queen Victoria in the Colony.
Ralph Kelly, 19 September 1999

Detail of the badge
[Queensland Badge] image by Martin Grieve, 25 Jul 2008

The basic design was adopted in 1876. The crown now used is a St Edward's crown (in line with the change in many flags after the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1952), and the Maltese cross is now light blue.


1859 Queensland Ensign

[1859 Queensland Ensign] image by Dylan Crawfoot

Looking at old Brisbane newspapers today, I looked up the December 1859 accounts of the separation of Queensland from NSW. The article mentions that at the official ceremony, a flag referred to as the Queensland Ensign was raised, obviously not the Blue Ensign adopted some years later. The Flag Society of Australia has an Australian Historical Flags poster featuring a Queensland "Separation Flag" from 1859, is this the flag talked about in the article? The flag is the same basic design as the British White Ensign, although I've only seen a B/W copy of the poster and I'm not sure of the colours. It might be a red cross on a light blue background, no fimbration.
Dylan Crawfoot., 11 June 1999

Following my post on the 1859 Queensland Ensign, here is a passage from the newspaper report on the ceremony and the arrival of Governor Bowen.

Along the whole line of route His Excellency was cheered after the genuine English fashion, and the procession that followed was of very creditable length and appearance. The banners carried by the body of working men and cordwainers were especially noticable for their appropriateness and applicablity to the occasion, and the flag adopted as the Queensland ensign was frequently to be seen along the line of the cortege.
- Moreton Bay Courier - 13 December 1859

I'll do some further reading of the 1850's accounts of the lead up to Queensland separation and see if any further info can be gleaned.
Dylan Crawfoot., 12 June 1999

When Queensland separated from New South Wales on 10 December 1859, celebrations were marked by the raising of this flag, which was described in the Moreton Bay Courier of 5 November 1859. The article, which was giving a summary of celebration plans by the Separation Committee, states:

That upon the day set apart to be observed as a General Holiday, to celebrate the separation of Queensland from New South Wales, the Queensland ensign (a light blue flag, with a red St George's cross, and union in upper corner) shall, at eight o'clock in the morning, be hoisted under a salute of 21 guns, the Band playing the National Anthem, and other appropriate airs, upon the occasion.

Later, in the Courier of 13 December describing celebrations on the 10th, is this report of the ceremony:

The banners carried by the body of working men and cordwainers were especially noticable for their appropriateness and applicability to the occasion, and the flag adopted as the Queensland ensign was frequently to be seen along the line of the cortege.

The flag is reminiscent of the New South Wales ensign which enjoyed unnoficial status at this time. There is no evidence the Queensland ensign was officially adopted by the Queensland government, despite its apparent prominence at the separation celebrations. It is possible that it enjoyed unofficial use in the small colony for a few years until 1870 when the government first adopted a badge for use on the Blue Ensign flown by government ships and the defaced Union Jack of the Governor.
Dylan Crawfoot., 18 June 1999


1870 Flag

[Queensland Flag 1870-1876] image by Martin Grieve, 25 Jul 2008

Detail of the badge
[Queensland Badge 1870-1876] image by Martin Grieve, 25 Jul 2008

One of the errors in all three editions of Australian Flags [ozf95,ozf98,ozf06] is the statement "The first design considered for the badge included a depiction of Queen Victoria's head, facing right". The text refers to the badge depicting Queen Victoria using words that indicate that it was a rejected design proposal of 1876, when in fact it was the official badge of 1870 - 1876.
Ralph Kelly, 28 September 2006

On 22 March 1870, in response to a Colonial Office Circular, S.W.Blackall, Governor of Queensland, sent the Colonial Secretary in London "a drawing of the badge adopted for this colony", and informed him "that it may now be considered the Flag of Queensland."
[National Archives (PRO) CO 325/54, CO 854/16, and notes compiled by Ralph Kelly from Governor's Letterbook in Quensland State Archives]
David Prothero, 25 July 2008


1875 Proposals

[Queensland Badge Proposal 1] image by Dylan Crawfoot

[Queensland Badge Proposal 2] image by Dylan Crawfoot

[Queensland Badge Proposal 3] image by Dylan Crawfoot

Three other proposals were considered for a Queensland badge in 1875, as presented in Ralph Kelly's article in Crux Australis, Vol 8/4 No. 36. Five years earlier Queensland had adopted a badge featuring Queen Victoria's head in profile but this had proved difficult to reproduce well. Four new designs were prepared by the acting Colonial Secretary, Treasurer William Hemmant for consideration by Governor William Cairns. The following year the current proposal featuring a Maltese Cross and Crown was chosen.
Dylan Crawfoot, 22 April 1999


1876 Flag

[Queensland Flag 1876-1901] image by Martin Grieve, 25 Jul 2008

Detail of the badge
[Queensland Badge 1876-1901] image by Martin Grieve, 25 Jul 2008

23 August 1875. The Colonial Office circulated three sheets of drawings of colonial badges, which reached the Queensland Governor, now W.W.Cairns, on 1 Feb 1876.

15 March 1876. The Queensland Treasurer informed the Governor "that the difficulty of producing upon bunting a fair representation of the head or bust of Her Majesty has proved so great, and the effect, when produced, so unsatisfactory, as to render it necessary to abandon the idea of using that device for the Queensland Ensign." He recommended the adoption of an enclosed drawing which was described as "The Crown of Her Majesty the Queen in the centre of a Malteses cross azure, field argent encircled with a laurel wreath."

23 March 1876. The Governor submitted the Treasurer's letter and copies of the drawing, to the Colonial Office. He also enclosed a drawing of the Colonial Seal of Queensland, which he considered contained no distinctive device "unless it be of the Crown in the letters V.R. immediately below it, but the design of the seal itself, if reproduced as a badge, would certainly be unsatisfactory in every respect." (The Seal of Queensland was similar to the badge chosen for Military Officers Afloat, and one Colonial Office draft had that defaced Union Jack marked as being the flag of the Governor of Queensland.)

14 July 1876. Colonial Office informed the Governor that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty had approved of the device enclosed in the Despatch of 23 March, adding, "they observe however that the laurel wreath should only be used in the Union Flag [the Governor's flag], and not in the Blue Ensign."
[National Archives (PRO) CO 325/54, CO 854/16, and notes compiled by Ralph Kelly from Governor's Letterbook in Quensland State Archives]
David Prothero, 25 July 2008


Flag with Tudor Crown (1900s-1950s)

[Queensland Flag 1901] image by Martin Grieve, 26 Jul 2008

Detail of the badge
[Queensland Badge 1901] image by Martin Grieve, 26 Jul 2008

The Tudor crown replaced the original crown in the early 1900s [as part of standardisation by Edward VII].
David Prothero, 26 July 2008

I saw an old photo of the pre-1952 state flag of Queensland incorporating the Tudor crown. The Maltese cross is dark blue.
Clay Moss, 12 June 2007