April Flags: When April Fools Meets Vexillology

Flag Facts

April Fools is controversial at the best of times. While some enjoy the jokes and pranks, others have a much lower tolerance to tomfoolery. If you’ll pardon a personal perspective, while I don’t appreciate April Fools myself, there is one aspect to it that I look forward to: hoax vexillology articles. Throughout the years we’ve had plenty, some garnering international attention while others merely elicited chuckles in the vexillological community. So let’s take a look at some of our favourite April Fools vexi-hoaxes.

Union Flag sans Scotland
In the runup to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the Daily Mail decided to prank its readers with an article titled Scot-free! Union Jack gets a Yes vote makeover: Secret Government papers reveal how flag will look if Scotland votes for independence. The story reveals secret government papers relating to the approaching Scottish indepnendece referendum, allegedly photographed in the hands of a government aide. Among others, the papers contain what appears to be the British flag without the Scottish white saltire on blue, presumable as a result of Scotland leaving the union. The article goes on to claim that several hundred of these “Scot-free” flags have already been produced.

The article includes several “outraged” reactions from made-up anti-independence supporters with promises to “‘fight to the end’ to save the Union Jack and resist any moves to make Scotland a saltire-only zone.” But the excitement the article caused online among the less date-savvy was quite real on both side of the isle: those supporting the independence movement hailed the decision while unionists declared their outrage. The concept of a Scotland-less Union Flag is of course one of the favourite themes of flag-making alternate historians and has been explored exhaustively throughout the years. Whether aware of the April Fools or not, the article also sparked a debate among vexillologists on the future of the flag including proposals on how to include Wales  or complaints that the arms of the St. Patrick’s Saltire are needlessly couped.

A fashionable flag

In 2015 the Portland Flag Association published a post on their site, detailing the curious work of a hitherto secret White House task force, which was set to improve the image of the USA at home and abroad. The main result of their research was the option of adopting a new flag, as the “most important aspect of [the American] national brand”, the Association “quotes” Joe Biden. The Old Glory is “old and boring – and long overdue for a makeover”, adds the vice president.

The new flag is to be achieved via a change to “more fashionable colours” supplied by Pantone LLC. The new shade chosen to replace Old Glory Red was the rich and satisfying “Marsala” while while Old Glory Blue becomes “Scuba Blue”, which makes the flag less sombre. This post may not have fooled many but it sure amused quite a few.

Irish flag referendum

Our third April Fools hoax also comes to us from the British Isles, though this time from Ireland. In 2016 Vexillology Ireland posted an intriguing “photo” on its Facebook feed, informing their followers of an upcoming referendum to select a new Irish flag, scheduled for the 27th May. Irish citizens were told to expect a guide booklet to help them make their choice. The offhand way in which the post was published made the post doubly convincing and left some scratching their heads about a referendum they never heard of. Vexillology Ireland’s wonderful prank was likely inspired by the New Zealand flag referendum which took place in December of 2015 and March of 2016 and was closely followed both by the vexillological community and the general public around the world.

 As far as we have been able to discover, the leaflet stayed mainly in the flag community, where it was understood by most to be a hoax. However, following the various links to where the post was shared suggests that not all understood this. One commenter suggested that, as with New Zealand, Ireland might have more important issues to deal with than what flag they use.

EU for everybody

And finally, another British flaggy April Fools comes to us from the Express which published an article titled EU bosses DEMAND European Union flag stars be incorporated into Union Jack in 2016. As the name suggests, the piece is about a EU-wide project to change national flags of member states  to incorporate the EU stars within each design. The Express writes the move comes ahead of the British referendum to leave the EU as an attempt to cement the country’s links to the Union. 

Information about the project was allegedly leaked to the Express by a high-ranking EU diplomat who calls the notion of incorporating stars into the flags “the next logical step” after doing the same with car licence plates in the 90’s. The Express writes the move comes ahead of the British referendum to leave the EU as an attempt to cement the country’s links to the Union. Information about the project was allegedly leaked to the Express by a high-ranking EU diplomat who calls the notion of incorporating stars into the flags “the next logical step” after doing the same with car licence plates in the 90’s. The complaints of the French and Italians included in the article were echoed on social media where some took it to be actual news while others dryly remarked that “you never know with the EU”. While most of the flag designs are atrocious from a vexillological perspective, we must give the Express credit for the lovely booklet graphic showcasing the designs.

April Fools pranks and hoaxes can be annoying but, if approached from the right direction (namely from the direction of vexillology), they can serve as a great source of amusement. Most of these April Fools hoaxes came to us from the anglophone world. If you are aware of anymore, especially if they are from other regions, please let us know!

Which of these April Fools hoaxes was your favourite? Do you know of any others? Let us know in the comments or on our social media!

1 thought on “April Flags: When April Fools Meets Vexillology

  1. By the way, April fools is actually National Day in Cyprus, which is a VERY controvercial holiday

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