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Mercia (England)

Region of England

Last modified: 2020-11-07 by rob raeside
Keywords: england | mercia |
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[Ancient Flag of Mercia] image by Ivan Sache


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Introduction: Ancient Kingdom of Mercia and the Modern Region

Mercia was the ancient kingdom equivalent to what is now known as the English Midlands. The term Mercian being associated with the Midlands long after the end of the kingdom until 1387 when a quote by John Trevisa directly links the identity of Mercia and the Midlands.
Jason Saber, 30 October 2014

Mercia is a name of a region of England that has never had any legal status. It is a historical entity mostly lost in the mists of time. Various modern groups have tried to resurrect it, sometimes in protest about local government, sometimes just as re-enactments, and from these activities flags have sprung, one of which has become a regional flag. Most people know Mercia as another name for the English Midlands. But none can really agree upon where the Midlands really are, and boundaries have never been clearly defined.
Rob Raeside, 30 October 2020

To summarize, Mercia was one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Its name derives from the words of "march" and "border people." Mercia dominated the area of what would later become England for three centuries. It centred around the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries, in the region now known as the English Midlands. There was no fixed capital city and its royal courts traveled from place to place. During the Golden Age of Mercia King Offa seems to have favored Tamworth Castle. It was where he was crowned and spent his Christmases. Some historians believe the unification of England was first achieved during his reign.
Between the years 600 and 900 Mercia dominated all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex, so much so that this period was called the Mercian Supremacy. Christianity replaced the earlier pagan beliefs in late 7th century and the Diocese of Mercia was founded in 656. With the invasions of the Vikings in the late 9th Century much of Mercia was absorbed into the Danelaw, and when Ceolwulf II, the last Mercian king, died in 879 his lands become part of the Kingdom of England ruled by Alfred the Great. Today, Mercia is still used as a geographic designation, and the name is used by a wide range of organizations, be they commercial, military or political in nature.
Pete Loeser, 30 October 2020


Flag of Mercia

The Flag of Mercia is a gold cross (from corner to corner) on a blue background. This flag flies from Tamworth Castle, and bares no resemblance to the proposed flag. Tamworth is the Capital of Mercia. Local historians here in Tamworth seem to think that this flag is or was the flag of the Kingdom of Mercia, and fly it as often as possible on along with other flags of the region.
Stan Wilde, 30 May 2003

The saltire flag of Mercia comes from this source, along with the Sussex swallows, the Middlesex and Essex seaxes, the golden dragon of Wessex, the white horse of Kent, the golden crowns of East Anglia and the rampant lion of Northumbria. All seven of the Saxon Heptarchy kingdoms were assigned arms at a much later date.
Source "The Romance of Heraldry" by C.W. Scott-Giles, London 1929, reprinted with revisions 1965 & 1967
Mike Hill, 23 February 2007

The Mercian flag is now up the Flag Registry at Flag Institute: mercia/. Mercia was the ancient kingdom equivalent to what is now known as the English Midlands. The term Mercian being associated with the Midlands long after the end of the kingdom until 1387 when a quote by John Trevisa directly links the identity of Mercia and the Midlands.
The gold saltire on blue has been linked to the kingdom since at least the seventeenth century when it represents the area on John Speed's atlas. It is likely that, like other ancient kingdoms, the arms may have been an attribution by mediaeval heralds. The saltire refers to the first British martyr, St. Alban, after whom the town in Hertfordshire that also uses the saltire is also named.
In Scott-Giles' "The Romance of Heraldry" the author believes that the saltire was a Mercian symbol and adopted by the town after King Offa founded the monastery to the saint there in 793 AD. It is certainly true that the first evidence for the use of the saltire by the town comes a couple of decades after its appearance on John Speed's map representing Mercia.
The historic capital of the province, Tamworth Castle continues to fly the flag every day. The flag flown from the castle uses a darker shade of blue that that flown by the town, which helps to differentiate between them. The darker shade has been acknowledged in the Mercia registration.
Jason Saber, 30 October 2014

"The darker background variant of the Cross of St. Alban was officially registered by the Flag Institute as the Flag of Mercia in 2014. The Flag Institute's rules did not allow an identical flag being recognized for two different places, and since the Cross of St. Alban had already in use by the City of St. Albans, it could not be used for Mercia. Eventually the Institute decided to adopt the darker background, as this tends to better match actual flags flown to represent Mercia, such as the one on Tamworth Castle." (source)
located by Pete Loeser, 30 October 2020


The Saint Alban's Cross Flag
Flag of the Town of St. Albans

[Flag of St. Albans] image by Pete Loeser, 30 October 2020

The Saint Alban's Cross is a yellow saltire on a light blue field (azure a saltire or). It is found on several flags, notably those of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban, and the city of St. Albans, Hertfordshire. It is a heraldic emblem that is commonly attributed to the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. However, the flag used at Tamworth Castle displays the Saint Alban's Cross on a darker blue field and is not the same flag, although closely related. The original Saint Alban's Cross flag was flown outside Birmingham Council House while the Staffordshire Hoard (Anglo-Saxon gold and silver collection found in a field near Hammerwich) was on display in 2009, and is shown in street signs in Tamworth which holds onto the claim that they were the "ancient capital of Mercia". (source)
Pete Loeser, 30 October 2020


Earlier proposals of flag of Mercia

Mercia Second Constitutional Convention

[Proposed Flag of Mercia] image by Jaume Ollé

A proposed flag for the Mercia historic region should the region be restored, according Flagmaster 103.
Jaume Ollé, 22 May 2002

Abstracted from an article in Flagmaster v. 103, "A Flag for Mercia: The Central Region" Summarizing the article, Mercia was one of three kingdoms (Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex) that were consolidated from the Angle-Saxon heptarchy in the early 9th Century in England, and united with Wessex after the reconquest of the Danelaw in 973 under Edgar. The flag is new, designed for the Region of Mercia. Graham Walker, the designer stated, "The Mercia Movement was founded on 19 August 1993, by a group of individuals inspired by a common vision of a sustainable alternative future. It is a movement rooted in historical reality and intends to re-create Mercia as a legal autonomous entity, within the boundaries which existed prior to 1066 and within an English Confederation." The flag is intended to be adaptable for use by sub-units (i.e., counties) by adding a badge in the white field. The flag has a white field bordered above and below by wavy, light blue bands, which are each from one-quarter to one-fifth the height of the flag. A vertical green panel, one third the length of the flag, at the hoist bears a gold shield, carrying an odal rune and the word MERCIA in black. The blue bands represent the Humber and Thames, the sometime northern and southern boundaries of Mercia. The green vertical is for Offa's Dyke, a defence against the Welsh to the west. The design was approved on 12 May 2001 by the Mercia Second Constitutional Convention.
Rob Raeside, 26 June 2002


Acting Witan of Mercia flag and banner

[Proposed Flag of Mercia] image located by Tomislav Todorovic, 18 September 2016
design copyrighted by Colin Bex, displayed by permission.

According to the Acting Witan of Mercia, an organization founded in 2003 by members of the Constitutional Convention of Mercia [1, 2], the region of Mercia comprises the following traditional counties [3]: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. This organization has also proposed two flags for the region. One of the flags, clearly modelled after that of Wessex displays a silver wyrm (legless winged dragon) on dark green field [2,4]. This is used as the regional symbol not only by its creators, but also by other regionalist movements in England, most notably the Wessex Regionalists, which seem to closely cooperate with the Acting Witan [5,6].

[Proposed Flag of Mercia] image located by Tomislav Todorovic, 18 September 2016
design copyrighted by Joyce Millington, displayed by permission

The other flag [2,4,7] might actually be the symbol of Acting Witan, rather than that of the region, although it is difficult to tell, since it is almost always used with the Wyrm Flag. This is a vertical banner with the fly in shape of a trapezium, looking as if the bottom corners of a square were cut off diagonally. The field is in the same dark green colour as used in the first flag, and the charges are all in gold: large odal rune with the inscription MERCIA above it. There are also a gold fimbriation along the fly edge and gold fringes attached to it. The rune might actually have been borrowed from the 2001 proposal for the flag of Mercia since the founders of the Acting Witan have participated in the Mercian Constitutional Convention, which had adopted that flag.

The earliest photos [2] showing these flags date from 2004, so they must have been adopted when the Acting Witan was founded or shortly afterwards. The latest photos [2,7] date from 2013, so it is not quite clear if they were kept in use after the St Alban's flag was officially registered in 2014, although the 2016 display of the Wyrm Flag image by the Wessex Regionalists [5,6] suggests that they might still be used.
Sources:
[1] The Acting Witan of Mercia website - About the Acting Witan: http://www.independentmercia.org/the-acting-witan/
[2] The Acting Witan of Mercia website - News and Events: http://www.independentmercia.org/news-and-events/
[3] The Acting Witan of Mercia website - The Register of the Citizens of Mercia: http://www.independentmercia.org/register-as-a-citizen-of-mercia/
[4] The Acting Witan of Mercia website - Visions Of Mercia Conference Report: http://www.independentmercia.org/visions-of-mercia/
[5] Wessex Regionalists website: http://www.wessexregionalists.info/newslink (photo: http://www.wessexregionalists.info/uploads/1/2/1/4/12145464/4953687_orig.jpg
[6] The Wall Street Journal website: http://www.wsj.com/articles/in-u-k-election-ancient-kingdom-eyes-political-comeback-1430948605 (photo: https://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-IH023_WESSEX_M_20150506132408.jpg)
[7] VICE.com website: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/we-asked-the-lunatic-fringe-of-uk-politics-about-their-ideal-britain
Tomislav Todorovic, 18 September 2016


Sovereign Mercia

[Flag of St. Albans] image by Pete Loeser, 30 October 2020

Sovereign Mercia was a neo-pagan fringe group active between 2008-2019 with a stated goal of establishing a sovereign Mercian state in the English Midlands. It is representative of the groups appearing occasionally in the Midlands hoping to turn back the clock to an imaged golden age of England's pagan past.
Sovereign Mercia used a flag with the traditional Saint Alban's Cross charged with the white, double-headed Eagle of Leofric (a Saxon warrior who supposedly served Alfred the Great) as their Mercian national flag. They proposed the song "Life is a Beautiful Book" written in 1974 by Stephanie de Sykes as their Mercian national anthem. It was used as the ATV Midlands start-up theme and therefore had a strong regional association. Sovereign Mercia was founded in Birmingham in 2008, with their goal of promoting Anglo-Saxon paganism. They disappeared as a group when they merged into the Frisian Alliance in 2019.
Source: source.
Pete Loeser, 30 October 2020