Did you ever notice that the flag of England, a red cross on a white background and the flag of Genoa look identical? I had been wondering about that and looked for an explanation. They are identical because England rented the flag of Genoa for many years, because the might of Genoa could guarantee safe passage to English ships.
Genoa first adopted the symbol, and St George as its patron saint, in 1190 during the Crusades, when the city was a fearsome maritime republic.
The red and white cross was then taken up by the English towards the end of the 13th century, to be flown by its navy to deter its enemies from attacking and to scare off pirates.
The English agreed to pay a “substantial” annual fee to the ruler of Genoa for the right to fly the flag and use their ports to trade.
But payment stopped when the republic collapsed years later.
The English monarch paid an annual fee for the privilege of flying the Genoese flag, but over the years it seems the English simply stopped making payments. This was, of course, after they had made it their own – by the late 13th century, the St George’s Cross was becoming more prominent in public life and in 1606 it was combined with the St Andrew’s Cross to make the Union Jack. According to Marco Bucci, the Mayor of Genoa, England stopped paying for use of the flag in 1771, when the maritime Republic of Genoa was in rapid decline.