The ‘Bandiera ta’ Malta’, the official flag of Malta, although deceptively simple, displays the rich history of the island country it represents.

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Officially adopted on 21 September 1964, the current flag is a basic bi-colour, with brilliant white in the hoist (left side) and bright red in the fly (right side). It also bears the George Cross, which was awarded to Malta by Britain’s King George VI in 1942 to honour Malta’s courage during wartime.

The History of the Colours

Traditionally, the red and white colours of the flag were thought to have be given to Malta by Roger I of Sicily in 1090, when his fleet landed here after the Norman conquest of Sicily. When locals offered to fight alongside Roger, he allegedly tore a part of his own chequered red-and-white flag and handed it to the Maltese.

This version of events was later debunked as myth, due to Malta’s old capital of Mdina associating its colours with Roger’s earlier than this, around the late Middle Ages.

The source of the colours is deemed more likely to originate from the flag of the Knights of Malta, which bore a white cross on a red background. In fact, this version has been adopted as Malta’s maritime flag and is a common sight around the Islands , with the cross being referred to as ‘Is-Salib ta’ Malta’ (The Maltese Cross).

As for the colours themselves, the red tone is thought to symbolise sacrifices made by the Maltese people for defending their faith, while the white tone stands for peace, love, light and optimism, and the George Cross represents bravery.

The George Cross

On the upper left side of Malta’s flag, there is displayed a George Cross with a red outline against the white background.

The George Cross was added to the flag when the country was still enveloped in the Second World War. The Cross was awarded to the Maltese people in 1942 by Britain’s King George VI in recognition of their exceptional bravery during the ongoing war.

The following year it was added to the flag on a blue canton, and remained so until Malta’s independence in 1964, when the Cross was amended to have a narrow red fringe instead of the blue canton.

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If you’re into history, make sure to check out 5 Historical Homes You Must Visit and 5 Unmissable Historical Sites in Malta!