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Badge of the Order of St Patrick.

St. Patrick's blue is a name applied to several shades of blue considered as symbolic of Ireland. In British usage, it refers to various sky blue shades associated with the Order of St. Patrick.[1] In modern usage in the Republic of Ireland, it may be a darker shade.[1] While green is now the usual national colour of Ireland, "St. Patrick's blue" is still found in some symbols.[2]





In Irish mythology, Flaitheas Éireann, the sovereignty of Ireland, was represented as a woman in a blue robe.[3] Although the flag of the province of Mide has a blue field, when its device was used as the arms of Ireland, the field was sable.[3]

In the UK Royal Standard, the harp on a blue field represents Ireland

When Henry VIII declared himself King of Ireland, the coat of arms was a gold harp on a blue field. This still appears in the lower left quarter of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom.[4]

The Order of St. Patrick was established in 1783 as the senior order of chivalry in the Kingdom of Ireland. The colour of its honours needed to differ from those of the Order of the Garter (dark blue) and the Order of the Thistle (green). Orange was considered, but felt to be too sectarian, so the lighter blue of the Irish arms was chosen.[5] Knights and officers of the order wore a "sky blue" mantle and riband, a hat lined with "blue", and a badge ringed with "blue" enamel.[6] The name "St. Patrick's blue" was common but never officially used by the Order.[7][8] The exact shade of blue used varied over time. A sky blue tinged with green was used by Lord Iveagh in 1895 and confirmed in 1903.[7] This is still the usual colour in Britain.[1] Although the last surviving knight died in 1974, the order technically still exists.

There has been debate over the extent to which blue was a national colour of Ireland prior to the creation of the Order, and whether it was associated with Saint Patrick himself independently of the Order. Shane Leslie speculated that the green-blue of St Patrick's blue might be "but a reminiscence of the woad-stain used by all colour-loving Celts".[9] Constance Markiewicz believed blue was "the old colour of Ireland" and incorporated it in the regalia of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA).[10] The ICA banner, the Starry Plough, has a blue field. Antiquarian nationalist Francis Joseph Bigger considered St. Patrick's blue a "fake colour" and Saint Patrick's Flag a "fake flag".[11] More recently, Peter Alter[12] and Christina Mahony[13] have supported the historicity of the colour, while Brian Ó Cuív questioned it.[2] The Irish College in Paris, completed in 1776,[14] was renovated in 2002; St Patrick's blue was found on the walls of the chapel.[15] As regards green in association with Patrick: in 1681, Thomas Dinely reported people wearing crosses of green ribbon in their hats on Saint Patrick's Day.[16]

Former use

At a "National Ball" during Edward, Prince of Wales' 1868 visit to Ireland, his wife Alexandra wore a dress of "St Patrick blue".[17] In 1886, a garden party given by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to showcase Irish manufacturing had an Irish-themed dress code. The Freeman's Journal criticised some of the code as difficult to comply with, but said 'Irish poplin ties of "St Patrick's Blue"—which we think looks rather green in a certain light—may [...] be had without much strain.'[18] The Guardian's report of the party stated 'the display of the new colour, "St. Patrick's Blue," was everywhere visible.'[19] The Lord Chamberlain's dress code in 1912 specified that the household of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should wear St. Patrick's blue,[20] as should Pages of Honour when the King was in Ireland.[21]

The Ireland association football team organised by the Irish Football Association (IFA) wore St Patrick's blue jerseys from 1882 until 1931, when they switched to green.[22] The IFA team is now the Northern Ireland team. The Football Association of Ireland sent an Irish Free State team to the 1924 Olympic football tournament; it wore a St Patrick's Blue change strip against Bulgaria, whose strip was Ireland's usual green.[23]

In the 1930s, the Army Comrades Association's Saint Patrick's blue shirts earned it the nickname of Blueshirts. It was a quasi-Fascist shirted movement which rejected green as associated with its republican opponents.[24] The saltire flag of the Blueshirts was a variant of Saint Patrick's Flag with the white background replaced with a blue background. W. T. Cosgrave described the colour as "in perfect, traditional, national accord with our history and in close association with the most revered and venerated memory of our patron Saint".[25]

The Irish Army Band's first uniform was St Patrick's blue, but this was soon changed to navy.[26] The Mounted Escort ceremonial cavalry of 1932–48 were nicknamed "Blue Hussars" from their uniforms, whose colour was sometimes described as St. Patrick's blue.[27][28][29] The uniform introduced in 1970 for Aer Lingus air hostesses and ground crew[30] combined green and St Patrick's Blue, described in The Irish Times as "a sparkling new colour".[31] The 1970 uniform was replaced in 1975, after a design consultancy developed a common corporate image with a colour scheme of dark bottle green, bright green, and "a strong blue".[32]

Modern use

The coat of arms of Ireland and the Standard of the President of Ireland are a gold Irish harp with silver strings on a field of St. Patrick's blue. The Presidential State Car's bodywork is "a colour called St Patricks Blue, a navy that appears black at first sight".[33] President Mary McAleese owns a racehorse, Suailce, which runs in the Presidential colours of "St Patrick's blue and gold".[34]

The official sporting colours of University College Dublin are "St. Patrick's Blue and Saffron", adopted in 1910.[35] The blue is commonly interpreted as 'light' or 'Dublin' blue;[35] the GAA county colours of County Dublin include light blue jerseys. In the National University of Ireland's academic dress code, "Saint Patrick's Blue" is the colour of the faculty of Science; Veterinary Medicine has a darker "Celtic Blue".[36] The academical dress of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland also features St Patrick's blue.[37] The Trinity College Dublin fencing club specifies that the azure in its colours is "St. Patrick's Blue (Pantone 295 as the Presedential [sic] Pennant)".[38]

Among Irish regiments of the British Army, a hackle of St. Patrick's blue is worn in the bearskins of the Irish Guards[39] and in the caubeens of the London Irish Rifles.[40] The Guards' blue was chosen in distinction to the Royal Irish Fusiliers' green hackle.[41] St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin commemorates its historic association with the Order of Saint Patrick with St Patrick's blue on the cassocks of the choristers and under the clerical collars of the Dean and the Vicar.[42]

A cross-border flag for Ireland may be required where a sporting team combines athletes from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The arms of the four provinces of Ireland on a background of Saint Patrick's blue has sometimes served this purpose.[43]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Seaby Coin & Medal Bulletin (B.A. Seaby) (653–664): 41. 1973. "[Describing the ribbons of] the Service Medal, and the Reserve Defence Forces Service Medal, as "St. Patrick's blue" seems strange to British collectors, to whom the description means a very pale, slightly greenish blue, but perhaps the Irish attribute a rich dark blue to their patron saint.".  
  2. ^ a b Ó Cuív, Brian (1976). "The Wearing of the Green". Studia Hibernica (17–18): 106–119.  
  3. ^ a b Carragin, Eoin (2007-04-18). "Heraldry in Ireland" (PDF). National Library of Ireland. p. 3. Retrieved 2008-03-17.  
  4. ^ Morris, Ewan (2005). Our own devices: national symbols and political conflict in twentieth-century Ireland. Irish Academic Press. p. 12. ISBN 0716526638.  
  5. ^ Galloway, Peter (1999). The most illustrious Order: The Order of St Patrick and its knights (2nd ed.). London: Unicorn. p. 172. ISBN 0-906290-23-6.  
  6. ^ Order of St. Patrick (1831). Statutes and ordinances of the most illustrious Order of Saint Patrick. G.A. and J.F. Grierson. pp. 24, 29, 58, 59, 60, 61, 64, 67, 68, 69, 83, 104, 112, 116, 119, 120.  
  7. ^ a b Galloway, p.174
  8. ^ Stewart, Georgiana L. (14 August 1893; Issue 34029). "Protest To The Queen From Irish Women Against Home Rule.". The Times: p. 6; col E. "The whole was contained in a very handsome walnut casket lined with Irish poplin of the shade known as St. Patrick's blue, which is the colour of the riband worn on the robes of the Knights of St. Patrick."  
  9. ^ Leslie, Shane (1917). The Celt and the World: A Study of the Relation of Celt and Teuton in History. New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 35.  
  10. ^ O'Casey, Sean (1946). Drums under the windows. Macmillan. p. 338.  
  11. ^ Bigger, Francis Joseph (1927). John Smyth Crone, F. C. Bigger. ed. In Remembrance: Articles & Sketches : Biographical, Historical, Topographical. Talbot Press. p. 65.  
  12. ^ Alter, Peter (1974). "Symbols of Irish Nationalism". Studia Hibernica (14): 104–23.  
  13. ^ Vernon, Jennifer (15 March 2004). "St. Patrick's Day: Fact vs. Fiction". National Geographic News. National Geographic Society. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  14. ^ "Collège des Irlandais". Structurae. Nicholas Janberg. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  15. ^ Lyng, Marlene (13 October 2002). "An oasis for saints and scholars in Paris". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  16. ^ Shirley, E. P. (1858). "Extracts from the journal of Thomas Dineley, esquire, giving some account of his visit to Ireland in the reign of Charles II". Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society new series (1): 143–6, 170–88.  ; cited in
  17. ^ "This Evening's News: The Royal Visit to Ireland". Pall Mall Gazette (London). 24 April 1868.  
  18. ^ "The Royal Visit". Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin). 23 April 1868.  
  19. ^ "our own correspondent" (23 May 1886). "Viceregal garden party". The Guardian (ProQuest): p. 3.  
  20. ^ Trendell, Herbert A. P (1912). Dress worn at His Majesty's court. Vol. 1. London: Harrison & Sons. p. 161.  
  21. ^ Trendell, p.9
  22. ^ Byrne, Peter (16 November 1996). "From Belfast Celtic to Shelbourne". The Irish Times: p. 2, Sport. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  23. ^ Howard, Paul (30 July 2000). "The first tango in Paris". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-11-08.  
  24. ^ Cronin, Mike (1997). The Blueshirts and Irish politics. Dublin: Four Courts Press. p. 47. ISBN 1-85182-312-3.  
  25. ^ "Public Business. - Wearing of Uniform (Restriction) Bill, 1934—First Stage.". Dáil Éireann - Volume 50. 23 February 1934. p. col.2121. Retrieved 2009-05-12.  
  26. ^ Kelly, Olivia (22 February 2003). "Changing of colours for the Army Band". The Irish Times: p. 2, Weekend. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  27. ^ "St. Patrick's Day parade. March-past in the rain. "Hussars" again on view.". The Irish Times: p. 9. 18 March 1933. Retrieved 2009-05-14. "the army's own flag of St. Patrick's blue trimmed with gold ... The same colours were worn by the little guard of horsemen who rode in advance."  
  28. ^ "A colourful ceremony: French minister's credentials". The Irish Times: p. 4. 15 May 1933. Retrieved 2009-05-14. "a troop of Free State cavalry clad in the attractive St. Patrick's blue and gold uniforms which were introduced for the Eucharistic Congress last June"  
  29. ^ McIntosh, Gillian (1999). The Force of Culture: Unionist Identities in Twentieth-century Ireland. Cork University Press. p. 42. ISBN 1859182054.  
  30. ^ "New uniform for Aer Lingus staff". The Irish Times: p. 13. 4 July 1970.  
  31. ^ "Women First". The Irish Times: p. 6. 13 February 1970.  
  32. ^ "'Corporate image' for Aer Lingus". The Irish Times: p. 13. 2 December 1974.  
  33. ^ Nolan, Philip (24 March 2008). "Dev's silver lady: For 60 years, she has borne potentates and princesses... but the radio is still rubbish". Irish Daily Mail: p. 13.  
  34. ^ O'Hehir, Peter (24 August 2008). "Ten Acious". Irish Daily Mirror: p. 43.  
  35. ^ a b "The Colours of the University". UCD Sport. UCD. Retrieved 2009-05-12.  
  36. ^ "Academic dress of the National University of Ireland". National University of Ireland. 2006. pp. 10, 20. Retrieved 2009-05-12.  
  37. ^ "Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland: Academic Costume". British Medical Journal: 1294. 28 May 1904.  
  38. ^ "Dublin University Fencing Club". Trinity College Dublin. 2005. Retrieved 2009-04-15.  
  39. ^ Taylor, Bryn (2006). "A brief history of the regiment". Retrieved 2009-04-15.  
  40. ^ "The story of the 'Caubeen'". London Irish Rifles Regimental Association. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  41. ^ MacLeod, Olaf (1986). Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out: The Last Full Dress Uniform of the British Army. Lutterworth Press. p. 36. ISBN 0718826736.  
  42. ^ Byrne, Roy H. (27 August 1993). "St Patrick's blue". The Irish Times: p. 13. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  43. ^ Morris, p.194


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