St. Patrick's blue

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Badge of the Order of St Patrick.

St. Patrick's blue is a name applied to several shades of blue associated with Saint Patrick and Ireland. The colour blue's association with Saint Patrick dates from the 1780s, when it was adopted as the colour of the Anglo-Irish "Order of St. Patrick". In British usage, it refers to a sky blue used by the Order of St. Patrick, whereas in Irish usage it is often a dark, rich blue.[1][2] While green is now the usual national colour of Ireland, St. Patrick's blue is still found in symbols of both the state and the island.[3]



Historic arms of the Kingdom of Ireland

In Irish mythology, Flaitheas Éireann, the sovereignty of Ireland, was sometimes represented as a woman in a blue robe.[4] 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.[4] In 1542 the English king Henry VIII declared Ireland to be a kingdom and made himself King of Ireland. The coat of arms adopted for this new kingdom was a gold harp on a blue field. This still appears in the lower left quarter of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] The name "St. Patrick's blue" was common but never officially used by the Order.[1][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.[1]

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 Markievicz 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.[3] The Irish College in Paris, completed in 1776,[14] was renovated in 2002; the paint uncovered on the chapel walls was described as "St Patrick's blue" by a visiting journalist.[15] As regards green in association with Patrick: in 1681, Thomas Dineley 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 (or) Irish harp with silver (argent) strings on a field of blue (azure).[33] The standard was introduced at the end of Douglas Hyde's term in 1945;[34] contemporary news reports describe the blue as "St. Patrick's Blue".[35][36] The arms were granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland on 9 November 1945.[37] Horses owned by the Irish National Stud are regarded as owned by the President and entitled to run in the Presidential colours.[38] The colours are "Saint Patrick's blue with gold sleeves, and a St Patrick's blue cap with gold tassel".[39] One such horse is Suailce,[40] which won the 2008 Irish Cesarewich.[41]

The official sporting colours of University College Dublin are "St. Patrick's Blue and Saffron", adopted in 1910.[42] The blue is commonly interpreted as 'light' or 'Dublin' blue;[42] 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".[43] The academical dress of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland also features St Patrick's blue.[44] 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)".[45]

Among Irish regiments of the British Army, a hackle of St. Patrick's blue is worn in the bearskins of the Irish Guards[46] and in the caubeens of the London Irish Rifles.[47] The Guards' blue was chosen in distinction to the Royal Irish Fusiliers' green hackle.[48] 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.[49]

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.[50]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Galloway, p.174
  2. 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. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ó Cuív, Brian (1976). "The Wearing of the Green". Studia Hibernica (17–18): 106–119.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Carragin, Eoin (18 April 2007). "Heraldry in Ireland" (PDF). National Library of Ireland. p. 3. Retrieved 17 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Morris, Ewan (2005). Our own devices: national symbols and political conflict in twentieth-century Ireland. Irish Academic Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-7165-2663-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Stewart, Georgiana L. (14 August 1893). "Protest To The Queen From Irish Women Against Home Rule". The Times (34029). 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  13. Vernon, Jennifer (15 March 2004). "St. Patrick's Day: Fact vs. Fiction". National Geographic News. National Geographic Society. p. 2. Retrieved 13 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  18. "The Royal Visit". Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser. Dublin. 23 April 1868.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "our own correspondent" (23 May 1886). "Viceregal garden party". The Guardian. ProQuest. p. 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  21. Trendell, p.9
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  27. "St. Patrick's Day parade. March-past in the rain. "Hussars" again on view". The Irish Times. 18 March 1933. p. 9. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "A colourful ceremony: French minister's credentials". The Irish Times. 15 May 1933. p. 4. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 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<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. McIntosh, Gillian (1999). The Force of Culture: Unionist Identities in Twentieth-century Ireland. Cork University Press. p. 42. ISBN 1-85918-205-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  40. O’ Reilly, Chryss Goulandris. "Chairman's Statement 2008" (PDF). Reports and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2008. Irish National Stud Co. Ltd. p. 5. Retrieved 4 March 2010. In addition the Irish National Stud owned Suailce. Racing in the colours of H E the President and trained by our director Dermot Weld, she was a high class winner here at home.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  50. Morris, p.194

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