University historian drives successful campaign for Leicestershire flag

The county of Leicestershire has ended its 1,000-year wait for an official flag, thanks to the work of a historian based at the University of Leicester.

The design, which features a fox and white cinquefoil – which many will recognise from the University’s coat of arms and emblem – was raised in Westminster’s Parliament Square earlier this week ahead of Historic County Flags Day, to take place this Friday, 23 July.

Professor Graham Shipley is a Professor of Ancient History at the University of Leicester, and has been a driving force behind the campaign to see the county, first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1087, recognised with a flag of its own.

The new Leicestershire county flag, which features a white cinquefoil, as also carried on the University’s coat of arms and emblem.

Professor Shipley formed the idea of establishing a flag for Leicestershire in 2014, when he noticed that around half of England’s 39 historic counties had adopted flags in the previous decade or so, and that soon Leicestershire would be one of the few without one.

As time went on, it became one of just three, before Hampshire and Herefordshire adopted flags in 2019 to leave Leicestershire as the only county without one – until now.

He said: “The ‘Flag of Leicestershire’ group warmly applauds the raising of the fox-and-cinquefoil flag on Monday 19 July 2021.

“With this act, the set of registered flags for the historic counties of England is complete. It is a milestone in the life of England and of our county. We are confident that the flag will be a focus for unity around which all the people of Leicestershire, as well as anyone who has an association with the county, can rally in perpetuity.

“We thank the MPs of Leicestershire for their support, as well as the Association of British Counties and the Flag Institute for their long-standing work in promoting county flags.

“We congratulate the designer, Mr Jason Saber, for creating a flag that so clearly evokes the thousand-year history of Leicestershire.

“Above all, we are grateful to the many hundreds of supporters, both across the county and beyond, who have previously shown their enthusiasm for this design and their commitment to it which has enabled this historic event to take place.”

The campaign was assisted by members of University of Leicester Archaeological Services, current Leicester undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as graduates including Natasha Sheldon, Carla Brain, Myles Harman and Iain Jones, plus other groups including the county branch of the Royal British Legion as well as hundreds of individual supporters in Leicestershire and beyond.

Alicia Kearns, Member of Parliament for Rutland & Melton since 2019, led the final push to the line together with other Leicestershire MPs, which culminated in The Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick MP overseeing the raising of the flag outside the Houses of Parliament on Monday.

Alicia Kearns MP said: “Since my election I’ve been working to establish an official Leicestershire flag because our county deserves no less than any other.

“A Leicestershire Flag gives us an opportunity to learn more about our history and celebrate all that is wonderful about our great county. Our flags carry our history, our pride, help define who we are, and bring us together as communities.

“I want in particular to thank the designer of the flag, Jason Saber, and the campaign group ‘A flag for Leicestershire’ which has advocated for this design for so many years to ensure that Leicestershire is no longer the only county without its own flag.”

The design features three main elements on a largely red background:

  • A running fox, a popular element in the logos of Leicestershire sports clubs, most famously the Foxes of Leicester City Football Club, winners of the 2021 FA Cup Final, and Leicestershire County Cricket Club.
  • A five-petalled flower (‘cinquefoil’), a symbol of Leicester and Leicestershire for centuries past. It appears on the shield of the City of Leicester, on the flag of Leicestershire County Council, and on the civic arms of several towns across the county as well on the University of Leicester’s coat of arms and logo.
  • Red and white bands divided by a zigzag, a feature of the County Council flag and of the coats of arms of several local boroughs including Hinckley and Oadby & Wigston, of which the University was granted ‘Freedom of the Borough’ earlier this year.