Victorian Naval Ensign – The Parliament Collection Victoria

Victorian Naval Ensign – The Parliament Collection Victoria


Nothing is as symbolic as a flag; they symbolise
Nations, Events, Movements, and even Football premierships. Today we’re going to have a look at the
Victorian Naval Ensign at the parliamentary library. Here with me is Anneliese Milk, Anneliese;
tell me, what is an ensign used for? An ensign is a national flag used within a
naval or military context. A naval ensign is usually required to be flown when entering
and leaving harbor or when sailing through foreign waters when the ship is signaled to
do so by a warship. They are also flown during battles and when the ensign is lowered, the
ship is said to have surrendered. So is this a Victorian Naval Ensign? Yes. From when Victoria was a colony? That’s right. Before Federation, Victoria
had its own navy, and this ensign was used by the Victorian Naval Contingent in the Boxer
Rebellion in China in 1900. The contingent was led by Captain Frederick Tickell who had
commanded the Victorian Naval Forces since 1897. And tell me about its design? Well, between 1870 and 1877 the Victorian
flag bore only the Union Jack and the Southern Cross. However, in 1877, the Victorian flag
was redesigned to also feature an imperial crown, and this version was in use until 1901.
On this particular ensign, the imperial crown was added to an 1870 flag, in order to approximate
the 1877 design. Fascinating. So how did this ensign get in
Parliament’s collection? In around 1901, Captain Tickell presented
it to Senator Frederick Thomas Sargood, who had been Victoria’s first Minister of Defence. Then, in 1934, Lady Marian Sargood, presented
the Ensign to the Victorian Parliament. And it’s been here ever since? Well, actually in September 1986, it was stolen
from Parliament House but it was recovered a week later. And the report in The Age newspaper
said that police wished to question a young man wearing a beret and bow tie. Ha! It sounds like the flag’s been through a lot but it looks well preserved. Has it had conservation treatment? Yes. At some point during its life, the ensign
underwent conservation treatment in order to stabilise it. And this navy cotton netting
was actually stitched across the entire surface, and it was then attached to a wool backing. Oh wow, so were we looking at the flag or
the netting? Basically the netting. It was a pretty invasive
treatment, one that wouldn’t really be done these days. After consulting with conservators,
we decided to remove the cotton netting – it was impregnated with dust, and had faded and
stiffened over the years. Also the netting was obscuring the frayed
end of the flag, and these large horizontal tears. Silk crepeline has been hand stitched
to the flag’s edge to stabilize the tears and fraying. It’s also shorter than expected
and most likely trimmed down over its history. You can see here a separate piece that has
been kept from the original hemline. This ensign has had quite a journey, thanks Anneliese. You can see many more pieces of our rich history
by taking a tour, here at Parliament House

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