Why is the Maltese Cross included in Queensland's Badge and Coat of Arms?

The inclusion of the Maltese Cross in the Queensland Badge and Coat of Arms has an interesting and somewhat inconclusive history.

On 23 August 1873, the Secretary of State for the Colonies advised the various Colonies regarding the adoption of distinctive badges.  When this request was received in Queensland, the then Acting Colonial Secretary, Mr. W. Hemmant, wrote to the then Governor, His Excellency Mr. W.W. Cairns, as follows:

"Referring to the circular despatch of the Secretary of State for the Colonies upon the subject of distinctive badges proposed for the flags of several Colonies, I have the honour to advise Your Excellency that the difficulty of producing upon bunting a fair representation of the head or bust of Her Majesty has proved so great, and the effect, when produced, so unsatisfactory, as to render it necessary to abandon the idea of using that device for the Queensland Ensign, and I beg therefore to recommend that the accompanying design, within a wreath of laurel, be adopted for the flags of the Colony in lieu of that formerly advised"

The "design" forwarded with the letter was described as "the Maltese Cross with the Crown in the centre".

   Maltese cross, formerly displayed at the entrance to the old John Oxley Library in William Street. State Library of Queensland. image 8024-0001-001


On 16 July 1876, the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty approved the design submitted and this was subsequently gazetted on 15 November 1876, as follows:

"His Excellency the Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, has been pleased to direct that in the future the Badge of the Colony be emblazoned in the centre of the Union Flag for use by the Governor and to the employment at the Queensland Government shall as herein after described - ARGENT ON A MALTESE CROSS AZURE A QUEEN'S CROWN PROPER."

Subsequently, the design was incorporated as part of the Queensland Coat of Arms when the Royal Warrant authorising the present design for the Queensland Coat of Arms was issued to the State of Queensland on 29 April 1893.

It is not known for certain why the Maltese Cross with a superimposed crown was chosen.  One popular theory is that as the Victoria Cross was first bestowed by Queen Victoria in 1857, at the close of the Crimean War, and as Queensland became a separate Colony in 1859, it would be a natural association of ideas to ally Queensland with the Victoria Cross which is itself a form of the Maltese Cross with Royal Arms and Lion superimposed.  Another theory is that there was a connection between the Maltese Cross and the first Governor's wife, Lady Bowen.  Given that the Maltese Cross was not put forward until 1876, the former theory appears stronger.

Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator - State Library of Queensland


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The reason for the Maltese Cross is on the Queensland flag, is because the than Governor of Queensland's wife was Maltese and in respect to her.

Sir George Ferguson Bowen (1821-1899) was indeed the first Governor of Queensland, from 1859 to 1868, but his wife was not Maltese, but Greek, having been born in the Greek island of Zakynthos, one of the seven Ionian islands off the west coast of Greece. He married his wife Diamantina, daughter of Count Candiano di Roma, who was President of the senate of the islands in 1856. The Roma family were local aristocracy and her father being president of the senate was the titular head of the islands from 1850 to 1856. The latter theory, and the fact that the actual proposal of the Maltese Cross was not put forward until 1876, quite some years after Governor Bowen left Queensland, are regarded as significant arguments against the theory that there was some association between the Maltese Cross and Lady Bowen. Sir George Bowen retired from the Civil Service in 1886 and his only association with Malta was in 1887, when he chaired the Royal Commission on a new Constitution for Malta.

The Maltese Cross is a symbol of Christianity, each point of the eight pointed Maltese Cross represents a meaning, They Symbolise the eight obligations of the knights.

When considering the unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Services, I believe this was also an example of the Queensland Volunteer Rifles. The common Cross Patté is often miscalled the Maltese Cross.

I went to city hall in Brisbane today and saw a bust of Sir Thomas Brisbane wearing a Cross of Malt. I asked why and the guide had no answer. I was surprised to realise Queensland flag was designed with the Maltese Cross. Was it a common symbol related to Britain Royalty/empire?

Hi AlejandroMy apologies for the delay. If you would like to fill in our online enquiry form with your details, one of our helpful librarians will assist you with your question. http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-usRegardsMyles – State Library of Queensland

Hi Myles,There is a painting by Commander E P Bedwell in your collection of the Govt Steamer Kate in Cardwell 1872 that shows the flag with the Maltese cross??.Cheers Bill Kitson

Thank you for the so easily accessible, succinct explanation.