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John Oxley Library

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

By JOL Admin | 2 December 2011

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".

image of a maltese cross

   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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