Italian mayor demands England pay 247 years' worth of royalties for using St George's flag

Peter Stubley

The Italian city of Genoa is demanding England pays back a 247-year debt the mayor claims the nation owes for using the flag of St George.

Marco Bucci claims the the country stopped paying its “annual tribute” for the red cross on a white field – a design featuring on flags flown across the country as England play Sweden in a World Cup quarter final match – in the middle of the 18th century.

He is now searching through the city archives to try and work out how much Queen Elizabeth II owes for the privilege.

“Your Majesty, I regret to inform you that from my books it looks like you didn’t pay for the last 247 years,” he wrote in a light-hearted letter.

England is believed to have started paying the doge of Genoa in 1190 so that its ships could fly the St George’s Cross to ward off pirates.

At that time Genoa was a powerful maritime city with almost complete control of the seas to the west of Italy.

The St George’s Cross was regularly used by England from the late 13th century and was combined with the Scottish St Andrew’s Cross to form the Union Jack in 1606.

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Mr Bucci said England stopped paying for the use of the flag when Genoa was occupied by Austria in 1746.

“That means we are owed over 250 years of back payments,” he said, before admitting he was only “half serious”.

“Instead of cash, we could ask England to restore one of our old palaces or make a donation to charity.

“Let’s say it would be a great marketing exercise for the city.”

The mayor mentioned the historical links between Genoa and England when he visited London for a presentation at the Italian embassy last month.