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The White Ensign or St George's Ensign was an ensign flown on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments. It consisted of a red St. George's Cross on a white field with the Union Jack in the upper canton.
Throughout the Age of Piracy, the White Ensign was one of three ensigns in use in the British Royal Navy, with each one being assigned to one of the three squadrons of the navy, according to its colour (red, white and blue, with red being the most senior and blue the least). Ships flew the colour of ensign corresponding to the squadron to which they were attached, which was in turn determined by the seniority of the admiral under whose command the ship sailed (a rear admiral of the red was senior to a rear admiral of the white).
When the pirate frigate Venganza chased the EITC merchant vessel Fair Wind, the pirate crew hoisted the White Ensign to fool their prey into thinking that the frigate is a Royal Navy vessel. That tactic worked for Captain Nathaniel Bainbridge, but the Fair Wind's First Mate Jack Sparrow wasn't deceived.
Behind the scenes
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, though the White Ensign is clearly displayed on the longboats of the HMS Providence, the big Union Jack is flown from the peak of the gaff, instead of the big White Ensign. In real-world history, at the time in which the movie is set, the Union Jack was flown from a small flag pole on the bowsprit.