Tradition states that the colours of the flag were given to Malta by Roger I of Sicily in 1090. Roger's fleet landed in Malta on the completion of the Norman conquest of Sicily. It is said that local Christians offered to fight by Roger's side against the Arab defenders. In order to recognise the locals fighting on his side from the defenders, Roger reportedly tore off part of his chequered red-and-white flag. This story has, however, been debunked as a 19th-century myth, possibly even earlier due to the Mdina, Malta's old capital, associating its colours with Roger's in the late Middle Ages.
The George Cross originally appeared on the flag placed on a blue canton (see List of flags of Malta). The flag was changed on 21 September 1964 with Malta's independence when the blue canton was replaced by a red fimbriation the intention being that the Cross appear less prominent. It also made the flag conform to the western rule of heraldry, which states that no colour may touch a colour, or metal touch a metal (silver/white and yellow/gold being the two metals). The flag has remained unchanged since.