Like many former and current British dependencies, the Tuvaluan flag is a blue ensign based on the Union Flag, which is shown in the upper left canton of the flag; but has a sky blue field rather than the conventional blue. The previous flag (with the Gilberts) was also based on the Union Flag but with the coat of arms created by Sir Arthur Grimble in 1932, the resident commissioner of the British colony.
The stars represent the nine island groups which comprise Tuvalu. The actual geographical alignment of the nine islands spans a direction from southeast to northwest. The more graphically convenient alignment depicted on the flag is the geographic reverse, southwest to northeast, to accommodate the Union Jack in the flag's upper left hand corner.
The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesian people. The islands came within the British Empire's sphere of influence in the late 19th century. The Ellice Islands were administered by Britain as part of a protectorate from 1892 to 1916 and as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony from 1916 to 1974. In 1974 the Ellice Islanders voted for separate British dependency status as Tuvalu, separating from the Gilbert Islands which became Kiribati upon independence. Tuvalu became a fully independent Commonwealth realm in 1978.
Each star in the flag represents one island in the country
In late 1996 Tuvalu adopted a new flag by an act of parliament. The new flag, then a precursor to a proposed move toward a republic that did not come about, was not popular with the general pubic. Officially in use only briefly, the original Tuvalu flag was reinstated by parliament in April 1997.