What is the origin of the term “Shows his true colors”?

Q – What is the origin of the term “Shows his true colors?

Early warships often carried flags from many nations on board in order to elude or deceive the enemy.

The rules of civilized warfare called for all ships to hoist their true national ensigns before firing a shot.

Someone who finally “shows his true colors” is acting like a man-of-war which hailed another ship flying one flag, but then hoisted their own when they got in firing range.

 

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