A short while ago we wrote about what permissions were required for flags and the installation of them, then last week another question popped up from one of our customers about flying flags and the etiquette involved, so we thought we would do our best to answer as many of the questions as possible. With a little help from the British flag institute, we bring you part 1.
The Flag Protocol of the United Kingdom
The national flags of the United Kingdom (i.e. the Union Flag and the flags of England, Scotland and Wales) should be displayed only in a dignified manner befitting the national emblems. They should not be displayed in a position inferior to any other flag or ensign.
It is improper to use the national flags as a table or seat cover or as a masking for boxes, barriers, or the intervening space between a dais or platform and the floor. The use of any of the national flags to cover a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony is discouraged.
The First Union Flag
Flying the Flag
Flags may be flown on every day of the year. Government and local authority buildings in England, Scotland and Wales are encouraged to fly national flags every day of the year (the flying of flags at certain locations in Northern Ireland is constrained by The Flags Regulations [Northern Ireland] 2000 and Police Emblems and Flag Regulations [Northern Ireland] 2002.
Flags are normally flown from sunrise to sunset but they may also be flown at night, when they should be illuminated. No permission is needed to fly the national flags and they are excluded from most planning and advertising regulations (but flagpoles may not be). National flags should never be flown in a worn or damaged condition, or when soiled. To do so is to show disrespect for the nations they represent.
Important: the Union Flag has a correct way up – in the half of the flag nearest the flagpole, the wider diagonal white stripe must be above the red diagonal stripe, as Scotland’s St Andrew’s Cross takes precedence over Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Cross. It is most improper to fly the flag upside down.
If a purely decorative effect is desired, it is better to confine the display to flags of lesser status; for example, house flags, pennants or coloured bunting.
The Modern Union Flag This Flag is Upside Down
Position of Honour
The order of precedence of flags in the UK is: Royal Standards, the Union Flag, the flag of the host country (England, Scotland, Wales, etc.), flags of other nations in alphabetical order, the Commonwealth Flag, the European Union Flag, county flags, flags of cities or towns, banners of arms, and house flags.
When British national flags are flown with the flags of other nations, each flag should be the same size (or have the same width – the measurement from top to bottom) and should fly from a separate flagpole of the same height. The UK’s flag shape of 3:5 works well with nearly all other nations’ flags and it is recommended to use these proportions if a standard size is required for all the flags in a display.
The senior British national flag (e.g. the Union Flag or the flag of England, Scotland or Wales) should be raised first and lowered last, unless all the flags can be raised and lowered simultaneously. Flags should be raised and lowered in a dignified manner. An alternative British tradition for flag raising is to hoist the flag while rolled up and secured with a thin piece of cotton or a slip knot. A sharp tug of the halyard will break the cotton and release the flag to fly free. This is known as ‘breaking’ the flag, and is sometimes used to signal the beginning of an event, or the arrival of a VIP.