When preparing to fly any flag it is important to know and understand international protocol for displaying national flags. This page will focus on displaying the Union Jack. There are several primary rules and obligations that must be met when flying the Union Jack. The following will give you a better idea of proper protocol for flying your flag and disposing of worn flags.
When flying the Union Jack it is important to be sure the flag is right-side up. To tell which side is up on the flag, be sure that the larger white stripe is above the thinner red stripe in the canton (upper hoist-side corner) of the flag. It is considered improper to fly the flag upside down and is also an international sign of distress. When flying the Union Jack in conjunction with another nation's flag, be sure both are located on seperate flag poles of equal height. To fly the Union Jack above or below another nation is a sign of disrespect. Flying any nation's flag above another nation is a sign of superiority or of conquering the lower flag's nation. During times of peace it is strictly prohibted to do so. The flag can be flown both in daylight and at night so long as the flag is properly illuminated, preferably with a spotlight. Never allow your flag to drag on the ground or use it as a seat cover, table cloth or other similar devices.
Flags should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously. An alternative British tradition for flag raising is to hoist the flag while it is still rolled up and tied with a slip knot or a thin piece of cotton. A quick and sharp tug of the halyard will break the cotton and release the flag to fly free. This is refered to as "breaking" the flag, and is often used to mark the beginning of an event, or the arrival of a VIP.
As a general rule of thumb, when hoisting the flag with multiple flag poles, the flag with most precendence should always been to the left when looking at the flag from head on, the exception would be if one flag pole is higher than the other, then that flag pole takes precendence.
When flying the flag at half-mast, this does not mean to fly the flag at half of the height of the flag pole. To properly fly a flag at half mast, you must raise the flag to full height then slowly lower the flag by one flag lenght. For example, if you have a 3 foot x 5 foot flag, you would lower the flag three feet from the top of the pole. When lowering the flag, tradition has it that you raise the flag again to full mast before lowering the flag. The flag should be flown at half-mast for the following:
- From the announcement of the death until the funeral of the Sovereign, except on Proclamation Day, when they are hoisted right up from 11am to sunset.
- The funerals of members of the Royal Family, subject to special commands from Her Majesty in each case.
- The funerals of foreign Rulers, subject to special commands from Her Majesty in each case.
- The funerals of Prime Ministers and Ex-Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, subject to special commands from Her Majesty in each case.
- The funerals of First Ministers and Ex-First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland and First Secretaries and Ex-First Secretaries of Wales, subject to special commands from Her Majesty in each case. Unless otherwise commanded by Her Majesty this only applies to flags in their respective countries.
- At British Embassies, High Commissions and Missions when flags in the host country are being flown at half-mast, subject to the discretion of the Chef de Mission.
- Any other occasions where Her Majesty has given a special command.
If a Flag Day occurs on a day when flags are flying at half-mast the flags should still be flown at half-mast. Also, if the body of a very distinguished subject is lying in a building the flag should fly at half-mast on that building until the body has left. The above cover State Mourning, and do not prevent the flying of flags at half-mast on private or non-Government buildings on other occasions.
When flying any flag it is important to know which flags take precedence. In the United Kingdom the list of general precedence is as follows:
- Royal Standard
- The Personal Flag of
- HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
- HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
- HRH The Prince of Wales
- HRH Prince William of Wales
- HRH The Duke of York
- HRH The Earl of Wessex
- HRH The Princess Royal
- HRH The Duke of Gloucester
- HRH The Duke of Kent
- HRH Prince Michael of Kent
- HRH Princess Alexandra
- The Other Members' Standard
- The Union Flag
- The White Ensign of the Royal Navy
- The Ensign of the Royal Air Force
- The Blue and Red Ensigns
- National Flag of the host constituent nation, crown dependency or overseas territory
- National Flags of England, Scotland, Wales, crown dependencies and overseas territories
- National Flags of other nations (in English alphabetical order)
- The United Nations Flag
- The Commonwealth Flag
- The European Union Flag
- The British Army Flag
- Counties and Metropolitan Cities
- Other Cities and Towns
- Banners of Arms (both personal and corporate)
- House Flags
Display on Government Buildings
The Lord Chamberlain's Department, through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the national Executives, issues a list of Flag Days on which UK Government buildings should fly the national flag. This does not prevent them flying the national flag on any other day that they feel is appropriate or desirable.
- 20th January
- 6th February
- 19th February
- 1st March
- 10th March
- 17th March
- Second Monday
- 21st April
- 23rd April
- 9th May
- 2nd June
- 10th June
- 17th July
- 15th August
- Second Sunday
- 14th November
- 20th November
- 30th November
The flag is also flown on the opening session of the Houses of Parliament by Her Majesty and the day of the prorogation of a Session of the Houses of Parliament by Her Majesty, flags should still be flown even if Her Majesty does not perform the ceremony in person..
The flag should never be flown when tattered or soiled, it is a sign of disrespect. Flags do wear our and must be replaced, when disposing of an old flag it is ideal to privately burn it in a respectful manner. You may also tear the flag or cut it into strips until it no longer resembles the flag.
The information gathered from this page was found at:
Leicester City Council Website
http://www.leicester.gov.uk/NACO/Home%20Page%20Pics/NACO%20Flag%20Protocol.pdf on 08/22/2008.