Q. How should the Union Flag be flown?
A. The Union Flag must be flown the correct way up. This is with the wider diagonal white stripe above the red diagonal stripe in the half nearest to the flag pole. The wider diagonal white stripe should be above the red diagonal stripe at the top left hand side of the Flag nearest the flag pole.
Q. What is half-mast?
A. Half-mast means the flag is flown two-thirds of the way up the flagpole with at least the height of the flag between the top of the flag and the top of the flag pole. If more than one flag is flown, they should all be raised at half-mast or not flown at all. Flags of foreign nations should not be flown unless their country is also observing mourning.
Q. When should the Union Flag be flown at half-mast?
A. Occasions on which the Union Flag is to be flown at half-mast:
- from the announcement of the death of the Sovereign until the funeral
- in the following cases, half-mastings will be by special command from Her Majesty:
- the death of a member or near relative of the Royal Family or the funeral of members of the Royal Family
- the funerals of foreign Rulers
- the funerals of Prime Ministers and ex-Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
- the funerals of First Ministers and ex-First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (unless otherwise commanded by the Sovereign, this only applies to flags in their respective countries)
- any other occasions as commanded
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport will inform Government departments of any other occasions when Her Majesty has given a special command.
Q. What times should I fly the flag?
A. The Union Flag may be flown on UK Government buildings all year round. Those wishing to fly the Union Flag on the designated fixed flag flying days should only fly it from 8am until sunset.
Q. Which is the superior position?
A. It is usual for the Union Flag to be flown in a superior position:
Where there are two or more flagpoles parallel to the building line
It is usual for the Union Flag to be the first flag on the left of an observer facing the main entrance of the building. The remaining flags then appear in order of precedence from left to right.
Where there are two or more flagpoles on the forecourt of a building but at an angle to the main entrance
It is usual for the Union Flag to be flown on the outermost pole when the flagpoles are situated to the left of the main entrance and on the innermost pole when the flagpoles are to the right of the main entrance.
If only one flag is to be flown and there are two flagpoles
It is usual for the Union Flag to be flown on the flagpole to the observer's left. If there are more than two flagpoles, the Union Flag should be flown as near as possible to the centre. This only applies when the other flagpoles remain empty.
If one flagpole is higher than the rest
The Union Flag can fly from that flagpole but no other national flags can be flown on the other flagpoles. These can still be used for more junior flags such as county and house flags. Alternatively the higher flagpole can be left empty and the remaining flagpoles used as if it did not exist. (In general when siting flagpoles it is a good idea to keep them all at the same level to avoid these protocol problems.)
Q. In what condition should the Union Flag be flown?
A. Departments of Her Majesty's Government, local government bodies, and others, should ensure that the Union Flag and national flags should be in good repair and unsoiled. To fly a flag which is in poor repair or dirty is to show disrespect for the nations that it represents.
Q. Could I fly a red ensign on Merchant Navy Day?
A. Merchant Navy Day, on 3 September, is not one of the appointed days for flying the Union Flag from UK Government buildings which has been agreed by the Royal Household. It is a specific event that has its own flag. UK Government Departments with an interest in Merchant Navy Day may fly the Red Ensign from their buildings on 3 September.
Q. When can the public and non-governmental organisations fly the Union Flag?
A. Individuals, local authorities and other organizations may fly the Union Flag whenever they wish, subject to compliance with any local planning requirements.
Q. Do I need planning permission?
A. Under Schedule 1 Class H of the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 (as amended), national flags, the flags of the Commonwealth, European Union, the United Nations, places and regions in the United Kingdom, certain saints, and the Armed Forces Day flag, can be flown without the express consent of local authorities as long as they satisfy the standard conditions for the display of advertisements generally and the conditions and limitations set out within Class H itself. The regulations are not intended to permit the flying of armorial flags or flags bearing coats of arms; for these please contact the Officer in Waiting for advice. It is unlawful to fly or use a flag of the arms of any local authority save on sites or premises occupied by that authority.
Restrictions apply within conservation areas, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, the Broads and areas of special control. For further advice about planning permission around flags and also flagpoles please contact your local authority.
Q. Where are the official records of flags held?
A. The only official repository for flags is the College of Arms. The flying of flags on land falls under the authority of the Earl Marshal. Military flags and flags flown at sea fall under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. The Inspectorate of Regimental Colours, and of RAF Badges, is based at the College of Arms.
Q. How do I enquire further?
A. Further questions on the matter of the flying of flags should be addressed to:
Officer in Waiting
College of Arms
Queen Victoria Street
020 7248 2762