The guidelines on etiquette primarily fall around the use of national flags. These flags are symbols of national identity and it should be remembered that offence can be taken from the incorrect display, use of, and condition of a national flag. The flags of the UK; the Union Jack, the flags of England, Scotland and Wales are national emblems and should not normally be displayed in a postion that is inferior to any other flag or ensign. National flags should not be flown in a dilapidated or damaged state, to do so is to show disrespect for the nations the represent.
Flags should normally be flown from sunrise to sunset. Flags can be flown at night but they should be properly illuminated.
Only one flag should be flown on a flagpole.
No permission is necessary to fly National flags (this applies to any country), and they are excluded from planning and advertising regulations. The display of corporate flags however are governed by planning and advertising regualtions and these vary on a regional basis.
The Union Jack should be flown with the broad white band of the St. Andrew’s cross above the red stripe of the St. Patrick’s cross in the upper hoist corner. This is because Scotland’s St. Andrew’s cross takes precedence over Ireland’s St. Patricks Cross. It is improper to fly the flag upside down.
When national flags are displayed, consideration should be given to their rank. If a purley decortative effect is required it is often better to structure a display around the use of house flags, pennants, plain fabrics and bunting. The general order of rank in the United Kingdom is as follows:-
- Royal Standards -these can only be flown in the presence of the particular royal, and with permission.
- The Union Flag / Union Jack
- The Constituent Countries of the United Kingdom
- Flags of other Nations – in Alphabetical order
- The EU Flag
- County Flags
- City Flags
- Flags of arms – Heraldic or personal flag where a grant of arms has been given
- House flags -Corporate flags, organisations etc.
National flags are often of different proportions, when they are flown together each flag should have the same depth, the measurement of the hoist. When the flag is square a slightly larger hoist would be appropriate, i.e 125% in order to provide an equal area. As a general rule within the UK all national flags are made in the proportion as the Union Jack namely a ratio 2:1.
Flags should be flown and therefore positioned on the flagpoles in order of their rank . Listed below are the most common flagpole formats and the ranking of the flags.
Flags that are in a line
Flagpoles that are either free standing or mounted to the building should be ranked as follows.
2 plus flagpoles parallel to the building line: – the highest ranked pole is that pole to the left hand side as the observer faces the building entrance. This pole displays the flag of highest rank. ( Royal flags aside this will be the Union flag)
2 plus flagpoles at an angle to the building line: – the highest ranked flag should be flown on the outermost flagpole in the line to the left on the main entrance and on the innermost flagpole if the line is on the right of the main entrance.
If one flagpole is higher than the others then the highest ranked flag should be flown from that flagpole. If this flag is a national flag e.g. the Union Jack, then no other national flags should be flown on the remaining flagpoles. It would be acceptable however to fly the constituent country flags of the UK, or other flags such as county flags and house flags could be used.
Flags that are in a circle
Flagpoles that are positioned in a semi-circle should display the highest ranked flag at the central point. The next highest ranked flag ( or 1st alphabetically if the subsequent flags are equal in rank) should be positioned on the next flagpole to the left of the centre, then the next to the flagpole right or the centre. This should be continued left then right thereafter.
For flagpoles that form a full circle, the highest ranked flag should be flown on the central flagpole immediately opposite to the main entrance of the venue. The remaining flags are the arranged as for the semi-circle.
Flags that are crossed
Should a flag be crossed with another national or organisational flag, the flag of highest rank should be on the left of the observer facing the flag. The staff of this flag should be to the front of the staff holding the other flag.
Flags flat against a surface
The Union Flag – if hung horizontally or vertically has the uppermost broad white stripe in the top left corner.
Other flags – if hung vertically the edge the would normally be at the top of the flagpole should be on the left.