Cracroft's Peerage
The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage

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The National Flag


The National Flag of the United Kingdom in the Union Flag, known as the Union Jack. The name 'Union Jack' derives from the use of the Union Flag on the jack-staff of naval vessels.


The Union Flag is a combination of the cross of St George, patron saint of England, the cross of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, and a cross similar to that of St Patrick, patron saint of Scotland.


Cross of St George: Argent a Cross Gules (a red cross on a white background)

Cross of St Andrew: Azure a Saltire Argent (a white diagonal cross on a blue background)

Cross of St Patrick: Argent a Saltire Gules (a red diagonal cross on a white background)


The Union Flag was first introduced in 1606 after the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland under one sovereign. The cross of St Patrick was added in 1801 after the union of Great Britain and Ireland.


Days for Flying Flags


The correct orientation of the Union Flag when flying is with the broader diagonal band of white uppermost in the hoist (i.e. near the pole) and the narrower diagonal ban of white uppermost in the fly (i.e. furthest away from the pole).


It is the practice to fly the Union Flag daily on some customs houses. In all other cases, flags are flown on government buildings by command of The Queen.


Days for hoisting the Union Flag are notified to the Department of National Heritage by The Queen's command and communicated by the department to the other government departments. On the days appointed, the Union Flag is flown on government buildings in the United Kingdom from 8 a.m. to sunset.


9 January - Birthday of The Duchess of Cambridge

20 January - Birthday of The Countess of Wessex

6 February - Anniversary of The Queen's Accession

19 February - Birthday of The Duke of York

March - Commonwealth Day

*1 March - St David's Day (in Wales only)

10 March - Birthday of The Earl of Wessex

*17 March - St Patrick's Day (in Northern Ireland only)

21 April - Birthday of The Queen

*23 April - St George's Day (in England only)

May - Europe Day

2 June - Coronation Day

10 June - Birthday of The Duke of Edinburgh

21 June - Birthday of The Duke of Cambridge

June - The Queen's Official Birthday

17 July - Birthday of the Duchess of Cornwall

15 August - Birthday of The Princess Royal

November - Remembrance Sunday

14 November - Birthday of The Prince of Wales

20 November - The Queen's Wedding Day

*30 November - St Andrew's Day (in Scotland only)

The opening of Parliament by The Queen

The prorogation of Parliament by The Queen


*Where a building has two of more flagstaffs, the appropriate national flag may be flown in addition to the Union Flag, but not in a superior position

Flags are flown whether or not The Queen performs the ceremony in person. Flags are flown only in the Greater London area.


Flags at Half-Mast


Flags are flown at half-mast on the following occasions:


(a) From the announcement of the death up to the funeral of the Sovereign, except on Proclamation Day, when flags are hoisted right up from 11 a.m. to sunset

(b) The funerals of members of the Royal Family, subject to special commands from The Queen in each case

(c) The funerals of foreign rulers, subject to special commands from The Queen in each case

(d) The funerals of Prime Ministers and ex-Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, subject to special commands from The Queen in each case

(e) Other occasions by special command of The Queen


On occasions when days for flying flags coincide with days for flying flags at half-mast, the following rules are observed. Flags are flown:

(a) although a member of the Royal Family, or near relative of the Royal Family, may be lying dead, unless special commands be received from The Queen to the contrary

(b) although it may the day of the funeral of a foreign ruler


If the body of a very distinguished subject is lying at a government office, the flag may fly at half-mast on that office until the body has left (provided it is a day on which the flag would fly) and then the flag is to be hoisted right up. On all over government buildings the flag will fly as usual.


The Royal Standard


The Royal Standard is hoisted only when The Queen is actually present in the building, and never when Her Majesty is passing in procession. Whilst the use of the Union Flag and flags of the crosses of the patron saints on appropriate occasions by the citizens of the United Kingdom is encouraged, no-one should ever use a flag depicting the Royal Arms as the Royal Standard is the personal flag of The Queen and is for her use alone.




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