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Basic Flag Protocol and Etiquette

Please see below, or our guest page, for the CORRECT Historical record kindly submitted by Mr. Gavin Sprott, Edinburgh

Ensure you have the flag the CORRECT way up. Most flags are supplied with a toggle, which goes to the top. The BROAD WHITE STRIPE should always be at the top of the flag, next to the pole (see below).

Correct Way

Basic Flag Protocol and Etiquette

The UNION flag is complicated. When flying aloft the broad white stripe should be at the top next to the pole.
Some people know which is the correct way, very few know why.

First, its needs to be explained a flag is divided into 4 quarters. 1st top left. 2nd top right. 3rd bottom left. 4th bottom right. The 'head' of the flag is therefore more important than the 'foot' and the 'hoist' more important than the 'fly', for which reason the Union flag is in the 1st quarter of the Australian flag and the 50 star field in the American flag.

It is impossible to integrate 2 flags and for each to then have an equal degree of importance. In 1606 after the war between the Scots and the English, the flag of St. Andrew (Scotland) and St. George (England) were joined to form the first UNION FLAG.

Since England had won the war the red cross of St. George took precedence and was superimposed over and above the white saltire cross of ST. Andrew.

How the flag might have looked if Scotland had won the war

The situation remained despite fierce opposition north of the border. With the introduction of St. Patrick's red cross in 1801 representing Ireland the situation became even more controversial.

Eventually to comply with protocol and etiquette in the new Union Flag, St. Patrick's red cross was off-set, correctly termed 'counter-charged'. This ensured Andrew was higher in the flag at the 'hoist' and St. Patrick higher in the 'fly. Thus George takes precedence over Andrew, and Andrew over Patrick.

Here are a few basic rules for flag etiquette:

(a) If flying the flag from a building, the Union flag should be hoisted first and taken down last at the end of the day.
(b) A flag should never be allowed to drag along the ground.
(c) A tattered or faded flag should be removed and replaced.
(d) A national flag should never be flown above another National flag on the same pole. This implies superiority/inferiority.
(e) A guide to the order of precedence of more than one flag should be as follows:
(1) Union flag
(2) Any other National flag
(3) Flag of Europe
(4) Flag of England/Scotland/Wales
(5) Regional/City/County flag
(6) Corporate/House/Club/School/Organisation flag

Where there are two or more flagpoles next to each other, the home national flag should be flown from the flagpole on the left when facing a building. In the event one flagpole is taller than the other, the home National flag should be flown from the tallest.

Correct Definition of 'Half Mast'

There is a great deal of misunderstanding in the term 'half mast'. Contrary to the general belief if does not mean literally half way down the flag pole. The flag should be lowered the depth ofthe flag. Eg. If the flag is 6ft x 3ft (fig 2) it should be lowered 3ft (fig 3). There is a strict discipline for hoisting and lowering the flag on such occasions. The flag should be slowly and reverently hoisted hoisted aloft (fig 1) to its full extremity (fig 2) before slowly being lowered to the correct depth of the flag 'half mast" position (fig 3). When taking the flag down it should again be hoisted to the top of the pole thenreverently lowered to the ground.

Correct Definition of 'Half Mast'

Dear Sirs

I noticed your history of the Union flag with interest. But where did you get your history? By 1606 there was no war between Scotland and England. James VI of Scotland had suceeded Elizabeth I of England peacefully in 1603, and there followed a long period of welcome peace between the two kingdoms. (The parliaments were only united in 1707).

James was the first British monarch, in fact the most intelligent and enlightened of the lot to this day, with a distaste for war and always seeking peace and sensible compromise, and the first Union flag was created at his behest.

Until recent memory, the UK signified "the United Kingdom_s_", of Scotland, England (+Wales) and Ireland. Worthwhile getting this right, because the facts are more interesting than fiction. But I always look with curiosity to see if the Union flag is hoisted correctly. Get the history right (the flag could change again if the English nationalists manage to wreck the Union!), and good luck with your business.

Yours sincerely, Gavin Sprott (Edinburgh).


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