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United Kingdom
Flag of the United Kingdom
Name "Union Jack" or Union Flag
Use National flag National flag
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Proportion 1:2
Adopted 1 January 1801
Design A white-fimbriated symmetric red cross on a blue field with a white-fimbriated counterchanged saltire of red and white.
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<tr><td colspan=2></td></tr> File:Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Variant flag of the United Kingdom Use Civil ensign Civil ensign
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Proportion 1:2 Design A red field with the Union Flag in the canton. See Red ensign.
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<tr><td colspan=2></td></tr> File:Government Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Variant flag of United Kingdom Use State ensign State ensign
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Proportion 1:2 Design A blue field with the Union Flag in the canton. See Blue ensign.
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<tr><td colspan=2></td></tr> File:Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Variant flag of the United Kingdom Use Naval ensign War ensign
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Proportion 1:2 Design A symmetric red cross on a white field with the Union Flag in the canton. See White ensign.
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<tr><td colspan=2></td></tr> File:Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Variant flag of the United Kingdom Proportion 1:2 Design A field of air force blue with the Union Flag in the canton and the RAF roundel in the middle of the fly.
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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland uses as its national flag the royal banner known as the Union Flag or Union Jack — technically the latter term, although the more common name for the flag, refers to its use as naval jack when flown at sea.[1]

The current design of the flag dates from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801. It consists of the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England), edged in white, superimposed on the Cross of St Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), which are superimposed on the Saltire of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland). Wales, however, is not represented in the Union Flag by Wales' patron saint, Saint David, as at the time the flag was designed Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.

Its correct proportions are 1:2.[citation needed] However, the version officially used by the British Army modifies the proportions to 3:5, and additionally two of the red diagonals are cropped.

The flag was established by proclamation of James VI and I of Scotland and England:

"By the King: Whereas, some differences hath arisen between Our subjects of South and North Britaine travelling by Seas, about the bearing of their Flagges: For the avoiding of all contentions hereafter. We have, with the advice of our Council, ordered: That from henceforth all our Subjects of this Isle and Kingdome of Great Britaine, and all our members thereof, shall beare in their main-toppe the Red Crosse, commonly called St. George’s Crosse, and the White Crosse, commonly called St. Andrew’s Crosse, joyned together according to the forme made by our heralds, and sent by Us to our Admerall to be published to our Subjects: and in their fore-toppe our Subjects of South Britaine shall weare the Red Crosse onely as they were wont, and our Subjects of North Britaine in their fore-toppe the White Crosse onely as they were accustomed"
—James VI and I, Orders in Council; Official creation of the Union Flag – 1606."[2]

Flying the flag

Flag of Scotland
St Andrew's Cross
16th c. (Scotland)
 
Flag of England
St George's Cross
16th c. (England)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
150px
Union Flag of 1606
1707 (Great Britain)
 
150px
St Patrick's Cross
Unknown origin (Ireland)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
150px
Union Flag of 1801
1801 (United Kingdom)
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Evolution of the Union flag.

The Union Flag can be flown by any individual or organisation in Great Britain on any day of their choice. Legal regulations restrict the use of the Union Flag on Government buildings in Northern Ireland. Long-standing restrictions on Government use of the flag elsewhere were abolished in July 2007.[3][4]

Upside-down

File:Union flag.jpg

While the flag appears symmetric, the white lines above and below the diagonal red are different widths. On the side closest to the flagpole (or on the left when depicted on paper), the white lines above the diagonals are wider; on the side furthest from the flagpole (or on the right when depicted on paper), the converse is true. Thus, no change will be apparent when rotating the flag 180 degrees, but if mirrored the flag will be upside-down.

Placing the flag upside down is considered lèse majesté and is offensive to some,[5][6] However, it can be flown upside down as a distress signal. While this is rare, it was used by groups under siege during the Boer War and during campaigns in India in the late 18th century.

St Patrick's saltire

The only reason that the UK flag is not symmetrical is because of the relative positions of the saltires of St Patrick and St. Andrew. The red saltire of St. Patrick is offset such that it doesn't relegate the white saltire of St. Andrew to a mere border for it. St. Andrew's saltire has the higher position at the hoist side, with St. Patrick's saltire in the higher position on the opposite side.

Half-mast

The Union Flag is flown from Government buildings at half-mast in the following situations:[7]

  • from the announcement of the death of the Sovereign (an exception is made for Proclamation Day – the day the new Sovereign is proclaimed, when the Flag is flown at full staff from 11 am to sunset)
  • the day of the funeral of a member of the British Royal Family
  • the funeral of a foreign ruler
  • the funeral of a former British Prime Minister

The Sovereign sometimes declares other days when the Union Flag is to fly at half-mast. 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 flagpole.[8]

Flag Days

Until July 2007, the Union Flag was only flown on Government buildings on a limited number of special days each year. The choice of days was managed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).[3] Government buildings are those used by civil servants, the Crown, or the armed forces. They were not applicable to private citizens, corporations, or local authorities.[3]

On 3 July 2007, the Justice Secretary Jack Straw laid a green paper before Parliament entitled The Governance of Britain.[4] Alongside a range of proposed changes to the constitutional arrangements of the UK was a specific announcement that there would be consultation on whether the rules on flag-flying on Government buildings should be relaxed.

Two days later, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that with immediate effect the Union Flag would fly from the flag pole above the front entrance of 10 Downing Street on every day of the year. The intention was to increase feelings of 'Britishness'. Other Government departments were asked to follow this lead, and all Government buildings in Whitehall did so.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Scotland Yard however stated that they would follow the previous rules until they are formally abolished by DCMS.[16]

James Purnell, Culture Secretary from June 2007 to January 2008 in Brown's administration, subsequently concurred with the abolition of the restrictions – pending consultation on longer term arrangements.

Until July 2007, the Union Flag was only flown on days marking the birthdays of members of the Royal Family, the wedding anniversary of the Monarch, Commonwealth Day, Accession Day, Coronation Day, The Queen's official birthday, Remembrance Sunday and on the days of the State Opening and prorogation of Parliament. The flag days when the Union Flag should be flown from government buildings all over the UK were:

In addition, the flag should be flown in the following areas on the specified days:

Some non central government bodies still continue to follow the flag days.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government has decreed that the Flag of Scotland ("the Saltire") will fly on all its buildings every day from 8 am until sunset, but there is no specific policy on flying the Union Flag and as such it is sometimes flown alongside the Saltire and sometimes omitted. An exception is made for "national days". On these days, the Saltire shall be lowered and replaced with the Union Flag. These are the same as the flag days noted above with the exception of:

Another difference is that on Saint Andrew's Day, the Union Flag can only be flown if the building has more than one flagpole – the Saltire will not be lowered to make way for the Union Flag if there is only one flagpole.[17]

Flag Days in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Union Flag is flown from buildings of the Northern Ireland Office as decreed by Regulations published in 2000.[18] The Regulations were amended in 2002 to remove the requirement to fly the flag on the birthdays of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon who both died that year.[19] The current flag days are now the same as the United Kingdom government days noted above with the exception of the Duchess of Cornwall's birthday, which was only added to the UK flag days after her wedding to the Prince of Wales in 2005, and has not yet been extended to Northern Ireland.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is the only body in the United Kingdom that is not permitted to fly the Union Flag, and is only permitted to fly its service flag or the Royal Standard in the event of a visit by the Sovereign.[20]

Flag redesign

In November 2007 the then culture minister Margaret Hodge said she would consider a redesign of the Union Flag to incorporate the Welsh dragon, during a debate in the House of Commons on the frequency with which the flag flies above public buildings. The issue was initially raised by Ian Lucas, another Labour MP, who complained that the flag introduced in 1606 following the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne as James I combined the cross of St George and the saltire of St Andrew. This principle continued in 1801 when the St Patrick cross was incorporated following the Union with Ireland Act 1800. Lucas claimed the identity of Wales had been suppressed ever since the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542. In the debate, Albert Owen MP said that "we in Wales do not feel part of the union flag because the dragon or the cross of St David is not on it."[21] Conservative MP Stewart Jackson described the comments as "eccentric".[22]

Gallery

See also

References

  1. Formal announcement, Fourth, CXCII, The House of Lords, pp. 579–80 
  2. ISBN 0-906223-34-2. The Art of Heraldry. An Enclopedia of Armory. A.C. Fox-Davies. 1904/86. (p399)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Flag Flying
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Governance of Britain, for flying the Union Flag, see pp. 57–58
  5. Matthew Tempest and agencies Paisley to stand down as MEP, The Guardian, 19 January 2004. "After receiving almost 30% of the overall Northern Ireland vote in the 1979 European election, Ian Paisley became the first MEP to speak in the parliament when he protested that the Union Flag was flying upside down."
  6. Defence Secretary apologises for flag blunder BBC News, 13 November 1997
  7. FAQ Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  8. FAQ: What is half mast? Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  9. We're all proud to fly the flag The Sun, 5 July 2007
  10. Morning Press Briefing by Prime Minister's Spokesman, 6 July 2007
  11. Union flag already flying all year round The Daily Telegraph 7 July 2007
  12. Brown lifts ban on national flag BBC News, 6 July 2007
  13. Brown flies flag for Britain The Guardian 6 July 2007
  14. "Union Jack will fly over No 10 permanently 'to show values'". The Times 6 July 2007
  15. "Gordon orders Whitehall to fly the flag in boost for Britishness" Evening Standard 6 July 2007
  16. Scotland Yard in flag cop out The Sun, 5 July 2007
  17. "Royal and ceremonial" Scottish Government
  18. The Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000. Opsi.gov.uk. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  19. The Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) 2002. Opsi.gov.uk. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  20. Police Emblems and Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002. Opsi.gov.uk. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  21. Wintour, Patrick (28 November 2007). "Minister proposes a redesign for the union flag", The Guardian
  22. Cleland, Gary (27 November 2007). "Union Jack should include Welsh flag, says MP", Daily Telegraph

External links

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Flags of the United Kingdom
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Flags of Europe
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National and regional flags incorporating the Union Jack Flag of the United Kingdom
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ar:علم المملكة المتحدة ast:Bandera del Reinu Xuníu az:Yunion Cek bn:যুক্তরাজ্যের জাতীয় পতাকা zh-min-nan:Liân-ha̍p Ông-kok kok-kî be:Сцяг Вялікабрытаніі be-x-old:Сьцяг Вялікабрытаніі bg:Национално знаме на Обединеното кралство br:Banniel ar Rouantelezh-Unanet ca:Bandera del Regne Unit cs:Vlajka Spojeného království cy:Baner y Deyrnas Unedig da:Storbritanniens flag de:Union Jack et:Suurbritannia lipp el:Σημαία του Ηνωμένου Βασιλείου es:Bandera del Reino Unido eo:Union Jack eu:Erresuma Batuko bandera fa:پرچم بریتانیا fr:Drapeau du Royaume-Uni gl:Bandeira do Reino Unido ko:영국의 국기 hy:Միացյալ Թագավորության դրոշ hi:संयुक्त राजशाही का ध्वज hr:Zastava Ujedinjenog Kraljevstva bpy:তিলপারাজ্যর ফিরালহান id:Bendera Britania Raya is:Breski fáninn it:Bandiera del Regno Unito he:דגל הממלכה המאוחדת jv:Gendéra Britania Raya ka:გაერთიანებული სამეფოს დროშა lv:Apvienotās Karalistes karogs lt:Jungtinės Karalystės vėliava hu:Az Egyesült Királyság zászlaja mr:युनायटेड किंग्डमचा ध्वज ms:Union Jack nah:Īpān Tlacetilīlli Huēyitlahtohcāyōtl nl:Vlag van het Verenigd Koninkrijk ja:イギリスの国旗 no:Storbritannias flagg nn:Det britiske flagget pl:Flaga Wielkiej Brytanii pt:Bandeira do Reino Unido ro:Drapelul Regatului Unit ru:Флаг Великобритании sco:Banner o Unitit Kinrick sq:Flamuri i Britanisë së Madhe simple:Flag of the United Kingdom sr:Застава Уједињеног Краљевства fi:Yhdistyneen kuningaskunnan lippu sv:Storbritanniens unionsflagga th:ธงชาติสหราชอาณาจักร tr:Birleşik Krallık bayrağı uk:Прапор Великої Британії vi:Quốc kỳ Vương quốc Liên hiệp Anh và Bắc Ireland yo:Àsìá ilẹ̀ Ilẹ̀ọba Aṣọ̀kan zh:英国国旗

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