5 Events To Display The Union Flag
As arguably one of the most recognisable flags around the world, there are countless ways the Union flag is used. From government buildings and armed forces bases to internationally known hotels, and a range of expected and unexpected locations.
The Union flag is a symbol of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. It’s iconic design and versatility allow it to be utilised across industries and sectors of all types. On a daily basis, you will see businesses flying the Union flag in a variety of locations and different purposes including celebration, respect, and patriotism.
As a quick and helpful guide, we’ve put together a walkthrough of the types of events that will see a Union flag flying. We’ve also dropped in some interesting facts and dos and don’ts of flying a Union flag.
Royal Events and Occasions
As the Head of State of the United Kingdom, the Queen – and her extended family – are represented by the Union flag at various locations across the country, and at all times of the year. Since 1997 the Union flag flies at Buckingham Palace when Queen Elizabeth II is not in residence and is placed at half mast for notable deaths and periods of national mourning such as the 2005 terror attacks.
Often flown as a symbol of celebration, the Union flag is displayed across the UK and the world to commemorate a large variety of Royal events. From the two birthdays of the Queen, births and marriages of the extended Royal family, and anniversaries such as the Queen’s coronation, the Union flag will be flown to mark the event.
Traditionally only Government buildings and Royal locations would observe the events, but increasingly more sectors such as retail, hotels, and hospitality are joining in the commemorations and raising a Union flag.
In addition to the United Kingdom, there are 5 countries and 18 overseas territories that have the Union flag displayed on their flag. Commonwealth nations such as Australia and Tuvalu, and territories including the Falkland Islands and Turks and Caicos display the Union in the top left of their flag. Canada uses the Union flag as the official ceremonial flag and knows it as the Royal Union flag.
The Union flag is also often seen as a symbol of respect. Particularly at events and anniversaries of the military and armed forces. For Remembrance Day each November, all manner of organisations will adorn their flagpoles and buildings with the Union flag to honour the hard work and sacrifice of those who’ve fought in wars. Unifying the four nations of the UK, and memorialising the end of the First World War, there are several protocols to observe in the condition and way the flag is flown.
Other Military anniversaries that are commemorated with the flying of the Union flag include VE Day (Victory over Europe), VJ Day (Victory over Japan) and more. To celebrate the victories of the United Kingdom and allies, and to ensure the country does not forget the battles won ensuring the freedoms we enjoy today.
International Boating Expeditions
When a boat is out at sea, particularly on international journeys and expeditions, it is customary to fly the flag of the country of origin. UK boats and ships will traditionally raise the Union flag at the stern (back) of the vessel, taking precedence over any other flag onboard the boat. A visiting ship in foreign waters can fly a ‘courtesy flag’ as a token of the respect of the nation they’re being hosted by. As ships visit the UK for trade or tourism reasons, they may fly a Union flag although this will likely be in a smaller size and less prominent position than their own national flag.
Since the 17th Century, small flags flown at the front of a ship have been dubbed as ‘jacks’. Due to the popularity of the Union flag being flown in this position, both in the harbour and out at sea, it became common to refer to the ensign as the ‘Union Jack’. It is sometimes believed that the term ‘Union Jack’ can only be used at sea, or on wartime ships, but Admirals in the Navy and a Parliamentary approval in 1908 states that it can be known as the Union flag or the Union Jack at any time.
International Sports & Culture Events
The Union flag is also heralded as a symbol of patriotism for special international events in sport and other cultural celebrations. In 2012 when London hosted the Olympic games, the city was full of businesses, buildings, and individuals waving and flying the Union flag. At any games where a British Olympian wins a medal, the Union flag will be displayed behind the podium for the medal ceremony. Winning athletes often wave to fans and spectators with the flag around their shoulders too.
Events such as the Eurovision Song Contest will also see many Union flags being shown to support the performing act, and to show pride in being British, despite the unlikelihood of the UK winning.
The Union flag can be flown on any day of the year. For many government buildings, the Union flag remains flying unless it is being maintained, or there is a specific reason to lower it. Traditionally flown from sunrise to sunset, the Union flag may also be flown at night, but it should be illuminated.
Businesses and organisations across many sectors and industries choose to fly a Union flag at the front or roof of their location. Hotels, restaurants and high-end retail stores are known to fly the Union flag as a traditional and lavish way of showing their patriotism for the United Kingdom and British Heritage or to highlight the number of countries in which they proudly operate.
When flying a Union flag, it should not be displayed in a position inferior to any other flag or ensign. This includes the height of the flagpoles or size of the flags. When flown as the senior British national flag, the Union flag should be raised first and lowered last, unless all the flags can be raised and lowered simultaneously.