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The Correct Precedence of Flying British Flags

It’s a little-known fact (outside of vexillological circles) that the plethora of English flags that can be flown have an order of precedence, one that must be obeyed if one is to fly the English flags with the correct protocol.

The order runs as follows:


The Royal Standard

Always first in order of precedence, this flag represents Elizabeth II as the Sovereign of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories.


The Union Flag

The flag which has represented the Union since 1801 (preceeding a similar-looking) flag of Great Britain which had been flown since 1606.


The National Flag of England

Also called the Saint George’s Cross, has been representing England since some time between 1348 and 1552, although we can’t be sure exactly when.


The National Flag of Scotland

The flag representing Scotland, also called the Saltire or the Saint Andrew’s Cross, and according to legend, has represented Scotland since AD 832!


The National Flag of Wales

The instantly-recognisable Welsh dragon flag (Y Ddraig Goch), whose first appearance in legend is AD 829 in Historia Brittonum.


A Crown Dependency or British Overseas Territory

The national flag of any Crown Dependency or British Overseas Territory. This example is the flag of the British Virgin Islands.


The White Ensign (Royal Navy)

The White Ensign is the traditional flag of the Royal Navy, and in its current form has been used since 1800 to identify Royal Navy ships when underway.


The Ensign of the R.A.F.

The R.A.F. Ensign is a flag which has been in use only relatively recently, from 1921 onwards. It features the R.A.F.’s roundel in the center right.

red-ensign   blue-ensign

The Red and Blue Ensigns. (Merchant Marine)

The ensigns flown by the UK’s Merchant Navy, and “flag of [other] ships in public service” (but not the Navy) respectively, both in use since 1801.


The Civil Air Ensign

The flag flown by the United Kingdom’s civil aviation associations, and flown on UK-based civil aircrafts (either commercial or private).


Flag of the U.N.

The world-recognised flag of the United Nations. The U.N. itself was created in 24 October 1945, though the flag was adopted 2 years later.


The Commonwealth Flag

The flag of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental group of 53 countries that were mostly territories of the former British Empire.


European Flag

The EU flag is the flag for the European Union (EU), an economic and political union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.


British Army Flag

The non-ceremonial flag of the British Army. Sometimes the word Army in gold letters appears below the badge. The “official” flag is the Union Flag.


Flags of Counties or Metropolitan Cities

The flag of any UK county or metropolitan city (definition). This example is the flag of Cardiff City.


Flags of other Cities

The flag of any city in the United Kingdom. This example is the flag of York.


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