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FLOTSAM - Union Flag

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Molly Cule
350473.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:46 am Reply with quote

When does the Union Flag fly over Buckingham Palace?
F: When the Queen is there.

When the Queen is NOT there. Today it is flown at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Sandringham whenever the Queen is not in residence. The Royal Arms of Scotland is flown at Holyroodhouse and Balmoral when the Queen is not there. At news of a Royal death the Union Flag or Royal Arms of Scotland is flown at half-mast.

The Royal Standard is NEVER flown at half-mast, even when a King or Queen dies as the Sovereign does not die – a new monarch succeeds his or her predecessor immediately. Around the time of the death of Diana people furiously demanded the Standard to fly at half mast without understanding that it is the flag of the monarchy and as the monarchy can't die it can't be flown at half mast - unless we had a revolution of course.

The Union flag, or the Union Jack, the national flag of Great Britain is so called because is has the three crosses of the three countries united under one sovereign – the cross of St George, the cross of St Andrew (patron saint of Scotland, a diagonal white cross on a blue background) and the cross of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, a diagonal red cross on a white ground. The latter was added to the previous Union Flag of St George and St Andrew after the Act of Union of Ireland with England and Wales and Scotland on 1 January 1801.

Other flags were suggested, one showed the St George’s Cross with St. Andrew’s flag by its’ side. The Scots liked a version with the Scottish cross on top. Some Welsh say the Red Dragon or Flag of St. David ought to be on the flag.

It was not until 1908 that Parliament agreed the Union flag should be considered the National Flag.

Initially the Union Flag was a Royal Flag, it was flown on all the King’s forts and castles and nowhere else. Nowadays is flown by many people all over the UK. The flying of the Union Flag on public buildings is decided by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at The Queen’s command. Any civilian on land can use the flag but at sea, non naval/military use of the flag is prohibited; in the 17th C the flag was used to enable ships to pose as naval ships and so avoid paying harbour duties, Charles I ordered that only Royal ships could use the flag and it is still a criminal offence under the Merchant Shipping Act 1993 to display the Union Flag from a British ship.

Nations and colonies that have used the Union Flag at some point include Aden (Yemen), America, Borneo, Cyprus, Kenya (East Africa), India, Jamaica, Lagos, Gambia, Ghana (Gold Coast), Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Palestine, Penang, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Trinidad and more. The most recent decommissioning of the Union flag was when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. The Basque county’s flag, the Ikurrina is loosely based on the Union Flag.

To fly the flag the correct way up, the broad portion of the white cross of St Andrew should be above the red band of St Patrick (and the thin white portion below) in the upper hoist canton (the corner at the top nearest to the flag-pole), giving the Scottish symbol precedence over the Irish symbol. This is expressed by the phrases ‘wide white top’ and ‘broad side up’. Traditionally, flying a flag upside down is understood as a distress signal. In the case of the Union Flag, the difference is so subtle as to be easily missed by many.

A flag serjeant has the role of raising and lowering the right flag as The Queen arrives at or departs from the Palace. Buckingham Palace has its own chapel, post office, swimming pool, staff cafeteria, doctor's surgery and cinema. Although Buckingham Palace is well known, it still has a postcode: SW1A 1AA. It is the only building to have this postcode although the House of Commons has a similar one - SW1A 0AA.

Last edited by Molly Cule on Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:30 am; edited 1 time in total

350535.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:55 am Reply with quote

Nice essay, but I'm not sure about the question - would anybody get that wrong?

Maybe there's something to be done with the distinction between the Union Flag and the Union Jack (which is, as I understand it, that the 'Jack' is flown at sea - if you're a pedant, anyway) - and also the business about how US Navy vessels fly the starry bit of the US flag and call that the Union Jack as well.

Molly Cule
350553.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:17 am Reply with quote

I just tried it on two friends and they both said - it means Queenie is in. And they both went to Oxford so aren't technically stupid : )

as one of them, francesca says : it's been my firmly held belief since i was in black patent shoes reciting 'they're changing guards at buckingham palace'
i feel wronged

Molly Cule
350554.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:19 am Reply with quote

Olly says - every normal person thinks the queen is in.
only geeks think otherwise. :-)

Molly Cule
350558.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:21 am Reply with quote

Another: noooo. really?
my mom lied!

Molly Cule
350560.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:22 am Reply with quote

Rebecca: i think it means that the queen is home! isn't that it? half-mast if something has happned

Molly Cule
350561.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:23 am Reply with quote

Philip: i think it means the queen is inside (well I would if it wasn't a QI question)

350564.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:26 am Reply with quote

Moll, I think either you have stupid friends, or we may be ok with this.

Flash, maybe your previous employment as the guy who changes the flags gives you a bit of a head start?

Molly Cule
350565.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:30 am Reply with quote

ask Emma? And the bloke next door? See what they think 'Up North' or perhaps the locals on er.. what is that road called?? Plodders Way.

350571.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:37 am Reply with quote



It's named because Farnworth was a Methodist town, so people who wanted to be buried otherwise had to be carried to the parish church in Deane - it's about 5 or 6 miles. The people who carried the coffins were called plodders, and you can still see flat-topped stones where they would rest the coffin of the way.

s: Headmaster of a school in Farnworth who I played against at golf.

As for the flag, Emma would have no idea, and I suspect the general feeling round here would be one of indifference.

Molly Cule
350614.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:17 am Reply with quote

oh, I thought it was cos everyone up North walks really slowly!

Tell Emma she must learn to love the Queen! She is a sweet old lady with a nice rubber duck in her bath.

Just asked another person who came online

Avye: that the queen's at home (cue big buzzer!!)

350626.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:37 am Reply with quote

I would have joined all of Molly's intellectually defective friends and offered the klaxonable answer.

I will now go and hang my head in shame for a while.

350631.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:44 am Reply with quote

I wouldn't have gotten the forfeit, and in fact if I'd have given any wrong answer then my wrong answer would have been "never".

Which was indeed the correct answer until 1997 - the Union Flag was only introduced then so that something could be flown at half mast, seeing as how we all know that the Royal Standard can't be. The Sun takes much of the credit / blame for this change.

Molly Cule
350669.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:29 am Reply with quote

Ah. Thanks Suze.

350779.  Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:42 pm Reply with quote

Well that looks pretty safe. I guess it's just that when I were a nipper if we were driving past Buck House in a taxi or something some grandparent or other ALWAYS explained about the Royal Ensign and made us check if the Queen was in. But it looks as though I might just have got lucky in this respect.


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