The British Flag, also known as the Union Flag or the Union Jack, is the official flag of the United Kingdom.
After inheriting the English throne from his cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1603, King James VI of Scotland was crowned as King James I. At the time, both the Scottish flag (bearing a white St Andrew’s cross) and English flag (bearing a red cross of St George) were flown on land, but confusion arose as to which flag to fly at sea.
In 1606, a royal proclamation decreed that the crosses from the two flags should be laid one over the other to form a new flag design, known colloquially as the Union Flag or Union Jack. (The use of jack denotes a common nickname for the flag flown on a ship’s bow.) At the time, neither country was thrilled that they had to share flag space with the other’s cross, but no other proposed design ever caught on in an official capacity.
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The current design dates from 1801, a combination of three crosses: St Andrews,’ St George’s, and St Patrick’s. The modern Union Flag is twice as long as it is wide, and should be flown accordingly:
The British flag is flown on public buildings in the UK on the following flag days:
20 January: Birthday of the Countess of Wessex
6 February: Anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II
19 February: Birthday of the Duke of York
Second Sunday in March: Commonwealth Day
10 March: Birthday of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
21 April: Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II
9 May: Europe Day
2 June: Anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
10 June: Birthday of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
June (no fixed date): Official Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II
21 June: Birthday of Prince William of Wales
17 July: Birthday of the Duchess of Cornwall
15 August: Birthday of the Princess Royal
15 September: Birthday of Prince Henry of Wales
Second Sunday in November: Remembrance Day
14 November: Birthday of the Prince of Wales
20 November: Wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Upon the announcement of the death of a reigning Sovereign, the Union Flag is flown publicly at half mast.