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Flags of Britain and the United Kingdom

Image from the CRW Flags website
Plantagenet Coat of Arms
The Royal Standard of England 1189-1307

This standard was used during the reigns of Richard I (1189-1199), John (1199-1216), Henry III (1216-1272), and Edward I (1272-1307). Prior to Richard the Lionhearted it is suggested that there was a Norman royal standard introduced by William the Conqueror (1066-1087) which had "two lions, passant gardant" for Normandy and England. Richard added a third lion for Aquitaine.

Richard I (House of Plantagenet) is a prime example of an overrated king. His fame mainly comes from the story of Robin Hood, a young man who fought against Prince John in order to save England while Richard is kept hostage in Germany. Actually Richard was a terrible and irresponsible king. He only spent six months of his ten-year reign in England doing his job. He joined the Third Crusade, departed for glory in the Holy Land in 1190, and basically never returned.

He actually failed in his attempt to capture Jerusalem in 1191. He returned to the coast, massacred a bunch of civilians, then when he realized he would never take Jerusalem, he worked out a deal with Saladin to allow Christian pilgrims to safely travel to visit the Holylands. After that he left for home, leaving the remaining Crusaders with only a fringe of coastline.

On his way home, Richard managed to get himself captured in Germany and his Brother Prince John then had to heavily tax the English people to ransom him. He finally returned to England, stayed for six months, then went off to France to wage another costly war, until he was killed in battle. For all this, he is remembered as "Richard the Lionhearted," and the "Good King Richard." Go figure...
Image by Vincent Morley
Cross of Saint George
The Cross of Saint George (England) c1277

The idea of using a flag was first brought back to England by the returning Crusaders who saw red pennants with white crosses being used in Genoa. The legend that Richard the Lionhearted was the first to use the red cross of St. George is probably untrue. In fact, in Richard's time the English Crusaders wore white crosses, the French red, and the Flemings green. However, the Cross of St. George became one of the national emblems of England as early as 1277. In 1497, the St. George's Cross flag was flown by John and Sebastian Cabot on their voyages from England to explore New Foundland and the North American continent, as well as by other English explorers including Sir Francis Drake, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and Sir Walter Raleigh. This flag was used by English ships for over 400 years.

Help...whose image is this? Please let me know.
Royal Standard 1307

Image from the Wikimedia Commons
Royal Standard 1405
The Royal Standard of England 1307-1405

Royal Standards had the place now taken by national flags. This particular standard was used during the reigns of Edward II (1307-1327), Edward III (1327-1377), Richard II (1377-1399) and the first part of the reign of Henry IV (1399-1413). The first quarter of a flag, top left if the hoist is at the left, is the position of greatest importance. The French fleur-de-lis in the first quarter show that the Plantagenet Kings still thought that their claim to the throne of France was more significant than their occupation of the throne of England. In 1365, the fleur-de-lis on the French Royal Standard were changed from a "scatter" across the whole field, to a symmetrical arrangement of just three flowers. In 1405, Henry IV had the English Coat of Arms redesigned to reflect the change.

The Royal Standard of England 1405-1603

The Royal Standard of 1405-1603 was the same basic design, but used the new fleur-de-lis arrangement. It was used for the reigns of Henry IV (1399-1413), Henry V (1413-1422), Henry VI (1422-1471), Edward IV (1461-1483), Edward V (1483), Richard III (1483-1485), Henry VII (1485-1509), Henry VIII (1509-1547), Edward VI (1547-1553), Mary I (1553-1554), and Elizabeth I (1558-1603).

Image by Martin Grieve
Without canton

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website
With canton

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website

House of Tudor Ensigns 1485-1603

These five ensigns are typical examples of the ensigns that were used during the Tudor Period. The House of Tudor was a English royal dynasty that lasted 118 years and ruled between 1485 to 1603. The Tudors emerged from the Wars of the Roses as England's new rulers. The first Tudor to rule England was Henry VII (1485-1509). Born Henry Tudor, he married Elizabeth of York of the House of Plantagenet thus uniting the two families. He was followed on the throne by his son, the powerful Henry VIII (1509-1547), then Edward VI (1547-1553), Mary I (1553-1558), and finally the legendary Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). The Tudors transformed the English navy into the most powerful naval force of its day.

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
Image by Phil Nelson
A Tudor Ensign
number of stripes varied between 5-13
A Tudor Ensign
using the Tudor livery colors

English naval ensigns did not begin to be standardized until shortly before the Civil War. Therefore, Tudor ensigns varied from ship to ship. Each was hand made and thus tended to be made in different materials and styles with no two exactly alike. They usually had horizontal stripes, in various colors, some with a canton, some without a canton, some with an overall Saint George's Cross, some with the Saint George's Cross in the canton, and some with no cross at all, just the stripes.

Image from Campbell & Evans
Muscovy Company Flag

Muscovy Trading Company 1555-c1917

This flag of the Muscovy Trading Company, sometimes called the "Russian Company" or simply "Muscovy Company," is one of the oldest and most unusual British Trading Company houseflags. Queen Elizabeth I granted the Muscovy Company a charter in 1555 to trade with Russia, especially for furs and whaling, and allowed the English Company to use the St. George’s Cross and the English arms on their flag. The Muscovy Company had this monopoly on trade between England and Muscovy until 1698, and it survived as a trading company until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Several well-known English explorers were associated with the company including Henry Hudson and William Baffin. Since 1917, a Russian offshoot of the company has operated as a charity within Russia.

The flag is very heraldic in origin and shows the French pattern of the royal standards, with the leopards/lions of England quartered with three fleur de lis of France, the whole is superimposed by the red centred cross of St.George fimbriated white. Rarely would a design featuring a Royal English Standard be defaced in this manner to cover the Royal Lions of England. This very obscure flag had probably gone out of use by the end of the 1600s, even though the Muscovy Trading Company lasted until the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Image by Phil Nelson
EEIC Ensign 1801
Type #1

Image by Phil Nelson
EEIC Ensign 1820
Type #2

Image by Phil Nelson
EEIC Jack early-1800s
Type #1

English East India Company 1600-1874

The English East India Company (EEIC) was originally chartered in London for trading in the East Indies. It was also referred to as either the Honorable East India Company or the British East India Company. It was first granted a Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth in 1600. Shares of the company were owned by wealthy merchants and British noblemen. The Company ruled large areas of India with its own private armies between 1757-1858. The company traded mainly in cotton from the West Indies, and from the East - silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpeter, tea and opium. The company was dissolved in 1874 and its military and governmental functions taken over by the British Crown. The companies failure to control India and need for funding may have led in part to the American Revolution. (See British East India Company Flags c1678-1800 on the "Flags of the American Revolution Era" page to learn more of this.)

Image by Blas Delgado Ortiz
Image from Pete Loeser
EEIC Jack - Type #2
EEIC Jack - Type #3

The flag of the EEIC began very much in the traditional Tudor Naval Ensign format with a red Saint George's Cross on white in the canton, and with red and white alternating strips in the field. These flags came with nine, ten, eleven and even thirteen stripes; with various cantons of varying size, since each was hand-made by the crews of the EEIC ships, and no clear instructions given by the company. (See examples of the earlier Tutor influenced EEIC flags on the "Early North American Colonies" page.)

When the House of Stuart gained the throne in 1603 the Cross of Saint George was replaced with the Union of the King's Colours and the EEIC flags reflected this change. In 1801, the cantons where once again changed to reflect the new Union design (Type #1 and #2), with the Union Jack in the ensign's canton updated with the Cross of St Patrick. Other interesting flags reported in limited use in India and China in the 1860s were the two EEIC Jacks (Types #2 and #3) used prior to 1874 by armed EEIC vessels.

Image by Peter Loeser
Cross of Saint Andrew
The Cross of Saint Andrew (Scotland) c800

The flag of Scotland features a white X-shaped cross representing the Cross of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, on a blue field. The flag of Scotland is one of the oldest flags in the world, traditionally dating back to the 9th Century, and is the oldest national flag still in modern use. The Scottish flag sometimes has different shades of blue.

Soldiers of King James VI of Scotland (House of Stuart) used this flag fighting the English soldiers of his cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England (House of Tudor) until her death in 1603. Lacking an heir when she died, ironically the English throne eventually passed to King James VI, who became King James I of England, thus uniting the two countries.

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website
English Naval Ensign

The First Union Jack 1603-1606

James VI, became King of Scots in 1567, then in 1603 inherited the English and Irish thrones as James I of England, which he ruled until his death in 1625. This was an early version of the Union Jack in the years 1603 to 1606 just after James I became King of both England and Scotland. It probably saw little use before being replaced by the new British Union Flag in 1606.

It was the first known English flag to combine the Cross of Saint Andrew of Scotland with the Cross of Saint George of England.

Image by Vincent Morley, Rick Wyatt, and Jonathan Dixon
Royal Standard
1603, 1660, 1702
The Royal Standard of England 1603-1649, 1660-1689, 1702-1707

This version of the Royal Standard is sometimes called The "Union of the Crowns" Royal Standard because it united both the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland under one royal family. James VI, King of Scots, inherited the English and Irish thrones in 1603, and became James I. In honor of this they quartered the Royal Arms of England with those of Scotland on the Royal Coat of Arms, and for the first time, the Royal Coat of Arms of Ireland is added to represent the Kingdom of Ireland.

It was used during three different periods of time as indicated above. Because of the loss of the throne during the Civil Wars this Royal Standard was replaced in 1649, first by the Commonwealth Flag, and then by the Flag of the Protectorate. In 1660, Charles II restored the Royal Standard once he was recognized as the new king. It was changed once again during William and Mary's reign, but restored a third time in 1702.

Help...whose image is this? Please let me know.
Royal Standard 1689

The Royal Standard of England 1689-1701

Between 1689-1702 William III and Mary II added a golden lion rampant on a blue shield to the center of this standard representing the royal house to which William belonged, but in 1702, Queen Anne returned it to the 1603 version. (see above)

Because this version of the Royal Standard was only used during William and Mary's reign, it is sometimes called "William and Mary's Standard."

Image by Phil Nelson
Red Squadron 1620-1707

Image by Phil Nelson
Blue Squadron 1630-1707

Image by Phil Nelson
White Squadron 1630-1702

Royal Navy Red-Blue-White Squadron Ensigns 1620-1707

The Royal Navy was organized into three squadrons, which flew either red, white or blue ensigns with a Saint George's cross canton. The oldest was the Red Ensign that had been a general flag from about 1620, even before the squadron system was introduced in 1630. In 1674, the Red Ensign was also approved as the merchant ensign. In 1701, an overall St George's cross was added to the white ensign to distinguish it from the French flag, which was mainly white. The "1606 Union Flag" replaced the "Saint George's Cross" in the canton in 1707, only to be replaced by the "Union Jack" in 1801. To avoid confusion, Nelson used the White Ensign for both the White and Blue Squadrons at Trafalgar in 1805, and in 1864 an Admiralty Order in Council ordered the Royal Navy to discontinue using the Red and Blue Ensigns completely, and made the White Ensign the only official Royal Navy ensign. ( Click here to see text of the Admiralty Order in Council )

Phases of transition of the Royal Navy Squadron Ensign after 1701

Image by Phil Nelson
Image by Phil Nelson
White Squadron Ensign 1702-1707
White Squadron Ensign 1707-1801

Image by Phil Nelson

White Squadron Ensign 1801-1864
The only Royal Navy Ensign after 1864

Image by Phil Nelson
The new "King’s Colours"
The British Union Flag 1606-1649, 1660-1801

With King James I inheritance of the English throne in 1603, the Cross of Saint George was placed over the Scottish Cross of Saint Andrew to form the British Union Flag. Although the traditional St. George's Cross flag continued as the national flag for some years, all seagoing ships began using the Union flag (better known today as the Union Jack). In 1634, use of the Union Jack was restricted to the King's Ships, ie. the Navy, and its use by merchant ships was forbidden. After 1707, the Union flag also became a British national flag. In 1801, the St. Patrick’s Cross of Ireland was added to the Union Jack.

In British English "King's Colours" are specifically colors presented to a regiment during the reign of a king. They are usually defaced with the regimental badge and the battle honors of the regiment.

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website
First Commonwealth Flag
The Commonwealth Jack and Command Flag 1649-1658

This flag with the harp of Ireland and the red cross of England replaced the British Union Flag during during the Interregnum (1649 to 1660) when the royal coat of arms, along with monarchy, was removed from the English flag. After the English Civil War the Parliament had declared England to be a Commonwealth on May 19, 1649. The Union Jack was abolished in 1649 after the execution of Charles I, but would be revived as a flag solely for the King's ships in 1660 when the monarchy was restored. The Commonwealth of England had a republican government which ruled first England and Wales (1649-1653), then Ireland and Scotland (1653-1659). The government during 1653 to 1659 is properly called "The Protectorate," and was ruled by the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, with dictatorial powers until his death.

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website
Cromwell's Personal Standard

The Flag of the Protectorate 1653-1659

This flag was used by Oliver Cromwell as his personal standard as Lord Protector. The top two quarters had a red cross on white background to represent England and a white saltire on a blue background to represent Scotland. The first quarter of the bottom two quarters was blue with a gold harp with silver strings to represent Ireland and in the final quarter another red cross on a white background representing Wales. A small shield in the middle of these quarters was black with a silver lion on it – the arms of Oliver Cromwell. After Cromwell's death in 1658, it became officially known as the "Standard for the General of His Highnesse fleet." His son Richard became the new Lord Protector, but only ruled about a year until 1659. Richard Cromwell failed to win the support of the New Model Army and was replaced by Parliament.

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website
Second Commonwealth Flag

The Union Flag and Jack 1649-1660

The use of the Union Jack was abolished in 1649 after the execution of Charles I. This flag replaced it until 1660 and acted as the Union flag and Naval Jack. On April 4, 1660, Charles II accepted of the crown of England, the Commonwealth ceased to be, and the traditional "King's Colours" British Union Flag (see above) was once again used by the King's ships.

Image by Peter Loeser

First Regiment of the
Royal Foot Guards of Ireland
(speculative design)

Royal Regiment of the Foot Guards of Ireland 1662

The Royal Regiment of the Foot Guards of Ireland, consisting of twelve companies, was formed in 1662 as one of the regiments of foot guards raised by King Charles II, shortly after the 1660 Restoration. Each company of the Foot Guards regiments had its own colors. When the system of company colors was abolished for the Army as a whole by the Royal Warrant of 1751, the Guards regiments were exempted. Uniquely, the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards also had a Royal Standard: described as crimson, charged with the crowned Royal Cypher, and with crowned royal badges in the corners. How this standard was used or looked is uncertain, but probably it was paraded only in the presence of the sovereign and never taken into battle. Since 1815, Regiments of Foot Guards have been known by such names as Grenadier Guards and Coldstreams.

According to Hayes-McCoy's interpretation the regimental colors of the Foot Guards of Ireland was "the royal colours of England, St George's cross, and the arms of the four kingdoms" as illustrated. It must be pointed out that this Hayes-McCoy's interpretation is rather suspect. All that can be said for sure is that the English Foot Guards all carried regimental colors which were defaced flags of St George. The older style, of Charles II's day, was red with a St. George the length of the hoist and a Royal badge in the fly.

Image by Tom Gregg
White Squadron Ensign
February-May 1702

Royal Navy White Squadron Ensign 1702

This obscure short-lived Naval ensign was the brain-child of the Earl of Pembroke (the Lord High Admiral in 1702) who sent the Navy Board instructions for its use with the fleet then being fitted out at Chatham and Portsmouth to operate against the French. His instructions were that the ships of the Admiral of the White were to wear "Ensignes with the usual Cross in the Canton, with this distinction: that a third part of the said Ensignes for himself and the Flaggs and private Ships of his Squadron are to be White in the middle of the Flye...and this to be in the whole length of the Ensigne."

This unusual ensign only saw brief use between February and May of 1702 before being replaced with the better known White Squadron Ensign 1702-1707.

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website
Royal Standard 1707

The Royal Standard of Great Britain 1707-1714

In 1707 the Acts of Union created the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707-1800). Queen Anne had the Royal Arms of England and Scotland "impaled" together and moved to the first and fourth quarters, France moved to the second quarter and Ireland to the third quarter.

Because this version of the Royal Standard was only used until Queen Anne's death in 1714 it is sometimes called "Queen Anne's Standard."

Image from CRW Flags website
Queen Anne's Flag
The British Red Ensign 1707

The British Red Ensign, also called the "Colonial Red Ensign" and the "Meteor" Flag, was adopted by Queen Anne (1702-1714) as the new flag for England and her colonies in 1707. The term "meteor" seems to imply the color red and originally comes from a poem by the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell ("Ye Mariners of England") where he first mentions the "The meteor flag of England."

This was the best known of the British Maritime flags, or ensigns, which were formed by placing the Union flag in the canton of another flag having either a field of white, blue or red. This red flag was widely used on ships during the Colonial period. This was the first national flag of the English colonies, and Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown under this flag.

It was not intended that the Red Ensign should be used on land, and the extent to which it was used on land is difficult to determine. The Union Jack/Flag was a semi-royal flag that was probably flown only on the very most important military buildings, and it seems that the Red Ensign was used on land overseas by default.

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
British Red Ensign
(romanticized variant)

Trumbull's Bunker Hill Flag 1775

On the nights of June 16-17, 1775, the American rebels fortified Breeds and Bunker Hills which overlooked Boston Harbor. Although they had not officially declared their independence, a fight for control of the hills became necessary. When British Marines advanced up the slope the next day, according to American legend they carried a red ensign into battle. John Trumbull, whose paintings of Revolutionary War scenes were produced during the period, talked to eye-witnesses and his subsequent painting included a variant of the Red Ensign.

In the painting "The Battle of Bunker Hill," Trumbull depicts the British forces attacking the defenders at Bunker Hill as American General Warren lies dying. An unusual British Red Ensign is seen being carried by the attacking British Marines. The ensign features a red Saint George's Cross superimposed over a blue Saint Andrew's Cross on the plain white field in the canton. Speculation has suggested that this was a regimental flag, but no such British colors were known to be carried at the battle, and the Trumbull painting must be viewed as a romanticized view of the battle and a good example of artistic license.

Image from "Archive of the Colors" website
Royal Standard 1714

The Royal Standard of Great Britain 1714-1801

George, the Elector of Hanover, inherited the throne following the death of Queen Anne under the provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701, becoming King George I. The fourth quarter of the arms was changed to reflect the new King's domains in Hanover (Brunswick-Lüneburg-Westphalia, surmounted by Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire for the Holy Roman office of Archbannerbearer/Archtreasurer).

Image by Pete Loeser
Irish Red Saltire flag

The Cross of Saint Patrick (Ireland) 1601

The earliest known use of the "Red Saltire" flag was at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, fought against the English who carried the Cross of Saint George. It is interesting to note that the two "warring crosses" were destined to be united on the Union Jack 200 years later in 1801.

Image by Clay Moss
Union Jack 1801
The British Union Flag (Union Jack) since 1801

In 1801, the Cross of St. Patrick was added to the flag when Ireland joined the Union. This cross was placed with the Cross of St. Andrew. While Ireland's south broke away from the Union in 1921, the flag remains the same. The 1801 Union Flag, popularly known as the Union Jack, was introduced by Royal Proclamation, as a royal banner to be "displayed on all His Majesty's Forts and Castles, and also on board all His Majesty's Ships of War."

No law has ever been passed making the Union Flag the national flag of the United Kingdom: it has become one through usage. The Union Jack may have began as a royal standard, but is today recognized as the "de facto" national flag of the United Kingdom by all its citizens.   (Get More Information - Click Here)

Cross of Saint George
Cross of Saint Andrew
Cross of Saint Patrick

When Ireland was added notice how the white cross of Saint Andrew and red cross of Saint Patrick were combined. Saint Andrew's Cross is the one on top on the left side because he was the "senior" saint.

When two crosses are joined like this, they have been "counterchanged."
The Making of the Union Jack

Want More Details about the Union Jack/Flag?
Go to" A Timeline for the Union Flag/Jack."

Image by Theo van der Zalm and Santiago Dotor
UK Royal Standard 1801

Image by Theo van der Zalm modified by Santiago Dotor
UK Royal Standard 1815

The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom 1801-1837

In 1801, the Act of Union united the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland and King George III dropped the ancient claim to the French throne. The new royal standard was quartered with the English Royal Crest (crowned Lion Passant Guardant on a Royal Crown) in the 1st and 4th quarter, the Royal Standard of Scotland in the 2nd quarter and the Irish harp in the 3rd quarter. For the Electorate of Hanover, there was an shield with a Elector's hat above it added in the center.

A small change was made to the royal arms in 1815 when the Elector's cap above the shield of Hanover was replaced by a King's crown (as shown).

The final Hanoverian standard of 1815-1837 went out of use, as stated, because the Salic Law in Hanover prevented a woman from acceding to the throne. Thus, when Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837, she was not Queen of Hanover, but an uncle of hers took the title. The last public showing of this standard was at the funeral of William IV in 1837. That standard is preserved in the museum in Shrewsbury, because it was carried in the funeral procession by the then Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire (of which Shrewsbury is the county town).

( Click Here ) for a detailed look at the more than 40 British Royal Family Standards since 1801

Image by by Martin Grieve
UK "Civil" Jack

United Kingdom "Civil Jack" 1823

The so-called "Pilot Jack," sometimes called the United Kingdom's Civil Jack, was originally formally established in 1823 as a signal flag to indicate a pilot was on-board a ship in harbor. Pilots are often required in restricted waterways where there are congested waters or navigational hazards such as harbors or river mouths. Since the law establishing it did not stipulate that it could not be also flown at sea, the convention started for merchant ships to use the jack at sea when under way as a sort of unofficial national flag.

The Admiralty and Board of Trade did not interfere with this illegal practice by merchant ships because they favored its use over that of the Union Jack by non-military ships. In 1970, the white-bordered Union Jack ceased to be the signal for a pilot, but references to it as national colours have not been removed from the current Merchant Shipping Act. It thus became a flag that could legally be flown on a civil ship, as a jack, if desired.

Image from World Flag Database
UK Royal Standard 1837
(England, Wales, and Northern Ireland)

Image from World Flag Database
UK Royal Standard 1837
(used only in Scotland by tradition)

The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom since 1837

The accession of Queen Victoria ended the personal union between the United Kingdom and Hanover and the center shield and crown were removed. The flag was quartered with the English Royal Crest (crowned Lion Passant Guardant on a Royal Crown) in the 1st and 4th quarter, the Royal Standard of Scotland in the 2nd quarter and the Irish harp in the 3rd quarter. The Harp of the Kingdom of Ireland remained the same despite Ireland splitting into the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in 1921. Wales doesn't get the 4th quarter because Wales is considered a principality, not a kingdom (much to the frustration of some Welsh patriots). This coat-of-arms has remained unchanged since 1837.

This is the flag flown by Queen Elizabeth in the United Kingdom today, and in foreign countries which are not members of the Commonwealth.

The Scottish version of the Royal Standard - since 1837

This is the Royal Standard of Scotland, which is part of the United Kingdom, but uses a slightly different royal standard. It is almost identical to the United Kingdom Royal Standard, except the Scottish Royal Arms takes place of honor in the first and fourth quarters. Since the time that James VI of Scotland united England and Scotland as James I, the royal families have kept two different versions of the royal standard, one giving Scotland the place of honor and one giving England the place of honor.

( Click Here ) for a detailed look at the more than 40 British Royal Family Standards since 1801

Ambassador's Flag
(or other Diplomatic Officer)

Image by Martin Grieve
Consular Officer Afloat

Image by Clay Moss
Tudor Crown version

United Kingdom Diplomatic and Consular Flags 1869

In 1869, governors of colonies, military authorities, diplomatic officers and consular agents were first assigned a defaced Union Jack for their use when they sailed on a sea going vessel, but on land it remained a plain Union Jack. In 1940, this was changed, so that the defaced ensigns were approved for use at Government Houses from sunrise to sunset. The flags were official describe as an "Union Flag with approved arms or badge of the colony, emblazoned in the centre thereof on a white ground surrounded by a green garland."

Image by Clay Moss
Image by Clay Moss
St. Edwards Crown version (1953-1999)
St. Edwards Crown version (after 1999)

The crown used at the center of the Consular Officer flag has been changed twice from the original Tudor Crown. First, in 1953 it was changed to a St. Edwards Crown, then in 1999, the St. Edwards Crown was re-drawn with the white circle being outlined in black. Since 1869, the British Consular Flag Afloat has been the royal arms applied directly (no white disc as used for diplomatic officers on the Union Flag) to the field of a Blue Ensign and remains unchanged.

MDHB Red Ensign c1880-1912

MDHB Blue Ensign 1912-present

Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (MDHB) Ensigns since c1880

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC), formerly the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (MDHB), now owns and administers the dock facilities of the Port of Liverpool, on the River Mersey, England. The Liverpool Town Council was the original port authority. As the port expanded and its management became more complex its affairs were delegated to a harbor board whose chairperson was usually a Royal Navy Officer.

The Mersey Docks & Harbour Board ensign was changed from Red to Blue in 1912. It has been suggested that the change had something to do with the appointment of Vice-Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, to the position of Second Sea Lord in 1911. The new Blue Ensign was first hoisted on a ship named Prince Louis of Battenberg.

In 1972, the need for a new public body to run the harbor was a result of pressure from Parliament, dock merchants and some rival port operators. The Board was reconstituted as a company to allow it to raise money for new building initiatives and projects. The Blue Ensign is current. The badge has not been changed and is still MDHB.

Image by Miles Li
Royal Mail Service
Image by Miles Li
Royal Air Mail Service

Royal Mail Service

The Royal Mail is the national postal service of the United Kingdom. Historically, the General Post Office was a government department which included the Royal Mail delivery business, represented in government by the Postmaster General, a Cabinet-level post. It became a limited corporation in 1969, eventually under the name of Consignia Plc, Consignia Holdings Plc, and finally Royal Mail Holdings Plc, which it is called today.

Royal Mail Holdings Plc, owns Royal Mail Group Limited, which in turn operates the brands Royal Mail (UK letters), Parcelforce Worldwide (UK parcels) and General Logistics Systems. Post Office Ltd, which provides counter services, is a wholly owned subsidiary.

During the 1930s the Royal Air Mail pennant was flown on land by mail-carrying aircraft and Air Mail facilities, alongside the Civil Air Ensign. Today, it is used as a painted logo on the fuselages of Royal Mail carrier planes.

Image by Martin Grieve
PLA Blue Ensign 1999

PLA House Flag

Port of London Authority Ensign/Flag 1908

The Port of London Authority (PLA) is a self-funding public trust established in 1908 by the Port of London Act. It is responsible for governing the Port of London, protecting the public right of navigation, and for conservancy of the Thames River and all its public docks between London and the sea.

Since 1911, the Port Authority Blue Ensign, with its "gold sea-lion grasping a trident" on the fly, has been used on all Port Authority patrol boats and ships. The version shown on the left came into use in 1999, replacing an earlier version (not shown) used between 1911-1999. The main difference between the versions was the size of the sea-lion emblem, which was considerably smaller on the older version.

The Port Authority House flag has the red Cross of St. George on a white field covered by the PLA arms within a yellow-edged red annulet inscribed with the words "Port of London Authority" in yellow lettering. The arms consist of a representation of St Paul, the patron saint of London, encamped up to his waist in the Tower of London, holding in his right hand a drawn sword and in his left hand a yellow scroll, all on a light blue background.

Image by André Coutanche
Trinty House Ensign

Trinty House Jack

Trinty House 1514

Trinity House is the general lighthouse authority for England, Wales, Channel Islands and Gibraltar, and responsible for pilotage throughout the United Kingdom. Until 1864 vessels in the service of certain United Kingdom public offices used defaced the red ensign with the badge of their office. In that year they were directed to transfer the badge to a blue ensign. For some reason Trinity House didn't do it and still have their badge of four Elizabethan ships quartered on a rectangular panel on a red ensign.

Image by Miles Li
Image by Miles Li
Master of Trinity House
Deputy-Master of Trinity House

Both the master and deputy-master of Trinity House have their own flags separate from the jack. The master's flag consists of a Cross of Saint George on a white field with an antique ship in each canton and a coat-of-arms in the center. The Deputy Master's flag replaces the coat-of-arms with a lion in a roundel. His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh holds the honorary rank of Commander. The actual Chief Executive Officer of Trinity House is the Deputy-Master.

NLH Ensign 1855

Iimage by Martin Grieve
NLH Commissioner's Flag 1855

NLH Jack 1855

Northern Lighthouse Board (Northern Lights) 1786

The Northern Lights is the general lighthouse authority in Scotland and the Isle of Man. The NLH ensign is a normal blue ensign with a white stylized lighthouse on the fly.

NLH Ensign 1786
NLH Commissioner's Flag 1786

The more slender lighthouse on the older versions of the NLH flag are of the lighthouse on Bell Rock in Scotland.

NLH Pennant 1786
NLH Pennant 1855

A square version of their blue ensign (both 1786 and 1855 styles) was authorized for use by Northern Lighthouse vessels as a jack.

image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg
Dare we say, "Long may it wave?"

A whole series of variant lighthouse drawings on NLH ensigns have been reported at various times as demonstrated on this whimsical elongated illustration by vexillologist Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg.

Image by Graham Bartram
Falkland Islands Ensign
An example of an ensign with a shield added to the fly

Image by Martin Grieve
UK Royal Navy Ensign

Image by Martin Grieve
UK Merchant Ensign

Image by Clay Moss
UK Naval Reserve Ensign
United Kingdom Naval Ensigns - since 1864

The Royal Navy had, since the late 1620s/early 1630s, been organized into three squadrons, which flew either red, white or blue ensigns with a Saint George's cross canton. In 1707, a Union canton replaced the Saint George's canton on the ensigns, and the Red Ensign remained not only the ensign of the senior and most numerous squadron in the Royal Navy, but also the ensign which all merchant ships were ordered to fly. The British still use three basic maritime ensigns today. However, the practice of adding shields to the flies for overseas territories and Commonwealth member nations to the red or blue versions increases the possible versions to over a hundred.

The Royal Naval Ensign 1864

The White Ensign became the sole ensign of the Royal Navy in 1864. In 1702 an overall St George's cross was added to the white ensign to distinguish it from the French flag, which was mainly white. Nelson used the White Ensign at Trafalgar; it replaced the traditional Red Ensign which became the merchant ensign. Nelson's decision that all the squadrons at Trafalgar should use the White Ensign was probably a factor in its selection as the sole ensign of the Royal Navy, but more importantly, the Red Ensign had been the ensign of merchant ships for over one hundred and fifty years, and the White Ensign was senior to the Blue Ensign.

The British Merchant Navy Ensign 1864

The Red Ensign is now solely the ensign of ships of the British Merchant Navy and of all civilian vessels that have not been granted a special ensign. The British Merchant Navy connotes British merchant ships and their crews, transporting cargo and people during time of peace and war. Interestingly, the Red Ensign was the first flag to be recognized officially as the national flag of England. It was referred to as "a national flag" in an Act of Parliament in 1854. The Red Ensign is now officially the national flag of the UK when afloat.

The Royal Naval Reserve Ensign 1864

The Blue Ensign became the Royal Naval Reserve Ensign. The Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) is the volunteer reserve force of the Royal Navy (RN) in the United Kingdom. The Blue Ensign is also flown by merchant vessels commanded by officers in the RNR. For this reason, the Titanic wore the Blue Ensign, rather than the Red on her fateful voyage.

This is a widely misunderstood ensign. It is not some form of military ensign as its name suggests, but an ensign granted to merchant ships and yachts by special warrant. The members of some yacht clubs had been granted the right to fly a Blue Ensign instead of a Red Ensign even before 1864. After 1864 the right to fly a Blue Ensign was extended to merchant ships that were commanded by an RNR officer and had a specified number of RNR personnel in the crew. The number of merchant ships that qualified has declined considerably, and it is probable that there are now no merchant ships flying a Blue Ensign. However there are thirty yacht clubs, Australian as well as British, that have the right to apply for a Blue Ensign warrant. (An example has been included directly below as the Army Sailing Association Blue Ensign.)

Image by Clay Moss
ASA Blue Ensign

Image by Clay Moss
ASA Pennant

Army Sailing Association 1947

The Army Sailing Association (ASA) was formed in 1947 to manage sailing as a sport within the Army and to represent its interests at Service and national level. It caters to all sailing disciplines, including offshore and inshore yacht racing, dinghy and keel-boat racing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

The ASA is managed by the Admiral and Flag Officers. All decisions must be approved by the ASA Council. The ASA board is appointed by the Army Board (through the Army Sport Control Board) as the authority, advisor and co-ordinator for the MoD (Army) of all sailing matters. With Club membership of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), the ASA is a Recognised Training Centre and entitled to run RYA sail training and power-boating courses.

The ASA is also custodian of the ASA Blue Ensigns, burgees and racing flags. All full members who own yachts, of the appropriate size, are entitled to apply for the Blue Ensign and burgee.

Image from World Flag Database
SBS Ensign

Special Boat Service Ensign

The Special Boat Service (SBS) is the special forces unit of the British Royal Navy, similar to the U.S. Navy Seals. The SBS is not an independent unit, but part of the Royal Marines. In the past to be eligible for SBS selection, a candidate usually would have served for at least two years in the Royal Marines or the Royal Navy, and then passed a rigorous selection course. However, today the SBS is open to non-marine members of other regiments and services from throughout the UK military. Together with the Special Air Service, Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group, they form the United Kingdom Special Forces and come under joint control of the Director of Special Forces. The SBS can trace their origins to the Second World War when they were formed as the Special Boat Section in 1940.

Image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg
RFC Ensign

Royal Flying Corps 1912-1918

The Royal Flying Corps, composed of a Naval Wing and a Military Wing, was constituted by Royal Warrant in 1912. However the Admiralty ignored this arrangement, and organised its own air service. The Naval Wing officially became the Royal Naval Air Service in 1914, which left the Military Wing to take the name Royal Flying Corps. In 1917 it was recommended that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service should combine to form a new air service, independent of either the Army or the Navy. This was effected on 1 April 1918 when the Royal Air Force was established. In 1937, the Fleet Air Arm was removed from the Royal Air Force and placed once again under the control of the Admiralty. The Fleet Air Arm being part of the Royal Navy used the traditional naval White Ensign.

The colours of the Royal Flying Corps ensign refer to the origins of the Service, dark blue from the Royal Navy, dark red from the Army, while light blue represents the Royal Air Force in the air.

Image by Martin Grieve
Royal Air Force Ensign

Royal Air Force Ensign since 1921

The Royal Air Force Ensign is the official flag of the Royal Air Force. The Ensign has a field of air force blue with the Union Flag in the canton and the Royal Air Force roundel in the middle of the fly.

The RAF Ensign was introduced in 1921, after some opposition from the Royal Navy. Currently it is flown from the flagstaff of every Royal Air Force station during daylight hours and permanently displayed as one of the flags flown on the famous Cenotaph that stands in Whitehall, London. The Cenotaph is a monument erected in honor of persons or groups whose remains are buried in foriegn lands. Uniformed service personnel always salute the Cenotaph as they pass it.

Image by Martin Grieve
Civil Air Ensign

Civil Air Ensign since 1931

This little known member of the family of British-style ensigns was adopted in 1931 for use at United Kingdom airports and by aircraft registered in the United Kingdom.

The flag was originally adopted at the request of Imperial Airways, who felt that the Red Ensign flown by their flying-boats at airports in the Mediterranean was unsuitable. This ensign was flown from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's plane while landed in Germany on his infamous visit to Munich and Hitler in 1938.

Image by Graham Bartram
British Army Flag 1938

Image by Graham Bartram
British Army Flag 1999

British Army Non-Ceremonial Flag

The British Army is the land armed forces branch of the British Armed Forces. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. In contrast to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, the British Army does not include Royal in its title. The British Army flag is mainly used in recruiting and military events and exhibitions.

The newest 1999 version of the Red British Army flag is controversial, and doesn't seem to be in much official use. The problem seems to be that it used the Army's logo version of the Royal Crest, complete with several heraldic mistakes (gold pearls on the crown, gold blades on the swords, the area under the arches filled in white rather than being transparent), and a really cuddly lion.

Actually, a new design for the Army Flag has been suggested to replace the Non-Ceremonial flag, hopefully to place them on equal footings with the other two Royal services. The flag would be have a royal crimson field with the Union flag in the canton and the Army badge of the Royal Crest on Crossed Swords filling the fly. Follow the link below to see a picture of it.

( Click here to find out why the British Army doesn't have "Royal" in it's title )

Image from World Flag Database
UK Army Board Flag

United Kingdom Army Board Flag since 1865

The Army Board consists of high ranking officers and civilian advisers headed by the Chief of the General Staff and the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee of the Army Board's mission is to assist the Chief of the General Staff in discharging his executive responsibilities for the delivery of coherent military capability, the current and future fighting effectiveness and efficiency of the Army, and the morale of the Service. It also helps oversee performance management, risk, budgetary, resource and financial assurance issues. The Army Board replaced the old Army Council in 1865.

The members of the Army Board use this red over blue flag with the Royal Crest in the center when they meet and at their headquarters.

Image by Martin Grieve
Ordnance Ensign

Board of Ordnance Ensign 1801-1855

The Board of Ordnance was originally created by Henry VIII in 1544 to supply guns, ammunition, stores and equipment to the King's Navy. The Great Master of Ordnance ranked immediately below the Lord High Admiral. By 1683, the Board had became a Civil Department of State, under a Master General, whose duties included supplying ordnance to the Army. It had a badge bearing three field guns in pale, and three cannon balls in chief was adopted as the Seal of the Board. This seal was used as the badge on the Red Jack of all Ordnance Board vessels.

Image by Martin Grieve
War Department Ensign

War Department Ensign 1864-1890

The War Department was the United Kingdom government department responsible for the supply of equipment to the armed forces of the United Kingdom and the pursuance of military activity. In 1857, it became the War Office. Within the War Office the name "War Department" remained in use to describe the military transport services of the War Department Fleet and the War Department Railways.

In 1794, the position of Secretary of State for War was created. The Secretary's department was at first only unofficially called the War Department. In 1855, the offices of the Secretary of State for War, and Secretary at War were merged and the new department became the War Department and as mentioned above, in 1857 became the War Office. In 1964, the department became the Ministry of Defence.

Image by Martin Grieve
Army Council Ensign 1905-1945

Image by Martin Grieve
Army Council Ensign 1945-1964

Army Council Ensigns 1905-1964

The Army Council was committee of high ranking officers and civilian organizers headed by a Cabinet Minister who controled the army, and had its own flag which was authorized in 1905. It was a Union Jack with a shield bearing the arms of the old Board of Ordnance: three old-fashioned cannon arranged one above the other, gold on a blue field; above them are three old-fashioned cannon balls, side by side, white, but shaded so as to appear round, on a white field. The Army Council was replaced by the Army Board, which uses a red over blue flag with the Royal Crest in the center.

Even though the Board of Ordnance shield (without the red border) was used in the center of a Union Jack as the flag of the Army Council and used at sea, it was not at first included in the Admiralty Flag Book. In 1919, however, the War Office asked that it be included in the next Flag Book and the Admiralty agreed to the request and it was added to the 1916 edition in 1920.

Image by Martin Grieve
HMC Blue Ensign

Her Majesty's Coastguard since 1999

Her Majesty's Coastguard (HMC) is the government service concerned with coordinating all civilian maritime Search and Rescue, including the mobilization and organization of adequate resources to respond to persons either in distress at sea, or on the shoreline of the United Kingdom. It is part of a larger Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It was first formed in 1829, but the ensign illustrated dates from 1999.

The Flag of Her Majesty's Coastguard ensign is the standard blue ensign defaced with the HMC badge on the fly. This ensign design was introduced in 1974, but in the then standard size 4/9th of hoist badge.

Image from World Flag Database
Chief of the Defense Staff

Image from World Flag Database
Joint Services Flag

Joint Services Flags since 1956

The Joint Services is basically a special command organization under the Minster of Defence representing all three United Kingdom Armed Services, including the Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force. In 1956, a special flag for the Chiefs of Staff Committee was approved. Admiral of the Fleet, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, became the first Chairman. Three years later his title, and that of the flag was changed to the Chief of the Defence Staff. A horizontal tricolor of dark blue, for the Royal Navy, over red for the Army, over light blue for the Royal Air Force, with the Joint Services badge centered, was chosen for the staff flag. The order of the stripes represented the seniority of the individual services. The white circular background of the badge was encircled by laurel leaves in gold.

In 1964, when the unified Ministry of Defence was formed, the shield from the 1956 Chief of the Defence Staff flag was adopted and placed on a vertical tricolor for the new Ministry flag (see below) and a similar new design introduced for the Joint Forces. The current Joint Services tricolored flag has a vertical "Navy" blue, "Army" red, and "Air Force" light blue striped design and sports a new more stylized badge.

Learn more about Joint Services Flags and Ministry of Defence Flags.

Image by Graham Bartram
MOD Flag

Ministry of Defence Flag since 1964

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is the United Kingdom's government department responsible for implementation of government defense policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defence principal objectives are to defend the United Kingdom and its interests. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the MOD has turned its attention to identifying weapons of mass destruction, stopping international terrorism and other threats to the UK's interests. The Ministry of Defence also manages the armed forces, does contingency planning and defense procurement.

The flag of Ministry of Defence, since 1964, when the Ministry of Defence was created by amalgamating the Board of Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry, uses a badge based on the old 17th century Navy Board anchor symbol, which is still similar to that used by both the Navy Board and the Admiralty Board.

Learn more about Joint Services Flags and Ministry of Defence Flags.

Image by Martin Grieve
MDP Blue Ensign

Ministry of Defence Police 2004

The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is part of the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. It is part of the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency which was formed by merging the MDP and Ministry of Defence Guard Service (MGS) in 2004. The MDP is primarily responsible for providing police, investigative and guarding services to government property throughout the United Kingdom including high security sites, both military and civilian. The MDP has approximately 3,500 police officers based at 110 police units at 86 locations across the United Kingdom.

The flag of Ministry of Defence Police is the standard blue ensign defaced with the MDP shield on the fly. The ensign was granted in 1971, originally with the smaller size badge.

Image by Martin Grieve
NFS "'Fire-boat" Ensign

Image by Martin Grieve
NFS "Land" Ensign

National Fire Service Ensign 1942-1948

The National Fire Service (NFS) was the single fire service created in Great Britain in 1941 during World War II in order to deal more effectively with the fires started by air raids. At peak strength the NFS had 370,000 personnel, including 80,000 women who were mostly employed on administrative duties. The NFS was divided into about forty Fire Forces. These were subdivided into Divisions. Each Division had two Columns and each Column had five Companies. It existed until 1948, when the fire services reverted back to local authority control.

The Red Ensign was approved in 1942 for land based units. A Blue Ensign with the NFS badge in the fly was approved by King George VI in 1943 for fire-boat stations and fire-boats. It is interesting to note that the NFS flag did not meet with everyone's approval. The Fire Brigades Union protested that the flag was a waste of time and material, and that the formal hoisting of the flag before morning roll-call was an unwanted charade that the firefighters didn't appreciate. Most of the protest seemed to exist because of the rather formal military-like ceremonies expected relating to raising the flags in the mornings and taking them down at night.

Image by Graham Bartram
HMRC Ensign

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs 1999-2008

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was formed in 2005, following the merger of Inland Revenue and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. After 2008, it was then merged with the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA). The vessels which used to fly the HMRC ensign now fly the UKBA ensign (shown below). If this ensign is used at all now, it used only on land.

The last version of the Customs flag had a large badge (shown here), and the modern St. Edward's crown. Before 1999, the badge was smaller, and before 1952, the flag was charged with the imperial crown.

Image by Clay Moss
TS Foudroyant 1950

Image by Clay Moss
HMS Trincomalee 2005

The Blue Ensigns of HMS Trincomalee (TS Foudroyant)

HMS Trincomalee was built in Bombay as a 38 gun frigate in 1817, and is now the oldest ship afloat in the United Kingdom, probably the second oldest in the world. (The USS Constitution is the oldest.) The Trincomalee was to have been scraped in 1897, but was bought to replace the training ship Foudroyant, which had just been wrecked. After conversion she was re-named the Foudroyant in 1902 and served as a training ship until 1986. The hulls of obsolete wooden warships at permanent moorings in harbors and rivers around Britain were used as training ships. Between 1950 and 1986 she flew the Blue Ensign of TS Foudroyant. Restoration to her present condition was carried out by the Foudroyant Trust, which became the HMS Trincomalee Trust in 1992.

Once again named HMS Trincomalee, she is now preserved in Hartlepool (north-east England) as the central attraction in the maritime heritage area. She was granted her second special Blue Ensign in 2005. The badge, designed by Royal Navy Commander Bruce Nicolls, is based on the seal of the HMS Trincomalee Trust. It is not reversed on the other side of the ensign, and the ship "sails" towards the fly on the obverse side, and towards the hoist on the reverse side.

Image by Graham Bartram
Registered Vessel Ensign

Image by Graham Bartram
Fleet Vessels Ensign

National Historic Ships Red Ensigns 2006

The Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships was established in 2006 as a part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to advise the Secretary of State and other public bodies on ship preservation and funding priorities. They are charged with helping funding bodies who are attempting the preservation of historic ships, maintaining a watch list of vessels with potential historic significance, and providing direct assistance to vessel owners find funding grants, and keeping a directory of those with skills and services necessary to help in the preservation of historic vessels.

The National Register of Historic Vessels contains details of over 1,000 vessels. Within this group, there is a sub-group of vessels called the National Historic Fleet, these being the vessels entitled to fly the ensign with the coronet. These are distinguished, according to the National Historic Ships Registry, by meriting a higher priority for their historic value and needing long term preservation. The National Historic Ships badge used on the fly represents the bow of a ship cutting through the waves.

Image by Bernard de Neumann
UKBA Ensign

United Kingdom Border Agency 2008

The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) was formed in 2008. The agency protects the United Kingdom's borders, and is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the UK. They number about 25,000, including more than 9,000 warranted Customs and Immigration Officers, who are stationed at all borders and across 135 countries worldwide. Customs officers have wide-ranging powers of entry, search and detention. Immigration officers have the power of arrest and detention conferred on them by the Immigration Act 1971, both at ports and inland.

The UKBA Ensign as flown from all their vessels, including all Customs Cutters, which serve a similar duty to those of United States Coast Guard Cutters. Their ensign is the standard blue ensign defaced with the UKBA shield on the fly.

Image by Graham Bartram
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ensign

Image by Graham Bartram
Government Service Ensign

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ensign

The Blue ensign of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary features an upright anchor. Since the Royal Navy's logistical support is provided, not by commissioned naval vessels, but by the civilian-manned ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service (tankers, underway replenishment ships, and the like), they can not fly the White Ensign of the Royal Navy. For this reason they have been provided a special Blue Ensign with a gold anchor on the fly. The names of these ships are preceded by "RFA" instead of "HMS."

Government Service Ensign

The Government Service Ensign has an anchor on the fly facing away from the hoist. It is commonly flown by vessels owned by the British Ministry of Defence, and is most commonly seen flown by warships undergoing trials before being commissioned into the Royal Navy, and former Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service vessels still not officially decommissioned.

Recently reports of Blue Ensigns with the anchor badge completely up-side-down have surfaced, but as yet been un-identified. If this keeps up we might end up with a complete set of rotating anchor ensigns.

Image by Graham Bartram
MVS Ensign

Maritime Volunteer Service Ensign

The Maritime Volunteer Service is a nationwide uniformed civilian service based at around 35 locations on Britain´s coast. The service exists to keep alive British Maritime skills and train others in seamanship, navigation, marine engineering, radio operation and operational support. Their goal is " maintain a corps of trained volunteers capable of supporting maritime authorities ashore and afloat at maritime events or emergencies."

The Maritime Volunteer Service Ensign is a Red Ensign with the Volunteer Service badge placed on the fly.

Image from World Flag Database
Admiralty Board Flag

Image from World Flag Database
Naval Board Flag

United Kingdom Admiralty and Naval Board Flags

The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the United Kingdom responsible for the command of the Royal Navy. Originally it's leadership was the Lord High Admiral and his Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who sat on the Board of Admiralty. In 1964, the functions of the Admiralty were transferred to a committee of the tri-service Defense Council of the United Kingdom and became part of the Ministry of Defence.

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Lord High Admiral

The Navy Board is today the body responsible for the day-to-day running of the British Royal Navy. Its composition is identical to that of the Admiralty Board of the Defence Council of the United Kingdom, except that it does not include any of Her Majesty's Ministers.

Image by Graham Bartram

United Kingdom Supreme Court Flag 2009

The United Kingdom Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for all United Kingdom civil cases, and criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is the final court of appeal, and plays an important role in the development of United Kingdom law. As an appeal court, the UK Supreme Court cannot consider a case unless it has been first tried in a lower court.

The flag incorporates the elements of the Supreme Court's emblem: floral designs of the four constituent parts of the UK, and an omega symbol implying finality, with the crown of the Sovereign - the font of justice in Britain - offset in the corner. An unusual practice surrounding the new flag is that it is to fly on a single pole, below the Union Jack, which is is very rarely seen in formal British practice.

Image by Graham Bartram
Forestry Commission

Forestry Commission

The Forestry Commission of Great Britian origins are in the First World War, and the difficulties Britain had meeting wartime demands on timber. Woodland resources had been declining since the middle ages, but reached an all time low in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. With the outbreak of war the country was no longer able to rely on timber imports, and in 1916 the Acland Committee was organized to look at the best ways of developing woodland resources. The committee recommended a state organization be formed to coordinate government and private forestry efforts.

In 1919 the Forestry Act set up the Forestry Commission and gave it responsibility for woods in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Today, the Forestry Commission still oversees the efforts and works closely with conservation and environmental groups.

Image by Graham Bartram
Environment Agency

Image by Klaus-Michael Schneider
Environment Agency (variant)

Environment Agency 1996

The Environmental Agency is an executive non-departmental public body responsible to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an Assembly Sponsored Public Body responsible to the National Assembly for Wales.

The Environment Agency was created by the Environment Act of 1995. It took over the roles and responsibilities of the National Rivers Authority (NRA), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) and the waste regulation authorities in England and Wales, including the London Waste Regulation Authority (LWRA). At the same time, the Agency took responsibility for issuing flood warnings to the public, a role previously held by the police.

Until the formation of the Environment Agency, the Government took specialist advice on the management of the environment from civil servants employed in appropriate ministries. This led to considerable duplication of effort and frequent disagreements between Government and the regulatory agencies. The Environment Agency now advises Government directly about those issues within its purview.

The Agency logo was designed by Coley Porter Bell in 2004. It uses an androgynous figure in an environment as an attempt to have a simple representation of people in the environment as opposed to the environment being thought of as uninhabited land. The color scheme was a combination of green and blue, which has been carried over into the flag designs.

Image by Graham Bartram

Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the United Kingdom department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the United Kingdom. Although DEFRA only works directly in England, they also work closely with similar administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and they generally lead on environmental negotiations in the EU and internationally.

The flag is a blue ensign, with a badge consisting of a fish and crown in a yellow circle.

Image by Martin Grieve
DfT Flag

Department for Transport Flag

Originally known as the Ministry of Transport (MoT) the Department for Transport (DfT) is the government department responsible for the English transport network and a limited number of transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The department is run by the Secretary of State for Transport.

The flag is a blue ensign with a red wheel and white anchor badge. This flag was also used at Coast Guard Stations on land prior to the 1974 when the Coast Guard received its own flag.

Image by Graham Bartram
DTI (BIS) Flag

Department of Trade and Industry Flag

The Department of Trade and Industry, formally the Board of Trade, was a United Kingdom government department with a wide range of responsibilities, including: Company Law, Trade, Business Growth, Innovation, Employment Law, Regional Economic Development, Energy, Science, and Consumer Law. In 2005, the DTI was split into three parts: the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). There is, however, still a Board of Trade, although now just a part of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

The flag was a Blue Ensign with the badge of the Board of Trade on its fly. The badge was original introduced in about 1850 on a Red Ensign, for the Board of Trade. It displayed a sailing ship flying an ensign.

Image by Graham Bartram
Scottish Fisheries Board Flag

Scottish Executive Department for Rural Affairs Flag

The Scottish Executive of Rural Affairs Department is now responsible for most of the issues concerning the health, education, justice, rural affairs, and transport of the Scottish people. The Scottish Government was known as the "Scottish Executive" when it was established in 1999 following the first elections of the Scottish Parliament.

The modern ensign features a Scottish crown and the initials for the old Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Scotland (DAFS). The new name is Department for Rural Affairs. The ensign is now used by two agencies of the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department, the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency and the Fisheries Research Service.

Image by Graham Bartram
Lord Lieutenant Ensign

County Lord Lieutenant Ensign

The title Lord-Lieutenant is given to the British monarch's personal representatives around the United Kingdom. Usually some retired local notable, a senior army officer, peer or business person is given this honorary post.

The title Lord-Lieutenant is basically given to individuals whose job is to act as the monarch's representatives and to "promote a spirit of co-operation and good atmosphere by the time they give to voluntary and benevolent organisations and by the interest they take in the business and social life of their counties."

In short, Lord-Lieutenants act as county public relation officers for the crown.

Image by Graham Bartram
High Sheriff

High Sheriffs Pennant for England and Wales

The Office of High Sheriff is an independent non-political Royal appointment for a single year. The origins of the Office date back to Saxon times, when the "Shire Reeve" was responsible for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown. Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales each year.

The High Sheriffs actively lend support and encouragement to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and to the voluntary sector. In recent years High Sheriffs in many parts of England and Wales have been particularly active in encouraging crime reduction initiatives, especially amongst young people. High Sheriffs also assist Community Foundations and local charities. The High Sheriff Association adopted DebtCred and Crimebeat in recent years in response to specific areas of need.

Queen Elizabeth's Flag

Queen Elizabeth's Personal Flag

Queen Elizabeth's Personal Flag which she flies when visiting Commonwealth countries of which she is not Head of State.

For example, notice how the "E" motif is incorporated into the Arms of Australia and Canada to produce the respective Royal Banners (see below).

Image from World Flag Database
Australian Royal Standard

Canadian Royal Standard

Commonwealth Royal Standards
British Commonwealth of Nations Flag

Two examples of Royal Standards of current British Commonwealth nations are shown to the left. These flags are flown for Queen Elizabeth when she visits these British Commonwealth nations, of which she is still considered the Head of State.

The Commonwealth of Nations is actually a voluntary association of 53 independent sovereign states, most of which are former British colonies. Although no single government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the others, some still consider the British King or Queen of England their traditional Head of State.

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Image by Rob Raeside
Commonwealth of Nations Flag 1976
Commonwealth of Nations Flag 2013

In 2013, the Commonwealth of Nations flag was simplified and modernized at the request of the Commonwealth Secretariat. The number of "spearheads" was reduced from 64 to 34, the globe was slightly altered to make it standout better, the blue field color was lightened a bit, and the emblem was slightly tilted towards the hoist. According to the Secretariat "The radiating spears do not represent the number of countries in the Commonwealth, but symbolizes the many facets of Commonwealth cooperation around the world."

Image by Juan Manuel Villascan
The Red Dragon Flag 1950

Image by Mark Sensen
Red Dragon without Tudor colors
(obscure variant)

Image by Roy Stilling
Saint David's Cross

State Flag of Wales since 1950

The dragon symbol itself dates back to Roman times when it was the standard of the Roman cohort stationed in Wales (Part of the Tenth Legion). It was a prominent symbol across England and Wales in the years after the departure of the Romans, and during the era of the invasions of the Angles and Saxons.

The United Kingdom is Great Britain (England, Wales, Scotland) and Northern Ireland. Yet, although the "Y Ddraig Goch," or Red Dragon, is the national symbol of Wales, it doesn't appear on the Royal Standard, and there is no symbol for Wales on the Union Jack. This is because Wales was a principality of England before the Union of the Crowns in 1605, and not an independent kingdom. Even the title "Prince of Wales" that is traditionally given by the British Sovereign to the eldest son and heir to the throne, is just a title; Wales has never been ruled by the Prince of Wales. Today, the Red Dragon Flag has been officially recognized as the official State Flag of Wales, and in 1959, Queen Elizabeth II directed that the Red Dragon Flag could be flown over all Welsh government buildings in addition to the Union Flag, but not in a superior position.

An interesting historical note is that the red dragon symbol is centered over a white-over-green field. These were the livery colors of the Tudors, the only Welsh dynasty to rule England.

Not to be outdone by the other parts of the United Kingdom, the Welsh also use the Cross of Saint David for a national symbol. The flag's origins appear to be in the Anglican Church, and although it has become increasingly popular, it has never had any official status. In the Second World War, it was used as the division flag of the 38th Welsh Division, and Saint David's Cross is displayed in Scotland whenever Wales plays international rugby in Edinburgh. It has also been flown on a flag pole over the Capitol Building (the biggest shopping center in Cardiff City), and is increasingly being flown alongside the official Red Dragon flag in some parts of Wales.

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
Disunion Jack

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
SJP Party Flag

Disunion Jack 2012
Scottish Jacobite Party c2005

This amusing flag design was used by the Scottish Jacobite Party, a minor political party which advocates Scottish independence. The flag was used on at least one occasion, together with traditional flags of Scotland and the SJP Party. The flag gained more notoriety in 2012 when Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy PM Nick Clegg clashed publicly over the Scottish independence issue. The flag is, of course, the British Union Flag stripped of its distinctive Scottish blue background. It should be pointed out that this flag design is very unlikely because even if Scotland did become independent and a republic, like in many parts of the former British Empire, Great Britain's royal family would probably still be considered the "monarchs" of Scotland, as they have since 1606, and the Union flag would therefore most likely remain unchanged.

The Scottish Jacobite Party was founded in 2005. Unlike the original Jacobites, whose goal was to restore the House of Stuart to the thrones of the Scotland, England, and Ireland, this modern party wants to make Scotland an independent republic, which would leave the European Union and also annex the some parts of northern England. It should be noted the SJP Party has not won a significant number of votes in any national election, but has caused a great deal of public comment on the issue, both pro and con.

The use of red and white as colors on the SJP Flag can be attributed to the original Jacobites, but the use of sword blades instead of the saltire appears unique, and is probably used as a symbol of struggle.

- My thanks to David Prothero and Michael Faul for their invaluable help on this page -

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