Flag Etiquette

There are no international regulations governing flag etiquette but the rules adopted by many countries have so much in common that it is possible for formulate general guidelines.  They are slightly different for a flag displayed inside a country and for one at an international forum.  The general rule in both cases is that all flags hoisted as a group should be the same width and should be hoisted on separate flagpoles, or separate halyards in the case of a flagpole with a yardarm.  The practice of hoisting two or more flags on the same halyard is not correct.  For most countries the following rules are observed for hoisting flags inside the country :

  • The flag should be displayed in the open from sunrise to sunset, but it should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement.  It may be displayed at night providing it is well illuminated.
  • The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • The flag should always be used in a dignified manner.  It should never touch the ground, the floor or water.  It should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.  It should never be used as a table or seat cover, or as drapery of any sort.  It should never be used a a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.
  • The national flag should not ne displayed in a position inferior to any other flag.  The national flag takes precedent over all other flags.  When flown with other flags of other sovereign nations, all flags should be flown on separate flagpoles at the same time.  The flags should be the same size, width and should be flown at the same height.  The other national flags should be displayed in alphabetical order depending on the official language of the country.
  • When there are two flags displayed, the national flag should be to the left of the observer, facing the staff.  The same rule should be observed when the national flag is crossed with other flag; its staff should be in front of the staff of another flag.
  • In a line of three flags, the national flag should be positioned in the centre.
  • In a line of four flags, the national flag should be the first to appear on the observers left.
  • In a line of five or more flags, two national flags should be used, one at each end of the line
  • In a semi-circle, the national flag should be in the centre
  • In an enclosed circle, the national flag should be positioned and centred immediately opposite the main entrance to a building or arena.
  • The order of flags hoisted together depends on the place of each particular flag in the following hierarchy : (a) national flag, (b) regional or provincial flag, (c) county, parish or commune flag, (d) civic flag, (e) service flag (e.g. police or fire brigade), (f) other flag (university, school, commercial firm, sports club etc)
  • When the national flag is carried in a procession it should always be aloft and free.  In a single line the national flag must always be lead.  If carried in single line abreast with one other flag, it should be on the right-hand end of the line facing the direction of movement; if carried with two or more other flags it should either be in the centre, or two national flags should be displayed, one at each end of the line.
  • When a flag is displayed over the middle of a street, it should be suspended vertically, with its top edge to the North in an east-west street or to the East in a north-south street.
  • When a flag is displayed vertically on a flagpole with crossbar, the upper edge of the flag is to be on the observers left.
  • When a flag is displayed vertically on a flagpole with a swivel crossbar, the upper edge of the flag should face the flagpole.
  • When a flag is displayed from a staff on a speakers platform, it should be on the speakers right as he faces the audience.
  • When used to cover a coffin, a flag should be placed so the hoist is at the head and the top edge is over the left shoulder.
  • As a sign of mourning the flags on flagpoles are half-masted.  A black ribbon is attached to flags hoisted on short outrigger staffs, and a black cravat to military parade flags.
  • When a flag is no longer is a suitable condition to be used it should be destroyed in a dignified way by burning it privately
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