Flag Institute

The Flag Institute is an educational charity headquartered in London, England. It maintains a UK Flag Registry and offers advice and guidance about flags and their usage.

Flag Institute
Formation23 April 1971; 50 years ago (1971-04-23)
FounderWilliam Crampton
TypeCharitable incorporated organisation
Malcolm Farrow
Key people
John Hall (Chairman)

History and role

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, with Charles Ashburner, chief executive and trustee of the Flag Institute
Graham Bartram. Chief Vexillologist and Trustee of the Flag Institute

The Institute was formed out of the Flag Section of The Heraldry Society on St George's Day, 23 April 1971, by William Crampton, later President of FIAV, with Captain E.M.C. Barraclough as its chairman.[1][2] It is a membership-based vexillological organisation with over 500 members from all parts of the world, and provides advice and assistance to individuals and organisations including UK Government departments, the BBC, ITN, and many publishers, museums and libraries.[3]

The Institute maintains the William Crampton Library, based in Kingston upon Hull, England and named in honour of its co-founder. It publishes a quarterly 24-page full colour journal, Flagmaster, and a virtual magazine called eFlags. Since 2006 it has sponsored an annual public lecture on a flag-related topic, known as the 'Perrin Lecture'. It holds twice yearly meetings for its members in various locations around the United Kingdom. The Institute itself is governed by a Board of five elected Trustees who are advised by an appointed Council of members.

The Flag Institute was congratulated by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, on its first 40 years of service to the United Kingdom. In May 2011 he said:[4]

Let me start by congratulating the Flag Institute on its first 40 years. 40 years as a respected source of help and advice. Not only to the UK Government, but to the United Nations and other organisations around the world. 40 years of bringing together enthusiasts, educating the public, and spreading knowledge.....The UK is very lucky in having – in the Institute – a group of dedicated and informed people who do a great deal to make sure that that respect is given. In your first 40 years you have established your credentials not just in this country, but on the world stage.

Following a postal ballot of members, the Institute became a charity at its annual general meeting in Worcester on Saturday 17 November 2012.

UK Flag Registry

The Institute keeps a registry of flags for the countries, regions and counties of the UK.[5] Flag designs with which its officers have been involved include those for the badge and ensign of the UK Border Agency[6] and the flag of the UK Supreme Court.[7]

All Scottish flags must, by law, be authorised by Lord Lyon and recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. The Earl Marshal and the College of Arms are legally responsible for flags in the rest of the UK.[8] Both the College of Arms and the Court of Lord Lyon maintain their respective country's official register of flags. Flags and symbols relating to the military are regulated by the Crown through the Ministry of Defence, which also governs flags flown at sea by British-registered vessels.[9]

The nation's flag flying permanently from Parliament

Admiral Lord West, Charles Ashburner, and Andrew Rosindell MP, celebrate the permanent flying of the Nation's flag over the Palace of Westminster.

Until early 2010 the national flag of the United Kingdom was only flown from the Houses of Parliament when Parliament was actually sitting, and when the Houses rose it was taken down and the flagpole left bare.[10] The Flag Institute with the Flags and Heraldry Committee campaigned to see the flag flown permanently. In early 2010 Black Rod agreed that this should be so and since then the flag has flown all the time.

This change was marked by a lunchtime reception on Tuesday 22 March 2011 in the River Room, House of Lords, hosted by Admiral The Baron West of Spithead and Andrew Rosindell MP.[11]

UK flag flying regulations

On 14 May 2011 at the Flag Institute Spring Meeting, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, announced his intention to liberalise flag flying regulations in the UK.[12] The resulting discussion paper titled Liberalising the regime for flying flags[13] was published by DCLG in January 2012. New regulations were laid before Parliament on 17 September 2012 and came into force on 12 October 2012.[14]

Charles Ashburner, Chief Executive of the Flag Institute, said;

This really is a new Freedom to Fly Flags. In our super fast world of instant news and ever changing technology, flags remain the ultimate symbol of identity. The deregulation of flag flying regulations is something which everyone who believes in freedom of expression should support. [This is] an important step towards encouraging and protecting the huge variety of different community and individual identities of which British society should be so proud.[15]

Malcolm Farrow, President of the Flag Institute (right) with Andrew Rosindell MP, Chair of the Flags and Heraldry Committee


In 2010 the Flag Institute, with the Parliamentary Flags and Heraldry Committee,[16] published a guide to Britain’s flag protocol, Flying Flags in the United Kingdom (ISBN 978-0-9513286-1-3).[17]


  1. Flag Institute, eFlags, no.8, 2008, p.10
  2. Flag Institute at Flags of the World
  3. Flag Institute home page
  4. www.communities.gov.uk – text of speech delivered by Eric Pickles, 14 May 2011
  5. "UK Flag Registry". The Flag Institute.
  6. "Freedom of Information Request: UK Border Agency Flag". 9 June 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  7. "Freedom of Information Request: Supreme Court Flag". 1 June 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  8. "College of Arms - College of Arms". www.college-of-arms.gov.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  9. "Ministry of Defence - Regulations covering the Flying of Flags in the United Kingdom" (PDF). What Do They Know.
  10. "9 Year Campaign to have Union Jack Fly Permanently from Houses of Parliament Succeeds". 25 March 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  11. "PRESS RELEASE: The Nation's Flag is now flying permanently from Parliament". 22 March 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  12. "Speech – Flag Institute Spring Meeting 2011". 14 May 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  13. "Liberalising the regime for flying flags: discussion paper" (PDF). 6 January 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  14. "The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012". 13 September 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  15. Hope, Christopher (20 September 2012). "Fly your flags without asking permission, Pickles says". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  16. "Written Answers: Supreme Court Flags". Hansard. 1 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  17. Flying Flags in the United Kingdom (PDF). p. 3. ISBN 978-0-9513286-1-3. Retrieved 27 March 2011. First published in the United Kingdom in 2010 by the Flag Institute in association with the Flags and Heraldry Committee of the UK Parliament and with support from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.