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National flag

From Academic Kids

A national flag is a flag which symbolises a country and which can usually be flown by citizens of that country.

Both public and private buildings such as schools and courthouses often fly the national flag. In some countries the national flags are only flown from non-military buildings on certain flag days.

Ships fly the national flag, known as the ensign, from an ensign-staff at the stern of the ship, or from a gaff when underway. Both these positions are superior to any other on the ship, even though the masthead is higher. In the absence of a gaff the ensign may be flown from the yard-arm. See Maritime flags. National flags may also be flown by aircraft and the vehicles of important officials.

Although the national flag is meant to be a unique symbol for a country, it is possible that different countries do have similar or equal flags. An example of this are the flags of Monaco and Indonesia, which do only differ slightly in size. Another pair of highly similar flags are the flags of the Netherlands and of Luxembourg, though these two do in fact use slightly different shades of blue as a distinction. Furthermore, it is also possible that a country's current flag is similar to flags that have been used by other countries earlier in history.

Flag Protocol

There is a great deal of protocol involved in the proper display of national flags. For example, national flags should never be flown upside down (where this is possible) except as a distress signal.

There are many regulations concerning the display of national flags, but the general rule is that the national flag should be flown in the position of honor, and not in an inferior position to any other flag (although some countries make an exception for royal standards). The following regulations are typical.

  • When a national flag is displayed together with any other flags, it must be hoisted first and lowered last.
  • When a national flag is displayed together with the national flags of other countries, all the flags should be of approximately equal size and must be flown at an equal height, although the national flag of the host country should be flown in the position of honour (in the center of an odd number of flagstaffs or at the far right - left from an observer's point of view - of an even number of flagstaffs).
  • When a national flag is displayed together with flags other than national flags, it should be flown on a separate flagstaff, either higher or in the position of honor.
  • When a national flag is displayed together with any other flags on the same flagstaff, it must be at the top, though separate flagstaffs are preferable.
  • When a national flag is displayed together with any other flag on crossed staffs, the National Flag must be on the observer's left and its staff must be in front of the staff of the other flag.
  • When a national flag is displayed together with another flag or flags in procession, the National Flag must be on the marching right. If there is a row of flags, it should be in the position of honor.

See also


National flags
List of national flags | List of national coats of arms
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