Flag Institute

The Flag Institute is an educational charity headquartered in London, UK. It claims to be the world's largest flag organisation. It maintains a UK Flag Registry and offers advice and guidance about flags and their usage.

Flag Institute
PredecessorThe Heraldry Society
Formation23 April 1971
FounderWilliam Crampton
TypeCharitable incorporated organisation
Purpose"research and documentation centre for flags and flag information"
Professional title
HeadquartersHQS Wellington
  • Victoria Embankment, London WC2R 2PN3
Region served
United Kingdom and worldwide

History and role

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, CBE RN, 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. Comprising over 40,000 flag related volumes it is thought to be one of the largest vexillology-based libraries in the world. 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.


The Flag Institute's constitution[5] states that its objectives are;

  • to maintain its role as the United Kingdom's recognised flag organisation;
  • to unite all those with a professional or personal interest in any aspect of flags and vexillology;
  • to educate and increase public awareness of flags and their usage;
  • to provide advice and guidance on flags and related matters to the public and organisations, both governmental and non-governmental;
  • to promote the study of the history, function, usage, symbolism and development of flags of all kinds; and the development of flag terminology, standards of usage, specifications, colours and descriptive terms.

UK Flag Registry

Under the supervision of their Chief Vexillologist Graham Bartram, the Institute keeps a registry of flags for the countries, regions and counties of the UK.[6] Flag designs with which its officers have been involved include those for the badge and ensign of the UK Border Agency[7] and the flag of the UK Supreme Court.[8]

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 the flying of flags on land in the rest of the UK. The College of Arms and the Court of the Lord Lyon maintain official registers of flags.

With the impending Scottish independence vote in mind, in 2013 the Flag Institute members were asked for suggested designs of a post-independence UK flag. Five designs were showcased in the media to stimulate discussion, several of them incorporating elements of the Welsh flag of St David.[9]

The nation's flag flying permanently from Parliament

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, to signify the enduring sovereignty of Parliament and to act as the foremost flag of the kingdom, day and night every day of the year. 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]

Board of Trustees and Council

The Flag Institute is governed by six elected Trustees,[16] currently;

  • Capt Malcolm Farrow OBE FCMI FFI RN (President)
  • Revd Canon John Hall FIAV FFI (Chairman & Trustee)
  • Philip Thompson (Treasurer & Trustee)
  • Kathryn Kearney (Administration Officer)
  • Graham Bartram FFI (Chief Vexillologist & Trustee)
  • Philip Tibbetts (Community Vexillologist & Trustee)
  • John Ford (Correspondence Secretary)
  • Bernard Muscat (Social Media Officer)
  • Lesley Ross (Trade Representative & Trustee)
  • Leigh Wetherall (Convenor)
  • Tom Randall (Editor, Flagmaster)
  • Ian Sumner FFI (Librarian)
  • Craig Hughes (Officer Without Portfolio & Trustee)


In 2010 the Flag Institute, with the Parliamentary Flags and Heraldry Committee,[17] published a guide to Britain’s flag protocol, Flying Flags in the United Kingdom (ISBN 978-0-9513286-1-3).[18]

See also


  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. The Flag Institute's Constitution, Flag Institute website
  6. "UK Flag Registry". The Flag Institute.
  7. "Freedom of Information Request: UK Border Agency Flag". 9 June 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  8. "Freedom of Information Request: Supreme Court Flag". 1 June 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  9. Sam Judah (4 December 2013). "What would the union jack look like if the Scottish bit were removed?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  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. "Trustees - The Flag Institute". The Flag Institute. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  17. "Written Answers: Supreme Court Flags". Hansard. 1 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  18. 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.
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