When is the Union Flag flown at half-mast above Buckingham Palace and why?

The Princess of Wales has been outside, the King is continuing his recovery and nothing can be learned about the royal family from the Union Flag above Buckingham Palace.

Twitter users have come to the aid of the firm by quashing rumours that have begun to spread that the flag has been at half-mast.

“The flag at Buckingham Palace is NOT at half-mast!” SR tweeted. 

“The circulating video is old, from Sep 2022. No mourning in the Royal family right now. Don't fall for false claims.”

The Palace has not commented but then why would it need to when the flag can quite clearly been seen fully aloft for anyone who wishes to go and see it.

Here is what it all means.

Union flags hang outside Buckingham Palace on the Mall (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)
Union flags hang outside Buckingham Palace on the Mall (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

When is a flag at half-mast?

The royal family and Department for Culture, Media and Sport do not have a public-facing policy on this to quote, so the following is taken from the British Flag Institute.

The guidance starts by noting that half-mast is actually 16 per cent higher than the position you’d expect, two-thirds of the way up a post.

And it is raised all the way up for one second before being lowered to half-mast.

“When a British national flag is at half-mast, other flags on the same stand of poles should also be at half-mast or should not be flown at all. Flags of foreign nations should not be flown, unless their country is also observing mourning.”

In addition, the Royal Standard flag is never flown at half-mast.

Why is a flag flown at half-mast?

As aforementioned, it is to signify a time of mourning. The ins and outs have proved contentious in the past, most notably as to whether the death of Princess Diana in 1997 should warrant such action.

As the 2006 film The Queen portrayed, the firm initially resisted the pressure to mark her passing but were ultimately persuaded after an intervention by Tony Blair.

The Royal Flag Institute said the flag can be flown at half-mast in the following circumstances although is always at the monarch’s discretion apart from the monarch’s own death. Obviously.

  • From the announcement of the death until the funeral of the sovereign, except on Proclamation Day;

  • From the announcement of the death until the funeral of a member of the royal family;

  • On the day of the announcement of the death and on the day of the funeral of other members of the royal family;

  • The funerals of foreign rulers;

  • The funerals of prime ministers and ex-prime ministers;

  • The funerals of first ministers and ex-first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,

  • At British embassies, high commissions and missions when flags in the host country are flown at half-mast;

  • Any other occasions where the sovereign has given a special command.