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Two flags on one mast

Last modified: 2011-12-23 by rob raeside
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In Canada it is fairly common to see two flags flown from the same mast e.g. The federal Maple Leaf flag above a provincial flag. I am sure that this is incorrect, but have not been able to find any specific reference to the practice in books on flag etiquette.
Peter Cawley

Here in the U.S. we fly the National Flag (Stars & Stripes) above every flag. The only exception being at the United Nations in New York. If there are two masts, then the National Flag must be higher than the state.

If there are flags (say a club, Boy Scouts, etc.), then the order is National, State, Club.

Why doesn't it seem right to fly the Maple Leaf above a Provincial flag? Is the sentiment in Canada that the Province comes before the Nation? This is unique to hear.

Michael Menninger

You might be interested to know that such a practice is forbidden in Australia. Regulations on the use of the Australian National Flag specifically prohibit any other flag being flown from the same mast on which the National Flag is flying.

In Australia, if you want to fly both a State or Territory flag and the National flag, you must use two masts, and have the National flag on the right-hand mast (i.e. the left mast from the intended observer's viewpoint). They can, however, be flown at the same height.

To us Australians, it seems "wrong" to see a state or provincial flag flying on the same rope/mast immediately below a national flag. The first time I saw it I was shocked and thought somebody didn't know the rules.

Brendan Jones

My recollection of Boy Scout manuals is that the United States flag must not be given lesser prominence than any other. Other national flags must be of at most the same size (in practice difficult for flags not in the same proportion as the US flag) and at most equal height (in practice, of equal height except in time of war). The Flag goes at the center of odd-numbered displays, at "its own right" of even-numbered displays, and at the front of arrays.

An example of the latter is the display of state flags in University Park here in Indianapolis. The state flags are all on their own poles in a five-rows-of-ten display (I believe in alphabetical order). In front of them there are two poles, the one on the display's right being the US flag. I forget what the other is -- it may be that of the American Legion, a national veterans' group headquartered nearby. Or, it may be the Indiana flag, with the District of Columbia flag rounding out the state display.

The proper handling of fifty-two flags was known at the outset to be a difficult task. They are raised and stored automatically from recesses in the poles themselves. The original plan called for each pole to have its own light and moisture sensor, though I have a hard time believing the equipment would have held up through nearly twenty years in the weather.
Fritz Anderson

It is incorrect to show two NATIONAL flags on the same pole, but to show a provincial flag below a national flag may be ok (I'm unsure) since it is, by its very nature, subordinate to the country as a whole. In NZ, like in Australia, the usual system is two flags =3D two masts. I think that's the British system, too.

One question though: with order of precedence, etc., what would happen with the (say US) national flag and the United Nations flag? Which gets precedence?

James Dignan

Which would be on top if the national flag and U.N. flag were flown together? I would hope that in the particular country, the National flag would be first, then the U.N. (except, of course, at the U.N. itself...duh.)

U.N. armed forces, on the other hand in ANOTHER country, the other way around...example U.S.A. in Bosnia, etc.

Michael Menninger

For German eyes it's extremely unusual to see two or more Flags on the same mast. Every flag is intended to have it's own. In most places they are flown at the same height. Maybe a result of the lot of independent German states, kingdoms and cites in German history. If an flag pole is higher, it's always in the middle of the display for the main flag.

Only the order is (if you try to make a correct display) important. The highest flag has to be in the center. the other have to be arranged continuous left and right in descending heraldic (or geographic or what ever order is important for the actual purpose). So if you have for example the national flag (Germany), the state flag (Bavaria) and the city flag (Munich), the order will be: Bavaria - Germany - Munich. If their are more flags, they will be added on both sides. For, let's say 7 flags you will get the following scheme: 6-4-2-1-3-5-7.

Most times the national flag will be in the middle, but as a matter of honor an guest flag could get this position. Or if an UN or EC meeting is held in Germany.

Also the cult around the flag isn't the same as in the US. The flag is just our flag, the highest (visual) national symbol. Not more and never less.

Flag waving for every purpose, like in the US, isn't very common. Maybe with an exception on international football (soccer) matches. Although some "national" thinking people (or better: some people who think that they think national) want to establish these mickey-mouse (no offending to US people - only my opinion in this idea) behavior.

H. Franke