“In theory it’s a free for all”

A fascinating article on the 400-year history of the union jack online at the BBC magazine, which has already generated plenty of controversy in the comments there. But, apart from the claim in the article that “For the record, the BBC website disregards the term “union flag” because of its “great potential for confusion”, preferring union jack (in lower case).” [Really?!! How interesting.. Hmm.. – Ed], the article also links to 6 early designs drawn up for consideration by James I using just the English and Scottish flags of the time, none of which were ultimately chosen, and notes the refusal of some Scots to accept his final decision.And some interesting points on the official position of the flag, which may have some relevance here –

No act of Parliament enshrines it as such – most countries have flag acts that set out, to the last detail, rules about their national flags. The best authority is cited in two spoken answers in Parliament – one from 1908, the other in 1933.

“There’s nothing straightforward about the history. It has been adopted as our national flag without any national authority,” says Mr Farrow. “Neither you or I can fly it from a boat, whereas every other country in the world, the first thing a citizen can do is fly their national flag at sea.

“And while there are many rules that govern its use at sea, there’s nothing, not a jot, to say how the flag should be used on land – its proportions, its colours, when it can be flown, where it can be flown.”