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United Kingdom: colour of the flag

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Last modified: 2010-01-22 by
Keywords: united kingdom | union jack | gay pride | green britain |
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[Flag of the United Kingdom] 1:2 | image by Clay Moss, 16 December 2006
Flag adopted 1 January 1801.

See also:

Colour of the flag

According to my old stand-by, Colours of the Fleet, the blue was darkened in 1869 when the Admiralty standardised the naval Union Flag at 1:2, with a narrower St Patrick's saltire. No explanation is given for the dark blue, but I'd speculate that the Admiralty chose the darkest possible shade of blue so that the colour would not fade away before the flag needed replacing.
David Prothero,
23 March 1998

If you look at Perrin's British Flags you will see that the original 1606/1707 flag had a pale blue field while the 1801 flag has a darker blue field. One of the reasons is probably that the flag is defined as having an "azure" field and in recent British heraldic tradition this has been interpreted as a mid to dark blue. In our modern Pantone-regulated world we differentiate between many different shades of colour, but hundreds of years ago we didn't. I think there is something in David's idea that a darker blue was chosen so that the flags had to be replaced for fading less often.
Graham Bartram, 23 March 1998

Naval flags were changed in 1908 when the Admiralty decided that the blue in Union Flags and Ensigns should be the same shade of blue as that selected by King Edward VII for the Royal Standard. This was known as pattern 74 'Royal Blue', and replaced pattern 63 "Dark Blue". Pattern 63 was still used for signal flags and for the flags of countries such as Russia and Norway. The other two shades in use were: Pattern 61 'Azure'; Cuba and Ecuador were given as examples, and Pattern 61A 'Intermediate' which was a bright blue for Italy and Sweden. Source: Public Records Office ADM 116/1072.
David Prothero, 25 August 1998

The Pantone colours (186 for the red and 280 for blue) are the official ones for the Union Flag and all UK derivatives (Bartram 2004). I know they are quite dark, but then so are the Union Flags that follow the official specification. The red also has quite a large blue component and even has some black. The CMYK values are C0 M91 Y76 K6. The dark blue is C100 M72 Y0 K18.5
Graham Bartram
, 19 December 1999

After an intense discussion enlightened mainly by Graham Bartram, we sort of decided that the best browser-safe approximates for the union jack colors are RGB:204-0-0 for red and RGB:0-0-102 for blue (plus RGB:255-255-255 for white, of course!), that is our FOTW equivalences for dark red (R+) and very very dark blue (B+++).
António Martins, 24 January 2001

"Union Jacks" of other colours

Union Jacks are occasionally sighted in other combinations of colours.  The design is very distinctive and its use in other colour combinations has been adopted by some football (soccer) team supporters.  In particular black and white union jack flags are used by Newcastle United(?) fans.  Black and yellow might be used by supporters of Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) of possibly Watford.
James Dignan, 15 April 2004

Gay Pride Union Jack

Sexual orientation flags from the United Kingdom are derived from the national flag:

Pink Union Jack

[Pink Union Jack] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

This is the common name for several different flags derived from the Union Jack by replacing red and/or blue colours with pink to make them gay pride symbols. The first of these flags is derived from the Union Jack by replacing the blue field with the pink one. It usually has the aspect ratio of 3:5, as seen in London, on 2006-07-01: and on 2008-07-05:; in Leeds, on 2007-08-05: or in Brighton, on 2006-08-05: and on 2007-08-04:
Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

[Pink Union Jack] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

However, flags with the aspect ratio 1:2 can also be noticed sometimes, like the one seen in London, on 2008-07-05:
Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

[Pink Union Jack] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

Another flag keeps the blue field, while the red areas are turned into pink. It is offered for sale in several online flag shops, like here:, here:, or here (the photo of a real flag's detail shown): and seems to have been manufactured only with the aspect ratio 3:5 so far. It might have been invented, in my opinion, so as to make a flag more acceptable to users from Scotland - see the comment given here (no matter that it was written in a humorous way):
Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

[Pink Union Jack] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

The third flag, probably the one which deserves the most to be called the Pink Union Jack, replaces red and blue with light and dark shades of pink, respectively (the latter inclines towards magenta). It was seen in Sydney, Australia, on 2009-03-07, during the Mardi Gras parade:
Tomislav Todorovic, 14 December 2009

UKtv advertising flag

[UKtv advertising flag] image located by Colin Dobson, 17 March 2009

A red-white-green flag was reported, likely flying  on a pole on the River Thames beside the Royal Festival Hall in Jubilee Gardens. This pole is under the control of the South Bank Centre, who are the leaseholders of Jubilee Gardens. It was originally erected for the 1951 Festival of Britain as the site for the Hayward [Art Gallery - part of the South Bank Centre] Flag Project. The flag seen is part of an advertising campaign for the rebranding of the digital television channel UKtv People as 'Blighty' for the television company, Uktv, part owned by the BBC. There are multiple colours of the Union Flag design in this campaign.
(1) Walking London, Andrew Duncan, ISBN 9781847730541, 2008 edition
(2) Reuters (Gaumont British), newsreel, Festival Ends, S24050702 149359, GB 37419 - 4.10.1951, 1951, as consulted ITN web site, 17 March 2009
(3) Regeneration of Jubilee Gardens, Design Brief, Final Draft Version 9A, South Bank Employers' Group, 28 January 2005
(4) South Bank Centre, web site,, as consulted 17 March 2009
Colin Dobson, 17 March 2009

'Green Britain' flag

[Green Britain flag] image located by Colin Dobson, 14 September 2009

The real 'Green Britain' advertising flag has at least two variants: and this one, with both the Electricity of France logo and the London 2012 logo: A number of graphic adaptions of the design have been made, including as a dress by the marvellous and highly entertaining Wayne Hemingway and as a guitar, all of which goes to demonstrate the verstaility of the original design of the Union Flag. See the 'Team Green Britain' web site here: for some more variants.
(1), as consulted 14 September 2009 (2) Électricité de France, web site,, as consulted 14 September 2009
(3) SE1, local community based web site,, as consulted 14 September 2009
(4) Green is the new black for Olympian Victoria Pendleton and British designer Wayne Hemingway, Électricité de France news release, July 2009, as consulted EDF web site, 14 September 2009
(5) London 2012 web site,, as consulted 14 September 2009
Colin Dobson, 14 September 2009