Controversy persists about whether the British national flag should be called “the Union Flag” or “the Union Jack”.
Though the general public almost universally uses “Union Jack”, some are convinced that “Union Flag” is the correct term and that “Union Jack” should be used only when the flag is flown from the jack-staff in the bows of a Royal Naval vessel (or at least when it refers to the use of the flag at sea).
The origins and relationships of the names “Union Flag” and “Union Jack” are historically far from clear. Discussion on the matter is almost as old as the flag itself. It is a ubiquitous pub quiz question, and regularly generates enormous post-bags at the BBC and other media organisations when the ‘wrong’ term is used.
Yet despite this no definitive pronouncement or definition of a correct name has ever been made.
In his final piece of vexillological research before his death in 2013, founding Flag Institute member David Lister, has examined the question in great detail. The Flag Institute, in association with the Flags and Heraldry Committee, is now proud to publish the most complete answer ever presented.