Wales conquest by England completed in 1283 Wales was then, in the words of the Statute issued by Edward in 1284, 'united and annexed...to the crown of the realm (of England) as a member of the body of that realm'
Act of Union between England and Scotland 1707 Act of Union between England and Ireland 1801
The Union Flag (or Union Jack) - The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Distribution of ethnic groups Data from 2001 Census
The "Special Relationship" Britain and the US were not destined to become close allies: the United States of America emerged after a bitter struggle for independence from Britain.
The "Special Relationship" During the Second World War, Churchill and Roosevelt developed a close personal relationship embodying what Churchill called the "Grand Alliance" between the United Kingdom and the United States.
The "Special Relationship" After the war, in his "Sinews of Peace" speech at Fulton Missouri (5 March 1946), Churchill first used the expression on the international stage.
The "Special Relationship" This does not mean that there was no friction: there was. But as the Cold War grew colder, the US and the UK worked closely together, because they felt such an alliance was necessary to guarantee their security and that of Western Europe.
The "Special Relationship" In 1956 however US/UK relations became seriously strained as a result of the Suez crisis. However the relationship recovered quickly; relations between Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Eisenhower were good, and this continued when JFK became President, so much so that people talked of "Mac and Jack".
The "Special Relationship" During Wilson's Prime Ministership there was tension over Britain's refusal to send troops to Vietnam. Later Edward Heath gave priority to Europe and US/UK relations were at a low ebb. Thatcher and Reagan were on the contrary very close and the "special relationship" seemed alive and well. More recently Blair and Clinton were very close partners, as, more surprisingly, have been Blair and Bush ...
Europe ... Britain had, immediately after the Second World war, turned to Europe to form defence alliances. However the British believed--or soon came to believe--that security was impossible in Western Europe without American assistance. For a whole range of reasons Britain declined to join the European Coal and Steel Community when it was formed in 1952.
Europe ... When the "Six" discussed further integration at Messina in 1956, Britain refused to get seriously involved and simply sent an observer. It did not sign the Treaty of Rome in 1957. When the "Six" seemed to be enjoying an economic boom the British wondered whether they had not made a mistake.
Europe ... Britain's first response was to set up a European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It then suggested there could be some form of close cooperation. This did not work, and Macmillan's Conservative government decided in 1963 to apply for membership. EFTA UK, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway
Europe ... General de Gaulle said "Non!"
Europe ... In 1967 the Labour under Harold Wilson decided to discuss whether the time was not ripe for a new application.
Europe ... General de Gaulle said "Non!"
Europe ... Nicholas Garland Daily Telegraph 10 Jan 1967. Univ Kent Cartoon Archive site
Europe ... In the wake of the student "events" of May 1968 in Paris, General de Gaulle held a referendum in 1969.
Europe ... The French electorate said "Non!"
Europe ... Pompidou was more receptive to a British application, and in 1973, the UK became a member. In 1975 a referendum was held to ascertain whether the British public wanted Britain to remain part of the EEC Two-thirds said "yes"
Europe ... Today, Britain has still not adopted the Euro Britain sometimes seems reluctant to be fully "European" Britain is influential in Brussels New Europe vs Old Europe? The proposed Constitution?
The British Empire At its height, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the British Empire covered one quarter of the Earth and included one fifth of the population. It was the biggest Empire of all time.
The British Empire India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947. In the 1950s and 1960s, almost all Britain's colonies became independent. The last substantial possession to go was Hong Kong, in 1997. One of the legacies of Empire is the immigration from former colonies which has had a substantial effect on the population of Britain. Britain has become a more multi-ethnic society.
The Monarchy The United Kingdom has a constitutional (or parliamentary) monarchy: The sovereign has limited powers, defined by the constitution The Queen "reigns but does not rule" The process in which power gradually moved from the Crown to Parliament took a substantial step forward in 1688, when Parliament invited William of Orange to reign - and at the same time ensured that he accepted the power of Parliament.
The Monarchy In his 19th c. work The English Constitution, Walter Bagehot described in the British political system a distinction between the "efficient parts" - the real power of the government - and the "dignified parts" with which public opinion could identify. There was "magic" and "mystery" which was best kept out of the light ... But what does the Queen really do? She has the right to be consulted to advise and to warn. She reads her "boxes" and meets the PM usually once a week.
The Monarchy "Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, the monarch has become a constitutional monarch, which means that he or she is bound by rules and conventions and remains politically impartial. On almost all matters he or she acts on the advice of ministers. While acting constitutionally, the Sovereign retains an important political role as Head of State, formally appointing prime ministers, approving certain legislation and bestowing honours. The Queen also has important roles to play in other organisations, including the Armed Forces and the Church of England." www.royal.gov.uk
The Monarchy The Queen is the Head of State. The PM is the Head of Government. The Queen appoints the PM. Usually this is something of a formality: she appoints the leader of the party which is able to command a majority in the House of Commons. Today the Labour and Conservative parties both have formal procedures for electing their leaders. There can however be circumstances where the appointment may be problematic.
The Monarchy The Queen is Commander-in-Chief of Britain's armed forces. She appoints judges. She confers honours. She is temporal head of the Church of England. In actual fact almost all decisions in these areas are taken by the Prime Minister: the Queen "acts on the advice of the PM".
The Monarchy No Bill can become law (an Act of Parliament) unless it is signed by the Queen (who signs La Reyne le Veult). The Queen represents the UK abroad. She is Head of the Commonwealth, a role she takes very seriously. But she has little real power, except perhaps in exceptional circumstances. Power is exercised in her name. Some have argued that this gives the Executive too much power.
The Monarchy Queen Elizabeth is undoubtedly respected, especially by older people. The rest of the so-called "Royal Family" have had some difficult times. Queen Elizabeth herself described 1992 as her "annus horribilis" when Charles and Diana separated and Windsor Castle was damaged by fire. Critics of the monarchy say it encourages a backward- looking society and embodies inequality. Supporters say it favours continuity. A majority feel it is better to leave it alone." If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
The Monarchy Despite recent difficulties opinion polls show most people want to keep the monarchy. Topical: Charles and Camilla.
The Monarchy Church and State There is no separation of Church and State in Britain. The Queen is temporal Head of the Church of England The Church of England has in the past been described as "the Conservative party at prayer", but over the last ten or twenty years the Church of England has been critical of the "Establishment" on a number of occasions.
The Establishment Is there such a thing? The term was probably made popular by such writers as Anthony Sampson in the 1960s. Since then the "ruling classes" have lost power and influence. Anthony Sampson now claims that Britain's Establishment has been taken over by ambitious politicians, and that the values of the Establishment have given way to society which is only interested in money. In his latest book on the "New Elite", he writes:
The Establishment "Today the circles of Britain's power centres look very different from the pattern of 40 years ago. The palace, the universities and the diplomats have drifted towards the edge. Many institutions - including Parliament, the Cabinet, trade unions an industry - look smaller. The Prime Minister, the Treasury and Ministry of Defence loom larger at the centre. The bankers are more dominant while the nationalised industries have almost disappeared as separate entities. The media are more pervasive, seeping everywhere into the vacuum left by the shrinking of the old powers."