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Monday, September 08, 2008

What's this England Britain Scotland UK thing all about?

[Before I get started - there's a new This Week In London below this post - all about Pubs and Beer]

A lot of people get confused by the number of ways we here in Her Majesty's lands refer to ourselves. You could be talking to someone who is from any of the following:

Great Britain
United Kingdom

So I thought I'd try to clarify things a bit for you.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is formed of two bits - Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain itself, is England, Scotland and Wales.

We English were an aggressive bunch back in the day (some would say we still are but thats a different story) and we essentially invaded and subjugated Wales and Scotland. Wales is now a "Principality" - as in the Prince of Wales and Scotland is a country in its own right. The Scots would argue that they merged with us and not us with them - but that's them rewriting history IMHO. We lost the King (James I and James VI) but we won the war. As for Ireland - where do you start? England treated the Irish like dirt for several hundred years. In the end they fought for and won their independence in 1921 when The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed which created the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland or Ulster.

So to summarise:

Great Britain is comprised of England, Scotland and Wales plus a number of smaller islands such as the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, the Scilly Isles, the Hebrides, and the island groups of Orkney and Shetland. It doesn't include the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands who form a Federacy with the UK as "The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man".

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island is Great Britain plus Northern Ireland plus the 14 overseas territories we still own[1].

So there you have it. We're a bunch of small islands with a lot of history, a few chips on the shoulder, and the ability to be the best and worst of things.

I love my country. British by birth, English by the Grace of God.

And in the words of Bill Shakespeare:

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"

[1] (British Antarctic Territory / South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
/ British Indian Ocean Territory / Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia / Pitcairn Islands / Falkland Islands / Saint Helena / Anguilla / British Virgin Islands / Cayman Islands / Montserrat / Gibraltar / Bermuda
/ Turks and Caicos Islands)

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