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Thread: The Geographic and Political Differences Between the Terms England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom

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    The Geographical and Political Differences Between the Terms England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom

    The aim of this thread is to help you understand the history, geography and political constitution of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. The focus is naturally upon England which is the largest country in terms of land and population in the United Kingdom. Often the terms 'England' or 'English' are confused with 'Britain' and 'British' much to the anoyance of natives, especially those who have nationalist inclinations.

    The United Kingdom is a sovereign country consisting of 4 constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the Acts of Union of 1706 and 1707. The Act was passed by the Parliament of England in 1706 as the Union with Scotland Act and by the Parliament of Scotland in 1707 as the Union with England Act. The 1707 date is the one usually used.

    The United Kingdom then entered into a Union with Ireland via the Acts of Union 1800 which came into force on 1 January 1801. The country was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

    The Partition of Ireland occurred with the passing of the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 which came into effect on 3 May 1921. Ireland became divided into two self-governing jurisdictions-Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland but remained part of the United Kingdom. After the Irish War of Independence the Anglo-Irish Treaty brought the war to an end and provided for the establishment of the Irish Free State which was established in 1922. Although independent from the United Kingdom it was nevertheless a Dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Then it became a republic with the passing of the Republic of Ireland Act in 1948 by the Irish Parliament. From 1922 the United Kingdom became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Now where does Wales fit into all of this you may be asking? There were no Acts of Union between England and Wales. Instead Wales was conquered by England in 1282 by King Edward I. However Prince Owain Glyndwr of Wales did briefly restore Welsh independence in the early 15th century. The whole of Wales was formally annexed via its incorporation into the English legal system with the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542. The astute observer will notice that Wales is not represented within the symbolism of the Union Flag. English law still applies today to Wales although Scotland has always had its own legal system thus it is a nonsense to use the term 'British law'.

    Today Scotland has its own Parliament, Wales an Assembly and Northern Ireland an Assembly. Only England is without a national Parliament or Assembly.

    Although the Republic of Ireland, known simply as Ireland or Eire is a part of the British Isles geographically this must not be confused with the geographical term Great Britain or simply Britain which only relates to the island of Britain. Although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom it is not geographically part of Great Britain but the island of Ireland. So the terms United Kingdom, Great Britain, British Isles and England are all separate geographical and/or political terms that should not be confused as this is not only inaccurate but may cause offence.

    The Isle of Man is a part of the British Isles but not Great Britain or the United Kingdom. It is in fact a Crown Dependency. It has its own Parliament although the Queen is the Head of State. A Crown Dependency is a self-governing possession of the Crown. Other Dependencies are Guernsey and Jersey.

    The official language of England and the entire United Kingdom is English, a Germanic language but minority languages native to the isles also are recognised such as Scots, Ulster Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh. The first three are Germanic, the latter three are Celtic. The only languages which are considered to be de jure languages are English and (in Wales) Welsh.

    The capital of the United Kingdom is London, that of England London, that of Wales Cardiff, that of Scotland Edinburgh, that of Northern Ireland Belfast.

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    Flag of the United Kingdom (current flag from 1801)
    contain the English St George's Cross, the Scottish St Andrew's Cross and the Irish St Patrick's Cross. Wales is not represented.



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    Although the United Kingdom of Great Britain did not come into existence until 1707 the crowns of England and Scotland were united in a personal Union in 1603. I must stress that England and Scotland remained separate sovereign countries until 1707. Consequently the first Union flag was originally the maritime flag of the two countries. This flag remained in official use until 1801. The astute observer will notice therefore that it does not contain the Irish St Patrick's Cross.






    The flag of England, the St George's Cross which dates back to the 12th century.






    The flag of Scotland since the 12th century, the St Andrew's Cross.





    The Ulster Banner was the official flag of Northern Ireland from 1953 to 1973 but it no longer has any official status and the Union flag is now the official flag of Northern Ireland although the St Patrick's Cross or Saltire is also used for royal and sporting events. The latter also represents Northern Ireland in the Union flag. However it is still in use!






    The St Patrick's Cross or Saltire goes back to at least the 15th century and used to represent Ireland when it was a single country. It still represents Northern Ireland in the Union flag and is used to represent that country unofficially at royal and sporting events.







    The Flag of Wales dates back to the 15th century but was only officially recognised in 1959.


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    Thanks for the info....

    I remember this summer being at a Highland Games (for Scottish ancestry) and there were these re-enactors having a battle between England and Scotland. The big problem I saw was that they had the flag of the UK (which of course contains the Scottish flag within it ) for the English and of course the Saint Andrew's cross for the Scottish.


    I felt like pointing out that is wasn't correct and that the English should have had the Saint George's Cross flag. ;-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravenrune View Post
    Thanks for the info....

    I remember this summer being at a Highland Games (for Scottish ancestry) and there were these re-enactors having a battle between England and Scotland. The big problem I saw was that they had the flag of the UK (which of course contains the Scottish flag within it ) for the English and of course the Saint Andrew's cross for the Scottish.


    I felt like pointing out that is wasn't correct and that the English should have had the Saint George's Cross flag. ;-)
    I would not all be surprised if it was intended as an anti-English and pro-independence gesture. In my opinion it is just a matter of time before this unholy union is dissolved and England can be rid of its ungrateful northern neighbour.

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