British people

The British people, or the Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown dependencies.[31][32][33] British nationality law governs modern British citizenship and nationality, which can be acquired, for instance, by descent from British nationals. When used in a historical context, "British" or "Britons" can refer to the Celtic Britons, the indigenous inhabitants of Great Britain and Brittany, whose surviving members are the modern Welsh people, Cornish people, and Bretons.[32] It may also refer to citizens of the former British Empire.

Though early assertions of being British date from the Late Middle Ages, the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain[34][35][36][37][38] in 1707 triggered a sense of British national identity.[39] The notion of Britishness was forged during the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and the First French Empire, and developed further during the Victorian era.[39][40] The complex history of the formation of the United Kingdom created a "particular sense of nationhood and belonging" in Great Britain and Ireland;[39] Britishness became "superimposed on much older identities", of English, Scots, Welsh and Irish cultures, whose distinctiveness still resists notions of a homogenised British identity.[41] Because of longstanding ethno-sectarian divisions, British identity in Northern Ireland is controversial, but it is held with strong conviction by Unionists.[42]

Modern Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic groups that settled in the British Isles in and before the 11th century: Prehistoric, Brittonic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Normans.[43] The progressive political unification of the British Isles facilitated migration, cultural and linguistic exchange, and intermarriage between the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales during the late Middle Ages, early modern period and beyond.[44][45] Since 1922 and earlier, there has been immigration to the United Kingdom by people from what is now the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth, mainland Europe and elsewhere; they and their descendants are mostly British citizens, with some assuming a British, dual or hyphenated identity.[46]

The British are a diverse, multinational,[47][48] multicultural and multilingual society, with "strong regional accents, expressions and identities".[49][50] The social structure of the United Kingdom has changed radically since the 19th century, with a decline in religious observance, enlargement of the middle class, and increased ethnic diversity, particularly since the 1950s. The population of the UK stands at around 66 million,[51] with a British diaspora of around 140 million concentrated in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, with smaller concentrations in the United States, Republic of Ireland, Chile, South Africa and parts of the Caribbean.[52]

British people
Flag of the United Kingdom
Total population
72 million
British diaspora
140 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United Kingdom
(British citizens of any race or ethnicity)
United Kingdom British Overseas Territories
 United States36,812,826 1
678,000 2[4][5]
 Australia10,764,870 1[6]
1,300,000 4[7]
 Canada10,753,945 1
609,000 4[8]
 New Zealand2,425,278 1
217,000 4[9]
 South Africa1,603,575
750,000 4[7][10]
 Chile700,000 1[11]
 France400,000 4[12]
 Ireland291,000 4[7]
 Argentina250,000 1[13]
 United Arab Emirates240,000 2[14]
 Spain236,669 4[15][16]
 Peru150,000 1[17]
 Germany115,000 2[18]
 Pakistan79,447 4[19]
 Cyprus59,000 2[18]
 Thailand51,000 2[20]
 Singapore45,000 2[20]
  Switzerland45,000 2[21]
 Netherlands44,000 2[21]
 Portugal41,000 2[21]
 Sweden39,989 2
 Norway34,279 1[23]
 Turkey34,000 2[21]
 India32,000 2[24]
 Kenya29,000 2[25]
 Belgium28,000 2[21]
 Barbados27,000 2[26]
 Saudi Arabia26,000 2
 Jamaica25,000 2[26]
 Trinidad and Tobago25,000 2[27]
 Japan23,000 2[5]
 Hong Kong19,405 1 2[28]
3,400,000 3[29]
33,733 4[28]
 Greece18,000 2
Mainly Christianity (Anglicanism, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism)
see also: Religion in the United Kingdom

1. People who identify of full or partial British ancestry born into that country.
2. UK-born people who identify of British ancestry only.
3. British citizens by way of residency in the British overseas territories; however, not all have ancestry from the United Kingdom.
4. British citizens or nationals.

History of the term

The earliest known reference to the inhabitants of Great Britain may have come from 4th century BC records of the voyage of Pytheas, a Greek geographer who made a voyage of exploration around the British Isles. Although none of his own writings remain, writers during the time of the Roman Empire made much reference to them. Pytheas called the islands collectively αἱ Βρεττανίαι (hai Brettaniai), which has been translated as the Brittanic Isles, and the peoples of what are today England, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man of Prettanike were called the Πρεττανοί (Prettanoi), Priteni, Pritani or Pretani.

The group included Ireland, which was referred to as Ierne (Insula sacra "sacred island" as the Greeks interpreted it) "inhabited by the different race of Hiberni" (gens hibernorum), and Britain as insula Albionum, "island of the Albions".[53][54] The term Pritani may have reached Pytheas from the Gauls, who possibly used it as their term for the inhabitants of the islands.[54]

Greek and Roman writers, in the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, name the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland as the Priteni,[55] the origin of the Latin word Britanni. It has been suggested that this name derives from a Gaulish description translated as "people of the forms", referring to the custom of tattooing or painting their bodies with blue woad made from Isatis tinctoria.[56] Parthenius, a 1st-century Ancient Greek grammarian, and the Etymologicum Genuinum, a 9th-century lexical encyclopaedia, mention a mythical character Bretannus (the Latinised form of the Ancient Greek: Βρεττανός, Brettanós) as the father of Celtine, mother of Celtus, the eponymous ancestor of the Celts.[57]

By 50 BC Greek geographers were using equivalents of Prettanikē as a collective name for the British Isles.[58] However, with the Roman conquest of Britain the Latin term Britannia was used for the island of Great Britain, and later Roman-occupied Britain south of Caledonia, although the people of Caledonia and the north were also the self same Britons during the Roman period, the Gaels arriving four centuries later.[59][60] Following the end of Roman rule in Britain, the island of Great Britain was left open to invasion by pagan, seafaring warriors such as Germanic-speaking Anglo-Saxons and Jutes from Continental Europe, who gained control in areas around the south east, and to Middle Irish-speaking people migrating from what is today Northern Ireland to the north of Great Britain (modern Scotland), founding Gaelic kingdoms such as Dál Riata and Alba, which would eventually subsume the native Brittonic and Pictish kingdoms and become Scotland.[61]

In this sub-Roman Britain, as Anglo-Saxon culture spread across southern and eastern Britain and Gaelic through much of the north, the demonym "Briton" became restricted to the Brittonic-speaking inhabitants of what would later be called Wales, Cornwall, North West England (Cumbria), and parts of Scotland[62] such as Strathearn, Morayshire, Aberdeenshire and Strathclyde.[63] In addition the term was also applied to Brittany in what is today France and Britonia in north west Spain, both regions having been colonised by Britons in the 5th century fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasions. However, the term Britannia persisted as the Latin name for the island. The Historia Brittonum claimed legendary origins as a prestigious genealogy for Brittonic kings, followed by the Historia Regum Britanniae which popularised this pseudo-history to support the claims of the Kings of England.[64]

During the Middle Ages, and particularly in the Tudor period, the term "British" was used to refer to the Welsh people and Cornish people. At that time, it was "the long held belief that these were the remaining descendants of the Britons and that they spoke 'the British tongue'".[64] This notion was supported by texts such as the Historia Regum Britanniae, a pseudohistorical account of ancient British history, written in the mid-12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth.[64] The Historia Regum Britanniae chronicled the lives of legendary kings of the Britons in a narrative spanning 2000 years, beginning with the Trojans founding the ancient British nation and continuing until the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain in the 7th century forced the Britons to the west, i.e. Wales and Cornwall, and north, i.e. Cumbria, Strathclyde and northern Scotland.[64] This legendary Celtic history of Great Britain is known as the Matter of Britain. The Matter of Britain, a national myth, was retold or reinterpreted in works by Gerald of Wales, a Cambro-Norman chronicler who in the 12th and 13th centuries used the term British to refer to the people later known as the Welsh.[65]


Ancestral roots

The indigenous people of the British Isles have a combination of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Norman ancestry.[63][66][67][68][69][70][71]

Between the 8th and 11th centuries, "three major cultural divisions" had emerged in Great Britain: the English, the Scots and the Welsh, the earlier Brittonic Celtic polities in what are today England and Scotland having finally been absorbed into Anglo-Saxon England and Gaelic Scotland by the early 11th century.[72] The English had been unified under a single nation state in 937 by King Athelstan of Wessex after the Battle of Brunanburh.[73] Before then, the English (known then in Old English as the Anglecynn) were under the governance of independent Anglo-Saxon petty kingdoms which gradually coalesced into a Heptarchy of seven powerful states, the most powerful of which were Mercia and Wessex. Scottish historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver said that the Battle of Brunanburh would "define the shape of Britain into the modern era", it was a "showdown for two very different ethnic identities – a Norse Celtic alliance versus Anglo Saxon. It aimed to settle once and for all whether Britain would be controlled by a single imperial power or remain several separate independent kingdoms, a split in perceptions which is still very much with us today".[74] However, historian Simon Schama suggested that it was Edward I of England who was solely "responsible for provoking the peoples of Britain into an awareness of their nationhood" in the 13th century.[75] Scottish national identity, "a complex amalgam" of Gaelic, Brittonic, Pictish, Norsemen and Anglo-Norman origins, was not finally forged until the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.[76][77]

Arth tapestry2
Medieval tapestry showing King Arthur, a legendary ancient British ruler who had a leading role in the Matter of Britain, a national myth used as propaganda for the ancestral origins of the British Royal Family and their British subjects.

Though Wales was conquered by England, and its legal system replaced by that of the Kingdom of England under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, the Welsh endured as a nation distinct from the English, and to some degree the Cornish people, although conquered into England by the 11th century, also retained a distinct Brittonic identity and language.[78] Later, with both an English Reformation and a Scottish Reformation, Edward VI of England, under the counsel of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, advocated a union with the Kingdom of Scotland, joining England, Wales, and Scotland in a united Protestant Great Britain.[79] The Duke of Somerset supported the unification of the English, Welsh and Scots under the "indifferent old name of Britons" on the basis that their monarchies "both derived from a Pre-Roman British monarchy".[79]

Following the death of Elizabeth I of England in 1603, the throne of England was inherited by James VI, King of Scots, so that the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland were united in a personal union under James VI of Scotland and I of England, an event referred to as the Union of the Crowns.[80] King James advocated full political union between England and Scotland,[81] and on 20 October 1604 proclaimed his assumption of the style "King of Great Britain", though this title was rejected by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland,[82][83] and so had no basis in either English law or Scots law.

Union and the development of Britishness

Flag of Great Britain (1707–1800)
On 12 April 1606, the Union Flag representing the personal union between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland was specified in a royal decree. The St George's Cross and St Andrew's saltire were "joined together ... to be published to our Subjects."[84]

Despite centuries of military and religious conflict, the Kingdoms of England and Scotland had been "drawing increasingly together" since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and the Union of the Crowns in 1603.[85] A broadly shared language, island, monarch, religion and Bible (the Authorized King James Version) further contributed to a growing cultural alliance between the two sovereign realms and their peoples.[85][86] The Glorious Revolution of 1688 resulted in a pair of Acts of the English and Scottish legislatures—the Bill of Rights 1689 and Claim of Right Act 1689 respectively—which ensured that the shared constitutional monarchy of England and Scotland was held only by Protestants. Despite this, although popular with the monarchy and much of the aristocracy, attempts to unite the two states by Acts of Parliament in 1606, 1667, and 1689 were unsuccessful;[86] increased political management of Scottish affairs from England had led to "criticism", and strained Anglo-Scottish relations.[87][88]

While English maritime explorations during the Age of Discovery gave new-found imperial power and wealth to the English and Welsh at the end of the 17th century, Scotland suffered from a long-standing weak economy.[87] In response, the Scottish kingdom, in opposition to William II of Scotland (III of England), commenced the Darien Scheme, an attempt to establish a Scottish imperial outlet—the colony of New Caledonia—on the isthmus of Panama.[87] However, through a combination of disease, Spanish hostility, Scottish mismanagement and opposition to the scheme by the East India Company and the English government (who did not want to provoke the Spanish into war)[87][89] this imperial venture ended in "catastrophic failure" with an estimated "25% of Scotland's total liquid capital" lost.[87]

The events of the Darien Scheme, and the passing by the English Parliament of the Act of Settlement 1701 asserting the right to choose the order of succession for English, Scottish and Irish thrones, escalated political hostilities between England and Scotland, and neutralised calls for a united British people. The Parliament of Scotland responded by passing the Act of Security 1704, allowing it to appoint a different monarch to succeed to the Scottish crown from that of England, if it so wished.[87] The English political perspective was that the appointment of a Jacobite monarchy in Scotland opened up the possibility of a Franco-Scottish military conquest of England during the Second Hundred Years' War and War of the Spanish Succession.[87] The Parliament of England passed the Alien Act 1705, which provided that Scottish nationals in England were to be treated as aliens and estates held by Scots would be treated as alien property,[90] whilst also restricting the import of Scottish products into England and its colonies (about half of Scotland's trade).[91] However, the Act contained a provision that it would be suspended if the Parliament of Scotland entered into negotiations regarding the creation of a unified Parliament of Great Britain, which in turn would refund Scottish financial losses on the Darien Scheme.[89]

Union of Scotland and England

Despite opposition from within both Scotland[87] and England,[92] a Treaty of Union was agreed in 1706 and was then ratified by the parliaments of both countries with the passing of the Acts of Union 1707. With effect from 1 May 1707, this created a new sovereign state called the "Kingdom of Great Britain".[93][94][95] This kingdom "began as a hostile merger", but led to a "full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world"; historian Simon Schama stated that "it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history".[96]

After 1707, a British national identity began to develop, though it was initially resisted, particularly by the English.[92] The peoples of Great Britain had by the 1750s begun to assume a "layered identity": to think of themselves as simultaneously British and also Scottish, English, or Welsh.[92]

Turner, The Battle of Trafalgar (1822)
The Battle of Trafalgar by J. M. W. Turner (oil on canvas, 1822–1824) combines events from several moments during the Napoleonic Wars' Battle of Trafalgar—a major British naval victory upon which Britishness has drawn influence.

The terms North Briton and South Briton were devised for the Scots and the English respectively, with the former gaining some preference in Scotland, particularly by the economists and philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment.[97][98] Indeed, it was the "Scots [who] played key roles in shaping the contours of British identity";[99] "their scepticism about the Union allowed the Scots the space and time in which to dominate the construction of Britishness in its early crucial years",[100] drawing upon the notion of a shared "spirit of liberty common to both Saxon and Celt ... against the usurpation of the Church of Rome".[101] James Thomson was a poet and playwright born to a Church of Scotland minister in the Scottish Lowlands in 1700 who was interested in forging a common British culture and national identity in this way.[101] In collaboration with Thomas Arne, they wrote Alfred, an opera about Alfred the Great's victory against the Vikings performed to Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1740 to commemorate the accession of George I and the birthday of Princess Augusta.[102] "Rule, Britannia!" was the climactic piece of the opera and quickly became a "jingoistic" British patriotic song celebrating "Britain's supremacy offshore".[103] An island country with a series of victories for the Royal Navy associated empire and naval warfare "inextricably with ideals of Britishness and Britain's place in the world".[104][105]

Britannia, the new national personification of Great Britain, was established in the 1750s as a representation of "nation and empire rather than any single national hero".[106] On Britannia and British identity, historian Peter Borsay wrote:

Up until 1797 Britannia was conventionally depicted holding a spear, but as a consequence of the increasingly prominent role of the Royal Navy in the war against the French, and of several spectacular victories, the spear was replaced by a trident... The navy had come to be the very bulwark of British liberty and the essence of what it was to be British.[107]

From the Union of 1707 through to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Great Britain was "involved in successive, very dangerous wars with Catholic France",[108] but which "all brought enough military and naval victories ... to flatter British pride".[109] As the Napoleonic Wars with the First French Empire advanced, "the English and Scottish learned to define themselves as similar primarily by virtue of not being French or Catholic".[110] In combination with sea power and empire, the notion of Britishness became more "closely bound up with Protestantism",[111] a cultural commonality through which the English, Scots and Welsh became "fused together, and remain[ed] so, despite their many cultural divergences".[112]

The neo-classical monuments that proliferated at the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th, such as The Kymin at Monmouth, were attempts to meld the concepts of Britishness with the Greco-Roman empires of classical antiquity. The new and expanding British Empire provided "unprecedented opportunities for upward mobility and the accumulations of wealth", and so the "Scottish, Welsh and Irish populations were prepared to suppress nationalist issues on pragmatic grounds".[113] The British Empire was "crucial to the idea of a British identity and to the self-image of Britishness".[114] Indeed, the Scottish welcomed Britishness during the 19th century "for it offered a context within which they could hold on to their own identity whilst participating in, and benefiting from, the expansion of the [British] Empire".[115] Similarly, the "new emphasis of Britishness was broadly welcomed by the Welsh who considered themselves to be the lineal descendants of the ancient Britons – a word that was still used to refer exclusively to the Welsh".[115] For the English, however, by the Victorian era their enthusiastic adoption of Britishness had meant that, for them, Britishness "meant the same as 'Englishness'",[116][117] so much so that "Englishness and Britishness" and "'England' and 'Britain' were used interchangeably in a variety of contexts".[118] Britishness came to borrow heavily from English political history because England had "always been the dominant component of the British Isles in terms of size, population and power"; Magna Carta, common law and hostility to continental Europe were English factors that influenced British sensibilities.[119][120]

Union with Ireland

The political union in 1800 of the predominantly Catholic Kingdom of Ireland with Great Britain, coupled with the outbreak of peace with France in the early 19th century, challenged the previous century's concept of militant Protestant Britishness.[121][122] The new, expanded United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland meant that the state had to re-evaluate its position on the civil rights of Catholics, and extend its definition of Britishness to the Irish people.[122][123] Like the terms that had been invented at the time of the Acts of Union 1707, "West Briton" was introduced for the Irish after 1800. In 1832 Daniel O'Connell, an Irish politician who campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, stated in Britain's House of Commons:

The people of Ireland are ready to become a portion of the British Empire, provided they be made so in reality and not in name alone; they are ready to become a kind of West Briton if made so in benefits and justice; but if not, we are Irishmen again.[124]

Ireland, from 1801 to 1923, was marked by a succession of economic and political mismanagement and neglect, which marginalised the Irish,[123] and advanced Irish nationalism. In the forty years that followed the Union, successive British governments grappled with the problems of governing a country which had as Benjamin Disraeli, a staunch anti-Irish and anti-Catholic member of the Conservative party with a virulent racial and religious prejudice towards Ireland[125] put it in 1844, "a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world".[126] Although the vast majority of Unionists in Ireland proclaimed themselves "simultaneously Irish and British", even for them there was a strain upon the adoption of Britishness after the Great Famine.[127]

War continued to be a unifying factor for the people of Great Britain: British jingoism re-emerged during the Boer Wars in southern Africa.[128][129] The experience of military, political and economic power from the rise of the British Empire led to a very specific drive in artistic technique, taste and sensibility for Britishness.[130] In 1887, Frederic Harrison wrote:

Morally, we Britons plant the British flag on every peak and pass; and wherever the Union Jack floats there we place the cardinal British institutions—tea, tubs, sanitary appliances, lawn tennis, and churches.[118]

The Catholic Relief Act 1829 reflected a "marked change in attitudes" in Great Britain towards Catholics and Catholicism.[131] A "significant" example of this was the collaboration between Augustus Welby Pugin, an "ardent Roman Catholic" and son of a Frenchman, and Sir Charles Barry, "a confirmed Protestant", in redesigning the Palace of Westminster—"the building that most enshrines ... Britain's national and imperial pre-tensions".[131] Protestantism gave way to imperialism as the leading element of British national identity during the Victorian and Edwardian eras,[129] and as such, a series of royal, imperial and national celebrations were introduced to the British people to assert imperial British culture and give themselves a sense of uniqueness, superiority and national consciousness.[122][129][132] Empire Day and jubilees of Queen Victoria were introduced to the British middle class,[129] but quickly "merged into a national 'tradition'".[133]

Modern period

30a Sammlung Eybl Großbritannien. Alfred Leete (1882–1933) Britons (Kitchener) wants you (Briten Kitchener braucht Euch). 1914 (Nachdruck), 74 x 50 cm. (Slg.Nr. 552)
A famous First World War-era recruitment poster, stressing the concept of British national identity

The First World War "reinforced the sense of Britishness" and patriotism in the early 20th century.[122][128] Through war service (including conscription in Great Britain), "the English, Welsh, Scots and Irish fought as British".[122] The aftermath of the war institutionalised British national commemoration through Remembrance Sunday and the Poppy Appeal.[122] The Second World War had a similar unifying effect upon the British people,[134] however, its outcome was to recondition Britishness on a basis of democratic values and its marked contrast to Europeanism.[134] Notions that the British "constituted an Island race, and that it stood for democracy were reinforced during the war and they were circulated in the country through Winston Churchill's speeches, history books and newspapers".[134]

At its international zenith, "Britishness joined peoples around the world in shared traditions and common loyalties that were strenuously maintained".[135] But following the two world wars, the British Empire experienced rapid decolonisation. The secession of the Irish Free State from the United Kingdom meant that Britishness had lost "its Irish dimension" in 1922,[134] and the shrinking empire supplanted by independence movements dwindled the appeal of British identity in the Commonwealth of Nations during the mid-20th century.[136]

Since the British Nationality Act 1948 and the subsequent mass immigration to the United Kingdom from the Commonwealth and elsewhere in the world, "the expression and experience of cultural life in Britain has become fragmented and reshaped by the influences of gender, ethnicity, class and region".[137] Furthermore, the United Kingdom's membership of the European Economic Community in 1973 eroded the concept of Britishness as distinct from continental Europe.[138][139] As such, since the 1970s "there has been a sense of crisis about what it has meant to be British",[140] exacerbated by growing demands for greater political autonomy for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.[141]

The late 20th century saw major changes to the politics of the United Kingdom with the establishment of devolved national administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales following pre-legislative referendums.[142] Calls for greater autonomy for the four countries of the United Kingdom had existed since their original union with each other, but gathered pace in the 1960s and 1970s.[141] Devolution has led to "increasingly assertive Scottish, Welsh and Irish national identities",[143] resulting in more diverse cultural expressions of Britishness,[144] or else its outright rejection: Gwynfor Evans, a Welsh nationalist politician active in the late 20th century, rebuffed Britishness as "a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, Welsh and the Irish".[145]

Ve Day Celebrations in London, England, UK, 8 May 1945 D24587
Britons gathered in Whitehall to hear Winston Churchill's victory speech on 8 May 1945

In 2004 Sir Bernard Crick, political theorist and democratic socialist tasked with developing the life in the United Kingdom test said:

Britishness, to me, is an overarching political and legal concept: it signifies allegiance to the laws, government and broad moral and political concepts—like tolerance and freedom of expression—that hold the United Kingdom together.[146][147]

Gordon Brown initiated a debate on British identity in 2006.[148] Brown's speech to the Fabian Society's Britishness Conference proposed that British values demand a new constitutional settlement and symbols to represent a modern patriotism, including a new youth community service scheme and a British Day to celebrate.[148] One of the central issues identified at the Fabian Society conference was how the English identity fits within the framework of a devolved United Kingdom.[148] An expression of Her Majesty's Government's initiative to promote Britishness was the inaugural Veterans' Day which was first held on 27 June 2006. As well as celebrating the achievements of armed forces veterans, Brown's speech at the first event for the celebration said:

Scots and people from the rest of the UK share the purpose that Britain has something to say to the rest of the world about the values of freedom, democracy and the dignity of the people that you stand up for. So at a time when people can talk about football and devolution and money, it is important that we also remember the values that we share in common.[149]

Geographic distribution

British diaspora by country
A world map showing the distribution of people by self-reported British ancestral or ethnic diaspora.

The earliest migrations of Britons date from the 5th and 6th centuries AD, when Brittonic Celts fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasions migrated what is today northern France and north western Spain and forged the colonies of Brittany and Britonia. Brittany remained independent of France until the early 16th century and still retains a distinct Brittonic culture and language, whilst Britonia in modern Galicia was absorbed into Spanish states by the end of the 9th century AD.

Britons - people with British citizenship or of British descent - have a significant presence in a number of countries other than the United Kingdom, and in particular in those with historic connections to the British Empire. After the Age of Discovery the British were one of the earliest and largest communities to emigrate out of Europe, and the British Empire's expansion during the first half of the 19th century triggered an "extraordinary dispersion of the British people", resulting in particular concentrations "in Australasia and North America".[52]

The British Empire was "built on waves of migration overseas by British people",[150] who left the United Kingdom and "reached across the globe and permanently affected population structures in three continents".[52] As a result of the British colonisation of the Americas, what became the United States was "easily the greatest single destination of emigrant British", but in Australia the British experienced a birth rate higher than "anything seen before" resulting in the displacement of indigenous Australians.[52]

In colonies such as Southern Rhodesia, British East Africa and Cape Colony, permanently resident British communities were established and whilst never more than a numerical minority these Britons "exercised a dominant influence" upon the culture and politics of those lands.[150] In Australia, Canada and New Zealand "people of British origin came to constitute the majority of the population" contributing to these states becoming integral to the Anglosphere.[150]

The United Kingdom Census 1861 estimated the size of the overseas British to be around 2.5 million, but concluded that most of these were "not conventional settlers" but rather "travellers, merchants, professionals, and military personnel".[52] By 1890, there were over 1.5 million further UK-born people living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.[52] A 2006 publication from the Institute for Public Policy Research estimated 5.6 million Britons lived outside of the United Kingdom.[7][151]

Outside of the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories, the largest proportions of people of self-identified ethnic British descent in the world are found in New Zealand (59%),[9] Australia (46%)[6] and Canada (31%),[8] followed by a considerably smaller minority in the United States (12%)[4] and parts of the Caribbean. Hong Kong has the highest proportion of British citizens outside of the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories, with 47% of Hong Kong residents holding a British National (Overseas) citizenship or a British citizenship.[29]


Flag of Australia
The flag of Australia was approved by Australian and British authorities, and features a Union Flag—the flag of the United Kingdom—in the canton. Australia has one of the largest concentrations of people of British heritage.

From the beginning of Australia's colonial period until after the Second World War, people from the United Kingdom made up a large majority of people coming to Australia, meaning that many people born in Australia can trace their origins to Britain.[152] The colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788, was part of the eastern half of Australia claimed by the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1770, and initially settled by Britons through penal transportation. Together with another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies, the federation of Australia was achieved on 1 January 1901.

Its history of British dominance meant that Australia was "grounded in British culture and political traditions that had been transported to the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century and become part of colonial culture and politics".[153] Australia maintains the Westminster system of Parliamentary Government and Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia. Until 1987, the national status of Australian citizens was formally described as "British Subject: Citizen of Australia". Britons continue to make up a substantial proportion of immigrants.[152]

By 1947, Australia was fundamentally British in origin with 7,524,129 or 99.3% of the population declaring themselves as European.[154] In the most recent 2016 census, a large proportion of Australians self-identified with British ancestral origins, including 36.1% or 7,852,224 as English and 9.3% (2,023,474) as Scottish alone.[155][156] A substantial proportion —33.5%— chose to identify as ‘Australian’, the census Bureau has stated that most of these are of Anglo-Celtic colonial stock.[157]

All 6 states of Australia retain the flag of the United Kingdom in the canton of their respective flags.

British overseas territories

The approximately 250,000 people of the British overseas territories are British by citizenship, via origins or naturalisation. Along with aspects of common British identity, each of them has their own distinct identity shaped in the respective particular circumstances of political, economic, ethnic, social and cultural history. For instance, in the case of the Falkland Islanders, Lewis Clifton the Speaker of the Legislative Council of the Falkland Islands, explains:

British cultural, economic, social, political and educational values create a unique British-like, Falkland Islands. Yet Islanders feel distinctly different from their fellow citizens who reside in the United Kingdom. This might have something to do with geographical isolation or with living on a smaller island—perhaps akin to those Britons not feeling European.[158]

In contrast, for the majority of the Gibraltarians, who live in Gibraltar, there is an "insistence on their Britishness" which "carries excessive loyalty" to Britain.[159] The sovereignty of Gibraltar has been a point of contention in Spain–United Kingdom relations, but an overwhelming number of Gibraltarians embrace Britishness with strong conviction, in direct opposition to Spanish territorial claims.[159][160][161]


VE Day celebrations on Bay Street 1945
V-E Day celebrations in Toronto, May 1945

Canada traces its statehood to the French, English and Scottish expeditions of North America from the late-15th century. France ceded nearly all of New France in 1763 after the Seven Years' War, and so after the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776, Quebec and Nova Scotia formed "the nucleus of the colonies that constituted Britain's remaining stake on the North American continent".[162] British North America attracted the United Empire Loyalists, Britons who migrated out of what they considered the "rebellious" United States, increasing the size of British communities in what was to become Canada.[162]

Postage stamp with portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1954

In 1867 there was a union of three colonies with British North America which together formed the Canadian Confederation, a federal dominion.[163][164][165] This began an accretion of additional provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom, highlighted by the Statute of Westminster 1931 and culminating in the Canada Act 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the parliament of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, it is recognised that there is a "continuing importance of Canada's long and close relationship with Britain";[166] large parts of Canada's modern population claim "British origins" and the cultural impact of the British upon Canada's institutions is profound.[167]

It was not until 1977 that the phrase "A Canadian citizen is a British subject" ceased to be used in Canadian passports. The politics of Canada are strongly influenced by British political culture.[168][169] Although significant modifications have been made, Canada is governed by a democratic parliamentary framework comparable to the Westminster system, and retains Elizabeth II as The Queen of Canada and Head of State.[170][171] English is the mostly commonly spoken language used in Canada and it is an official language of Canada.[172]

British iconography remains present in the design of many Canadian flags, with 10 out of 13 Canadian provincial and territorial flags adopting some form of British symbolism in their design. The flag of the United Kingdom is also an official ceremonial flag in Canada known as the Royal Union Flag which is flown outside of federal buildings three days of the year.[173][174]

New Zealand

Flag of New Zealand
The flag of New Zealand features a Union Flag—the flag of the United Kingdom—in the canton. A referendum held in 2016 found that 57% of New Zealand voters wanted to retain the current design of the New Zealand flag.

A long-term result of James Cook's voyage of 1768–1771,[175] a significant number of New Zealanders are of British descent, for whom a sense of Britishness has contributed to their identity.[176] As late as the 1950s, it was common for British New Zealanders to refer to themselves as British, such as when Prime Minister Keith Holyoake described Sir Edmund Hillary's successful ascent of Mount Everest as putting "the British race and New Zealand on top of the world".[177] New Zealand passports described nationals as "British Subject: Citizen of New Zealand" until 1974, when this was changed to "New Zealand citizen".[178]

In an interview with the New Zealand Listener in 2006, Don Brash, the then Leader of the Opposition, said:

British immigrants fit in here very well. My own ancestry is all British. New Zealand values are British values, derived from centuries of struggle since Magna Carta. Those things make New Zealand the society it is.[179]

The politics of New Zealand are strongly influenced by British political culture. Although significant modifications have been made, New Zealand is governed by a democratic parliamentary framework comparable to the Westminster system, and retains Elizabeth II as the head of the monarchy of New Zealand.[180] English is the dominant official language used in New Zealand.[181]

Hong Kong

British nationality law as it pertains to Hong Kong has been unusual ever since Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842. From its beginning as a sparsely populated trading port to its modern role as a cosmopolitan international financial centre of over seven million people, the territory has attracted refugees, immigrants and expatriates alike searching for a new life. Citizenship matters were complicated by the fact that British nationality law treated those born in Hong Kong as British subjects (although they did not enjoy full rights and citizenship), while the People's Republic of China (PRC) did not recognise Hong Kong Chinese as such. The main reason for this was that recognising these people as British was seen as a tacit acceptance of a series of historical treaties that the PRC labelled as "unequal", including the ones which ceded Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories to Britain. The British government, however, recognising the unique political situation of Hong Kong, granted 3.4 million Hong Kongers a new type of nationality known as British National (Overseas), which is established in accordance with the Hong Kong Act 1985. Among those 3.4 million people, there are many British Nationals (Overseas) who are eligible for full British citizenship. Both British Nationals (Overseas) and British citizens are British nationals and Commonwealth citizens according to the British Nationality Law, which enables them to various rights in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

United States

An English presence in North America began with the Roanoke Colony and Colony of Virginia in the late-16th century, but the first successful English settlement was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. By the 1610s an estimated 1,300 English people had travelled to North America, the "first of many millions from the British Isles".[182] In 1620 the Pilgrims established the English imperial venture of Plymouth Colony, beginning "a remarkable acceleration of permanent emigration from England" with over 60% of trans-Atlantic English migrants settling in the New England Colonies.[182] During the 17th century an estimated 350,000 English and Welsh migrants arrived in North America, which in the century after the Acts of Union 1707 was surpassed in rate and number by Scottish and Irish migrants.[183]

The British policy of salutary neglect for its North American colonies intended to minimise trade restrictions as a way of ensuring they stayed loyal to British interests.[184] This permitted the development of the American Dream, a cultural spirit distinct from that of its European founders.[184] The Thirteen Colonies of British America began an armed rebellion against British rule in 1775 when they rejected the right of the Parliament of Great Britain to govern them without representation; they proclaimed their independence in 1776, and constituted the first thirteen states of the United States of America, which became a sovereign state in 1781 with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. The 1783 Treaty of Paris represented Great Britain's formal acknowledgement of the United States' sovereignty at the end of the American Revolutionary War.[185]

Nevertheless, longstanding cultural and historical ties have, in more modern times, resulted in the Special Relationship, the historically close political, diplomatic, and military co-operation between the United Kingdom and United States.[186] Linda Colley, a professor of history at Princeton University and specialist in Britishness, suggested that because of their colonial influence on the United States, the British find Americans a "mysterious and paradoxical people, physically distant but culturally close, engagingly similar yet irritatingly different".[187]

The largest concentrations of self-reported British ethnic ancestry in the United States were found to be in Utah (35%), Maine (30%), New Hampshire (25%) and Vermont (25%) at the 2015 American Community Survey.[188] Overall, 12% of Americans reported their ethnic ancestry as some form of "British", behind German and African ancestries and on par with Mexican and Irish ancestries.[4]


British and Chilean flags in a monument in Antofagasta city
Escudo de Coquimbo
Coat of arms of Coquimbo, with the Union Flag.

Approximately 4% of Chile's population is of British or Irish descent.[189] Over 50,000[190] British immigrants settled in Chile from 1840 to 1914. A significant number of them settled in Magallanes Province, especially in the city of Punta Arenas when it flourished as a major global seaport for ships crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Strait of Magellan. Around 32,000 English settled in Valparaíso, influencing the port city to the extent of making it virtually a British colony during the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.[191] However, the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War drove many of them away from the city or back to Europe.

In Valparaíso, they created their largest and most important colony, bringing with them neighbourhoods of British character, schools, social clubs, sports clubs, business organisations and periodicals. Even today their influence is apparent in specific areas, such as the banks and the navy, as well as in certain social activities, such as football, horse racing, and the custom of drinking tea.

During the movement for independence (1818), it was mainly the British who formed the Chilean Navy, under the command of Lord Cochrane.

British investment helped Chile become prosperous and British seamen helped the Chilean navy become a strong force in the South Pacific. Chile won two wars, the first against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation and the second, the War of the Pacific, in 1878–79, against an alliance between Peru and Bolivia. The liberal-socialist "Revolution of 1891" introduced political reforms modelled on British parliamentary practice and lawmaking.

British immigrants were also important in the northern zone of the country during the saltpetre boom, in the ports of Iquique and Pisagua. The "King of Saltpetre", John Thomas North, was the principal tycoon of nitrate mining. The British legacy is reflected in the streets of the historic district of the city of Iquique, with the foundation of various institutions, such as the Club Hípico (Racing Club). Nevertheless, the British active presence came to an end with the saltpetre crisis during the 1930s.

Some Scots settled in the country's more temperate regions, where the climate and the forested landscape with glaciers and islands may have reminded them of their homeland (the Highlands and Northern Scotland) while English and Welsh made up the rest. The Irish immigrants, who were frequently confused with the British, arrived as merchants, tradesmen and sailors, settling along with the British in the main trading cities and ports.

An important contingent of British (principally Welsh) immigrants arrived between 1914 and 1950, settling in the present-day region of Magallanes. British families were established in other areas of the country, such as Santiago, Coquimbo, the Araucanía, and Chiloé.

The cultural legacy of the British in Chile is notable and has spread beyond the British Chilean community into society at large. Customs taken from the British include afternoon tea (called onces by Chileans), football, rugby union and horse racing. Another legacy is the widespread use of British personal names by Chileans.

Chile has the largest population of descendants of British settlers in Latin America. Over 700,000 Chileans may have British (English, Scottish and Welsh) origin, amounting to 4.5% of Chile's population.[11]

South Africa

Cecil Rhodes - Project Gutenberg eText 16600
Cecil John Rhodes, the 6th Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (divided between two provinces in modern-day South Africa) and founder of the De Beers diamond company.

The British arrived in the area which would become the modern-day South Africa during the early 18th century, yet substantial settlement only started end of the 18th century, in the Cape of Good Hope; the British first explored the area for conquests for or related to the Slave Trade. In the late 19th century, the discovery of gold and diamonds further encouraged colonisation of South Africa by the British, and the population of the British-South Africans rose substantially, although there was fierce rivalry between the British and Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch colonists) in the period known as the Boer Wars. When apartheid first started most British-South Africans were mostly keen on keeping and even strengthening its ties with the United Kingdom. The latest census in South Africa showed that there are almost 2 million British-South Africans; they make up about 40% of the total White South African demographic, and the greatest white British ancestry populations in South Africa are in the KwaZulu-Natal province and in the cities of Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.


The Special Air Service during the Second World War MH24415
Paddy Mayne from County Down; a founding member of the SAS; was one of the most decorated British soldiers of World War II. He also played rugby for Ireland.

Plantations of Ireland introduced large numbers of people from Great Britain to Ireland throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period. The resulting Protestant Ascendancy, the aristocratic class of the Lordship of Ireland, broadly identified themselves as Anglo-Irish.[192] In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Protestant British settlers subjugated Catholic, Gaelic inhabitants in the north of Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster and the Williamite War in Ireland; it was "an explicit attempt to control Ireland strategically by introducing ethnic and religious elements loyal to the British interest in Ireland".[193]

The Ulster Scots people are an ethnic group of British origin in Ireland, broadly descended from Lowland Scots who settled in large numbers in the Province of Ulster during the planned process of colonisations of Ireland which took place in the reign of James VI of Scotland and I of England. Together with English and Welsh settlers, these Scots introduced Protestantism (particularly the Presbyterianism of the Church of Scotland) and the Ulster Scots and English languages to, mainly, northeastern Ireland. With the partition of Ireland and independence for what is now the Republic of Ireland some of these people found themselves no longer living within the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland itself was, for many years, the site of a violent and bitter ethno-sectarian conflict—The Troubles—between those claiming to represent Irish nationalism, who are predominantly Roman Catholic, and those claiming to represent British unionism, who are predominantly Protestant.[194] Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom,[195] while nationalists desire a united Ireland.[196][197]

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns, and constitutionally, the people of Northern Ireland have been recognised as "all persons born in Northern Ireland and having, at the time of their birth, at least one parent who is a British citizen, an Irish citizen or is otherwise entitled to reside in Northern Ireland without any restriction on their period of residence".[198] The Good Friday Agreement guarantees the "recognition of the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose".[198]


Result from the expansion of the British Empire, British cultural influence can be observed in the language and culture of a geographically wide assortment of countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, the United States, and the British overseas territories. These states are sometimes collectively known as the Anglosphere.[199] As well as the British influence on its empire, the empire also influenced British culture, particularly British cuisine. Innovations and movements within the wider-culture of Europe have also changed the United Kingdom; Humanism, Protestantism, and representative democracy have developed from broader Western culture.

As a result of the history of the formation of the United Kingdom, the cultures of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are diverse and have varying degrees of overlap and distinctiveness.


Fish and chips
Fish and chips, a popular take-away food throughout the United Kingdom, has been described as the quintessential British dish.[200]

Historically, British cuisine has meant "unfussy dishes made with quality local ingredients, matched with simple sauces to accentuate flavour, rather than disguise it".[201] It has been "vilified as unimaginative and heavy", and traditionally been limited in its international recognition to the full breakfast and the Christmas dinner.[202] This is despite British cuisine having absorbed the culinary influences of those who have settled in Britain, resulting in hybrid dishes such as the British Asian Chicken tikka masala, hailed by some as "Britain's true national dish".[203]

Celtic agriculture and animal breeding produced a wide variety of foodstuffs for Celts and Britons. The Anglo-Saxons developed meat and savoury herb stewing techniques before the practice became common in Europe. The Norman conquest of England introduced exotic spices into Britain in the Middle Ages.[202] The British Empire facilitated a knowledge of India's food tradition of "strong, penetrating spices and herbs".[202] Food rationing policies, imposed by the British government during wartime periods of the 20th century, are said to have been the stimulus for British cuisine's poor international reputation.[202]

British dishes include fish and chips, the Sunday roast, and bangers and mash. British cuisine has several national and regional varieties, including English, Scottish and Welsh cuisine, each of which has developed its own regional or local dishes, many of which are geographically indicated foods such as Cheddar cheese, Cheshire cheese, the Yorkshire pudding, Arbroath Smokie, Cornish pasty and Welsh cakes.

The British are the second largest per capita tea consumers in the world, consuming an average of 2.1 kilograms (4.6 lb) per person each year.[204] British tea culture dates back to the 19th century, when India was part of the British Empire and British interests controlled tea production in the subcontinent.


There is no single British language, though English is by far the main language spoken by British citizens, being spoken monolingually by more than 70% of the UK population. English is therefore the de facto official language of the United Kingdom.[205] However, under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish Gaelic, Ulster Scots, Manx, Scots and Lowland Scots languages are officially recognised as Regional or Minority languages by the UK Government.[206] As indigenous languages which continue to be spoken as a first language by native inhabitants, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic have a different legal status from other minority languages. In some parts of the UK, some of these languages are commonly spoken as a first language; in wider areas, their use in a bilingual context is sometimes supported or promoted by central or local government policy. For naturalisation purposes, a competence standard of English, Scottish Gaelic or Welsh is required to pass the life in the United Kingdom test.[207] However, English is used routinely, and although considered culturally important, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh are much less used.

Throughout the United Kingdom there are distinctive spoken expressions and regional accents of English,[50] which are seen to be symptomatic of a locality's culture and identity.[208] An awareness and knowledge of accents in the United Kingdom can "place, within a few miles, the locality in which a man or woman has grown up".[209]


J.K. Rowling is one of the world's best selling British authors. Her Harry Potter series of books have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide.[210]

British literature is "one of the leading literatures in the world".[211] The overwhelming part is written in the English language, but there are also pieces of literature written in Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Ulster Scots, Cornish and Welsh.

Britain has a long history of famous and influential authors. It boasts some of the oldest pieces of literature in the Western world, such as the epic poem Beowulf, one of the oldest surviving written work in the English language.[212]

Famous authors include some of the world's most studied and praised writers. William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe defined England's Elizabethan period.[213] The British Romantic movement was one of the strongest and most recognisable in Europe. The poets William Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge were amongst the pioneers of Romanticism in literature.[214] Other Romantic writers that followed these figure further enhanced the profile of Romanticism in Europe, such as John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.[215] Later periods like the Victorian Era saw a further flourishing of British writing, including Charles Dickens and William Thackeray.[216]

Women's literature in Britain has had a long and often troubled history, with many female writers producing work under a pen name, such as George Eliot.[217] Other great female novelists that have contributed to world literature are Frances Burney, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne.[218]

Non-fiction has also played an important role in the history of British letters, with the first dictionary of the English language being produced and compiled by Samuel Johnson, a graduate of Oxford University and a London resident.[219]

Media and music

Proms in the Park 2
The Proms is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts held across the United Kingdom. The Last Night of the Proms celebrates British tradition with patriotic classical music of the United Kingdom.[220][221]

Although cinema, theatre, dance and live music are popular, the favourite pastime of the British is watching television.[222] Public broadcast television in the United Kingdom began in 1936, with the launch of the BBC Television Service (now BBC One). In the United Kingdom and the Crown dependencies, one must have a television licence to legally receive any broadcast television service, from any source. This includes the commercial channels, cable and satellite transmissions, and the Internet. Revenue generated from the television licence is used to provide radio, television and Internet content for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and Welsh language television programmes for S4C. The BBC, the common abbreviation of the British Broadcasting Corporation,[223] is the world's largest broadcaster.[224] Unlike other broadcasters in the UK, it is a public service based, quasi-autonomous, statutory corporation run by the BBC Trust. Free-to-air terrestrial television channels available on a national basis are BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 (S4C in Wales), and Five.

100 Greatest British Television Programmes was a list compiled by the British Film Institute in 2000, chosen by a poll of industry professionals, to determine what were the greatest British television programmes of any genre ever to have been screened.[225] Topping the list was Fawlty Towers, a British sitcom set in a fictional Torquay hotel starring John Cleese.[225]

"British musical tradition is essentially vocal",[226] dominated by the music of England and Germanic culture,[227] most greatly influenced by hymns and Anglican church music.[228] However, the specific, traditional music of Wales and music of Scotland is distinct, and of the Celtic musical tradition.[229] In the United Kingdom, more people attend live music performances than football matches.[230] British rock was born in the mid-20th century out of the influence of rock and roll and rhythm and blues from the United States. Major early exports were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks.[231] Together with other bands from the United Kingdom, these constituted the British Invasion, a popularisation of British pop and rock music in the United States. Into the 1970s heavy metal, new wave, and 2 tone.[231] Britpop is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged from the British independent music scene of the early 1990s and was characterised by bands reviving British guitar pop music of the 1960s and 1970s. Leading exponents of Britpop were Blur, Oasis and Pulp.[232] Also popularised in the United Kingdom during the 1990s were several domestically produced varieties of electronic dance music; acid house, UK hard house, jungle, UK garage which in turn have influenced grime and British hip hop in the 2000s.[232] The BRIT Awards are the British Phonographic Industry's annual awards for both international and British popular music.


Westminster abbey west
Westminster Abbey is used for the coronation of the British monarchs, who are also made the head of the Church of England.

Historically, Christianity has been the most influential and important religion in Britain, and it remains the declared faith of the majority of the British people.[233] The influence of Christianity on British culture has been "widespread, extending beyond the spheres of prayer and worship. Churches and cathedrals make a significant contribution to the architectural landscape of the nation's cities and towns" whilst "many schools and hospitals were founded by men and women who were strongly influenced by Christian motives".[233] Throughout the United Kingdom, Easter and Christmas, the "two most important events in the Christian calendar", are recognised as public holidays.[233]

Christianity remains the major religion of the population of the United Kingdom in the 21st century, followed by Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and then Judaism in terms of numbers of adherents. The 2007 Tearfund Survey revealed 53% identified themselves as Christian, which was similar to the 2004 British Social Attitudes Survey,[234][235] and to the United Kingdom Census 2001 in which 71.6% said that Christianity was their religion,[236] However, the Tearfund Survey showed only one in ten Britons attend church weekly.[237] Secularism was advanced in Britain during the Age of Enlightenment, and modern British organisations such as the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society offer the opportunity for their members to "debate and explore the moral and philosophical issues in a non-religious setting".[233]

The Treaty of Union that led to the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain ensured that there would be a Protestant succession as well as a link between church and state that still remains. The Church of England (Anglican) is legally recognised as the established church, and so retains representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom through the Lords Spiritual, whilst the British monarch is a member of the church as well as its Supreme Governor.[238][239] The Church of England also retains the right to draft legislative measures (related to religious administration) through the General Synod that can then be passed into law by Parliament. The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is the second largest Christian church with around five million members, mainly in England.[240] There are also growing Orthodox, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, with Pentecostal churches in England now third after the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in terms of church attendance.[241] Other large Christian groups include Methodists and Baptists.

The Presbyterian Church of Scotland (known informally as The Kirk), is recognised as the national church of Scotland and not subject to state control. The British monarch is an ordinary member and is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the church upon his or her accession. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is Scotland's second largest Christian church, with followers representing a sixth of the population of Scotland.[242] The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of Scotland over matters of theology and ritual. Further splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the 19th century, led to the creation of other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland. In the 1920s, the Church in Wales became independent from the Church of England and became 'disestablished' but remains in the Anglican Communion.[238] Methodism and other Protestant churches have had a major presence in Wales. The main religious groups in Northern Ireland are organised on an all-Ireland basis. Though collectively Protestants constitute the overall majority,[243] the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland is the largest single church. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, closely linked to the Church of Scotland in terms of theology and history, is the second largest church followed by the Church of Ireland (Anglican) which was disestablished in the 19th century.


GB Gold WOC2008 Relay
The British gold medalist relay team of the 2008 World Orienteering Championships.

Sport is an important element of British culture, and is one of the most popular leisure activities of Britons. Within the United Kingdom, nearly half of all adults partake in one or more sporting activity each week.[244] Some of the major sports in the United Kingdom "were invented by the British",[245] including football, rugby union, rugby league and cricket, and "exported various other games" including tennis, badminton, boxing, golf, snooker and squash.[246]

In most sports, separate organisations, teams and clubs represent the individual countries of the United Kingdom at international level, though in some sports, like rugby union, an all-Ireland team represents both Northern Ireland and Ireland (Republic of), and the British and Irish Lions represent Ireland and Britain as a whole. The UK is represented by a single team at the Olympic Games and at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Great Britain team won 65 medals: 29 gold (the most since the 1908 Summer Olympics), 17 silver and 19 bronze, ranking them 3rd.[247] In total, sportsmen and women from the UK "hold over 50 world titles in a variety of sports, such as professional boxing, rowing, snooker, squash and motorcycle sports".[244]

A 2006 poll found that association football was the most popular sport in the UK.[248] In England 320 football clubs are affiliated to The Football Association (FA) and more than 42,000 clubs to regional or district associations. The FA, founded in 1863, and the Football League, founded in 1888, were both the first of their kind in the world.[249] In Scotland there are 78 full and associate clubs and nearly 6,000 registered clubs under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Football Association.[249] Two Welsh clubs play in England's Football League, one in the Premier league, and others at non-league level, whilst the Welsh Football League contains 20 semi-professional clubs. In Northern Ireland, 12 semi-professional clubs play in the IFA Premiership, the second oldest league in the world.[249]

Recreational fishing, particularly angling, is one of the most popular participation activities in the United Kingdom, with an estimated 3—4 million anglers in the country.[245][250] The most widely practised form of angling in England and Wales is for coarse fish while in Scotland angling is usually for salmon and trout.[245]

Visual art and architecture

For centuries, artists and architects in Britain were overwhelmingly influenced by Western art history.[251] Amongst the first visual artists credited for developing a distinctly British aesthetic and artistic style is William Hogarth.[251] The experience of military, political and economic power from the rise of the British Empire, led to a very specific drive in artistic technique, taste and sensibility in the United Kingdom.[130] Britons used their art "to illustrate their knowledge and command of the natural world", whilst the permanent settlers in British North America, Australasia, and South Africa "embarked upon a search for distinctive artistic expression appropriate to their sense of national identity".[130] The empire has been "at the centre, rather than in the margins, of the history of British art", and imperial British visual arts have been fundamental to the construction, celebration and expression of Britishness.[252]

British attitudes to modern art were "polarised" at the end of the 19th century.[253] Modernist movements were both cherished and vilified by artists and critics; Impressionism was initially regarded by "many conservative critics" as a "subversive foreign influence", but became "fully assimilated" into British art during the early-20th century.[253] Representational art was described by Herbert Read during the interwar period as "necessarily... revolutionary", and was studied and produced to such an extent that by the 1950s, Classicism was effectively void in British visual art.[253] Post-modern, contemporary British art, particularly that of the Young British Artists, has been pre-occupied with postcolonialism, and "characterised by a fundamental concern with material culture ... perceived as a post-imperial cultural anxiety".[254]

Architecture of the United Kingdom is diverse; most influential developments have usually taken place in England, but Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have at various times played leading roles in architectural history.[255] Although there are prehistoric and classical structures in the British Isles, British architecture effectively begins with the first Anglo-Saxon Christian churches, built soon after Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Great Britain in 597.[255] Norman architecture was built on a vast scale from the 11th century onwards in the form of castles and churches to help impose Norman authority upon their dominion.[255] English Gothic architecture, which flourished between 1180 until around 1520, was initially imported from France, but quickly developed its own unique qualities.[255] Secular medieval architecture throughout Britain has left a legacy of large stone castles, with the "finest examples" being found lining both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border, dating from the Wars of Scottish Independence of the 14th century.[256] The invention of gunpowder and canons made castles redundant, and the English Renaissance which followed facilitiated the development of new artistic styles for domestic architecture: Tudor style, English Baroque, The Queen Anne Style and Palladian.[256] Georgian and Neoclassical architecture advanced after the Scottish Enlightenment. Outwith the United Kingdom, the influence of British architecture is particularly strong in South India,[257] the result of British rule in India in the 19th century. The Indian cities of Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai each have courts, hotels and train stations designed in British architectural styles of Gothic Revivalism and neoclassicism.[257]

Political culture

British political culture is tied closely with its institutions and civics, and a "subtle fusion of new and old values".[193][258] The principle of constitutional monarchy, with its notions of stable parliamentary government and political liberalism, "have come to dominate British culture".[259] These views have been reinforced by Sir Bernard Crick who said:[146]

To be British seems to us to mean that we respect the laws, the elected parliamentary and democratic political structures, traditional values of mutual tolerance, respect for equal rights and mutual concern; that we give our allegiance to the state (as commonly symbolised by the Crown) in return for its protection.

British political institutions include the Westminster system, the Commonwealth of Nations and Privy Council of the United Kingdom.[260] Although the Privy Council is primarily a British institution, officials from other Commonwealth realms are also appointed to the body.[261] The most notable continuing instance is the Prime Minister of New Zealand, its senior politicians, Chief Justice and Court of Appeal judges are conventionally made Privy Counsellors,[262] as the prime ministers and chief justices of Canada and Australia used to be.[263][264] Prime Ministers of Commonwealth countries which retain the British monarch as their sovereign continue to be sworn as Privy Counsellors.[261]

Universal suffrage for all males over 21 was granted in 1918 and for adult women in 1928 after the Suffragette movement.[265] Politics in the United Kingdom is multi-party, with three dominant political parties: the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party. The social structure of Britain, specifically social class, has "long been pre-eminent among the factors used to explain party allegiance", and still persists as "the dominant basis" of party political allegiance for Britons.[266] The Conservative Party is descended from the historic Tory Party (founded in England in 1678), and is a centre-right conservative political party,[267] which traditionally draws support from the middle classes.[268] The Labour Party (founded by Scotsman Keir Hardie) grew out of the trade union movement and socialist political parties of the 19th century, and continues to describe itself as a "democratic socialist party".[269] Labour states that it stands for the representation of the low-paid working class, who have traditionally been its members and voters.[269] The Scottish National Party is the third largest political party in the UK in terms of both party membership and representation in parliament, having won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats at the 2015 General Election. The Liberal Democrats are a liberal political party, and third largest in England in terms of membership and MPs elected. It is descended from the Liberal Party, a major ruling party of 19th-century Britain through to the First World War, when it was supplanted by the Labour Party.[270] The Liberal Democrats have historically drawn support from wide and "differing social backgrounds".[270] There are over 300 other, smaller political parties in the United Kingdom registered to the Electoral Commission.[271][272]


According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, there are broadly two interpretations of British identity, with ethnic and civic dimensions:

The first group, which we term the ethnic dimension, contained the items about birthplace, ancestry, living in Britain, and sharing British customs and traditions. The second, or civic group, contained the items about feeling British, respecting laws and institutions, speaking English, and having British citizenship.[273]

Of the two perspectives of British identity, the civic definition has become "the dominant idea ... by far",[120] and in this capacity, Britishness is sometimes considered an institutional or overarching state identity.[119][120][146] This has been used to explain why first-, second- and third-generation immigrants are more likely to describe themselves as British, rather than English, because it is an "institutional, inclusive" identity, that can be acquired through naturalisation and British nationality law;[274] the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom who are from an ethnic minority feel British.[275]

However, this attitude is more common in England than in Scotland or Wales; "white English people perceived themselves as English first and as British second, and most people from ethnic minority backgrounds perceived themselves as British, but none identified as English, a label they associated exclusively with white people". Contrawise, in Scotland and Wales, White British and ethnic minority people both identified more strongly with Scotland and Wales than with Britain.[276]

Studies and surveys have "reported that the majority of the Scots and Welsh see themselves as both Scottish/Welsh and British though with some differences in emphasis".[274] The Commission for Racial Equality found that with respect to notions of nationality in Britain, "the most basic, objective and uncontroversial conception of the British people is one that includes the English, the Scots and the Welsh".[277] However, "English participants tended to think of themselves as indistinguishably English or British, while both Scottish and Welsh participants identified themselves much more readily as Scottish or Welsh than as British".[277]

Some persons opted "to combine both identities" as "they felt Scottish or Welsh, but held a British passport and were therefore British", whereas others saw themselves as exclusively Scottish or exclusively Welsh and "felt quite divorced from the British, whom they saw as the English".[277] Commentators have described this latter phenomenon as "nationalism", a rejection of British identity because some Scots and Welsh interpret it as "cultural imperialism imposed" upon the United Kingdom by "English ruling elites",[278] or else a response to a historical misappropriation of equating the word "English" with "British",[279] which has "brought about a desire among Scots, Welsh and Irish to learn more about their heritage and distinguish themselves from the broader British identity".[280]

See also



  1. ^ Richards 2004, p. 255.
  2. ^ Population By Country of Birth and Nationality tables January 2013 to December 2013. Retrieved 04_11_2014
  3. ^ See the article entitled British overseas territories.
  4. ^ a b c "Ancestry in the United States". Statistical Atlas. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Brits Abroad: Country-by-country, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 24 May 2009
  6. ^ a b Numerical estimate based on the total percentage of population identifying their principal ancestry as Scottish, English or Welsh. "CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN AUSTRALIA, 2016". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Brits Abroad, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 13 April 2009
  8. ^ a b Canadians of British Isles origin with the exception of those identifying their ancestry as Irish only. "Census Profile, 2016 Census". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  9. ^ a b Statistics New Zealand (4 February 2009), QuickStats About Culture and Identity,, archived from the original on 19 February 2008, retrieved 18 May 2009
  10. ^ Census 2011: Census in brief (PDF). Pretoria: Statistics South Africa. 2012. p. 26. ISBN 9780621413885. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 May 2015. The number of people who described themselves as white in terms of population group and specified their first language as English in South Africa's 2011 Census was 1,603,575. The total white population with a first language specified was 4,461,409 and the total population was 51,770,560.
  11. ^ a b Historia de Chile, Británicos y Anglosajones en Chile durante el siglo XIX,, retrieved 15 September 2009
  12. ^ Erwin Dopf. "Présentation du Royaume-Uni". Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  13. ^ Chavez, Lydia (23 June 1985), "Fare of the country: A bit of Britain in Argentina", The New York Times, retrieved 21 May 2009
  14. ^ "The other special relationship: the UAE and the UK". The National. Abu Dhabi. 21 November 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  15. ^ "TablaPx".
  16. ^ "End to Mediterranean dream for 90,000 Britons who left Spain last year". 22 April 2014.
  17. ^ Erwin Dopf. "Inmigración británica al Perú". Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  18. ^ a b The most popular British emigration destinations,, 13 April 2007, retrieved 24 May 2009
  19. ^ Gishkori, Zahid (30 July 2015). "Karachi has witnessed 43% decrease in target killing: Nisar". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 3 August 2017. As many as 116,308 Afghan nationals are living as immigrants in the country, higher than any other country," Nisar told the House. Besides Afghans, 52,486 Americans, 79,447 British citizens and 17,320 Canadians are residing in the country, the interior minister added.
  20. ^ a b Brits Abroad: Asia-Pacific, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 24 May 2009
  21. ^ a b c d e Brits Abroad: Europe, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 24 May 2009
  22. ^ Brits Abroad: Middle East, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 24 May 2009
  23. ^ "Persons with immigrant background by immigration category, country background and sex". Statistics Norway. 1 January 2009. Archived from the original on 15 November 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
  24. ^ Brits Abroad: Asia, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 24 May 2009
  25. ^ Brits Abroad: Africa, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 24 May 2009
  26. ^ a b Brits Abroad: Caribbean, BBC News, 11 December 2006, retrieved 24 May 2009
  27. ^ "Estimated overseas-born population resident in the United Kingdom by sex, by country of birth (Table 1.4)". Office for National Statistics. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2015. Figure given is the central estimate. See the source for 95 per cent confidence intervals.
  28. ^ a b Interactive Data Dissemination Service, Hong Kong Census, 2011
  29. ^ a b The Committee Office, House of Commons. "House of Commons - Foreign Affairs - Fifth Report". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  30. ^ "Ethnic Groups And Nationalities In Finland".
  31. ^ Cfr. Interpretation Act 1978, Sched. 1. By the British Nationality Act 1981, s. 50 (1), the United Kingdom includes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man for the purposes of nationality law.
  32. ^ a b Macdonald 1969, p. 62:
    British, brit'ish, adj. of Britain or the Commonwealth.
    Briton, brit'ὁn, n. one of the early inhabitants of Britain: a native of Great Britain.
  33. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2004), British (Fourth ed.),, retrieved 19 February 2009:
    Brit·ish (brĭt'ĭsh) adj.
    • Of or relating to Great Britain or its people, language, or culture.
    • Of or relating to the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth of Nations.
    • Of or relating to the ancient Britons.

    n. (used with a pl. verb)

    • The people of Great Britain.


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Further reading

  • Adams, Ian (1993). Political Ideology Today (2nd ed.). Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-3347-6.
  • Cunliffe, Barry (2005). Iron Age communities in Britain: an account of England, Scotland and Wales from the seventh century BC until the Roman conquest (4th ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-34779-2.
  • Gottlieb, Julie V.; Linehan, Thomas P. (2004). The Culture of Fascism: Visions of the Far Right in Britain. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-86064-799-4.
  • McLean, Iain (2001). Rational Choice and British Politics. Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-829529-4.
  • Woodward, Kath (2000). Questioning Identity: Gender, Class and Nation. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-22287-7.

External links

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen Ruston; 4 May 1929 – 20 January 1993) was a British actress, model, dancer, and humanitarian. Recognised as a film and fashion icon, Hepburn was active during Hollywood's Golden Age. She was ranked by the American Film Institute as the third-greatest female screen legend in Golden Age Hollywood, and was inducted into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.

Born in Ixelles, Brussels, Hepburn spent her childhood between Belgium, England, and the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, she studied ballet with Sonia Gaskell, before moving to London in 1948, continuing her ballet training with Marie Rambert, and then performing as a chorus girl in West End musical theatre productions. Following minor appearances in several films, Hepburn starred in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi, after being spotted by French novelist Colette, on whose work the play was based.

She shot to stardom after playing the lead role in Roman Holiday (1953), for which she was the first actress to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Award for a single performance. That same year, Hepburn won a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play for her performance in Ondine. She went on to star in a number of successful films, such as Sabrina (1954), The Nun's Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964), and Wait Until Dark (1967), for which she received an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominations. Hepburn won three BAFTA Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role. In recognition of her film career, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from BAFTA, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and the Special Tony Award. She remains one of only 15 people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.

Hepburn appeared in fewer films as her life went on, devoting much of her later life to UNICEF. She had contributed to the organisation since 1954, then worked in some of the poorest communities of Africa, South America and Asia between 1988 and 1992. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in December 1992. A month later, Hepburn died of appendiceal cancer at her home in Switzerland at the age of 63.

Ben Whishaw

Benjamin John Whishaw (born 14 October 1980) is an English actor. In 2004, he played the title role in an Old Vic production of Hamlet, earning an Olivier Award nomination. On television, Whishaw has appeared in Nathan Barley, Criminal Justice, The Hour, London Spy, and A Very English Scandal.

His film roles including Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), I'm Not There (2007), Bright Star (2009), Brideshead Revisited (2008), Cloud Atlas (2012), The Lobster (2015), Suffragette (2015), The Danish Girl (2015), and Mary Poppins Returns (2018). He played Q in the James Bond films Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015). He voiced Paddington Bear in Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 (2017). In 2018, Whishaw portrayed Norman Scott in the BBC One miniseries A Very English Scandal, opposite Hugh Grant as disgraced parliamentarian Jeremy Thorpe. He earned a Golden Globe for the role.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, (born Camilla Rosemary Shand, later Parker Bowles; 17 July 1947) is a member of the British royal family. She is the second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the British throne. Instead of using the title Princess of Wales, she uses the title Duchess of Cornwall, her husband's secondary designation. In Scotland, she is known as the Duchess of Rothesay.

Camilla is the eldest child of Major Bruce Shand and his wife Rosalind Cubitt, the daughter of Roland Cubitt, 3rd Baron Ashcombe. She was raised in East Sussex and South Kensington in England, and was educated in England, Switzerland and France. In 1973, Camilla married British Army officer Andrew Parker Bowles, with whom she has two children. They divorced in 1995.

Camilla was in a relationship with the Prince of Wales before, during and after their previous marriages. The relationship became highly publicised in the media and attracted worldwide scrutiny. In 2005, it culminated in a civil marriage at Windsor Guildhall, which was followed by a televised Anglican blessing at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

As Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla assists the Prince of Wales on his official duties. She is also the patron, president and a member of numerous charities and organisations. Since 1994, she has taken action on osteoporosis, earning honours and awards. She has also raised awareness in areas including rape and sexual abuse, literacy, animal welfare and poverty.

Charles Edward Stuart

Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (31 December 1720 – 31 January 1788) was the elder son of James Francis Edward Stuart, grandson of James II and VII and after 1766 the Stuart claimant to the throne of Great Britain. During his lifetime, he was also known as "The Young Pretender" or "The Young Chevalier" and in popular memory as "Bonnie Prince Charlie". He is best remembered for his role in the 1745 rising; his defeat at Culloden in April 1746 effectively ended the Stuart cause, and subsequent attempts (such as a planned French invasion in 1759) failed to materialise. His escape from Scotland after the uprising led him to be portrayed as a romantic figure of heroic failure in later representations.

Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana, Princess of Wales (born Diana Frances Spencer; 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997), was a member of the British royal family. She was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the mother of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

Diana was born into the Spencer family, a family of British nobility, and she was the youngest daughter of Viscount and Viscountess Althorp. She grew up in Park House, situated on the Sandringham estate, and was educated in England and Switzerland. In 1975, after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer, she became known as Lady Diana Spencer.

Diana came to prominence in February 1981 upon her engagement to Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II. Their wedding took place at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981 and made her Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, and Countess of Chester. The marriage produced two sons, the princes William and Harry, who were then respectively second and third in the line of succession to the British throne. As Princess of Wales, Diana undertook royal duties on behalf of the Queen and represented her at functions overseas. She was celebrated for her charity work and for her support of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Diana was involved with dozens of charities including London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, of which she was president from 1989. She also raised awareness and advocated ways to help people affected with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and mental illness.

Diana remained the object of worldwide media scrutiny during and after her marriage, which ended in divorce on 28 August 1996 following well-publicised extramarital affairs by both parties. Media attention and public mourning were extensive after her death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel on 31 August 1997 and subsequent televised funeral.

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British singer-songwriter, record producer and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. Regarded as one of the greatest lead singers in the history of rock music, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range.Born in 1946 in Zanzibar to Parsi parents from India, he attended English-style boarding schools in India from the age of eight, and returned to Zanzibar after secondary school. In 1964, his family fled the Zanzibar Revolution, moving to Middlesex, England. Having studied and written music for years, he formed Queen in 1970 with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Mercury wrote numerous hits for Queen, including "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Killer Queen", "Somebody to Love", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", and "We Are the Champions". He also led a solo career and served as a producer and guest musician for other artists. Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS. He confirmed the day before his death that he had contracted the disease.

As a member of Queen, Mercury was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1990, he and the band Queen were awarded the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. In 1992, a tribute concert was held at Wembley Stadium, London. In 2002, Mercury ranked as number 58 in the BBC's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. The 2018 film about Mercury and Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, is the highest-grossing musical biographical film of all time. Rami Malek won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Mercury in the film, among critical praise and other accolades.

George III of the United Kingdom

George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg ("Hanover") in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.His life and with it his reign, which were longer than those of any of his predecessors, were marked by a series of military conflicts involving his kingdoms, much of the rest of Europe, and places farther afield in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Early in his reign, Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years' War, becoming the dominant European power in North America and India. However, many of Britain's American colonies were soon lost in the American War of Independence. Further wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France from 1793 concluded in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

In the later part of his life, George III had recurrent, and eventually permanent, mental illness. Although it has since been suggested that he had bipolar disorder or the blood disease porphyria, the cause of his illness remains unknown. After a final relapse in 1810, a regency was established. George III's eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent until his father's death, when he succeeded as George IV.

Historical analysis of George III's life has gone through a "kaleidoscope of changing views" that have depended heavily on the prejudices of his biographers and the sources available to them. Until it was reassessed in the second half of the 20th century, his reputation in the United States was one of a tyrant; and in Britain he became "the scapegoat for the failure of imperialism".

George V

George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936.

Born during the reign of his grandmother Queen Victoria, George was third in the line of succession behind his father, Prince Albert Edward, and his own elder brother, Prince Albert Victor. From 1877 to 1891, George served in the Royal Navy, until the unexpected death of his elder brother in early 1892 put him directly in line for the throne. On the death of his grandmother in 1901, George's father ascended the throne as Edward VII, and George was created Prince of Wales. He became king-emperor on his father's death in 1910.

George V's reign saw the rise of socialism, communism, fascism, Irish republicanism, and the Indian independence movement, all of which radically changed the political landscape. The Parliament Act 1911 established the supremacy of the elected British House of Commons over the unelected House of Lords. As a result of the First World War (1914–1918), the empires of his first cousins Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany fell, while the British Empire expanded to its greatest effective extent. In 1917, George became the first monarch of the House of Windsor, which he renamed from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as a result of anti-German public sentiment. In 1924 he appointed the first Labour ministry and in 1931 the Statute of Westminster recognised the dominions of the Empire as separate, independent states within the Commonwealth of Nations. He had smoking-related health problems throughout much of his later reign and at his death was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward VIII.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon James Ramsay Jr. (born 8 November 1966) is a British chef, restaurateur, writer, television personality, food critic, and former footballer. Born in Johnstone, Scotland and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, Ramsay's restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total and currently hold a total of 7. His signature restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, has held three Michelin stars since 2001. First appearing on television in the UK in the late 1990s, by 2004 Ramsay had become one of the best-known and most influential chefs in British popular culture.As a reality television personality, Ramsay is known for his fiery temper, strict demeanour, and frequent use of expletives. He often makes blunt and controversial comments, including insults and wisecracks about contestants' cooking and restaurant facilities. He combines activities in the television, film, hospitality, and food industries and has promoted and hired various chefs who have apprenticed under his wing. Ramsay is known for presenting TV programmes about competitive cookery and food, such as the British series Hell's Kitchen, The F Word, and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, the American series MasterChef, MasterChef Junior, and Hotel Hell, and the American versions of Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. In 2015, Forbes listed his earnings at $60 million for the previous 12 months, and ranked him the 21st highest earning celebrity in the world.

Henry Cavill

Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill (; born 5 May 1983) is a British actor. He began his career with roles in the feature adaptations of The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) and I Capture the Castle (2003). He later appeared in supporting roles in several television series, including BBC's The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, ITV's Midsomer Murders, and Showtime's The Tudors. He has since appeared in numerous major Hollywood films, such as Tristan & Isolde (2006), Stardust (2007), Blood Creek (2009), and Immortals (2011).

Cavill gained prominence and international fame for portraying Superman in the DC Extended Universe, starring in Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Justice League (2017). He went on to star in the action spy film Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018).

Jeremy Irons

Jeremy John Irons (born 19 September 1948) is an English actor. After receiving classical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Irons began his acting career on stage in 1969 and has since appeared in many West End theatre productions, including The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, Godspell, Richard II, and Embers. In 1984, he made his Broadway debut in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing and received a Tony Award for Best Actor.

Irons's first major film role came in the 1981 romantic drama The French Lieutenant's Woman, for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor. After starring in dramas, such as Moonlighting (1982), Betrayal (1983), and The Mission (1986), he was praised for portraying twin gynaecologists in David Cronenberg's psychological thriller Dead Ringers (1988). In 1990, Irons portrayed accused attempted murderer Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune, and won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Other notable films have included Steven Soderbergh's mystery thriller Kafka (1991), the period drama The House of the Spirits (1993), the romantic drama M. Butterfly (1993), the voice of Scar in Disney's The Lion King (1994), Simon Gruber in the action film Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), the drama Lolita (1997), Musketeer Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), the action adventure Dungeons & Dragons (2000), the drama The Merchant of Venice (2004), the drama Being Julia (2004), the epic historical drama Kingdom of Heaven (2005), the fantasy-adventure Eragon (2006), the Western Appaloosa (2008), and the indie drama Margin Call (2011). In 2016, he appeared in Assassin's Creed and, starting that year, has portrayed Alfred Pennyworth in the DC Extended Universe, beginning with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and reprising the role in Justice League (2017).

Irons has also made several notable appearances on TV. He earned his first Golden Globe Award nomination for his break-out role in the ITV series Brideshead Revisited (1981). In 2005, Irons appeared in the historical miniseries Elizabeth I, for which he received a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor. From 2011 to 2013, he starred as Pope Alexander VI in the Showtime historical series The Borgias. He is one of the few actors who have achieved the "Triple Crown of Acting", winning an Academy Award for film, an Emmy Award for television and a Tony Award for theatre. In October 2011, he was nominated the Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Levi Bellfield

Yusuf Rahim (born Levi Rabetts; 17 May 1968), formerly known as Levi Bellfield, is an English Romani serial killer. He was convicted on 25 February 2008 of the murders of Marsha McDonnell and Amélie Delagrange and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, and sentenced to life imprisonment.On 23 June 2011, Bellfield was found guilty of the murder of Milly Dowler. On both occasions, the judge recommended that he should never be released from prison. He converted to Islam in prison.

Lily Collins

Lily Jane Collins (born 18 March 1989) is an English-American actress, model, and writer. The daughter of English musician Phil Collins, and an American mother, Jill Tavelman, she was born in Surrey and moved to Los Angeles as a child. Her first screen role was at the age of two in the BBC series Growing Pains. She went on to study broadcast journalism at the University of Southern California, and as a teenager, wrote for Seventeen magazine, Teen Vogue, and The Los Angeles Times. She was named International Model of the Year by Spain's Glamour magazine after being selected by Chanel to wear one of their dresses at the Hotel de Crillon in 2007. In 2008, she was named Newest Red Carpet Correspondent and One to Watch by Young Hollywood.

She has had leading roles in films such as the sci-fi action-horror film Priest (2011) and the psychological action-thriller Abduction (2011), and the fantasy Mirror Mirror (2012) in the role of Snow White. In 2013, she received wider recognition after taking on the role of Clary Fray in the fantasy The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, for which she was nominated for the Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actress – Action and an MTV Movie Award. She is also known for her roles in independent films, such as the romantic comedy-drama Stuck in Love (2012), the romantic comedy The English Teacher (2013), and the romantic comedy-drama Love, Rosie (2014). In 2016, she won the New Hollywood Film Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her role as Marla Mabrey in Rules Don't Apply. In 2017, her performance as a young adult with anorexia in the Netflix drama To the Bone was praised, with Collins herself having overcome an eating disorder in the years before the film, and she and director Marti Noxon were honored at Project Heal for the film.Collins is also a published author, with her first book, Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me, being released in 2017 to critical praise.

Mary of Teck

Mary of Teck (Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes; 26 May 1867 – 24 March 1953) was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress of India as the wife of King George V.

Although technically a princess of Teck, in the Kingdom of Württemberg, she was born and raised in England. Her parents were Francis, Duke of Teck, who was of German extraction, and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, who was a granddaughter of King George III. She was informally known as "May", after her birth month.

At the age of 24, she was betrothed to her second cousin once removed Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, but six weeks after the announcement of the engagement, he died unexpectedly during an influenza pandemic. The following year, she became engaged to Albert Victor's next surviving brother, George, who subsequently became king. Before her husband's accession, she was successively Duchess of York, Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess of Wales.

As queen consort from 1910, she supported her husband through the First World War, his ill health, and major political changes arising from the aftermath of the war. After George's death in 1936, she became queen mother when her eldest son, Edward VIII, ascended the throne, but to her dismay, he abdicated later the same year in order to marry twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. She supported her second son, George VI, until his death in 1952. She died the following year, during the reign of her granddaughter Elizabeth II, who had not yet been crowned.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, 10 June 1921), is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

Philip was born into the Greek and Danish royal families. He was born in Greece, but his family was exiled from the country when he was an infant. After being educated in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, he joined the British Royal Navy in 1939, aged 18. From July 1939, he began corresponding with the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth, whom he had first met in 1934. During the Second World War he served with distinction in the Mediterranean and Pacific Fleets.

After the war, Philip was granted permission by George VI to marry Elizabeth. Before the official announcement of their engagement in July 1947, he abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles and became a naturalised British subject, adopting the surname Mountbatten from his maternal grandparents. He married Elizabeth on 20 November 1947. Just before the wedding, he was created Baron Greenwich, Earl of Merioneth and Duke of Edinburgh. Philip left active military service when Elizabeth became queen in 1952, having reached the rank of commander, and was formally made a British prince in 1957.

Philip and Elizabeth have four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Through a British Order in Council issued in 1960, descendants of the couple not bearing royal styles and titles can use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, which has also been used by some members of the royal family who do hold titles, such as Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward.

A keen sports enthusiast, Philip helped develop the equestrian event of carriage driving. He is a patron, president or member of over 780 organisations and serves as chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award for people aged 14 to 24. He is the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch and the oldest ever male member of the British royal family. Philip retired from his royal duties on 2 August 2017, at the age of 96, having completed 22,219 solo engagements since 1952.

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, (Margaret Rose; 21 August 1930 – 9 February 2002) was the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II.

Margaret spent much of her childhood with her parents and sister. Her life changed dramatically in 1936, when her paternal uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry a divorcée, Wallis Simpson. Margaret's father became king, and her sister became heir presumptive, with Margaret second in line to the throne. During the Second World War, the two sisters stayed at Windsor Castle, despite suggestions to evacuate them to Canada. During the war years, Margaret was considered too young to perform any official duties and instead continued her education.

After the war, Margaret fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend. In 1952, Margaret's father died, her sister became queen, and Townsend divorced his first wife. Early the following year, he proposed to Margaret. Many in the government believed he would be an unsuitable husband for the Queen's 22-year-old sister, and the Church of England refused to countenance marriage to a divorced man. Margaret eventually abandoned her plans with him, and in 1960 she married the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was created Earl of Snowdon by the Queen. The couple had two children: David and Sarah.

Margaret was often viewed as a controversial member of the British royal family. Her divorce in 1978 earned her negative publicity, and she was romantically associated with several men. Her health gradually deteriorated in the final two decades of her life. A heavy smoker for most of her adult life, Margaret had a lung operation in 1985, a bout of pneumonia in 1993, and at least three strokes between 1998 and 2001. She died at King Edward VII's Hospital on 9 February 2002.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 – 30 March 2002) was the wife of King George VI and the mother of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. She was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions from her husband's accession in 1936 until his death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter. She was the last Empress of India.

Born into a family of British nobility, she came to prominence in 1923 when she married the Duke of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. The couple and their daughters embodied traditional ideas of family and public service. She undertook a variety of public engagements and became known for her consistently cheerful countenance.In 1936, her husband unexpectedly became king when his older brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth then became queen. She accompanied her husband on diplomatic tours to France and North America before the start of the Second World War. During the war, her seemingly indomitable spirit provided moral support to the British public. After the war, her husband's health deteriorated and she was widowed at the age of 51. Her elder daughter, aged 25, became the new queen.

From the death of Queen Mary in 1953, Elizabeth was viewed as the matriarch of the British royal family. In her later years, she was a consistently popular member of the family, even when other members were suffering from low levels of public approval. She continued an active public life until just a few months before her death at the age of 101 years, 238 days, seven weeks after the death of her younger daughter, Princess Margaret.

Timothy Dalton

Timothy Dalton (; born Timothy Leonard Dalton Leggett; 21 March 1946) is a British actor. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989), as well as Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre (1983), Rhett Butler in the television miniseries Scarlett (1994), and Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz (2007).

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh (; born Vivian Mary Hartley, and styled as Lady Olivier after 1947; 5 November 1913 – 8 July 1967) was an English stage and film actress.

She won two Academy Awards for Best Actress, for her iconic performances as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a role she had also played on stage in London's West End in 1949. She also won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway musical version of Tovarich (1963).

After completing her drama school education, Leigh appeared in small roles in four films in 1935 and progressed to the role of heroine in Fire Over England (1937). Lauded for her beauty, Leigh felt that her physical attributes sometimes prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress. Despite her fame as a screen actress, Leigh was primarily a stage performer. During her 30-year career, she played roles ranging from the heroines of Noël Coward and George Bernard Shaw comedies to classic Shakespearean characters such as Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet, and Lady Macbeth. Later in life, she performed as a character actress in a few films.

At the time, the public strongly identified Leigh with her second husband, Laurence Olivier, who was her spouse from 1940 to 1960. Leigh and Olivier starred together in many stage productions, with Olivier often directing, and in three films. She earned a reputation for being difficult to work with, and for much of her adult life, she suffered from bipolar disorder, as well as recurrent bouts of chronic tuberculosis, which was first diagnosed in the mid-1940s and ultimately claimed her life at the age of 53. Although her career had periods of inactivity, in 1999 the American Film Institute ranked Leigh as the 16th greatest female movie star of classic Hollywood cinema.


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