Portal:United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom Portaledit
Flag of the United Kingdom
Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain) is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are three devolved national administrations, each with varying powers, based in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies. The United Kingdom has fourteen overseas territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a third of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.

The UK is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks third or fourth in the world. The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade Organization.

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Caricature of Major Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset

The Cleveland Street scandal occurred in 1889, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, London, was uncovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain, and the brothel's clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one of the brothel's clients was Prince Albert Victor, who was the son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line to the British throne. Officials were involved in a cover-up to keep the prince's name and others' out of the scandal. One of the clients, Lord Arthur Somerset, was an equerry to the Prince of Wales but he, as well as the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad before a prosecution could be brought. The rent boys, who also worked as messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and none of the clients were prosecuted. After Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Euston was named in the press as a client, he successfully sued for libel. The British press never named Prince Albert Victor, and there is no evidence he ever visited the brothel, but his inclusion in the rumours has coloured biographers' perceptions of him since. The scandal fuelled the attitude that male homosexuality was an aristocratic vice that corrupted lower-class youths. (more...)

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Alice Ayres and child

Alice Ayres (1859–1885) was an English household assistant and nursemaid to the family of her brother-in-law and sister, Henry and Mary Ann Chandler. The Chandlers owned an oil and paint shop in Southwark, and Ayres lived with them above the shop. In 1885, fire broke out in the shop and Ayres rescued three of her nieces from the burning building but fatally injured herself. Ayres died during a period of great social change in Britain in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, in which a rapidly growing media was paying increasing attention to the activities of the poorer classes. The manner of her death caused great public interest, and large numbers of people attended her funeral and contributed to the funding of a memorial. She then underwent a "secular canonisation" and became widely depicted in the popular culture of the period. The circumstances of her death were distorted to give the impression that she was an employee willing to die for the sake of her employer's family. She was widely cited as a role model, and was promoted as an example of the values held by various social and political movements. In 1902 her name was added to the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice and in 1936 a street near the scene of the fire was renamed Ayres Street in her honour. The case of Alice Ayres came to renewed public notice with the release of Patrick Marber's 1997 play Closer, and the 2004 film based on it. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales
England Northern
Ireland
Scotland Wales
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The Roman Baths (Thermae) of Bath.
Photo credit: Diliff

Bath is a city in South West England most famous for its baths fed by three hot springs. It is situated 99 miles (159 km) west of Central London and 13 miles (21 km) south east of Bristol.

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