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 country located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The United Kingdom 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. The United Kingdom 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 an MEDC and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised state 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 European Union, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade Organization.

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The new Scottish Parliament Building at Holyrood

The Scottish Parliament Building is the home of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Edinburgh. Construction on the building commenced in June 1999 and the Members of the Scottish Parliament held their first debate in the new building on Tuesday, 7 September 2004. The formal opening by Queen Elizabeth II took place on 9 October 2004. Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who designed the building, died during the course of its construction. From the outset, the building and its construction have proven to be highly controversial. The choices of location, architect, design and construction company were all criticised by politicians, the media and the Scottish public. Scheduled to open in 2001, it did so in 2004, more than three years late with an estimated final cost of £414m, substantially higher than initial costings of between £10m and £40m. A major public inquiry into the handling of the construction, chaired by the former Lord Advocate, Peter Fraser, was established in 2003. The inquiry concluded in September 2004 and criticised the management of the whole project from the realisation of cost increases down to the way in which major design changes were implemented. Despite these criticisms and a mixed public reaction, the building was welcomed by architectural academics and critics. (more...)

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Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley (1797–1851) was a British novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. In 1814, Mary Godwin fell in love with one of her father's political followers, the married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Together with Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, they left for France and travelled through Europe; upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm in the Bay of La Spezia. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumour that was to kill her at the age of 53. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Alice and the Caterpillar in John Tenniel's illustration

The Caterpillar is a fictional character appearing in Lewis Carroll's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, shown here in an illustration by John Tenniel. The illustration is noted for its ambiguous central figure, whose head can be viewed as being a human male's face with pointed nose and protruding chin or being the head end of an actual caterpillar, with two "true" legs visible.

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