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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King Authur by Peter Vischer in Hofkirche

King Arthur is a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against the Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians. The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various histories, including those of Gildas, Nennius and the Annales Cambriae. The legendary Arthur developed as a figure of international interest largely through the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth's fanciful and imaginative 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey depicted Arthur as a king of Britain who defeated the Saxons and established an empire over the British Isles, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. In fact, many elements and incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story appear in Geoffrey's Historia, including Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, the wizard Merlin, the sword Excalibur, Arthur's birth at Tintagel, his final battle against Mordred at Camlann and final rest in Avalon. The 12th-century French writer Chrétien de Troyes, who added Lancelot and the Holy Grail to the story, began the genre of Arthurian romance that became a significant strand of medieval literature. In the 21st century, the legend lives on, both in literature and in adaptations for theatre, film, television, comics and other media. (more...)

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1722 facsimile of first page of Cotton manuscript of Asser's 'Life of King Alfred'

Asser was a Welsh monk from St. David's, Dyfed, who became Bishop of Sherborne in the 890s. In about 885 he was asked by Alfred the Great to leave St. David's and join the circle of learned men which Alfred was recruiting for his court. After spending a year at Caerwent due to an illness, he accepted. In 893 Asser wrote a biography of Alfred, called the Life of King Alfred. The manuscript survived to modern times in only one copy, which was part of the Cotton library. That copy was destroyed in a fire in 1731, but transcriptions that had been made earlier, allied with material from Asser's work that was included by other early writers, have enabled the work to be reconstructed. The biography is now the main source of information about Alfred's life, and provides far more information about Alfred than is known about any other early English ruler. Asser also assisted Alfred in his translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, and possibly with other works. Asser is sometimes cited as a source for the legend of Alfred having founded the University of Oxford, which is now known to be false. A short passage making this claim was interpolated by William Camden into his 1603 edition of Asser's Life. Doubts have also been raised periodically about whether the entire Life is a forgery, written by a slightly later writer, but it is now almost universally accepted as genuine. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales
England Northern
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The Palace of Westminster.
Photo credit: Diliff

The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is where the two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) conduct their sittings. The Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the London borough of the City of Westminster.

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