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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Insignia of a Knight of the Order of the Thistle

The Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. While its original date of foundation is unknown, James VII instituted the modern Order in 1687. The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights (members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs). The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders. The sixteen members are required to be Scottish-born, though not the "extra" knights and ladies. The Order's primary emblem is the thistle, the national flower of Scotland. The motto is Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin for "No one provokes me with impunity"). The patron saint of the Order is St Andrew. Most British orders of chivalry cover the entire kingdom, but the three most exalted ones each pertain to one constituent country only. The Order of the Thistle, which pertains to Scotland, is the second-most senior in precedence. (more...)

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Charles Darwin (circa 1859)

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist who proposed and provided evidence for the theory that all species have evolved over time from a common ancestor through the process of natural selection. This theory came to be accepted by the scientific community in modified form, forming much of the basis of modern evolutionary theory, a cornerstone of biology. His five-year voyage on the Beagle established him as a prominent geologist whose observations and theories supported uniformitarianism. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838. In 1858, Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay describing a similar theory, causing the two to publish their theories in a joint publication. His 1859 book On the Origin of Species established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation of the diversity of life in nature. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Keswick Panorama - Oct 2009.jpg
Photo credit: David Iliff

The town of Keswick is nestled between the fells of Skiddaw and Derwent Water in the Lake District, Cumbria, England. It is shown here from about ¾ of the way to the summit of Walla Crag.

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