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Official Symbols . The official symbols of the country like of any other one are flag, national emblem and official song – the anthem (God Save the Queen). Why is the British flag called the Union Jack?This is the popular name given it the flag of the Great Britain. Actually it is called the Union Flag and it is a mixture of several flags. It all began in 1606 when Scotland was joined to England and Wales. The Scottish flag, St. Andrew’s Cross, blue with a white cross from corner to corner, was joined to the English Flag, St. George’s Cross, with a red cross. The flag of St. George can still be seen on churches in England. Later, in 1801, when Ireland was joined to the union, as it called, the Irish Flag of St. Patrich’s Cross was added, white with a red cross from corner to corner. In this may the English people got the Union Flag which is red, white and blue. King James The Third (1566-1622) ordered that the Union Flag should be flown on the main mast of all British ships, except on ships of war. Here the flag was flown at the front of the bowsprit. The end of the bowsprit was called the Jake Star and so we get the name of Union Jack. A “jack”, by the may, is an old nord for the sailor. The Union Jack is also on the flags of Australia and New Zealand.
Geographical Position Great Britain is situated on the British Isles. It consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and is one thirtieth the size of Europe. Great Britain is surrounded by seas on all sides and is separated from the continent by the North Sea and the English Channel. There are many rivers in Britain. They are not long but some of them are deep. The longest river is the Severn. There are many mountains in the north of England and in Scotland but they are not very high. The highest mountain in Great Britain is Ben Nevis. There are many lakes in Scotland. The most beautiful is Loch Lomond. Great Britain has a very good position as it lies on the crossways of the sea routes from Europe to the other parts of the world. There are many countries which are connected with Great Britain by sea. Thanks to Gulf Stream the climate of Great Britain is mild. It is often foggy and rainy. The summer is not very hot and the winter is not very cold.
England 'When people say England, they sometimes mean Great Britain, sometimes the United Kingdom, sometimes the British Isles - but never England. England is part of an island called Great Britain, the largest island in Europe. England used to be known as Engla land, meaning the land of the Angles, people from continental Germany, who began to invade Britain in the late 5th century, along with the Saxons and Jute.England can be divided for four parts: the Southeast, the Southwest, East Anglia, the Midlands and the North of England.
The Southeast is a highly populated region of England. London, the capital of the UK, and such historical cities as Windsor, Dover and Brighton are situated here. When people travel to Britain by sea or by air they usually arrive in the Southeast, for this is where the main passenger ports and airports are.. The Southwest used to be known for its pirates. The two principal cities of the region are Bristol and Bath. If you want to see the famous Stonehenge you should also come here.
East Anglia is very flat and it is another farming region. It has beautiful cities with fine historic buildings such as Cambridge. It is more that half surrounded by the sea. The Midlands, known as the heart of England, is the largest industrial part in the country. The most important industrial cities are Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool which is one of Britain’s big ports, and Birmingham. The two famous Midlands cities are Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford. Stratford is the birthplace of William Shakespeare and Oxford is famous for its university. The North of England has some of the wildest and loneliest parts in the country. Here you can find deep valleys, rivers and waterfalls, hills and mountains. This part of the country is rich in coal. The main attractions of the North of England are certainly the Lake District, the cities of York and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Scotland Scotland is one of four parts of GB. In area Scotland is more than half as big as England. The principal cities of the country are: its capital Edinburgh and the main industrial center Glasgow. Scottish towns look very different from English towns..Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, is one of Britain’s most attractive cities. You are never far from green parks, gardens and hills - even in the main shopping streets. It’s a busy modern city, but the history is everywhere. At the top of the highest hill in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Castle. It was the home of Scotland’s royal family until 1603 when King James the 6th of Scotland became king of England and moved to London. Scotland is also famous for it’s kilt, the most important part of national dress and bagpipes - the national instrument. forget it.
At the other end of the Royal Mile is the Palace of Hollyroodhouse. It was built by a Scottish king before Scotland and England were united to make Great Britain. Now it is a second home for the Queen or her children, who usually visit Edinburgh in the summer. When the royal family is not there you can visit the palace and see a lot of interesting things. The highlands of Scotland is mountainous and wild. Usually between the mountains are rivers and lakes. Scottish people like fishing very much, that’s why they say that Scottish rivers are good for two : fishing is one, the other is Scotch whisky.
Wales Wales is a country of lakes and mountains. Its about the half the size of Switzerland, and it has a population of two and three quarter million. On the north of Wales is some of the most beautiful scenery in the British islands, the Snowdon mountain. Snowdon is Britain’s second highest mountain. Wales is an not independent nation. In 1292, the English king, Edward, invaded Wales and built fourteen huge castles to control the Welsh people. His son, Edward, became the first prince of Wales, since then all the kings and queens of England have given their eldest sons the title, Prince of Wales. Prince Charles became the twenty-first Prince of Wales. Although the English have ruled Wales for many centuries, Wales still has its own flag, culture, and, above all, its own language. In the towns and villages of North Wales, many people speak English only as a second language.
Their first language is Welsh. Welsh is one of the oldest languages in Europe. Its a Celtic language, like Breton in France, Gaelic in Ireland, or Gaelic in Scotland.. Now only twenty per cent of Welsh people speak Welsh. Here are some of the reasons for the decline. People, especially young people, moved away from the Welsh-speaking villages and farms of north and west Wales to look for work in the big towns and cities, so the Welsh-speaking communities became much smaller. In the 1960s and 1970s many English people bought holiday cottages in villages in Wales. St.David is the patron saint of Wales. He was a monk who lived on bread, water, herbs and leeks and died on March 1, 589 A. D. The leek became the national emblem for Wales and medieval soldiers used to wear leeks as they rode to battle. The capital of Wales is Cardiff which is situated in the South Wales.
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland, integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is situated in the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland is bounded on the north and northeast by the North Channel, on the southeast by the Irish Sea, and on the south and west by the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is also known as Ulster, because it comprises six of the nine counties that constituted the former province of Ulster. The country consists mainly of a low, flat plain. The majority of the people are of Scottish or English ancestry and are known commonly as the Scotch-Irish. The remainder of the population is Irish, principally native to Ulster.
English is the sole official language. Unlike the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland does not encourage the use of the Gaelic language. The capital and largest city of Northern Ireland is Belfast Northern Ireland, an integral part of Great Britain, elects members (now 17) to the British House of Commons. In recent years some of those elected have chosen not to go to London (usually in order to protest the domestic situation). Northern Ireland is divided into 26 districts. Each district is governed by an elected council.
London London is the capital of the United Kingdom, its economic, political and cultural center. It is one of the world’s most important ports and one of the largest cities in the world. London with its suburbs has a population of about 11 million people. It was founded by Julius Cesar in 43 Anna Domini. London has been a capital for nearly a thousand years. Many of its ancient buildings still stand. The most famous of them are the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Most visitors also want to see the Houses of Parliament and the many magnificent museums. Once London was a small Roman town of the north bank of the Thames. Slowly it grew into one of the world’s major cities. On the photos:The House of Parliament (as non-official symbol of the country), The Tower Bridge, The Buckingham Palace(thehome place of the Queen and her family), Westminster and a White Tower built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.
Different areas of London seem like different cities. The West End is a rich man’s world of shops, offices and theatres. The City of London is the district where most offices and banks are concentrated; the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England are here, too. The East End is a district where mostly working people live. The old port area is now called «Docklands». There are now new office buildings in Docklands, and thousands of new flats and houses. By the day the whole of London is busy. At night, offices are quiet and empty, but the West End stays alive, because this is where Londoners come to enjoy themselves. There are two opera houses here, several concert halls and many theatres, as well as cinemas. In nearby Soho the pubs and restaurants and nightclubs are busy half the night Westminster London Eye Tower Bridge The Stonehenge
Places of Interest The Tower of London is the most famous of all the historical buildings in London. It stands today almost unchanged since first it was built in the 11th centure. In the past the Tower of London served both as a palace and as a state prison, but it is only a museum today. St Paul's Cathedral is the greatest work of England's greatest architector Christopher Wren. The cathedral was begun in 1675. It was opened in 1697 but was finished only in 1710, when Wren was almost eighy years old. There are memorials to many famous men of England in the Cathedral. Trafalgar Square is in the centre of the West End of London. On the north side is the National Gallery; in the north-east corner is the National Portrait Gallery, and in the centre is Nelson's Column with the figure of the great seamen. Trafalgar Square is the place where mass meetings and demonstrations for peace and for working people's rights take place. The Tower St.Paul’s Cathedral Trafalgar Square
"Big Ben" is the name of the great bell which strikes the hour. It is in the clock Tower of the Houses of Parlament. Westminster Abbey is the historic building in London to which every visitor sooner or later goes. The Abbey was founded in the 11th centure. Many of Great Britain's famous men are buried in Westminster Abbey. Piccadilli Circus is a square in the central part of London. London's best-known theatres and cinemas and most famous restaurants are on Piccadilly Circus. In the square you can see people of many nationalities and hear a lot of different languages. Hyde Park is the largest park in the West End of London. In the 19th century it became a popular place for public meetings. The British Museum is one of the largest museums in the world. It consists of the National Library and Museum of History, Archaelogy, Art and Ethnography. Big Ben
Museums and Galleries The British Musem is one of the world’s most fascinating museums. It contains a lot of information about people, journeys, historic facts and events, here you can observe the traces of the human beings’ activities of over the last few thousand years . The museum is home to thousands of artefacts but there are three that shouldn't be missed The Rosetta Stone was the key that unlocked the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphics The Elgin Marbles are the bas relief sculptures that used to adorn the Acropolis in Athens The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The British Museum is very big, and it would certainly take you a couple of days to see all the ex
Victoria & Albert Museum (V & A) Was established in 1909 as the collection of art, sculpture, furniture and hadicraft The richest collection of paintings will fascinate you in 150 halls of the museum.On the sixth floor you will enjoy with a splendid creatures of John Constable, a greatest English artist.
The National Gallery is an art gallery in London, located on the north side of Trafalgar Square. It holds the National Collection of Art from 1250 to 1900 (subsequent art from the National Collection is housed in Tate Modern). Some British art is included, but the National Collection of British art from this period is mainly in Tate Britain. The collection of 2,300 paintings belongs to the British public, and entry to the main collection is free, though there are charges for entry to special exhibitions.
British Castles Britain is strewn with ruins of castles, rubble from the centuries of her existence. Castles are tangible relics of a remarkable past, a lengthy heritage etched in stone, as well as with the blood and sweat of those who built, labored, fought, and died in their shadow. Ruins stir up in us a profound awareness of those past lives. Castles have a timelessness that is awe-inspiring. That they have endured centuries of warfare and the effects of weather is a testimony to the creativity and power of their medieval owners. How many of us will have such long-lasting success? Wales is known as the land of castles, but they are everywhere in Great Britain. Here are small part of them: Bodiam Castle, Bolton Castle, Caernafron Castle, Caerphlilly Castle, Cardiff Castle, Edinburgh Castle,Rochester Castle and many, many others…
The British Monarchy Queen Elisabeth II is a head of state. A thousand years ago the Anglo-Saxon kings consulted the Great Council before taking important decisions. Between 1066 and 1215 the king ruled alone, but in 1215 the nobles forced king John to accept Magna Carta, which took away some of the king’s powers. In 1264 the 1st parliament of nobles met together. Since then the British constitution has grown up slowly as the result of countless Acts of parliament.
A constitutional monarch is one who can rule only with the support of parliamentary. The Bill of Rights was the 1st legal step towards constitutional monarchy. The UK is a constitutional monarchy: the head of the state is a king or a queen. In practice, the Sovereign reigns, but doesn’t rule. The present Sovereign is Queen Elisabeth II. Today the Queen isn’t only head of state, but also an important symbol of national unity. The Queen and the Royal family continue to take part in many traditional ceremonies. Prince Charles (Elizabeth’s son) with his second (after Princess Diana’s death) wife, Camilla. The Royal Family at Charles’ and Camilla’s wedding on April 8, 2005
Parliament The British Parliament is the oldest in the world. It originated in th 12th century as Witenagemot, the body of wise councellers whom the King needed to consult pursuing his policy. The British Parliament consists of the House of Lords and the House of Commons and the Queen as its head. The House of Commons plays the major role in law-making. It consists of Members of Parliament (called MPs for short). Each of them represents an area in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. MPs are elected either at a general election or at a by-election following the death or retirement. Parliamentary elections are held every 5 years and it is the Prime Minister who decides on the exact day of the election. The minimum voting age is 18. And the voting is taken by secret ballot.
The election campaign lasts about 3 weeks, The British parliamentary system depends on political parties. The party which wins the majority of seats forms the government and its leader usually becomes Prime Minister. The Prime Minister chooses about 20 MPs from his party to become the cabinet of ministers. Each minister is responsible for a particular area in the government. The second largest party becomes the official opposition with its own leader and "shadow cabinet". The House of Lords has more than 1000 members, although only about 250 take an active part in the work in the house. Members of this Upper House are not elected, they sit there because of their rank, the chairman of the House of Lords is the Lord Chancellor. And he sits on a special seat, called "WoolSack" The members of the House of Lords debate the bill after it has been passed by the House of Commons. Some changes may be recommended and the agreement between the two houses is reached by negotiations . On the photos: the building of the House of Parliament at night and at day time.
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