UK is a country and sovereign state that lies to the northwest of mainland Europe. It extends over all of the island of Great Britain and the north-east part of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland is the only part of the country with a land border, sharing it with the Republic of Ireland. The United Kingdom is also often (incorrectly) referred to as England, after its largest and allegedly dominant constituent state. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a country and sovereign state that lies to the northwest of mainland Europe. It extends over all of the island of Great Britain and the north-east part of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland is the only part of the country with a land border, sharing it with the Republic of Ireland. The United Kingdom is also often (incorrectly) referred to as England, after its largest and allegedly dominant constituent state.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy, with executive power exercised on behalf of the monarch by the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers. Following the Act of Settlement 1701 only the descendants of Sophia of Hanover who were Anglican or Protestant, and had not married a Roman Catholic could succeed the throne. The monarch technically holds all executive power and must nominate a head of government (Prime Minister) that the Parliament agrees upon. The Prime Minister is now, by convention, a member of the House of Commons; Lord Home (pronounced "Hume") renounced his title to become prime minister (as Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in 1963-64. The cabinet, including the Prime Minister, and other senior ministers collectively make up Her Majesty's Government. These ministers are drawn from, and are responsible to, Parliament. The British system of government has been emulated around the world – a legacy of the British Empire's colonial past, most notably in the other Commonwealth Realms – however the United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution (the other two being New Zealand and Israel), relying instead on traditional customs and separate pieces of constitutional law. The Palace of Westminster
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS The Prime Minister appoints ministers to government posts, usually from senior members of their own party. Most ministers are members of, and answerable to, the House of Commons (particularly at their Department's "Question Time"). The remaining ministers are usually from the House of Lords, Ministers do not legally have to come from Parliament, but that is the modern day custom, and a Prime Minister who wants to bring someone into the government from outside Parliament will usually first create them a Life Peer, i.e. give them a non-hereditary seat in the House of Lords. The chief advantage put forward for the Parliamentary system of Government is this direct accountability of cabinet members to Parliament. The counter-argument is that the majority of legislators (elected to hold government to account) are (because they are in the PM's party) actually looking to the Prime Minister for personal advancement — and that most politicians (at least in the early stages of their career) appear to view their being an MP not as an honourable and status-awarding end in itself but as the route to office. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
LANGUAGE Countries where English has official or de facto official language status. Though the UK does not have a de jure official language, the predominant spoken language is English, a West Germanic language descended from Old English, featuring a large number of borrowings from Old Norse and Norman. The other indigenous languages are Scots (which is closely related to English) and the Insular Celtic languages (which are not). The latter fall into two groups: the P-Celtic languages (Welsh and the Cornish language); and the Q-Celtic languages (Irish and Scottish Gaelic and Manx). Celtic dialectal influences from Cumbric persisted in Northern England for many centuries, most famously in a unique set of numbers used for counting sheep. The English language has spread to all corners of the world (largely due to the British Empire) and has thus become the business language of the world. Worldwide, it is taught as a second language more than any other. The United Kingdom's Celtic languages are also spoken by small groups around the globe, mainly Gaelic in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.
RELIGION The UK is today a predominantly secular state with only 38% of the population believing in a God. People identify themselves with religion in the UK for both cultural and religious reasons and this is reflected by the disparity between the figures for those believing in a God and those identifying themselves with a particular religion. Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Church of England
CULTURE Education The United Kingdom contains some of the world's leading seats of higher education, such as the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, along with Imperial College, the London School of Economics, King's College London (KCL) University College (UCL) of the University of London, University of Edinburgh and St Andrews University. Parts of the United Kingdom use a segregation system in their state-sector schooling. In these areas parents may choose to enter their children into the Eleven Plus, an entrance test to a specific group of elite state Grammar schools. However some Grammar Schools have an additional test named an Entrance Exam, as well as the Eleven Plus. But those who do not take the test, or do not reach the mark necessary for entrance to these schools, are usually allocated a place at a comprehensive school, where children are not selected on the basis of academic aptitude. This is a controversial system as it gives greater opportunities to high-achieving students possibly at the expense of other students. This has lead some to accuse the grammar school system of promoting elitism.
Literature In the history of the novel England is particularly well represented. Early English writers included Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Malory and Geoffrey of Monmouth. In the 17th century, Samuel Richardson (often credited with inventing the modern novel), and subsequently Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, Walter Scott, and Jane Austen all innovated in the novel form, followed by Thackeray, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle and Anthony Trollope. In the twentieth century, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, the Modernists Virginia Woolf and Henry Green, E. M. Forster, George Orwell and Graham Greene were prominent. More recently, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Alan Hollinghurst, Ben Okri, Will Self, Monica Ali, and Zadie Smith were among those gaining recognition, while children's author J. K. Rowling has seen immense popularity, recalling that of J.R.R. Tolkien. The history of the theatre in the United Kingdom is particularly vivid. Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson add depth to the early theatre. More recently Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism; with successful recent playwrights also including John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, Alan Bennett and David Hare.
CAPITAL LONDON An important settlement for around two millennia, London is today one of the world's leading business, financial and cultural centres, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the major global cities. London is the most populous city within city limits in the European Union with an official population of 7.6 million (as of 2006) and has a metropolitan area population of between 12 and 14 million people. Its population is very cosmopolitan, drawing from a wide range of peoples, cultures and religions, speaking over 300 different languages. London is an international transport hub, with five international airports and a large port. It serves as the largest aviation hub in the world, and its main airport, the multi terminal Heathrow, carries more international passengers than any other airport in the world.
London is a major tourist destination, with four world heritage sites and numerous iconic landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye amongst its many attractions, along with famous institutions such as the British Museum and the National Gallery. The British Museum London by night
Parks and Gardens Often called "The Green City," London has a number of open spaces. The largest of these in the central area are the Royal Parks of Hyde Park and its neighbours Kensington Gardens and Holland Park Gardens at the western edge of central London, and Regent's Park on the northern edge. This park is located near the tourist attractions of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Baker Street, where the fictional Sherlock Holmes lived. Closer to central London are the smaller Royal Parks of Green Park and St. James's Park. Hyde Park in particular is popular for sports and sometimes hosts open-air concerts. A number of large parks lie outside the city centre, including the remaining Royal Parks of Greenwich Park to the south east, and Bushy Park and Richmond Park to the south west. Primrose Hill to the north of Regent's Park is a popular spot to view the city skyline. Some more informal, semi-natural open spaces also exist, including the 791-acre Hampstead Heath of north London. This incorporates Kenwood House, the former stately home and a popular location in the summer months where classical music concerts are held by the lake, attracting thousands of people every weekend to enjoy the music, scenery and fireworks. Outer South East London is noted for its open spaces and extensive wooded areas. Greenwich Park
London has twin and sister city agreements with the following cities: Berlin, Germany (since 2000) New York City, USA (since 2001) Paris, France (since 2001) Moscow, Russia Rome, Italy Beijing, China (since 2006) In addition, London has a "partnership” agreement with Tokyo, Japan.
Royal anthem "God Save The Queen" God save our gracious Queen Long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen: Send her victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us: God save the Queen. O Lord, our God, arise, Scatter thine enemies, And make them fall: Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On thee our hopes we fix: God save us all. Thy choicest gifts in store, On her be pleased to pour; Long may she reign: May she defend our laws, And ever give us cause To sing with heart and voice God save the Queen.