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21. The United Kingdom

18. 4. 2009

21. THE UNITED KINGDOM

Great Britain is an island containing 3 countries: England, Wales and Scotland. "The united Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" is the name for the political union of G.B. and Northern Ireland. Its Capital is London. It is also the Capital of England. The Capital of Scotland is Edinburg, the Capital of Wales is Cardiff and the Capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast.

 Symbols of the country: Great Britain's flag is known as the British Union Flag or the Union Jack. It is made up of three crosses on a blue background: a big red cross and two diagonal crosses: one red and one white cross.

LAND AND CLIMATE:

Islands: the Orkney and Shetland islands, the Hebrides

Rivers, seas and oceans:

-between the United Kingdom and France there is the English Channel

- the North Sea in the east, the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, the Atlantic Ocean  in the west

- the longest river is the Severn; another important rivers are the Thames (London is situated on this river), the Avon

- there are lots of lakes in Scotland ("lochs") - Loch Lomond, Loch Ness (famous for its monster called "Nessie") - these lakes are attractive for tourists

- the highland zone consists of several groups of mountains, for example the Highlands of Scotland with the highest peak Ben Nevis (1.343 metres), the Cumbrian Mountains - also known as the Lake District

- the lowland zone is in the south of GB, in England

Climate

- mild summers, cold winters, generally rainy weather (that is why the grass is so green there)

GOVERNMENT

- form of government: Constitutional Monarchy and parliamentary democracy

- Head of State: the Monarch (the Queen Elizabeth II.), her seat is in Buckingham Palace; she has little real power

- Head of Government: The Prime Minister - his official apartment is in Downing Street 10, London; now the Prime Minister is Gordon Brown; the Prime Minister

- THE PARLIAMENT has 2 parts:

1) the House of Lords - is not elected

2) the House of Commons - the men and women who sit in the House of Commons are called Members of Parliament (MPs); they are elected by the people; Parliamentary elections must be held at least every 5 years

- the Leader of the political party which wins the elections becomes the Prime Minister; then the Prime Minister appoints the members of the government - the ministers. They make up the Cabinet (the government)

 

THE CLASS SYSTEM:

 British society is still divided into classes:

The aristocracy: people from old and wealthy families with the title Lord

The upper class: rich people (landowners) - their children go to private schools

The middle class: people with good office jobs, professional people (doctors, lawyers, ...) - they own their houses

The working class: people who do manual work (in factories). Unemployment is high. They often live in rented flats.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF GB: THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE AND EVENTS:

- in 1066 - William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) crossed the Channel and won the Battle of Hastings and was crowned King of England

- Tudor Monarchy: - Henry VIII. (16th century)- intelectually brilliant but proud and brutal; he established the Church of England; he had six wives; some of them were executed (for example Anne Boleyn because she didn't give him a son)

                      - Elizabeth I. (17th century)- daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn; she was called "Virgin Queen" because she refused to marry; her pirates attacked Spanish ships and took their gold; the colonisator Sir Walter Raleigh named the first English colony in America after the "Virgin Queen": Virginia. The whole era was named after Elizabeth: "Elizabethan Age"; Elizabeth died unmarried and without children

- Queen Victoria: - 19th century:  she became the symbol of the continuity and stability of the British life; she married Prince Albert - their marriage was very happy, they had 9 children together, but when Albert died, Victoria was very sad and suffered from depression

- Britain in the 20th century: when the power of Adolf Hitler in Germany was increasing, Neville Chamberlain (Britain's Prime Minister) refused to face the facts; he did his "Appeasement politics"; but the new Prime Minister Winston Churchill persuaded the nation that it was necessary to fight; in his famous statement he told them he could offer them nothing but "blood, sweat and tears"; Britain won an important battle against German planes in the air over Britain (the Battle of England)

 

 PLACES OF INTEREST

England:

Brighton - a beach resort, favourite with tourists

York Minster - the oldest Gothic Cathedral

Bath - a spa town (Roman spa)

Plymouth - starting point of the ship called "Mayflower" on which the Pilgrim Fathers travelled to Massachussets in 1620 to America

Oxford and Cambridge - with its old traditional universities (together called "Oxbridge")

Stratford-upon-Avon - birthplace and  burial place of William Shakespeare

Liverpool - birthplace of Beatles; beside that it is famous for its football team

Stonehenge - a circle of prehistoric stones (probably used for magical purposes)

Scotland:

Glasgow and Edinburgh - industrial towns

Loch Ness - famous for its monster; Loch Lomond - a lake which is sung about in a beautiful old song "Bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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