History Podcasts

Making of the United Kingdom

Making of the United Kingdom

  • Katherine of Aragon
  • Anne Askew
  • Robert Aske
  • Anthony Babington
  • Thomas Boleyn
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Earl of Bothwell
  • John Calvin
  • William Camden
  • William Cecil
  • Robert Cecil
  • Anne of Cleves
  • Thomas Cranmer
  • Thomas Cromwell
  • Henry Darnley
  • Robert Devereux
  • Francis Drake
  • John Dudley
  • Robert Dudley
  • Edward VI
  • Elizabeth I
  • Elizabeth of York
  • Desiderius Erasmus
  • Lady Jane Grey
  • Richard Hakluyt
  • Christopher Hatton
  • John Hawkins
  • Henry VII
  • Henry VIII
  • Nicholas Hilliard
  • Hans Holbein
  • Catherine Howard
  • Charles Howard
  • Henry Howard
  • Thomas Howard
  • Henry Hudson
  • Robert Kett
  • John Knox
  • Henry Lee
  • Martin Luther
  • Thomas More
  • Catherine Parr
  • Philip II
  • Walter Raleigh
  • Richard III
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • Edward Seymour
  • Jane Seymour
  • Thomas Seymour
  • William Shakespeare
  • Philip Sidney
  • Duke of Medina Sidonia
  • Richard Southwell
  • Edward Stafford
  • John Stubbs
  • Levina Teerline
  • Mary Tudor
  • William Tyndale
  • Francis Walsingham
  • Peter Wentworth
  • Thomas Wolsey
  • Thomas Wyatt
  • Act of Union
  • Agriculture and Enclosures
  • Anglicans and Puritans
  • Babington Plot
  • Battle of Bosworth
  • Catholics and Protestants
  • Elizabethan Theatre
  • Elizabeth and Marriage
  • Henry VIII and the Pope
  • Kett Rebellion
  • Poverty in Tudor England
  • Protestant Reformation
  • Pilgrimage of Grace
  • Ridolfi Plot
  • Spanish Armada
  • Sports and Pastimes
  • Throckmorton Plot
  • Tobacco in Tudor England
  • Tudor Artists
  • Tudor Heretics
  • Tudor Monasteries
  • Tudor Parliaments
  • Tudor Wales
  • Tyndale Bible
  • Anne I
  • Caroline of Ansbach
  • Earl of Argyll
  • Jacob Astley
  • Thomas Aylesbury
  • John Barkstead
  • John Bastwick
  • Richard Baxter
  • Mary Beale
  • William Bradford
  • John Bradshaw
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Simon Bradstreet
  • William Brewster
  • Duke of Buckingham
  • Peter Bulkeley
  • John Bunyan
  • Gilbert Burnet
  • Henry Burton
  • John Byron
  • George Calvert
  • John Carew
  • John Carver
  • Robert Catesby
  • Charles I
  • Charles II
  • William Penn
  • Samuel Pepys
  • Algernon Percy
  • George Percy
  • Thomas Percy
  • Hugh Peters
  • Endymion Porter
  • John Poyer
  • Thomas Pride
  • William Prynne
  • John Pym
  • William Pynchon
  • Thomas Rainsborough
  • Prince Rupert
  • John Russell
  • Edward Sackville
  • Earl of Shaftesbury
  • John Smith
  • William Strode
  • James Stuart
  • Charles Stuart
  • John Thurloe
  • Francis Tresham
  • Anthony Van Dyck
  • Henry Vane
  • Edmund Verney
  • George Villiers
  • Edward Walker
  • William Waller
  • Robert Walpole
  • William Walwyn
  • Thomas De La Warr
  • Earl of Warwick
  • Thomas Wentworth
  • Bulstrode Whitelock
  • John Wildman
  • William III
  • Henry Wilmot
  • Gerrard Winstanley
  • Christopher Wren
  • Edward Winslow
  • Robert Wintour
  • Thomas Wintour
  • John Withrop
  • Christopher Wright
  • John Wright
  • William Kent
  • John Lambert
  • William Laud
  • Rowland Laugharne
  • Peter Lely
  • William Lenthall
  • David Leslie
  • John Lilburne
  • Robert Lilburne
  • Edmund Ludlow
  • Henry Marten
  • Andrew Marvell
  • Mary II
  • Prince Maurice
  • John Milton
  • George Monck
  • Duke of Monmouth
  • Edward Montagu
  • Lord Monteagle
  • Earl of Montrose
  • Thomas Myddelton
  • Richard Neville
  • Earl of Newcastle
  • Titus Oates
  • Richard Overton
  • Earl of Clarendon
  • Samuel Cooper
  • John Cotton
  • William Crompton
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • Richard Cromwell
  • Duke of Cumberland
  • Earl of Denbigh
  • John Desborough
  • Everard Digby
  • George Digby
  • William Dobson
  • Thomas Dudley
  • John Endecott
  • John Eliot
  • Earl of Essex
  • John Evelyn
  • Ferdinando Fairfax
  • Thomas Fairfax
  • Viscount Falkland
  • Anne Fanshawe
  • Guy Fawkes
  • William Fiennes
  • Charles Fleetwood
  • George I
  • George II
  • Charles Gerard
  • John Gerard
  • George Goring
  • Nell Gwyn
  • John Hampden
  • Thomas Harrison
  • William Harvey
  • Arthur Haselrig
  • Henrietta Maria
  • Francis Higginson
  • Denzil Holles
  • Thomas Hooker
  • Thomas Horton
  • John Hoskins
  • Anne Hutchinson
  • Lucy Hutchinson
  • Henry Ireton
  • James I
  • James II
  • John Jones
  • Anabaptists
  • Anglicans
  • Baptists
  • Cavaliers
  • Charles II and the Catholics
  • Commonwealth
  • Congregationalists
  • Culloden
  • Civil War
  • Civil War: Tactics
  • Civil War: Weapons
  • Diggers
  • Divine Right
  • Edgehill
  • Fifth Monarchists
  • Five Members
  • Glorious Revolution
  • Great Fire of London
  • Gunpowder Plot
  • Independents
  • Jacobite Rebellion
  • Levellers
  • Marston Moor
  • Naseby
  • Newbury
  • New Model Army
  • Presbyterians
  • Pride's Purge
  • Puritans
  • Putney Debates
  • Quakers
  • Regicides
  • Restoration
  • Roman Catholics
  • Roundheads
  • Roundway Down
  • Rye House Plot
  • Ship Tax
  • Test Acts
  • Tories
  • Wales in the Civil War
  • Whigs

United Kingdom

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

United Kingdom, island country located off the northwestern coast of mainland Europe. The United Kingdom comprises the whole of the island of Great Britain—which contains England, Wales, and Scotland—as well as the northern portion of the island of Ireland. The name Britain is sometimes used to refer to the United Kingdom as a whole. The capital is London, which is among the world’s leading commercial, financial, and cultural centres. Other major cities include Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester in England, Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, and Swansea and Cardiff in Wales.

The origins of the United Kingdom can be traced to the time of the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan, who in the early 10th century ce secured the allegiance of neighbouring Celtic kingdoms and became “the first to rule what previously many kings shared between them,” in the words of a contemporary chronicle. Through subsequent conquest over the following centuries, kingdoms lying farther afield came under English dominion. Wales, a congeries of Celtic kingdoms lying in Great Britain’s southwest, was formally united with England by the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1542. Scotland, ruled from London since 1603, formally was joined with England and Wales in 1707 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain. (The adjective “British” came into use at this time to refer to all the kingdom’s peoples.) Ireland came under English control during the 1600s and was formally united with Great Britain through the Act of Union of 1800. The republic of Ireland gained its independence in 1922, but six of Ulster’s nine counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland. Relations between these constituent states and England have been marked by controversy and, at times, open rebellion and even warfare. These tensions relaxed somewhat during the late 20th century, when devolved assemblies were introduced in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Nonetheless, even with the establishment of a power-sharing assembly after referenda in both Northern Ireland and the Irish republic, relations between Northern Ireland’s unionists (who favour continued British sovereignty over Northern Ireland) and nationalists (who favour unification with the republic of Ireland) remained tense into the 21st century.

The United Kingdom has made significant contributions to the world economy, especially in technology and industry. Since World War II, however, the United Kingdom’s most prominent exports have been cultural, including literature, theatre, film, television, and popular music that draw on all parts of the country. Perhaps Britain’s greatest export has been the English language, now spoken in every corner of the world as one of the leading international mediums of cultural and economic exchange.

The United Kingdom retains links with parts of its former empire through the Commonwealth. It also benefits from historical and cultural links with the United States and is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Moreover, the United Kingdom became a member of the European Union in 1973. Many Britons, however, were sometimes reluctant EU members, holding to the sentiments of the great wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, who sonorously remarked, “We see nothing but good and hope in a richer, freer, more contented European commonalty. But we have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.” Indeed, in June 2016, in a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the EU, 52 percent of British voters chose to leave. After much negotiation, several deadline extensions, prolonged domestic political discord, and two changes of prime minister, an agreement on “Brexit” (British exit from the EU) was reached that satisfied both the EU and the majority of Parliament. Thus, on January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom would become the first country to withdraw from the EU.

The United Kingdom comprises four geographic and historical parts—England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom contains most of the area and population of the British Isles—the geographic term for the group of islands that includes Great Britain, Ireland, and many smaller islands. Together England, Wales, and Scotland constitute Great Britain, the larger of the two principal islands, while Northern Ireland and the republic of Ireland constitute the second largest island, Ireland. England, occupying most of southern Great Britain, includes the Isles of Scilly off the southwest coast and the Isle of Wight off the southern coast. Scotland, occupying northern Great Britain, includes the Orkney and Shetland islands off the northern coast and the Hebrides off the northwestern coast. Wales lies west of England and includes the island of Anglesey to the northwest.

Apart from the land border with the Irish republic, the United Kingdom is surrounded by sea. To the south of England and between the United Kingdom and France is the English Channel. The North Sea lies to the east. To the west of Wales and northern England and to the southeast of Northern Ireland, the Irish Sea separates Great Britain from Ireland, while southwestern England, the northwestern coast of Northern Ireland, and western Scotland face the Atlantic Ocean. At its widest the United Kingdom is 300 miles (500 km) across. From the northern tip of Scotland to the southern coast of England, it is about 600 miles (1,000 km). No part is more than 75 miles (120 km) from the sea. The capital, London, is situated on the tidal River Thames in southeastern England.

The archipelago formed by Great Britain and the numerous smaller islands is as irregular in shape as it is diverse in geology and landscape. This diversity stems largely from the nature and disposition of the underlying rocks, which are westward extensions of European structures, with the shallow waters of the Strait of Dover and the North Sea concealing former land links. Northern Ireland contains a westward extension of the rock structures of Scotland. These common rock structures are breached by the narrow North Channel.

On a global scale, this natural endowment covers a small area—approximating that of the U.S. state of Oregon or the African country of Guinea—and its internal diversity, accompanied by rapid changes of often beautiful scenery, may convey to visitors from larger countries a striking sense of compactness and consolidation. The peoples who, over the centuries, have hewed an existence from this Atlantic extremity of Eurasia have put their own imprint on the environment, and the ancient and distinctive palimpsest of their field patterns and settlements complements the natural diversity.


The Last Kingdom: the real history behind the series

The Last Kingdom, based on the Saxon Stories novels of Bernard Cornwell, re-tells the history of King Alfred the Great and his desire to unite the many separate kingdoms into what would become England. Here, we recap the real history behind the story so far, and what’s covered in series four…

This competition is now closed

Published: May 6, 2020 at 1:00 pm

When is The Last Kingdom set and what it is about?

It is the story of the struggle between Saxons and Danes in 9th-century England, when England was not one nation but a series of independent kingdoms variously overrun or ravaged by Danes. The era of Lindisfarne and raiders from the sea is long past – by this point in history, the Vikings in Britain are settlers, lords and kings.

This tale plays out from the perspective of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a man born a Saxon and raised a Dane, grappling with his persistently split loyalties between his oaths (of which he makes many), his conflicting cultural identities, and his quest for retribution.

What starts out as a tale of straightforward revenge – reclaiming his ancestral home in Northumbria from his usurping uncle and avenging the murder of his adoptive Viking father – rapidly extends into a history-adjacent Vikings versus Anglo-Saxons epic, as Uhtred finds himself in the Kingdom of Wessex, where Alfred the Great has dreams of expelling the northmen from all the realms of ‘England’ and creating a single nation, something that wouldn’t be achieved until the reign of his grandson.

The show is based on the Saxon Stories novels of Bernard Cornwell (now renamed as the The Last Kingdom series owing to the show’s success), of which there are currently 12 in print, with the concluding 13th instalment – War Lord – due to be published in October 2020.

Want to read reviews of season 4 and know even more about the real events from history that inspired the drama? Read more from the experts at our curated page on The Last Kingdom

What is the plot of The Last Kingdom season four?

Season four of The Last Kingdom is widely expected to cover books seven and eight of Bernard Cornwell’s saga, The Pagan Lord and The Empty Throne. Alfred the Great is dead, as is his ever-conniving nephew Aethelwold Alfred’s son Edward the Elder sits on the throne of Wessex his daughter Aethelflaed is wed to the ruler of Mercia and the Danes, led by Haesten and Cnut (not Cnut the Great – he won’t be born for another hundred years), sense opportunity. Uhtred, meanwhile, realises now might be the time to challenge his uncle Aelfric for his birthright, the lordship of Bebbanburg in Northumbria.

Once season four is complete, there are still four more books (so far) in Cornwell’s series to adapt – if the The Last Kingdom is renewed for future seasons.

THE LAST KINGDOM SEASON 4 REVIEWS:

What happened in The Last Kingdom season one? And what’s the real history?

The Last Kingdom begins in 866, the year that Vikings first seized control of York. Uhtred is a child and heir to Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) in Northumbria. When the Vikings arrive, his father, Lord Uhtred, rides out to give battle and is predictably slain the boy Uhtred is captured.

Uhtred’s uncle Aelfric hopes to ransom the boy back and quietly murder him so that he can claim the lordship of Bebbanburg for himself unimpeded, but that plan is scuppered when Danish jarl Ragnar the Fearless takes a liking to the lad and ultimately takes him back to Denmark along with a Saxon girl, Brida.

Fast forward several years: Uhtred is now a young man, fully immersed in Norse culture and religion. His apparent happiness comes crashing down when Ragnar the Fearless is murdered, burned alive in his hall by shipmaster Kjartan and his son Sven the One-Eyed, in retribution for Ragnar taking Sven’s eye many years before. Kjartan spreads rumours that Saxon-born Uhtred is the miscreant behind the deed, forcing Uhtred to flee back across the North Sea to the lands he left as a boy.

It’s on returning to Northumbria that Uhtred meets Guthrum and Ubba, one of the fabled sons of legendary Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok, whom he watches murder King Edmund of the East Angles. The real Edmund “was tied to a tree, beaten and then murdered with a volley of arrows,” writes ecclesiastical historian Emma J Wells – which is pretty much what happens here, except it plays out in a church.

Guthrum and Ubba don’t believe his innocence, so Uhtred flees to Winchester, capital of Wessex, the titular ‘last kingdom’ to fall prey to the Danes. Aethelred I rules, but by the middle of the season he has been mortally wounded, and on his deathbed passes the crown to his brother, Alfred – overlooking Aethelwold, his own son, portrayed as a drunkard who believes the crown should have been his by default.

“[Alfred] can never have expected to be king, as the youngest of five brothers, but all of them died young,” writes Michael Wood. “He was 21, pious and brave, but in poor health, with a crippling hereditary illness, perhaps Crohn’s Disease.”

Young Ragnar, son of Ragnar the Fearless, returns from Ireland – one of the many shores aside from England that the Vikings sailed to – to confirm for himself that Uhtred didn’t kill their father. When he leaves to seek revenge on Kjartan, Brida departs with him.

Uhtred proves instrumental at the battle of Cynwit in Devon in 878 – one of the five most important ‘lost battles’ of the Viking age, writes Thomas Williams, who describes it as “one of the great military reversals of the early Middle Ages”, prior to which he kills Ubba in single combat. Uhtred’s part in the battle is glossed over (a common theme in The Last Kingdom) and victory is ascribed to Odda the Elder, ealdorman of Devon, as it is in real history.

Uhtred and Alfred clash frequently through the rest of the series over loyalty and religion, but where Alfred is forced to admit Uhtred’s usefulness is when the would-be Lord of Bebbanburg helps Alfred escape into the Somerset Marshes – where he famously burns the cakes – in the wake of the Danish invasion of Wessex in 878, and then at the battle of Edington in which the Saxons inflict a crushing defeat on the Northmen.

Listen to renowned historical novelist Bernard Cornwell talk about his books that inspired The Last Kingdom, and about his writing career more broadly:

What happens in The Last Kingdom season two? And what’s the real history?

Uhtred heads north – not to Bebbanburg, but to rescue Guthred, a Christian Dane prophesised to become the king of Cumberland. The mission is a success, but once king Guthred is convinced to betray Uhtred and sells him into slavery. Alfred sends Young Ragnar (son of Ragnar the Fearless and Uhtred’s adoptive brother, taken hostage by Wessex at the end of season one) to rescue him. Reunited, Ragnar and Uhtred besiege Kjartan and Sven the One-Eyed in Durham, finally avenging Ragnar the Fearless.

This season also develops the character of Aethelflaed – not yet the ‘Lady of the Mercians’, but a young woman and, as a daughter of a king, one ready to be married off in alliance – “As a wife, Æthelflæd’s story is all too familiar in terms of royal dynastic marriages,” writes Dr Janina Ramirez. She is wed, in history and on The Last Kingdom, to Aethelred of Mercia. “Theirs was an entirely political union, designed to strengthen the two kingdoms against Danish and Norwegian incursions in the north,” says Ramirez.

On the show, the Mercian Aethelred reveals himself to be a poor husband, possessive and abusive. He takes Aethelflaed to war against Danish brothers Siegfried and Erik (both fictional antagonists) and their underling Haesten (who did exist), where she is captured and held for ransom, setting up the season’s climactic battle at Benfleet in 893 and Odda the Elder’s suicide in lieu of certain execution for treason.

What happened in The Last Kingdom season three? And what’s the real history?

Season three opens by introducing two new antagonists, the warrior Bloodhair and his seer, Skade – who has a vision of Bloodhair killing Alfred in battle. But Alfred really is dying, through ill health Edward the Aetheling is a young man not yet ready to rule Aetholwold is sowing discord as he sees a route to finally becoming king.

Relations between Uhtred and Alfred reach crisis point when Uhtred accidentally kills a priest after Aethelwold’s meddling in response, Alfred tries to make Uhtred swear an oath to serve Edward. Uhtred, realising that swearing an oath to Edward would mean a life of servitude, flatly refuses, then takes Alfred hostage to effect his escape.

Season three places Aethelwold centre stage playing politics. He also leaves Wessex, stopping first at Mercia, where he sows the seeds of betrayal for Aethelflaed, and the at Bloodhair’s camp, where he argues that the Danes should form a single ‘great army’ to crush Wessex.

“West Saxon chroniclers were scathing about Æthelwold’s alliance with Vikings, but as a tactic of war it wasn’t unusual,” writes early medieval historian Professor Ryan Lavelle, who is also The Last Kingdom’s historical consultant. “There is good reason to suspect that Alfred too allied himself with Viking mercenaries when circumstances required.”

Uhtred makes his way north to Durham and to his brother Ragnar the Younger, where he briefly plots with Bloodhair, Haesten and Ragnar’s cousin Cnut to form a great army to invade the Saxon kingdoms, but abandons them to rescue Aethelflaed – now hiding in a nunnery, because Aethelred is plotting to have her killed.

Later, Aethelwold murders Ragnar in his bed – preventing him from reaching his sword and denying him entry to Valhalla. Haesten is revealed to be a spy for Alfred and alerts the king to the Danish threat.

Alfred finally succumbs to his illness – but not before he reconciles with Uhtred and sees Edward married. Uhtred publicly affirms his support for Edward as the presumptive king, and they ride to meet Aethelwold and the Danes near Bedford – defeating them with the help of Mercia and Kent. At the battle’s climax, Uhtred catches up with Aethelwold (having learned that he was the one responsible for Young Ragnar’s death) and stabs him through the heart.

This final act of Aethelwold’s machinations plays out markedly different to real events. Though in the show it is dealt with in the immediate aftermath of Alfred’s death in 899, the actual battle took place at unidentified location suspected to be Holme in East Anglia in 902, after a three-year insurrection in which Aethelwold had moderate success. Even the circumstances of the battle are reversed, with the Danes ambushing Edward’s army – they won the battle, but Aethelwold died in the fighting, making it somewhat pyrrhic.

“Æthelwold’s insurrection is little known today, a mere footnote in Anglo-Saxon history,” says Lavelle. “It also hints that, had Æthelwold enjoyed a little more fortune in the fallout from Alfred’s death, and had one obscure battle in 902 had an alternative outcome, the future of England could have been very different indeed.”

What happened in The Last Kingdom season four? And what’s the real history?

Edward rules in Wessex, battered from all sides by advisors and trying to step out of Alfred the Great’s shadow (or perhaps live up to it), but that’s no lingering concern of Uhtred. By the end of episode one he is sailing north to reclaim his ancestral home of Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) from Aelfric, the dastardly uncle who tried to have him murdered as a boy and then connived to have him sold into slavery as an adult.

Bebbanburg is conveniently vulnerable – not because of the Danes, but the bellicose attentions of the Scots – and Aelfric is struggling to contain them.

The history is mixed here, says early medieval historian Ryan Lavelle in our episode one review: “Northern Northumbria was in a frontier zone contested by an emerging Scottish kingdom and raiding was probably frequent enough, though the events portrayed here are as much a nod to the historical lord [Uhtred] of Bamburgh.” That Uhtred, whom Lavelle explains would have been at the limits of his power much like Aelfric is here, fought the Scots in the 11th century, not the 10th.

Listen on the podcast: Dan Jackson traces the distinctive history and culture of northeast England, from ancient times to the present day

Back in The Last Kingdom, Uhtred reckons a small army could take the fortress. Alas, Edward refuses to give him said army, so it’s on to Plan B: kidnap his estranged son (also called Uhtred) from his church, have him sneak into Bebbanburg with some other priests, then open its sea gate under the cover of darkness so that Uhtred and his merry band can sneak in and assassinate Aelfric.

Uhtred does get in – not without some mishap – only to find his plan scuppered by the return of the Aelfric’s own estranged son, Whitgar, who terminally alters the power balance in the north by executing Aelfric and claiming Bebbanburg as his own. Outmanoeuvred, Uhtred and co escape, but not without the death of Father Beocca, his close confidante and effective father figure.

In Mercia, Aethelred’s captain of the guard (Eardwulf) brings news that the Danes in East Anglia have left their camp for Ireland. Aethelred, chafing at being nominally subservient to Wessex, sees an opportunity to one-up Edward and promptly marches his entire army to East Anglia to claim it as his own. But it’s all smoke and mirrors: the Danes, led by Cnut and Brida, did leave East Anglia, but didn’t put out to sea. They sailed upriver, disembarked near Aethelred’s seat in Aylesbury, and took it as their own.

The news doesn’t reach Aethelred Eardwulf fails to tell him, fearing his master’s rage. It’s another black mark in a long line of character flaws in this depiction of the Mercian ruler, who is by turns capricious, adulterous and cruel. (“[Aethelred] is played as a pretty despicable character – a portrayal for which there is no historical evidence,” notes Lavelle.)

In Winchester, Edward refuses to spill Wessex blood to save Mercian soil, earning the approval of his most powerful vassal (and father-in-law) Aethelhelm, and the ire of his sister Aethelflead and his mother Aelswith. Though long-dead in real history, the Aelswith of The Last Kingdom has to deal with her diminishing role at court – leading to a momentous decision to retrieve Edward’s son from his first marriage (which both took place and was annulled off screen in season three) from a convent. The boy is revealed to be Aethelstan, the future first king of the English.

The intrigues and vacillations culminate with Aethelflead taking decisive action: she sneaks away from Winchester, raises the Mercian fyrds independently of her absent husband and (thanks to Uhtred) lures the Danes to battle at Tettenhall – a real clash that took place in 910, in which three Viking kings were killed. It was this battle, writes historian Dr Janina Ramirez, that “secured [Aethelflaed’s] image as victorious warrior queen”.

In the show, Aethelflaed doesn’t stand alone: she has the support of the Welsh (making their first appearance in The Last Kingdom), and late in the battle both Aethelred and Edward arrive to turn the tide. Cnut is slain, and Brida is taken back to Wales as a slave.

“The appearance of Welsh warriors on the battlefield is a historical imagining on this particular occasion, but Welsh military service for Anglo-Saxon armies wasn’t unknown at this time,” says Lavelle in our episode four review. These are the men King Hywel Dda (‘the Good’), who ruled Deheubarth (‘the South Part’), and they serve an important role – “a reminder that the story of early medieval Britain was more than an English one.” The real Saxon army at Tettenhall was an alliance of Aethelflaed and Edward, though Aethelred’s presence is uncertain.

The Last Kingdom sees Aethelred sustain a fatal head injury at Tettenhall. Despite the fact he is only expected to live for a few days (a fiction: Aethelred died in 911), Eardwulf kills him in his sickbed. Why? To protect a sudden elevation. With the question of who should succeed as ruler of Mercia, Eardwulf finds himself the firm favourite, a deal to be legitimised through marriage to Aethelred and Aethelflaed’s daughter, the child Aelfwynn.

Though Aethelflaed eventually takes the throne as she did in history (though it’s thanks to Uhtred in this telling), this sets up an arc in which Uhtred spirits Aelfwynn across the countryside in search of safety, bringing her into contact with ‘The Sickness’, which – in an era without handwashing – is as pernicious as you might imagine. Aylesbury is even put into quarantine.

What is this sickness? “There is no historical epidemic known in early medieval Britain from 910/911 or even the first decades of the 10th century, but what is happening is not long after a period of disease recorded in 896, in which a number of the great and good of Wessex perished,” says Lavelle in our episode six review. Despite its imagery being heavily linked with the middle ages, there is nothing, either in the show or in real history, to suggest that it this Sickness is the Black Death.

In the midst of the succession crisis, a new Danish threat emerges: Sigtryggr, a real Viking who mooted as a descendant of Ivar the Boneless. He lands in Wales, routs King Hywel, rescues Brida, leads a warband to Wessex and ahistorically seizes Winchester – left undefended while Edward interfered in the Mercian succession.

At the end of the season’s climactic month-long siege, Uhtred turns negotiator, helping to forge an agreement in which Sigtryggr relinquishes Winchester in favour of York. This is again the right history at wrong time: Sigtryggr, notes Lavelle in our episode ten review, was the historical ruler of the Anglo-Scandinavians of York – but not until 920. Uhtred rides into the sunset (for now) with Aethelstan as his ward – the boy can’t stay in Winchester, not least because Aethelhelm, grandfather to Edward’s current heir, has just poisoned Aelswith to ensure his family retains power…

How will The Last Kingdom end?

If the show continues and follows the thread of Bernard Cornwell’s novels, then we might already know the answer. Cornwell told HistoryExtra in 2018 that “The Last Kingdom series is going to end with a real historical event: the battle of Brunanburh in 937. The battle marked the beginning of England, so obviously had to be included in the series.”

The Last Kingdom season four airs on Netflix from Sunday 26 April.

Kev Lochun is BBC History Revealed‘s production editor


Making of the United Kingdom - History

The UK is situated north-west of the European continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. It has a total land area of 244,100 square kilometres, of which nearly 99% is land and the remainder inland water. From north to south it is about 1,000 kilometres long.

The UK part of Europe and is a member of the European Union (EU).

What is the official name of the UK?

The official name of the UK is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

What countries make up the UK?

The name refers to the union of what were once four separate nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (though most of Ireland is now independent. Only Northern Ireland is part of the UK now).

The United Kingdom is made up of:

  • England - The capital is London. - The capital is Edinburgh . - The capital is Cardiff.
  • Northern Ireland - The capital is Belfast.

England, Scotland and Wales together form Great Britain.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland together form the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (UK)

What is the capital city of the UK?

Why is the whole of Ireland not in the UK?

Before 1922 the UK included Ireland in the definition, but when the Irish Free State ceased to be part of the Union the title changed to include 'Northern Ireland' .

When was the UK formed (made)?

The United Kingdom (UK) was formed in on January 1, 1801 and constitutes the greater part of the British Isles.

What are people called in the UK?

People in the UK are called British although they have different nationalities.

The Union Flag, popularly known as the Union Jack, symbolises the union of the countries of the UK. It is made up of the individual flags of three countries in the Kingdom. Read more

The Story of the Making of the United Kingdom

The present Union Flag (Union Jack) represented the political union of three kingdoms

The story of how the UK was formed can be told through the making of the Union Flag, the flag of the United Kingdom.

Other pages about the UK

The British Isles

Questions about Great Britain

Questions about England

© Copyright - please read
All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.
www.mandybarrow.com

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website.
The two websites projectbritain.com and primaryhomeworkhelp.co.uk are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.


Scotland: Rogue nation

The most important consideration in the making of the United Kingdom in 1707 was the standpoint of England.

Under William of Orange, England had been consolidated as a global power by the massive build up of the army and the navy to fight the French.

England’s war effort was funded through a national debt, supplied increasingly by taxes on trade rather than land.

The largest component of customs dues was levied on the colonial trade. But this trade faced significant disruption from Scottish commercial networks which circumvented the Navigation Acts contrived to protect English domestic and overseas trade.

England had insufficient manpower to fight wars, sustain manufacturing and expand its empire - the Scots were a ready reservoir.

English feelings that Scotland was acting as a rogue nation contributed greatly to William’s willingness to sabotage the Darien Venture through which Scotland attempted to establish an entrepôt for the East and West Indies on the Panama Isthmus in the late 1690s.

English desires to control the Scots became more acute after the accession of Queen Anne, particularly as the Scots seemed reluctant to accept an eventual Hanoverian succession.

Financial issues became critical as England embarked upon the War of the Spanish Succession. Because the Jacobites were strongly backed by Louis XIV of France, this engagement could well have turned into a war for the British succession.

Renewal of war further exposed a demographic crisis in England and brought about a major shift in government policy in favour of union.

England had insufficient manpower to fight wars, sustain manufacturing and expand its empire. The Scots were a ready reservoir.

Queen Anne played a proactive role in the making of the United Kingdom, not least because she was outraged by the endeavours of the Scottish estates to impose limitations on the prerogative powers of her eventual successor.

If the price of union and the Hanoverian succession was to be the termination of the Scottish estates, so be it. In turn, leading members of the estates, intent on preserving the royal prerogative, securing the Presbyterian Kirk and attaining greater career opportunities through empire promoted Union.


Communication and Banking in the Industrial Revolution

The latter part of the Industrial Revolution also saw key advances in communication methods, as people increasingly saw the need to communicate efficiently over long distances. In 1837, British inventors William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone patented the first commercial telegraphy system, even as Samuel Morse and other inventors worked on their own versions in the United States. Cooke and Wheatstone’s system would be used for railroad signalling, as the speed of the new trains had created a need for more sophisticated means of communication.

Banks and industrial financiers rose to new prominent during the period, as well as a factory system dependent on owners and managers. A stock exchange was established in London in the 1770s the New York Stock Exchange was founded in the early 1790s. 

In 1776, Scottish social philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790), who is regarded as the founder of modern economics, published The Wealth of Nations. In it, Smith promoted an economic system based on free enterprise, the private ownership of means of production, and lack of government interference.


&aposRumours&apos became one of the band&aposs most successful albums

Though Rumours would go on to become a massive international hit and musical anchor to the latter part of the &apos70s, Buckingham remembers having mixed feelings about creating such a bittersweet ode to love lost and found. “When Rumors went crazy, I just couldn’t bring myself to feel strongly about the album,” he said to Rolling Stone in 1984. 𠇊t some point, all the stuff surrounding it started to become the main focus. There was a gap between what I felt was important internally – what I had accomplished musically – and the popular acclaim.”

The core five members of Fleetwood Mac would go on to produce further studio albums and tour and would disband and then reunite over the decades. Considered by many fans and critics as the band’s best release, Rumours was selected in 2018 for preservation in the National Recording Registry. Rolling Stone placed it at number 26 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,ꃞscribing the band as turning “private turmoil into gleaming, melodic public art.”

"Rumours remains so powerful because it’s so ruthlessly clear-eyed about the crisis, instead of smoothing it over," Christine explained to Rolling Stone. "After all the tantrums and breakdowns and crying fits, the album ends with Stevie Nicks asking you point blank: &aposIs it over now? Do you know how to pick up the pieces and go home?&apos If the answers are &aposno&apos and &aposno,&apos you flip the record and play it again."


The Constitution of the United Kingdom

Many nations around the world govern through a written constitution, which lays out the fundamental laws of the land and rights of the people in one single legal document. So why doesn’t the UK have a written constitution? The answer can be found in our history.

Emerging nations around the world have had to start from scratch and produce a written constitution setting out their laws and citizens’ rights. Some more established countries have had to adopt a written constitution due to revolt or war. However Britain escaped the revolutionary zeal of the late 18th and 19th centuries, and so the UK constitution, often referred to as the British constitution, has evolved over centuries.

Democracy in Britain is based on Acts of Parliament, historical documents, court judgments, legal precedence and convention. The earliest date in the history of our constitution is 1215 when the barons forced King John to accept the Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter of the Liberties of England’, which limited the power of the king, making him subject to the law of the land. Two of its key principles, the right to a fair trial by one’s peers and protection from unlawful imprisonment, form the basis of common law in Britain. Magna Carta would also be a major influence on the US constitution.

The Provisions of Oxford in 1258 set out the basis for the governance of England. 24 members would make up a Council governed by the monarch but supervised by a parliament. The first parliament, made up of knights, lords and common men drawn from the towns and cities, was presided over by Simon de Montfort, widely regarded as the founder of the House of Commons.

The Petition of Rights of 1628 set out some further rights and liberties of the people, including freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment.

Another landmark piece of legislation was the Bill of Rights of 1689. This followed the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, in which William III and Queen Mary replaced King James II. This bill declared that the monarch could not rule without consent of Parliament. As part of the bill, Parliament would meet regularly there would be free elections and freedom of speech in the chamber. It outlined specific liberties for the people, including the freedom to bear arms for self-defence, freedom from taxes imposed by the monarch without the consent of Parliament and the freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

The Act of Settlement of 1701 controlled who should succeed to the throne and established the vital principle of judicial independence. The number of men entitled to vote was greatly increased by the 1832 Great Reform Act, and the Representation of the People’s Act of 1928 gave all men and women over the age of 21 the right to vote.

These and other written laws form just part of the constitution of the United Kingdom. Political customs or conventions are the unwritten rules that are vital to the workings of government. The office of Prime Minister is one of these conventions: legally the Monarch appoints the Prime Minister, who by convention is the leader of the largest party (or coalition of parties) after a General Election and commands the confidence of the House of Commons.

The Houses of Parliament

Parliament is made up of three entities: the Monarchy, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. To become law, bills have to be passed by both Houses and then given Royal Assent. By convention and in practice today, the Queen automatically gives her consent, although in theory she has the absolute and legal power to refuse.

By convention, all ministers in government must have a seat in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer must have a seat in the House of Commons. This convention makes the elected government responsible and accountable to Parliament. This is known as the Westminster system of parliamentary government.

Entry into the European Economic Community in 1973 and membership of the European Union brought Britain under the jurisdiction of the European courts in many areas. Some people today see this as an undermining of parliamentary sovereignty, commonly regarded as the defining principle of the British constitution, and cite this as one of the arguments for Brexit (Britain leaving the European Union).

What would be the advantages of a written constitution? Those of us who have followed the Brexit debates in the House of Commons on television have done so in disbelief and confusion. Many today believe that parliament is at best in crisis and at worst ‘not fit for purpose’, and that a written constitution might clarify the position. Others claim that a system that has evolved over centuries is the best for Britain and a written constitution covering all our laws, liberties and conventions would be incredibly difficult to produce.

Whatever your point of view, the British system of government at Westminster (‘The Mother of Parliaments’) has formed the basis of parliamentary democracy of many countries around the world.


IV. Elections

Parliamentary elections were first introduced in medieval England as a solution from the Crown, who was required to obtain consent from Parliament to directly tax his subjects.[39] These elections evolved over time to have a detailed set of rules and procedures that continue to be refined today.

National elections are known as General Parliamentary Elections.[40] The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 established five-year fixed-term Parliaments, with the election occurring on the first Thursday of May, five years after the last election was held.[41] The political party that wins the most seats during this election goes on to form the government.
A principle of the British system of government is that the government of the day must have the confidence of the House of Commons. As noted above, the government is formed by the party that wins the majority of seats during the general election. A &ldquohung Parliament&rdquo results when no party wins a majority during the election. A report from the House of Commons states that &ldquothere are four likely outcomes. These [are] . . . (a) a minority government (b) a coalition (c) a failure to produce a government at all or (d) two or more of these things during the lifetime of a parliament.&rdquo[42] A hung Parliament occurred during the 2010 election, and the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats went on to form a coalition government.[43]

Prior to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, the maximum duration of a Parliament was five years, at which point Parliament automatically expired.[44] This rarely happened, however, and elections would generally occur after Parliament was dissolved, either through Royal Proclamation[45] or upon the advice of the Prime Minister.[46] The effect of the Proclamation was to vacate all the seats in the House of Commons and require a general election for the Commons. Because there was no set timetable for when an election should be held, other than it should occur within the five-year maximum term of Parliament, the Prime Minister had a political and tactical advantage of deciding the date of the general election, although generally the election was announced in the spring in which the Parliament was due to expire.

The last general election was held on May 7, 2015, and the Conservative party won 330 seats, accounting for 36.9% of votes. This secured a majority in the House for the Conservatives by twelve seats, the first time this party has secured a majority government since 1992. The next election will occur in accordance with the requirements established by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, and will take place the first Thursday in May 2020.[47]

A. Electoral System

In the UK, the electoral system used is that of a simple majority (plurality) for each constituency, more commonly known as the &ldquofirst past the post&rdquo system. The candidate who wins the largest number of votes from his or her constituency is to Parliament. The political party that wins the most votes goes on to form the government. A referendum was held in 2011 in which voters were asked if they wished to change the electoral system from the first past the post system to an alternative voting system. Voter turnout was higher than expected at 41%, with an overwhelming majority of 67.9% of voters rejecting a change in the electoral system.[48]

Eligibility to vote in general elections in the UK is subject to a number of criteria. Primarily, the individual wishing to vote must be registered in the register of parliamentary electors for his or her relevant constituency.[49] To be able to register his or her name in the register of parliamentary electors, the individual must be a British subject, which includes Commonwealth citizens,[50] or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland residing in Britain,[51] and be eighteen years or older. A British citizen residing overseas can vote for up to fifteen years after he or she leaves the country.[52]

Individuals who are disqualified from voting are Members of the House of Lords, legal or illegal immigrants, individuals of unsound mind, individuals guilty of corrupt or illegal practices in elections, and prisoners detained while serving their sentence. This latter restriction is currently under review as a result of a successful challenge before the European Court of Justice, although the current government has stated it has no plans to provide prisoners with a vote.[53]

B. Electoral Districts

Electoral Districts in the UK are known as parliamentary constituencies, with each constituency electing one Member of Parliament. There are currently 650 constituencies in the UK, with the average population represented by a Member of Parliament being 68,000.[54] The breakdown of Members of Parliament representing the countries of the UK is as follows: 533 in England, 59 in Scotland, 40 in Wales, and 18 in Northern Ireland.[55] The distribution of these seats is under continuous review by four nondepartmental government bodies, known as the Boundary Commissions. The Boundary Commissions recommend changes to the boundaries of the constituencies they are responsible for reviewing to ensure that each Member of Parliament represents a proportionate number of constituents who are eligible to vote.[56]

C. Registering to Vote

Provisions for the registration of voters in the UK are made through regulations under the Representation of the People Act 1983.[57] In the UK, local councils maintain voter registration lists (commonly known as the &ldquoelectoral roll&rdquo or &ldquoelectoral register&rdquo). The information held on the electoral roll is used for general elections, European Parliament elections, local government elections and, depending upon the persons&rsquo place of residence, elections to the National Assembly for Wales or the Scottish Parliament.[58]

Voter registration is not automatic and requires positive action (registration) on behalf of the individual wishing to vote. The electoral roll is compiled from three main sources:

  • An annual canvass conducted by the Local Council between August and November. Voter registration forms are delivered to homes in the Local Councils area. Households are required by law to complete and return the form listing all their residents who are eligible to vote on October 15 of that year.[59] If the information on the form received by the household is accurate, registration can be renewed by phone or the Internet.
  • Rolling registration by individual voters, who can register at any time by completing a registration form and sending it to the local electoral registration office.
  • Online registration by individual voters, who can register at any time by completing and submitting an online registration form.[60]

The penalty for failing to complete the voter registration form or for providing false information is a fine of up to £1,000 (approximately US$1,500).[61] Additionally, failure to register results in the individual not being able to vote in any election, and also has a negative impact on his or her ability to obtain credit, as credit reporting agencies use the electoral roll to verify names and addresses of credit applicants.[62]

The electoral register can be updated on a rolling basis with additions, deletions, or amendments. Individuals who move out of the voting district can submit a new voter registration form to be listed on the electoral register in their new district. Applicants must provide their old address so that the Electoral Registration Officer of the new district can notify the old district of the move.[63]

D. Voter Turnout

There were 45,325,100 UK parliamentary voters in 2014[64] 66.1% of the electorate voted during the general election in 2015, the highest turnout in eighteen years.[65]

E. Replacing Members of Parliament

Once elected, Members of Parliament cannot directly resign their seat.[66] The only way that a seat can be vacated is through death, disqualification, dissolution, expulsion, or elevation to the Peerage. When a parliamentary seat becomes vacant, a writ for a by-election is issued.[67] To prevent long-standing vacancies of seats, these writs are normally issued within three months of the vacancy.[68] If the vacancy occurs during a parliamentary recess, the Speaker of the House is permitted to issue a writ for election during this time.[69]

There appears to be no legislation or procedure to replace a large number of MPs. It is likely that the normal procedure for appointing MPs through by-elections would be followed in these circumstances. For example, in 1985, fifteen members of the Unionist Party vacated their seats in protest over the Anglo-Irish Agreement. As technically Members of Parliament are not permitted to reign from their seats, a legal loophole was used by these members, whereby they were appointed to an office for profit under the Crown, which disqualified them from sitting an am MP. By-elections were subsequently held to fill the vacancies.

During World War II, many seats were left vacant when MPs were involved in government services or became active members of the armed forces. The government formed a coalition in 1940 and agreed upon an electoral truce, during which the parties agreed not to contest by-elections. Instead, the local constituency association of the party that had won the seat in the last election nominated a candidate.[70] However, despite this agreement, some elections were still contested when parties considered that the candidate was too radical.


Contents

The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy in which the reigning monarch (that is, the king or queen who is the head of state at any given time) does not make any open political decisions. All political decisions are taken by the government and Parliament. This constitutional state of affairs is the result of a long history of constraining and reducing the political power of the monarch, beginning with Magna Carta in 1215.

Since the start of Edward VII's reign in 1901, the prime minister has always been an elected Member of Parliament (MP) and thus directly answerable to the House of Commons. A similar convention applies to the chancellor of the exchequer. It would probably now be politically unacceptable for the budget speech to be given in the House of Lords, with members of Parliament unable to question the Chancellor directly, especially now that the Lords have very limited powers on money bills. The last chancellor of the exchequer to be a member of the House of Lords was Lord Denman, who served as interim chancellor of the exchequer for one month in 1834. [6]

The British monarch, currently Elizabeth II, is the head of state and the sovereign, but not the head of government. The monarch takes little direct part in governing the country and remains neutral in political affairs. However, the authority of the state that is vested in the sovereign, known as the Crown, remains as the source of executive power exercised by the government.

In addition to explicit statutory authority, the Crown also possesses a body of powers in certain matters collectively known as the royal prerogative. These powers range from the authority to issue or withdraw passports to declarations of war. By long-standing convention, most of these powers are delegated from the sovereign to various ministers or other officers of the Crown, who may use them without having to obtain the consent of Parliament.

The prime minister also has weekly meetings with the monarch, who "has a right and a duty to express her views on Government matters. These meetings, as with all communications between The Queen and her Government, remain strictly confidential. Having expressed her views, The Queen abides by the advice of her ministers." [7]

Royal prerogative powers include, but are not limited to, the following:

Domestic powers Edit

  • The power to appoint (and in theory, dismiss) a prime minister. This power is exercised by the monarch personally. By convention they appoint (and are expected to appoint) the individual most likely to be capable of commanding the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons.
  • The power to appoint and dismiss other ministers. This power is exercised by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister.
  • The power to assent to and enact laws by giving royal assent to bills passed Parliament, which is required in order for a law to become effective (an act). This is exercised by the monarch, who also theoretically has the power to refuse assent, although no monarch has refused assent to a bill passed by Parliament since Queen Anne in 1708.
  • The power to give and to issue commissions to commissioned officers in the Armed Forces.
  • The power to command the Armed Forces. This power is exercised by the Defence Council in the Queen's name.
  • The power to appoint members to the Privy Council.
  • The power to issue, to suspend, cancel, recall, impound, withdraw or revoke British passports and the general power to provide or deny British passport facilities to British citizens and British nationals. This is exercised in the United Kingdom (but not necessarily in the Isle of Man, Channel Islands or British Overseas Territories) by the Home Secretary.
  • The power to pardon any conviction (the royal prerogative of mercy).
  • The power to grant, cancel and annul any honours.
  • The power to create corporations (including the status of being a city, with its own corporation) by royal charter, and to amend, replace and revoke existing charters.

Foreign powers Edit

  • The power to make and ratify treaties.
  • The power to declare war and conclude peace with other nations.
  • The power to deploy the Armed Forces overseas.
  • The power to recognise states.
  • The power to credit and receive diplomats.

Even though the United Kingdom has no single constitutional document, the government published the above list in October 2003 to increase transparency, as some of the powers exercised in the name of the monarch are part of the royal prerogative. [8] However, the complete extent of the royal prerogative powers has never been fully set out, as many of them originated in ancient custom and the period of absolute monarchy, or were modified by later constitutional practice.

As of 2019, there are around 120 government ministers [9] supported by 560,000 [10] civil servants and other staff working in the 25 ministerial departments [11] and their executive agencies. There are also an additional 20 non-ministerial departments with a range of further responsibilities.

In theory a government minister does not have to be a member of either House of Parliament. In practice, however, convention is that ministers must be members of either the House of Commons or House of Lords in order to be accountable to Parliament. From time to time, prime ministers appoint non-parliamentarians as ministers. In recent years such ministers have been appointed to the House of Lords. [12]

Under the British system, the government is required by convention and for practical reasons to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons. It requires the support of the House of Commons for the maintenance of supply (by voting through the government's budgets) and to pass primary legislation. By convention, if a government loses the confidence of the House of Commons it must either resign or a general election is held. The support of the Lords, while useful to the government in getting its legislation passed without delay, is not vital. A government is not required to resign even if it loses the confidence of the Lords and is defeated in key votes in that House. The House of Commons is thus the responsible house.

The prime minister is held to account during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) which provides an opportunity for MPs from all parties to question the PM on any subject. There are also departmental questions when ministers answer questions relating to their specific departmental brief. Unlike PMQs both the cabinet ministers for the department and junior ministers within the department may answer on behalf of the government, depending on the topic of the question.

During debates on legislation proposed by the government, ministers—usually with departmental responsibility for the bill—will lead the debate for the government and respond to points made by MPs or Lords.

Committees [13] of both the House of Commons and House of Lords hold the government to account, scrutinise its work and examine in detail proposals for legislation. Ministers appear before committees to give evidence and answer questions.

Government ministers are also required by convention and the Ministerial Code, [14] when Parliament is sitting, to make major statements regarding government policy or issues of national importance to Parliament. This allows MPs or Lords to question the government on the statement. When the government instead chooses to make announcements first outside Parliament, it is often the subject of significant criticism from MPs and the speaker of the House of Commons. [15]

The prime minister is based at 10 Downing Street in Westminster, London. Cabinet meetings also take place here. Most government departments have their headquarters nearby in Whitehall.

Since 1999, certain areas of central government have been devolved to accountable governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are not part of Her Majesty's Government, and are directly accountable to their own institutions, with their own authority under the Crown in contrast, there is no devolved government in England.

Up to three layers of elected local authorities (such as county, district and parish Councils) exist throughout all parts of the United Kingdom, in some places merged into unitary authorities. They have limited local tax-raising powers. Many other authorities and agencies also have statutory powers, generally subject to some central government supervision.

The government's powers include general executive and statutory powers, delegated legislation, and numerous powers of appointment and patronage. However, some powerful officials and bodies, (e.g. HM judges, local authorities, and the charity commissions) are legally more or less independent of the government, and government powers are legally limited to those retained by the Crown under common law or granted and limited by act of Parliament. Both substantive and procedural limitations are enforceable in the courts by judicial review.

Nevertheless, magistrates and mayors can still be arrested for and put on trial for corruption, and the government has powers to insert commissioners into a local authority to oversee its work, and to issue directives that must be obeyed by the local authority, if the local authority is not abiding by its statutory obligations. [16]

By contrast, as in European Union (EU) member states, EU officials cannot be prosecuted for any actions carried out in pursuit of their official duties, and foreign country diplomats (though not their employees) and foreign members of the European Parliament [17] are immune from prosecution in EU states under any circumstance. As a consequence, neither EU bodies nor diplomats have to pay taxes, since it would not be possible to prosecute them for tax evasion. When the UK was a member of the EU, this caused a dispute when the US ambassador to the UK claimed that London's congestion charge was a tax, and not a charge (despite the name), and therefore he did not have to pay it – a claim the Greater London Authority disputed.

Similarly, the monarch is totally immune from criminal prosecution and may only be sued with her permission (this is known as sovereign immunity). The monarch, by law, is not required to pay income tax, but Queen Elizabeth II has voluntarily paid it since 1993, and also pays local rates voluntarily. However, the monarchy also receives a substantial grant from the government, the Sovereign Support Grant, and Queen Elizabeth II's inheritance from her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, was exempt from inheritance tax.

In addition to legislative powers, HM Government has substantial influence over local authorities and other bodies set up by it, by financial powers and grants. Many functions carried out by local authorities, such as paying out housing benefit and council tax benefit, are funded or substantially part-funded by central government.

Neither the central government nor local authorities are permitted to sue anyone for defamation. Individual politicians are allowed to sue people for defamation in a personal capacity and without using government funds, but this is relatively rare (although George Galloway, who was a backbench MP for a quarter of a century, has sued or threatened to sue for defamation a number of times). However, it is a criminal offence to make a false statement about any election candidate during an election, with the purpose of reducing the number of votes they receive (as with libel, opinions do not count).


Making of the United Kingdom - History

British Association of Paper Historians

History of Papermaking in the United Kingdom

The first reference to a papermill in the United Kingdom was in a book printed by Wynken de Worde in about 1495, this mill belonging to John Tate and was near Hertford. Other early mills included one at Dartford, owned by Sir John Speilman, who was granted special privileges for the collection of rags by Queen Elizabeth and one built in Buckinghamshire before the end of the sixteenth century. During the first half of the seventeenth century, mills were established near Edinburgh, at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, and several in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. The Bank of England has been issuing bank-notes since 1694, with simple watermarks in them since at least 1697. Henri de Portal was awarded the contract in December 1724 for producing the Bank of England watermarked bank-note paper at Bere Mill in Hampshire. Portals have retained this contract ever since but production is no longer at Bere Mill.

There were two major developments at about the middle of the eighteenth century in the paper industry in the UK. The first was the introduction of the rag-engine or hollander, invented in Holland sometime before 1670, which replaced the stamping mills which had previously been used for the disintegration of the rags and beating of the pulp. The second was in the design and construction of the mould used for forming the sheet. Early moulds had straight wires sewn down on to the wooden foundation, this produced an irregular surface showing the characteristic laid marks, and, when printed on, the ink did not give clear, sharp lines. Baskerville, a Birmingham printer, wanted a smoother paper. James Whatman the Elder developed a woven wire fabric, thus leading to his production of the first wove paper in 1757.

Increasing demands for more paper during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries led to shortages of the rags needed to produce the paper. Part of the problem was that no satisfactory method of bleaching pulp had yet been devised, and so only white rags could be used to produce white paper. Chlorine bleaching was being used by the end of the eighteenth century, but excessive use produced papers that were of poor quality and deteriorated quickly. By 1800 up to 24 million lb of rags were being used annually, to produce 10,000 tons of paper in England and Wales, and 1000 tons in Scotland, the home market being supplemented by imports, mainly from the continent. Experiments in using other materials, such as sawdust, rye straw, cabbage stumps and spruce wood had been conducted in 1765 by Jacob Christian Schäffer. Similarly, Matthias Koops carried out many experiments on straw and other materials at the Neckinger Mill, Bermondsey around 1800, but it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that pulp produced using straw or wood was utilised in the production of paper.

By 1800 there were 430 (564 in 1821)papermills in England and Wales (mostly single vat mills), under 50 (74 in 1823) in Scotland and 60 in Ireland, but all the production was by hand and the output was low. The first attempt at a papermachine to mechanise the process was patented in 1799 by Frenchman Nicholas Louis Robert, but it was not a success. However, the drawings were brought to England by John Gamble in 1801 and passed on to the brothers Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, who financed the engineer Bryan Donkin to build the machine. The first successful machine was installed at Frogmore, Hertfordshire, in 1803. The paper was pressed onto an endless wire cloth, transferred to a continuous felt blanket and pressed again, it would have been cut off the reel into sheets and loft dried in the same way as hand made paper. In 1809 John Dickinson patented a machine that that used a wire cloth covered cylinder revolving in a pulp suspension, the water being removed through the centre of the cylinder and the layer of pulp removed from the surface by a felt covered roller (later replaced by a continuous felt passing round a roller). This machine was the forerunner of the present day cylinder mould or vat machine, used mainly for the production of boards. Both these machines produced paper as a wet sheet which require drying after removal from the machine, but in 1821 T B Crompton patented a method of drying the paper continuously, using a woven fabric to hold the sheet against steam heated drying cylinders. After it had been pressed, the paper was cut into sheets by a cutter fixed at the end of the last cylinder.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the pattern for the mechanised production of paper had been set. Subsequent developments concentrated on increasing the size and production of the machines. Similarly, developments in alternative pulps to rags, mainly wood and esparto grass, enabled production increases. Conversely, despite the increase in paper production, there was a decrease, by 1884, in the number of paper mills in England and Wales to 250 and in Ireland to 14 (Scotland increased to 60), production being concentrated into fewer, larger units. Geographical changes also took place as many of the early mills were small and had been situated in rural areas. The change was to larger mills in, or near, urban areas closer to suppliers of the raw materials (esparto mills were generally situated near a port as the raw material was brought in by ship) and the paper markets.


Watch the video: Go Behind the Scenes of A United Kingdom 2017 (January 2022).