Round here it looks as though the whole of the United Kingdom is gradually being covered in red white and blue in preparation for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Every garage forecourt seems to be selling flowers in these three colours , often petunias, I guess because they grow so quickly. The colours are, of course, those of the British flag, or should I say that of the United Kingdom.
Confused? You will be!
I am English in that I was born in England as opposed to Northern Ireland ( also known as Ulster), Wales or Scotland. But I am also a citizen of the United Kingdom, which is made up of all four countries, each with its own flag, and then there is Eire , also part of the British Isles, although no longer part of the United Kingdom and not part of Great Britain – the name given to the largest landmass which contains England, Scotland and Wales. Wales is a principality, even though it is ruled by the queen, and Northern Ireland is usually described as a Province. All these different terms originate far back in our island’s history. In Wales for instance Edward 1, the English king in the late 14th century, announced that he would give Wales a ruler of their own, one who spoke not one word of English – and presented to them his tiny infant son. The queen’s oldest son, Prince Charles, who does speak Welsh, although not as his mother tongue, is the 21st Prince of Wales.
Then there are the many off-shore islands, some of which have their own parliaments and laws. One in particular. the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, with its Tynwald and House of Keys, has the oldest extant parliament in the world. Wales and Scotland also have their own National Assemblies , where laws are passed which apply in their individual countries. We don’t hear so much about Welsh independence these days, although the Welsh Nationalists can still be quite vocal. Scotland will be having a referendum in 2012 when its people will decide whether or not they wish to remain part of the United Kingdom. There are of course still the Celtic languages , alive, just, in Scotland and Wales, and in parts of Eire.
From time to time various groups express their wish to break away from the whole, not geographically of course, but politically. The Duchy, i.e. an area ruled by a Dukel. Prince Charles is the Duke of Cornwall and his wife Camilla uses the title of the Duchess of Cornwall.
As well as all these people there are recent migrants, and their children and grandchildren. In one London borough there are more than 80 mother tongues among the children in just one school. Here, even in a small village , there is a Chinese lady, one from the Indian sub-continent, a shop nearby which sells goods from the Baltic states, and people born in the Caribbean islands. I live in Yorkshire where my ancestors arrived centuries ago, but was born many miles to the south of here.
My genetic makeup is as complicated as that of my homeland. I have a Swedish great grandmother, a grandmother born in the Fair Isles, which are between here and Norway, and Spanish ancestors further back in time. My son-in-law was born in Germany and his grandfather was Welsh (as are the majority of my family). It is complicated. Perhaps instead of saying I am British or even English I should say, as you can , that I am a child of the world.
You can learn more about the UK here, and if you like you can tell us about your country on the forum, in the Countries and Culture section.