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United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

the official name for the country that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

flag of the United Kingdom

Although "Great Britain" is often used to refer to the United Kingdom as a whole, that name officially only applies to the kingdoms of England and Scotland and the principality of Wales; it is also the geographic name for the largest of the British Isles.

King James I used the term United Kingdom as early as 1604 to show that he had united the kingdoms of Scotland and England under one monarch, but it was not until 1707 that the Act of Union formally established the Kingdom of Great Britain. An act of 1800 formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a unified parliament.

The term United Kingdom became inappropriate when most of the island of Ireland won independence in 1921 and became the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland). The six counties in northeastern Ireland that remained with the United Kingdom now comprise the governmental entity known as Northern Ireland.

The Royal Titles Act of 1927 dropped the words "United Kingdom," but the phrase was used again during World War II.

In 1945, the nation signed the United Nations charter as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Royal Titles Act of 1953 made that name official. By that act, Queen Elizabeth II became "by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith."

SEE ALSO
England
Scotland
Wales
King James I
Republic of Ireland
World War II
Queen Elizabeth II

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Great Britain >> British Empire (General)

This page was last updated on April 28, 2017.