The United Kingdom: historical landmarks and festivals

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1 A few historical landmarks

A From the origins to the Battle of Hastings (1066)

 Continuous human habitation in Britain dates to around 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last glacial period.

 The Roman invasions of the 1st century bc (Before Christ) brought Britain into contact with the continent.

 The end of Roman rule in Britain enabled the Anglo-Saxons (peoples of Germanic origins) to settle in Britain. Raids by the Vikings were frequent (about 800 ad) and the Norsemen took control of large parts of what is now England.

B Anglo-Norman / Tudor / Stuart Britain

In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England, defeating the Saxon King, Harold II, at the Battle of Hastings.

 During the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) the Church of England became independent from the Roman Catholic Church.

Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) made England into a great maritime power. She had her cousin Mary Stuart executed in 1587.

 A Civil War broke out in 1642. The Cavaliers (the King’s supporters) were defeated by the Roundheads under the command of Cromwell. King Charles I was executed in 1649. Cromwell’s Republic lasted until 1660, when Charles II was restored.

C Georgian-Victorian Britain

 In 1707, England and Scotland were joined by the Act of Union. In the 18th century the British Empire extended all over the world. The Industrial Revolution started in the second part of the 18th century. It made Britain the most powerful industrial country in the world.

Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901) was marked by the prosperity and the expansion of the Empire. It also saw the growth of a democratic system of government.

D Modern Britain

 Britain entered World War I when Germany invaded Belgium in 1914. Thanks to the British fleet (la flotte britannique) the vital communications of the allies were maintained.

 Britain entered World War II in 1939. Winston Churchill led Britain through most of the war.

 George VI was succeeded by Elizabeth II in 1952.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She was a controversial figurehead of conservative ideology during her time in office.

 The uk ratified the Maastricht treaty in 1993 but chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union (la zone euro).

 The Labour party won the elections in 1997 and Tony Blair formed the new Cabinet. He resigned in 2007 to be succeeded by Gordon Brown. David Cameron (conservative) was appointed in 2010.

2 Traditional festivals

The State Opening of Parliament: at the opening of each session of Parliament, the Queen delivers the Speech from the Throne.

The Lord Mayor’s Show: the newly-elected Mayor of London rides in a horse-drawn carriage (un carrosse attelé) through the streets of London.

Trooping the Colour: a ceremony held on the Queen’s official birthday. Regiments parade in front of her.

Guy Fawkes Day: the day of the Gunpowder Plot (le complot des Poudres) when Roman Catholics planned to assassinate the King at the Opening of Parliament in 1605. On the evening of November 5, bonfires (des feux de joie) are lit where effigies of the ‘guy’ are burnt.