The United Kingdom: main facts

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The full name of the country is: the United Kingdom of Great Britain ["brItn] and Northern Ireland.

1 Facts

 Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales.

 Land area: 244,000 sq. km.

 Population: about 63.2 million in 2011.


The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is the official head of state, the head of the legal system, the commander-in-chief of all armed forces and the head of the Church of England. In fact, she has mainly a representative role.

 The Parliament has two houses (deux chambres):

the House of Lords consists of non-elected members. Their number is not fixed (779 in 2014). It examines and revises bills (les projets de lois) from the Commons

the House of Commons has 650 elected Members of Parliament (mps).

 The Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales were established in 1998.

 The executive power is exercised by the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister (Premier ministre).

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the Chancellor of the Exchequer: le ministre des Finances

the Lord Chancellor: le président de la Chambre des lords, ministre de la Justice

the Home Secretary: le ministre de l’Intérieur

the Foreign Secretary: le ministre des Affaires étrangères

the Defence Secretary: le ministre de la Défense

 Political parties

The Labour Party (le parti travailliste) claims to represent the interests of the working class.

The Conservative Party is right-wing (de droite).

 The Union Jack is the name of the British flag.

 “God Save the Queen” is the title of the British anthem (l’hymne britannique).

 The national emblems are the rose for England the thistle (le chardon) for Scotland the leek (le poireau) for Wales the shamrock (le trèfle) for Ireland.

2 A few place names

The City of London: the historic heart of London, administered by the Lord Mayor. Just over one square mile (d’une superficie d’un peu moins de 2 km2), it contains many banks, including the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange (la Bourse).

Greater London: the City + 32 boroughs (arrondissements / municipalités) = about 1,600 sq. km.

The Houses of Parliament with the tower of Big Ben: the buildings in which the House of Commons and the House of Lords assemble.

Stratford-upon-Avon: the birthplace of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

Trafalgar Square: the main square in London named in commemoration of Nelson’s victory over Napoleon. Nelson’s column stands in the middle surrounded by four bronze lions.

The v&a (the Victoria and Albert Museum): a museum in London which houses a collection of fine arts.

Tate Britain (formerly known as the Tate Gallery): a national gallery of British art in London.

Tate Modern (also in London but on a different site) : opened in 2000. It displays collections of international modern art.