Last modified on February 28, 2022, at 21:06

Kingdom of Great Britain

This article is about the historic state. For the present-day state, see United Kingdom. In historical work the country is called Britain or Great Britain.

The Kingdom of Great Britain was a state in Europe, located on the island of the same name, formed by the Act of Union between the parliaments of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707. Before this date the two Kingdoms remained politically independent but shared a single monarch from the accession of King James VI, King of Scots in March 1603.

In 1801 the Kingdom of Ireland was merged with that of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The term "British subject" means about the same as "British citizen," but technically the term is still "subject."

Britain owned and controlled the British Empire, but residents of the Empire were not usually given British passports.

History

The Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43 and most of Britain's subsequent incorporation into the Roman Empire stimulated development and brought more active contacts with the rest of Europe. However, there was no permanent Roman imprint apart from roads and locations for cities. As Rome's strength declined, the country again was exposed to invasion—including the pivotal incursions of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in the fifth and sixth centuries AD—up to the Norman conquest in 1066. Norman rule effectively ensured Britain's safety from further intrusions; certain institutions, which remain characteristic of Britain, could develop. Among these are a political, administrative, cultural, and economic center in London; a separate but established church and distinctive and distinguished university education.

Both Wales and Scotland were independent kingdoms that resisted English rule. The English conquest of Wales succeeded in 1282 under Edward I, and the Statute of Rhuddlan established English rule 2 years later. To appease the Welsh, Edward's son (later Edward II), who had been born in Wales, was made Prince of Wales in 1301. The tradition of bestowing this title on the eldest son of the British Monarch continues today. An act of 1536 completed the political and administrative union of England and Wales.

While maintaining separate parliaments, England and Scotland were ruled by the same king beginning in 1603, when James VI of Scotland succeeded his cousin Elizabeth I as James I of England. In the ensuing 100 years, strong religious and political differences divided the kingdoms. Finally, in 1707, England and Scotland were unified as Great Britain, sharing a single Parliament at Westminster.

Ireland's invasion by the Anglo-Normans in 1170 led to centuries of strife. Successive English kings sought to conquer Ireland. In the early 17th century, large-scale settlement of the north from Scotland and England began. After its defeat, Ireland was subjected, with varying degrees of success, to control and regulation by Britain.

The legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland was completed on January 1, 1801, under the name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, armed struggle for independence continued sporadically into the 20th century. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 established the Irish Free State, which subsequently left the Commonwealth and became a republic after World War II. Six northern, predominantly Protestant, Irish counties have remained part of the United Kingdom. In 1922 the name became United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

See also