The United Kingdom


UK Flag


Country: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Capital: London

Continent: Europe

Official languages: English

Countries of the UK: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland

Regional languages: Cornish, Irish, Scots, Ulster Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh

Religion: Christianity (Church of England)

Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Population: 66 040 229 (2017)

Demonym: British, Briton

Currency: Pound sterling (GBP)

Drives on the left/right

Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time; British Summer Time (UTC +1:00)

Calling code: +44

Internet TLD: .uk


Neighbouring countries: Ireland

UK FlagsUK World Map


The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country in Western Europe. Its capital and the largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include the conurbations centred on Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, and Liverpool.


Standing stones on Isle of Lewis
Standing stones on the Isle of Lewis. Credit: Amrita Grace


The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Their capitals are London, Belfast, Edinburgh, and Cardiff respectively. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire, which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in world history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture, and legal systems of many of its former colonies.


Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey, England. Credit: Dave Hostad


The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍ —‌ the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to its east, the English Channel to its south and the Celtic Sea to its south-south-west.


The suspension bridge, Clifton
The suspension bridge, Clifton. Credit: Dean Moriarty


The United Kingdom is an extremely developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy. It is also the 21st most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.


Polesden Lacy, Surrey
Polesden Lacy, Surrey. Credit: Ron Porter


The United Kingdom was the first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It remains a great power with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific, and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world.


Cardiff Castle, Wales
Cardiff Castle, Wales. Credit: Joshua Miranda


It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946; also, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol, and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).


Marine drive, Scarborough
Marine Drive, Scarborough. Credit: Tim Hill


The UK has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; however, a referendum in June 2016 resulted in 51.9% of British voters favouring to leave the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated ever since.


Brexit & EU flag
Brexit and the EU flag. Credit: Media Modifier


The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state.


Bristol. Credit: David Harper


Treble clef heart

'God Save the Queen/King' (depending on the gender of the reigning monarch) is the national or royal anthem in a number of Commonwealth realms, their territories, and the British Crown dependencies. The author of the tune is unknown, and it may originate in plainchant; an attribution to the composer John Bull is sometimes made. The term God Save the King historically first appeared in the Hebrew Tanach, in the Book of Kings (1 Kings 1:38–40). Like many aspects of British constitutional life, the anthem's official status derives from custom and use, not from Royal Proclamation or Act of Parliament.


Sheffield park
Sheffield Park, England. Credit: Sally Wynn


'God Save the Queen" is the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Also, it is one of two national anthems used by New Zealand since 1977, as well as for several of the UK's territories that have their own additional local anthem or territorial national song. It is also the royal anthem – played specifically in the presence of the monarch – of all the aforementioned countries, as well as Australia (since 1984), Canada (since 1980), Barbados, and Tuvalu. The melody continues to be used for the national anthem of Liechtenstein, 'Oben am jungen Rhein', and the royal anthem of Norway, 'Kongesangen'. In the United States, the melody is used for the patriotic song 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee'.


City of Bath
City of Bath, England. Credit: Oberhausen


Beyond its first verse, which is consistent, 'God Save the Queen/King' has many historic and extant versions. Since its first publication, different verses have been added and taken away. Generally, only one or two verses are sung, but on rare occasions, three.


Green Park, London
Green Park, London. Credit: Lisa DiAntonio


England has no official national anthem of its own; 'God Save the Queen' is treated as the English national anthem when England is represented at sporting events (though there are some exceptions to this rule, such as cricket when 'Jerusalem' is used; also, 'Land of Hope and Glory' is used as the national anthem of England in the Commonwealth Games and some other sporting events. The song was used by the English rugby league team for the national anthem until 2005).


Robin, UK
Robin, a symbol of Christmas in the United Kingdom


There is a movement to establish an English national anthem, with Blake and Parry's 'Jerusalem' and Elgar's 'Land of Hope and Glory' among the top contenders. Scotland has its own national song and Wales has its own national anthem for political and national events and for use at international football, rugby union, and other sports in which those nations compete independently. On all occasions, Wales' national anthem is 'Hen Wald Fy Nhadau' (Land of my Fathers). Scotland has no single anthem; 'Scotland the Brave' was traditionally used until the 1990s, when 'Flower of Scotland' was adopted. In Northern Ireland, 'God Save the Queen' is still used as the official anthem.