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Portal:United Kingdom

The United Kingdom Portal

Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern 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 the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the world's longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major cities include Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Liverpool.

The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution. The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 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 history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and political systems of many of its former colonies.

The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a very high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK 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. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973. A referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of the turnout being in favour of leaving the EU, which is currently scheduled to take place on 31 October 2019. The United Kingdom is 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 Organization (WTO).

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Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories seek to explain a series of murders in the East End of London in 1888 that were blamed on an unidentified assailant known as "Jack the Ripper". Since then, the identity of the killer has been hotly debated. Over a hundred suspects have been proposed, including Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and the grandson of Queen Victoria. The theory that Albert Victor was the Ripper was brought to public attention in 1970 by elderly British physician Dr. T. E. A. Stowell, who argued that Albert Victor committed the murders after being driven mad by syphilis. Subsequently, conspiracy theorists have elaborated on the supposed involvement of Albert Victor in the murders. Rather than implicate Albert Victor directly, they claim that he secretly married and had a daughter with a Catholic shop assistant, and that Queen Victoria, British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, his freemason friends, and the London Metropolitan Police conspired to murder anyone aware of Albert Victor's supposed child. Many facts contradict this theory, and its originator, Joseph Gorman (also known as Joseph Sickert), later retracted the story and admitted to the press that it was a hoax. (more...)

Featured biography

Vivien Leigh was an English theatre and film actress. Although her film appearances were relatively few, she won two Academy Awards playing "Southern belles", Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, a role she had also played in London's West End. She was a prolific stage performer, frequently in collaboration with her husband, Laurence Olivier, who directed her in several of her roles. During her thirty-year stage career, she played parts that ranged from the heroines of Noël Coward and George Bernard Shaw comedies to classic Shakespearean characters such as Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet and Lady Macbeth. Lauded for her beauty, Leigh felt that it sometimes prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress, but ill health proved to be her greatest obstacle. Affected by bipolar disorder for most of her adult life, she gained a reputation for being difficult, and her career went through periods of decline. She was further weakened by recurrent bouts of tuberculosis, which was first diagnosed in the mid-1940s. She and Olivier divorced in 1960, and Leigh worked sporadically in film and theatre until her death from tuberculosis. (more...)

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Photo credit: Dan Smith

Bentley Motors Limited is a British based manufacturer of luxury automobiles and Grand Tourers. Bentley Motors was founded in England on January 18, 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley, known as W.O. Bentley or just "W.O." (18881971). He was previously known for his successful range of rotary aero-engines in World War I, the most famous being the Bentley BR1 as used in later versions of the Sopwith Camel. The company is currently owned by the Volkswagen Group.

In the news

17 October 2019 – Brexit negotiations, Brexit
The United Kingdom and the European Union agree on a new Brexit withdrawal agreement deal following talks in Brussels. Current coalition partner the Democratic Unionist Party subsequently announces they will oppose the deal. (BBC)
16 October 2019 –
Around 337 people in a dozen countries are arrested for participating in a child pornography network that hosted up to 250,000 videos depicting child sexual abuse. Officials in the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea called it one of the largest child pornography operations to date. (Reuters)
15 October 2019 –
Climate activists continue Extinction Rebellion protests at the transport ministry in central London after the Metropolitan Police Service yesterday banned Extinction Rebellion protests in London, United Kingdom. Following the ban, police cleared a protester camp occupying Trafalgar Square. Almost 1,500 arrests have been made since last week. (BBC) (Reuters)
14 October 2019 –
Convicted British serial sex offender and paedophile Richard Huckle, who sexually abused dozens of children in Malaysia, is found stabbed to death in his cell at HM Prison Full Sutton. (BBC)
14 October 2019 – 2018 Westminster car attack
At the Old Bailey in London, Salih Khater is sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of fifteen years. (BBC)
11 October 2019 – Manchester Arndale stabbing
Four people are stabbed and injured, one critically, in a mass stabbing at the Manchester Arndale shopping centre in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, United Kingdom. Another person was injured but not stabbed. A man in his early 40s is arrested. He was arrested under the Mental Health Act. (BBC)

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