The UK - A Country Consisting Of 4 Countries

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Four countries make up the United Kingdom - England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The official name of these countries is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The four segments of the UK are also called constituent countries and in sports are referred to as home nations.

The fact is, the four parts of the UK actually have no official titles, although they are usually referred to as countries. They are not formal subdivisions of the United Kingdom. However, they do have their own separate national governing bodies. The term United Kingdom is what is used for intergovernmental organizations, as well as international law. For any other types of law, however, Her Majesty's Government in Westminster, England rules.

The history of how the countries separated is most interesting. In 1536, the Act of Union joined England and Wales into one country. In 1707, Scotland and England were joined with Wales to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Irish Parliament voted to join the union in 1801. Thus, the name was changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, most of the southern counties in Ireland chose independence and therefore, the name was changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The British Isles is another area that sometimes causes confusion. This is actually the name of the island where England, Scotland and Wales are located. Both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom are located on the British Isles. There are several islands in the Isles and Britain and Ireland are separated by the Irish Sea.

Great Britain, on the other hand, is an island lying off the western coast of Europe, comprising the main territory of the United Kingdom. The principality of Wales and the two kingdoms of Scotland and England comprise what is known as Great Britain. Because Great Britain does not include Northern Ireland, it cannot be used interchangeably with the United Kingdom.

England is the largest of the four countries of the United Kingdom with a 2010 population of 51.6 million. This accounts for nearly 84% of the UK population. The land area of England is 130,395 square kilometers, occupying most of the southern two-thirds of Great Britain. The capital of England is London and London also serves as the capital, seat of government, and the largest city in the United Kingdom. England's legal system consists entirely of English law.

Scotland is the second largest of the four with an area of 78,772 square kilometers and a population of 5.2 million. Edinburg is the capital of Scotland and Scots Law is the ruling legal system. Scotland has roughly 790 islands, but only 130 of them are inhabited. There are many unique things that Scotland is known for. The fresh water lochs - or lakes - make up over 600 square miles of the country. The famous Loch Ness Monster is said to live in one of these lochs. Scotland is known for the poetry and songs of Robert Burns, along with its medieval castles and clans.

Wales is the third largest of the United Kingdom, with a population of 3.0 million people and an area of 13,843 square kilometers. The capital of Wales is Cardiff and Wales has not been politically independent since 1282, when it was conquered by King Edward I of England. Until 1999, Wales was ruled directly from London, when the first elections to the National Assembly of Wales were allowed. The Assembly cannot make laws however and has limited domestic power.

Northern Ireland is the smallest of the four parts of the United Kingdom and is very sparsely populated. With a total area of 13,843 square kilometers, the country has 1.8 million people. The capital is Belfast and the Northern Ireland Assembly was established as part of the Belfast Agreement.

All parts of the United Kingdom share a flag that shows the unity between them. The Union Flag, popularly known as the Union Jack, is the national flag of the United Kingdom. It is called the Union Flag because of the administrative union between the countries of the United Kingdom. It is comprised of the three individual flags of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales is not included on the flag because at the time, it was a principality, not a kingdom.

While those from other countries may not completely understand the history behind the United Kingdom or why there are four countries in one, it is helpful to at least understand that the names are not interchangeable. While the four parts are very closely related, their history and culture separates them as well. Having a basic concept of the differences and also similarities will help one have a better appreciation for all four countries.


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