29 Interesting Facts About England
Merry Olde England
In England we all speak like the Queen (or a cockney chimney sweep), live in either a castle or a thatched cottage, with no hot water but lots of dogs. Our lives are usually spent in the pub, or a tearoom, where we shelter from the perpetual rain and dense fog. We provide Hollywood with villains but don't bother much with dentists. Outside of London there is countryside, with lots of people on horseback chasing foxes and ladies flitting about in Jane Austen style frocks.
So much for the stereotypes, what are the facts about England?
England's Last Queen
Defender of the Faith
The British monarch carries the title of Fidei defensor, Defender of the Faith. The title was originally granted to the King of England, Henry VIII, by Pope Leo X in 1521. Henry wrote a sterling defence of the sacraments, including of marriage, so good that the Pope was moved to confer a special title on him.
Ironically, Henry, married to Catherine of Aragon at the time, broke with the Church of Rome barely ten years later so that he could get out of his marriage and marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. He kept the title though, as have his successors. It still appears on British coinage as Fid Def or FD.
Facts About the Queen of England
The main fact to remember is this: there is no Queen of England.
Some people argue that Queen Elizabeth I was the last monarch of England (she was succeeded by her cousin James VI of Scotland, so he was monarch of both England and Scotland) whilst others will contend that Queen Anne was the final English monarch since the formal union of England and Scotland into the sovereign state of the Kingdom of Great Britain was enacted during her reign (in 1707).
So, Queen Elizabeth II has a great many titles, but Queen of England isn't one of them. Here are the countries of which she is Queen:
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- the Bahamas
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- the Soloman Islands
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
- Papua New Guinea
- St Lucia
The Queen is also:
- Duke of Normandy
- Duke of Lancaster
- Lord Mann
In addition, Queen Elizabeth has the titles of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith (see right).
An Unofficial English National Anthem
This is England
- John Bull is the personification of England.
- England's motto is "Dieu et Mon Droit" (God and my right).
- The patron saint of England is St. George.
- The flag of England is St. George's Cross.
- England has two recognised languages: English and Cornish.
- Unlike Scotland and Wales, England does not have it's own national anthem (the UK's national anthem is "God Save the Queen"). "Jerusalem" and "Land of Hope and Glory" are often used as unofficial anthems.
England's First King
English Monarchy Facts
- The first King of England was Aethelstan from 924 to 939 AD.
- Lady Jane Grey had the shortest reign of an English monarch - either 9 or 13 days, depending on your point of view.
- Only four English monarchs didn't marry: William II, Edward V, Edward VI and Elizabeth I.
- Henry II had 29 children, of whom only 5 were legitimate.
- The tallest English monarch was Edward IV whose skeleton measures 6'4 1/2 inches.
- Henry IV and his wife Mary de Bohun were the youngest reigning parents. He was 15 and she was 12 when their first child was born.
- Henry VIII was the most married English monarch, famously marrying six times.
England's Largest Lake
England is not the UK (nor GB)!
England is the largest of the countries that make up the island of Great Britain. To the north of England is Scotland and to the west, Wales. The country has an area of just under 50,350 square miles. As well as the mainland of England there are well over a hundred islands around the coast.
Despite having the largest landmass of Great Britain, England does not boast the highest mountains. It does, however, possess the oldest range of hills, the Pennines, which are known as the backbone of England. Besides the upland moorlands of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Exmoor and Dartmoor, England has plenty of rolling green countryside as well as craggy cliffs on the west coast and sloping beaches on the south coast.
England's largest city is London, with a population of more than 8 million people. Birmingham and Manchester are the next largest urban areas with populations of over 2 million. There are also very small cities such as Truro, which has a population of less than 20,000.
There are nine official national parks in England, although the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads have a status equivalent to a national park. England's national parks make up 8% of the country's land area. They are protected due to their natural beauty.
England's Highest Peak and Deepest Lake
England Geography Facts
English History Facts
- London became England's capital in the 12th Century. Before that time it was Winchester.
- England's longest war, the Hundred Years War, was actually a series of wars with France stretching from 1337 to 1453.
- The English were great castle builders. The book Castellarium Anglicanum lists more than 1,500.
- The Black Death in the 14th Century wiped out up to 50% of the population.
- Although England had a fleet even before the Norman Conquest, it was Henry VIII who created the "Navy Royal".
England takes it name from the Angles, a Germanic group of settlers. This tribe arrived in England during the 5th century, along with the Saxons and Jutes. These tribes called themselves "Englisc" or "Engle".
Gradually, the invaders gained ascendancy over the indigenous Britons, driving them into the far west of the island. For centuries England ("Englaland") was not a united country but divided into a number of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. These kingdoms came under attack from Danish invaders (the Vikings) in the 9th century and only the Kingdom of Wessex remained. Alfred the Great was able to turn the tide for the English and drive out the Danes. England became a single kingdom under King Aethelstan in 927 AD.
England's Flag and Favourite Sport
English Sport Facts
- England's oldest football club is Sheffield FC, founded in 1859.
- The Ashes have been fought over by England and Australia's cricket teams since 1882.
- Modern boxing evolved from prize-fighting in England (often hosted in pubs).
- England last won the World Cup in 1966.
- The All England Club has hosted The Championships at Wimbledon since 1877.
Guy Fawkes Night
English Sport and Culture
England has given the world rugby, football (soccer), cricket and tennis. Football is definitely England's national sport, inspiring almost feverish devotion amongst many, though sadly the national team rarely win any major championships. Similarly, tennis at Wimbledon is a firm favourite on the English calendar, despite the lack of a home win for decades.
The English still celebrate various traditional customs. One of the largest of these is the celebration of Guy Fawkes night, an evening of bonfires and fireworks to commemorate the foiling of a plot to blow up Parliament. Smaller regional events include cheese-rolling, hurling, Furry dances, Morris dancing, maypole dancing and swan-upping. Whilst some of these customs are peculiar to their own region (the Furry dance and hurling are, as far as I know, Cornish traditions), others like Morris dancing, are carried on throughout England.
Pubs and inns have played an important part in English society for centuries and they still do. England seems to have as many pubs as churches. A great many pubs have survived for centuries and continue to thrive. Find out more about old pubs in London and historical Bristol pubs as well as a selection of odd pub names.
Take a Quiz!
My fellow hubber Daisy Mariposa has a quiz to test your knowledge of England's geography - check it out!
These Are Just a Few Facts About England ...
There are, of course, thousands of others! I haven't included anything about our wonderful literature (sorry Messrs Chaucer, Shakespeare et al) or our much derided food (we do actually eat something other than roast beef, fish and chips and pork pies). There hasn't been room to list any facts about our legal system or make much mention of the Church of England.
So, I hope you have enjoyed a few lesser known facts about England and aren't too disappointed if your favourite fact has been missed off my list!
© 2012 Judith Hancock