England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom

Michael C Durrant
Apr 29, 2024By Michael C Durrant

Am I English, British or from the UK? Well, the short answer is yes. For the long-ish answer, let's dive into today's All That is British blog post.

I'm sure you've heard English speakers say that they are English, British or from the UK, and maybe you've wondered what the difference is between the three. To explain this, let's take a short trip through history. Just like every modern country on Earth, the United Kingdom did not always exist as it is today. 

England flag on paper background

For our history lesson, we will start in the 16th century (the 1500s). At that time, England and Wales were neighbouring regions that had their own identities and rulers. King Edward I of England had conquered Wales in the 13th century (1200s) and joined it to the Kingdom of England, however, Wales continued to have some independence - it had its own laws and system of government that were different to England. This all changed in the first half of the 1500s through two legal acts that were passed by the English Parliament: the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542. The two laws stated that Wales would no longer have a separate government and legal system, but would be governed by the English Parliament in London. This formed the Kingdom of England.

Fabric flag of Wales. Crease of Wales flag background, consists of a red dragon passant on a green and white field.

Fast forward to the 18th century (1700s). Just to the north of the Kingdom of England lay the Kingdom of Scotland. It was an independent, sovereign state that had a monarchy, parliament and legal system. At this time, both countries were going through political and economic problems. This led to the Act of Union 1707, also known as the Treat of Union. This law formally united the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England to create a new political union known as the Kingdom of Great Britain. This meant that there would be a single Parliament of Great Britain based in Westminster, London; however, Scotland would continue to have its own legal and educational systems as well as some of its institutions, such as the Church of Scotland. Now, with England, Wales and Scotland functioning as one political union, Great Britain was born.

Fabric flag of Scotland. Crease of  Scotland flag background, it is a blue field with a white diagonal cross that extends to the corners.

How did Great Britain become the United Kingdom? To answer this, we fast forward again to the early 19th century (1800s).  At this time, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom, but it had its own parliament in Dublin. This was achieved through the Act of Union 1800, which formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, due to significant opposition both in Ireland and Great Britain, this union lasted until 1922, when Ireland was divided, with Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom and the rest of Ireland becoming an independent state now known as the Republic of Ireland. It was then that what we call the UK (The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) today was formed. 

Northern Ireland - Flag on Old Grunge Texture Background

So there we have it. The United Kingdom is a union of the countries that form Great Britain (England, Wales, & Scotland) and Northern Ireland.

NationEnglandWalesScotlandNorthern Ireland
Capital CityLondonCardiffEdinburghBelfast
NationalityEnglishWelshScottishNorthen Irish
Year Joined Union-Kingdom of England: 1542

Kingdom of Great Britain:1707 

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: 1801

Patron SaintSt. GeorgeSt. David

St. Andrew

St. Patrick

United Kingdom Flag real fabric seamless close up