“Great Britain” has several different names. Some people say “Britain”, or “the United Kingdom”, or just “UK”. Altogether more than 56 million people live in Britain, many of them in big industrial cities like London, Liverpool and Manchester. Everyone in Britain speaks English.
G.B. is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is the Head of State, but she has no real power. Parliament is the real government of Britain. It has two “Houses”, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The ”Lords” are members of the old aristocracy, bishops, lawyers, and retired politicians. They have little power now, but they can suggest new laws and change or delay laws that the House of Commons wants to pass. The House of Commons makes laws, agrees on policy, and decides what taxes the people must pay. The British people choose the 650 members of the House of Commons every five years. The Prime Minister is the leader of the winning partly. The Prime Minister chooses the members of the Cabinet, who are called ministers. Each minister has a special job to do, for example education, or health, or transport. The Queen travels about the UK, meeting people, visiting schools and hospitals, and going to important local events. British people enjoy their “royals” They like reading about them in newspapers, and seeing them on TV. To some they are like filmstars, interesting just because they are rich and famous. Other people feel that the Queen is a symbol of Britain’s long history and national traditions.
London has been a capital city for nearly a thousand years, and many of its ancient buildings still stand. The most famous of these are the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, but most visitors also want to see the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace (the Queen’s London home) and the many magnificent museums. London is always changing. New buildings go up and old ones come down. Many people live outside the centre of London in the suburbs, and they travel to work by train, bus or underground. Many people think that London is all grey, but in fact red is London’s favourite colour. The buses are red, the letter boxes are red, and the mail vans are all bright, bright red.
Oxford and Cambridge are old university towns. Both of these university towns are very beautiful. Oxford is the older university of the two. The first of its colleges was founded in 1249.
Oxford is, of course, famous for its first class education as well as its beautiful buildings. Britain’s flag is called the ”Union Jack”. It is really flags on top of each other – the red cross on white of St George for England, the white “X” on blue of St Andrew for Scotland, and the red “X” on white of St Patrick for Ireland.