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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 north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern 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 lies between 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 (England does not have any devolved power). 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 fifth-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; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9 per cent of UK voters favouring leaving the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated. 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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The Queen’s Regiment breaking through on the right flank

The Battle of Ramillies was a major engagement of the War of the Spanish Succession fought on 23 May, 1706. 1706 had begun well for Louis XIV's generals who gained early success in Italy and in Alsace. Louis now pressed Marshal Villeroi to seek out Marlborough and bring the Allies to battle in the Spanish Netherlands. Accordingly, the French marshal set off from Louvain at the head of 60,000 men, and provocatively marched towards Léau. Marlborough, also determined to fight a major engagement, assembled his forces – some 62,000 men – near Maastricht, before advancing towards the Mehaigne River and the plain of Ramillies. But the French had forestalled the Allies, and Marlborough's advance party found the location already occupied. Nevertheless, the Duke decided to attack at once. In less than four hours, Villeroi's army was utterly defeated. Marlborough's subtle moves and changes in emphasis during the battle – something the French and Bavarian commanders failed to realize until it was too late – caught his foe between the jaws of a tactical vice. The Franco-Bavarian army broke and ran en masse, losing in total over 20,000 casualties. With Prince Eugéne's subsequent success at Turin in northern Italy, the Allies had imposed the greatest loss of territory and resources Louis XIV would suffer during the war. Town after town – including Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp – fell to Marlborough's forces; by the end of the campaign, the Franco-Spanish army had been driven from most of the Spanish Netherlands. (more...)

Featured biography

Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom

Victoria was a Queen of the United Kingdom, reigning from 20 June 1837 until her death. Her reign lasted more than sixty-three years—longer than any other British monarch. As well as being Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, she was also the first monarch to use the title Empress of India. The reign of Victoria was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. The Victorian Era was at the height of the Industrial Revolution, a period of great social, economic, and technological change in the United Kingdom. Victoria was the last monarch of the House of Hanover; her successor belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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30 St Mary Axe, otherwise known as The Gherkin or the Swiss Re building. Taken from Leadenhall St.
Photo credit: Diliff

30 St Mary Axe, otherwise known as "The Gherkin" or the Swiss Re building, at 180 m (590 ft) is the 6th tallest in London, England. Designed by Foster and Partners, the architectural design of the tower contrasts sharply against more traditional buildings in London. Its design won the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize for the best new building by a RIBA architect in 2004 and the 2003 Emporis Skyscraper Award for the best skyscraper in the world completed that year. The building is visible from a long distance from Central London: from the north for instance, it can be seen on the M11 motorway some 32 km (20 mi) away.

In the news

Wikinews UK

19 July 2019 – Iran–United Kingdom relations
Iranian Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps captures British tanker Stena Impero and temporarily seizes British-operated and Liberian-flagged tanker Mesdar in the Persian Gulf. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says there will be "serious consequences" if Iran does not release the tanker. (CNN) (Yahoo) (BBC)
10 July 2019 –
Three or five of Iran's IRGC Navy gunboats unsuccessfully attempt to seize control of British oil tanker British Heritage in the Persian Gulf, according to UK's Ministry of Defense as well as two anonymous U.S. officials. The Royal Navy's HMS Montrose reportedly warns the boats to back away from the BP Shipping-owned tanker, which they do. The incident is allegedly captured on a U.S. aircraft's camera. (CNN)
10 July 2019 – United Kingdom–United States relations
Sir Kim Darroch, the United Kingdom's ambassador to the United States, resigns his appointment amid public disagreements with U.S. President Donald Trump initiated by a series of leaked diplomatic cables in which the ambassador criticized the president, and will leave the post upon the appointment of his successor. (BBC)
7 July 2019 –
The Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, United Kingdom, the ancient ruins of Babylon in Babil Governorate, Iraq, among other sites are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (BBC) (The Independent)
4 July 2019 – Sanctions against Iran
Royal Marines seize control of an oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar that was en route to Baniyas in Syria, suspected of breaching EU sanctions against Syria, carrying Iranian crude oil. The United Kingdom's Ambassador to Iran, Robert Macaire, is summoned in Tehran over the incident, which Iran describes as an "illegal seizure". (BBC)
2 July 2019 – China–United Kingdom relations, Hong Kong–United Kingdom relations, 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, Aftermath of the Handover of Hong Kong
China warns the United Kingdom that "no country has the right to intervene on the issue of mass protests in Hong Kong", as it considers the problems of this self-governed city an "internal problem". For China, the agreement by which the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong is nothing more than "a historical document of no practical importance" and "that European country no longer has any responsibility over Hong Kong". The British chancellery, for its part, dismissed the Chinese opinion, and has said that "it is the right and obligation of the United Kingdom to work to enforce the agreement", which, in theory, guarantees a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong for 50 years until 2047 without Chinese interference. (Sky News)

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