Throughout history, there have been a number of different groups of settlers in England, including the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Vikings, and the Normans.
The word England comes from the word ‘Angle-land’ or land of the Angles, a Viking tribe that came across the North Sea and settled in the east and north. Angleterre – the French name for England – also means ‘Land of the Angles’. For a very small country, England has had vast power and influence at certain points of history. The British Empire contained a quarter of the world’s population in the 18th century.
Today England is divided into 48 counties. Yorkshire is the largest traditional county of England (in 1974 Yorkshire was divided into four smaller counties: West, North, South and East Riding). The smallest county is the City of London.
Since 1707, there hasn’t been a government just for England (though Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own Parliaments). Although the government is situated in England’s capital, London, it is in fact a UK government. The government meet in the Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament in London. It is here that you will find Big Ben, London’s famous clock (although Big Ben is actually the name of the bell that chimes!). Big Ben weighs about 13 and a half tons – about the same as a small elephant!
In the 21st century England still has a monarch who reigns over the country but does not rule and govern it. This is called a constitutional monarchy.
The monarch is the only British citizen who can travel without a passport! Buckingham Palace is the official London home of the British King or Queen, but Windsor Castle is the largest occupied royal home in the world. It was built by William the Conqueror around the year 1080.
You will find the Crown Jewels under armed guard in the Jewel House in the Tower of London. They are still worn by the Queen today for important ceremonies. Some of the most famous residents of the Tower of London today are the ravens! According to a Royal law put in place by King Charles II, there must always be six ravens in residence at any one time! According to an old legend, if the birds should leave, the British monarchy and the White Tower would crumble and fall. To be on the safe side, the Tower usually keeps eight birds at all times!
English is spoken in England and by hundreds of millions of people across the world. As well as many dialects, another language spoken in England is Cornish, an ancient language of Cornwall.
As well as being one of the largest financial centers in the world, London is a huge tourist destination. Other world-famous English sites include Stonehenge and Stratford-upon-Avon (the birthplace of William Shakespeare).
Now a country with many universities, until 1832 England only had two: Oxford and Cambridge.