History of the UK
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23 – HISTORY OF THE UK The first people to inhabit the British Isles were settlers from Europe. They arrived between 3,500BC and 3,000 BC and introduced farming, pottery and stone tools. They lived in the south of England. Stonehenge, a huge circle of standing stones, was built by these early inhabitants. More settlers from Europe, principally the Celts, started to invade Britain from the 10th century BC. The island was named Brittania by the Romans who occupied the country from 55 BC to 5th century AD. The Angles and Saxons came from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands in the 5th century, and England gets its name from this invasion (Angle-land). The Vikings arrived from Scandinavia throughout the 9th century, and in 1066 the Normans invaded from France. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 changed the future of England when the English were defeated by a French army led by William, Duke of Normandy. Harold, King of England, was killed and the Duke of Normandy became King William I of England (William the Conqueror). When women of Normandy heard of this victory, they made a large tapestry on which they told true story of the Battle. This tapestry is now in the museum in French Bayeux. The Middle Ages in England could be described as full of civil and international wars. During this period the kingdom remained a sovereign state until the reign of Richard I “The Lion Heart” who made it a vassal of the Holy Empire. High taxes, unsuccessful wars and conflicts with the Pope led to a rebellion of some of the English barons against the king and therefore the Magna Charta was signed in 1215. It was a document restricting king´s powers, led to the creation of the first parliament in 1264. In the 14th/15thcentury the unsuccessful Hundred Years´ War against France began followed by the War of Roses (Yorks / Lancasters). Simultaneously, the plague known as the Black Death killed a third of the population. However, the War of Roses ended by the victory of the third dynasty – the Tudors. One of the best remembered kings is Henry VIII who had six wives. Henry was well educated and had the mind of a statesman. During his reign Wales was brought into legal union with England, but Henry ruled as a true and terrible autocrat. His teacher, Sir Thomas More, was executed because he refused to accept Henry´s second marriage to Anne Boleyn and his rejection of the authority of Rome. After his quarrel with the Pope and excommunication, Henry became the head of the newly established Church of England and declared his independence from Rome. Anne Boleyn was executed too, and so was his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Anne Boleyn´s daughter, Elizabeth, became an outstanding Queen of England, although her path to the throne necessitated the execution of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth´s cousin, whom all Catholics in Britain considered the legitimate heir to the English throne. Elizabeth I, called “The Virgin Queen” ruled not by force, but female diplomacy. Many European kings longed to control England, but she remained unmarried so that nobody could take her throne. In 1588 the Spanish Armada attempted to invade England, but was defeated by the British navy led by Sir Francis Drake.England became a leading world power.Great voyages of discovery opened the world to English trade and conquest during Elizabeth´s reign. Sir Walter Raleigh founded the first English colony in North America and called it Virginia in honour of the Queen. The Elizabethan Era is known for the flourishing of the theatre represented by William Shakespeare and his Globe Theatre. After Elizabeth´s death, James I, the son of Mary Stuart, succeeded to the throne. He united England, Scotland and Wales under one crown (Union of the Crowns). Another significant king was Charles I. During his reign the revolution started. The king was executed and for a short period of time after the Civil War (1644-1649) England became a republic (Oliver Cromwell titled Lord Protector). He had a new model army that defeated the royalist in ECW. Charles II is known for the Acts of Union of 1707 which united England, Scotland and Wales under one parliament as a Kingdom of Great Britain. Another monarch who gave her name to an age was Queen Victoria. She succeeded to the throne in 1837 at the age of eighteen. After her husband, Prince Albert, died, Victoria withdrew into seclusion although she reigned for another forty years. During that time the British Empire grew and grew, and the Queen was the dignified symbol of the continuity and stability of the British way of life. Victoria was the first monarch to live in Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria became an Indian Emperor. The Victorian Era is known for Industrial Revolution which culminated in The Great Exhibition in 1851. Then the WWI started. Even though Britain belonged to the winners of the war, it suffered a great casualty of over 1 million dead people and colonies. During WWII Britain was one of the 3 major Allied Powers (with Winston Churchill as the Prime Minister). Churchill refused the appeasement policy which led the country to victory in the famous air battle of Britain in 1940. After WWII the colonial system entered a series of crises marked by the national liberation movement in the colonies. In 1947 India, led by Mahatma Gandhi, and Pakistan were granted independence: India became a republic. Though the 1970s and 1980s saw the UK's integration to the European Economic Community which became the European Union in 1992 and a strict modernization of its economy. The current monarch of the UK is Queen Elizabeth II from the Windsor dynasty who is now 86 years old. Her husband is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They have four children; one of them is Charles, Prince of Wales who was married to Princess Diana. They have two sons, Prince William and Prince Henry. Lady Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 and Charles remarried. His second wife is Camilla Parker Bowls. Prince William married Catherine