The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage
The British Monarchy
The Official Coronation Photograph of HM Queen Elizabeth II by the late Cecil Beaton
The Royal Family
Seize Quartiers of the Kings and Queens
The Queens's Household in England
The Queen's Household in Scotland
Royal Palaces and Residences
The Order of Succession
The Queen's Representatives
The National Flag
Britain is one of the oldest surviving monarchies in the world. Queen Elizabeth II can trace her ancestors back to Cerdic, who founded the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex in AD 519 on the English side, and on the Scottish side to Alpin, who died in 834 and is regarded as the founder of the Scottish monarchy. She can also show lines of descent from the Kings of Thomond and other Irish kings and from various princely families in Wales.
Britain is a constitutional monarchy. The United Kingdom or British constitution is not contained in any single document but has evolved in the course of time, formed partly by statute, partly by common law and partly by convention. The United Kingdom is governed by Ministers of the Crown in the name of the Sovereign, who is Head both of the State and of the Government.
There are three organs of government: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The Legislature consists of the two Houses of Commons, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, formally referred to as the High Court of Parliament. The Executive consists of HM Government (Cabinet and other Ministers), government departments, local authorities, and public corporations operating nationalised industries or social or cultural services. The Judiciary pronounces on the law, both written and unwritten, interprets statutes and is responsible for the enforcement of the law; the Judiciary is independent of both the Legislature and the Executive, although the senior judges also sit in the Legislature and the executive head of the Judiciary, the Lord High Chancellor, is a senior Cabinet Minister.
The Sovereign personifies the state and is, in law, an integral part of the legislature, head of the executive, head of the judiciary, the commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Crown and the "Supreme Governor" of the Church of England. The seat of the monarchy is in the United Kingdom. In the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are Crown dependencies, the Sovereign is represented by a Lieutenant-Governor. In the member states of the Commonwealth of which the Sovereign is head of state, her representative is a Governor-General; in United Kingdom dependences ("the Colonies") the Sovereign is usually represented by a Governor, who is responsible to the British Government.
Last updated 3 July 2012
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