The full name of the country is: the United Kingdom of Great Britain ["brItn] and Northern Ireland.
▸ Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales.
▸ Land area: 244,000 sq. km.
▸ Population: about 63.2 million in 2011.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is the official head of state, the head of the legal system, the commander-in-chief of all armed forces and the head of the Church of England. In fact, she has mainly a representative role.
▸ The Parliament has two houses (deux chambres):
the House of Lords consists of non-elected members. Their number is not fixed (779 in 2014). It examines and revises bills (les projets de lois) from the Commons;
the House of Commons has 650 elected Members of Parliament (mps).
▸ The Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales were established in 1998.
▸ The executive power is exercised by the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister (Premier ministre).
the Chancellor of the Exchequer: le ministre des Finances
the Lord Chancellor: le président de la Chambre des lords, ministre de la Justice
the Home Secretary: le ministre de l’Intérieur
the Foreign Secretary: le ministre des Affaires étrangères
the Defence Secretary: le ministre de la Défense
▸ Political parties
The Labour Party (le parti travailliste) claims to represent the interests of the working class.
The Conservative Party is right-wing (de droite).
▸ The Union Jack is the name of the British flag.
▸ “God Save the Queen” is the title of the British anthem (l’hymne britannique).
▸ The national emblems are the rose for England; the thistle (le chardon) for Scotland; the leek (le poireau) for Wales; the shamrock (le trèfle) for Ireland.
2 A few place names
▸ The City of London: the historic heart of London, administered by the Lord Mayor. Just over one square mile (d’une superficie d’un peu moins de 2 km2), it contains many banks, including the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange (la Bourse).
▸ Greater London: the City + 32 boroughs (arrondissements / municipalités) = about 1,600 sq. km.
▸ The Houses of Parliament with the tower of Big Ben: the buildings in which the House of Commons and the House of Lords assemble.
▸ Stratford-upon-Avon: the birthplace of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
▸ Trafalgar Square: the main square in London named in commemoration of Nelson’s victory over Napoleon. Nelson’s column stands in the middle surrounded by four bronze lions.
▸ The v&a (the Victoria and Albert Museum): a museum in London which houses a collection of fine arts.
▸ Tate Britain (formerly known as the Tate Gallery): a national gallery of British art in London.
▸ Tate Modern (also in London but on a different site) : opened in 2000. It displays collections of international modern art.