This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
William Shakespeare, Richard II
England is loved for its beautiful landscapes, its great sporting history and for being the birthplace of celebrated figures such as William Shakespeare and Florence Nightingale. Yes, without further ado, it's time to show the world you're proud to be English! Celebrate your roots and explore some of England's most fascinating facts and charming quotes in this miscellany fit for any lover of this green and pleasant land.
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English and Proud of It
By William Moore
Summersdale Publishers LtdCopyright © 2014 Summersdale Publishers Ltd
All rights reserved.
Every 23 April, England unites to celebrate its patron saint, George. His emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the unofficial flag of England and makes up part of the Union Jack – the official flag of the United Kingdom. During the crusades, St George's emblem was stitched into the knights' tunics so they could identify their fellow king's men in battle.
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Before Hastings, the single most important battle in England was the bloody Battle of Brunanburh, near Burnley. It was the conflict that determined whether Britain would become one country or remain as four separate ones. The year was AD 937 and the Scots, Welsh and Norse-Irish had all ganged up on the Anglo-Saxons of King Æthelstan. The Anglo-Saxons won – an important victory in terms of establishing England and Englishness as they are known today.
The stately homes of England! How beautiful they stand, Amidst their tall ancestral trees, O'er all the pleasant land!
FELICIA DORATHEA HEMANS
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One of the most famous, and important, dates in English history: 14 October 1066. When King Edward 'the Confessor' died earlier that year, he left no heirs and his death ignited a fierce rivalry for the throne that culminated in the historic Battle of Hastings and the ultimate destruction of the Anglo-Saxon rule of England. The Norman king, William, conquered the English and changed the country forever.
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Liverpool was once one of England's most crucial cities. Its official history began on 28 August 1207, when King John granted a Royal Charter for a place called 'Liuerpul' – even though only around two hundred people lived there at the time. Liverpool was once described as the 'Second City of Empire', eclipsing even London for commerce. Now Liverpool holds the Guinness World Records title for being the 'Capital of Pop', having secured more number one hits, than any other city in the UK. It is also one of the most passionate footballing cities in England; home to both Liverpool and Everton.
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To put it mildly, the Magna Carta was a powerful document. When forced to sign it in 1215, King John effectively limited his own powers and gave way to the formation of parliament as we now know it. The document was a collection of laws that would turn out to be the first vital step in creating constitutional government and law in the English-speaking world.
I know an Englishman, Being flattered, is a lamb; threatened, a lion.
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The English Civil War of 1642–1651 was one of the bitterest battles in the country's history – and there was certainly nothing civil about it. It was a fight between Royalists (aka Cavaliers, those who supported King Charles I) and Parliamentarians (aka Roundheads, led by Oliver Cromwell). The latter won, resulting in the temporary abolition of the English monarchy, the execution of King Charles I and, most tragically, the cancellation of Christmas in 1647 (it turned out Oliver Cromwell was a bit of a spoilsport).
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Published on 15 April 1755, Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was a milestone for the language that was soon to become one of the most spoken languages on the planet. Containing over 40,000 words, it took Johnson eight years to complete. The Oxford English Dictionary now has over 600,000 words (but the OED team enjoy more sophisticated production techniques than Johnson did).
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21 October 1805 marks the date of the Battle of Trafalgar, the most decisive British naval victory of the Napoleonic War. The battle lasted only five hours and cost the Franco–Spanish fleet twenty-two ships, with the British navy losing no ships at all – 22–0!
Let no one sneer at the bruisers of England – What were the gladiators of Rome or the bull fighters of Spain, in its palmist days, compared to England's bruisers?
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Wembley Stadium. England v. West Germany. 30July 1966. The FIFA World Cup Final. Geoff Hurst's hat-trick. That goal. 4–2 to England. They think it's all over ... it is now!
In July 2012, London became the first city to have hosted the Olympic Games three times. The Games featured 302 events, 204 different countries, and 10,500 athletes. For three glorious weeks, a tiny island was once again the toast of the world. Team GB finished in third place, behind the United States and China, with an impressive haul of sixty-five medals in total: twenty-nine gold, seventeen silver and nineteen bronze. Well done, everyone!CHAPTER 2
To be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is.
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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking's universe-bending book, A Brief History of Time (1988), discusses the theories of life, the universe and everything in a way that a non-scientific reader can understand. It changed how the world saw its universe. Being diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 21 did not stop this Oxford-born boy from becoming one of the world's most inspiring geniuses.
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Queen Elizabeth II has been the head of the British monarchy as well as sixteen sovereign states for over half a century (and counting). She celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 with a massive party and the whole world gatecrashed. The Queen is one of the most well-travelled monarchs in history, having made over 300 official overseas visits to well over a hundred different countries.
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Consistently voted the 'Greatest Briton Ever', Winston Churchill is also one of the most quoted men in history. As prime minister of Britain during World War Two (and again from 1951 to 1955), Churchill's wartime speeches became a symbol of everything Britain stood for and gave hope and courage to millions of people in Britain and around the world. A world icon, made in England.
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England's rose and mother of princes William and Harry (and now grandmother of George), Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in 1981 and their fairy-tale wedding was watched live on TV by 750 million people. Her tragic death in a car crash in Paris in 1997 was mourned the world over.
O England! model to thy inward greatness, Like little body with a mighty heart, What might'st thou do, that honour would thee do, Were all thy children kind and natural! But see thy fault!
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Often described as the father of artificial intelligence, Alan Turing was one of the first computer geniuses. During World War Two, he worked at Bletchley Park and was integral to the codebreaking of German ciphers; a process that probably helped shorten the war by two years. He had previously devised what came to be known as the 'Turing machine', a hypothetical device that could simulate the logic of algorithms and computation – in other words, the foundations of modern-day computing.
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Isaac Newton is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived. Born on Christmas Day in Lincolnshire in 1642, Newton was the first to formulate the laws of gravity and motion in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, considered by many to be the most important book in the history of science.
In England every man ought to own a garden. It's meant to be that way, you feel it immediately.
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Florence Nightingale, recognised for her work in improving hospital hygiene and sanitation, was famously known as the 'Lady with the Lamp' because of her frequent visits to the hospital wards of the Crimea at night to check on patients. She laid the foundations of modern professional healthcare with her nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital, London, and in 1907 she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit – an exclusive order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature or the promotion of culture.
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Born in 1809, the English naturalist Charles Darwin was one of the first biologists to popularise the theory of natural selection – the idea that every living creature on earth evolved from inherited characteristics of previous species and organisms. Darwin's influential book On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, is considered the foundation of evolutionary biology.
What have I done for you, England, my England? What is there I would not do, England, my own?
W. E. HENLEY
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Alfred, King of Wessex was also known as King of the Anglo-Saxons and as Alfred the Great – but no matter what you call him , he was undeniably the first true king of England – even before 'England' existed. He ruled the land from 871 to 899 and defended his people and his kingdom against those pesky Viking marauders. A learned and merciful man, who encouraged education and improved his kingdom's legal system and military structure, Alfred the Great was indeed just that.
The English have an extraordinary ability for flying into a great calm.
ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTTCHAPTER 3
Launched in 1511, the beautiful Mary Rose was designed as the flagship of King Henry VIII's fleet. Sadly, for reasons still unknown, on 19 July 1545 she sank in the Solent whilst leading other ships out to face the French. The ship remained buried under water, a perfect Tudor-era time capsule, for over 400 years until, on 11 October 1982, the wreck was raised and salvaged. She now resides at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
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The London Underground celebrated its 150th birthday in 2013, and over one billion passengers travelled across the much-loved transport network that year alone. Out of a total of 270 stations, the District Line (the green one) has the most (sixty). Despite being known colloquially around the world as 'the Tube', only 45 per cent of the Underground track network actually runs through tunnels.
An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.
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Although the Chinese nicknamed it Da Ben Zhong, which when translated means 'Big Stupid Clock', Big Ben is far more than that. Over 150 years old, the huge clock tower located at the Palace of Westminster took fifteen years to build. The name Big Ben refers not to this clock tower, printed on so many London postcards, but instead to the 13-ton bell housed within it. The name of the tower itself was changed from the Clock Tower to the Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
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York Minster as we know it today is a feat of fifteenth-century engineering and is one of the largest cathedrals not just in England, but also in Europe. The Central Tower (also known as the Lantern Tower) is a staggering 70 metres (230 feet) tall and weighs the same as forty jumbo jets – roughly 16,000 metric tonnes. It has to be seen to be enjoyed.
Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
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Whenever you lie back and dream of the rolling, gently dipping green hillsides of England you may well be thinking of the Cotswolds in southern England. The Cotswolds cover an area 40 kilometres (25 miles) across and 145 kilometres (90 miles) long. The region has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty due, in part, to the honey-coloured limestone that permeates the entire region, giving the village and town architecture a distinct and quintessentially English feel.
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An area of extreme natural beauty, the Lake District, located in Cumbria in northern England, is the largest national park in the country. The lakes and the fells were carved out by huge glaciers that eroded the landscape before melting away. Around 14 million people a year visit the national park, but, thankfully, they don't all go there at once.
It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.
P. D. JAMES
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The White Cliffs of Dover form part of the English coastline facing out to the Strait of Dover and over to France. At their highest the cliffs reach 110 metres (350 feet), and they are an arresting and welcoming sight for any traveller from continental Europe. The cliffs are white because they are made up of the crushed shells of billions of tiny sea creatures that, over millions of years, have risen up as chalk sediment.
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The Queen's official London residence, Buckingham Palace, is a building of rare beauty. Originally built in 1705 as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham (hence the name), the palace has since been extended to include 775 rooms, 1,514 doors, 760 windows and 40,000 light bulbs. It covers 77,000 square metres and has its own postcode – SW1A 1AA. And you can always tell when the queen is home – the official flag, known as the Royal Standard, flies at full mast on top of the palace when she is in residence.
Good ale, the true and proper drink of Englishmen. He is not deserving of the name of Englishman who speaketh against ale, that is good ale.
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Stonehenge, near Salisbury, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world. The construction and pattern of the peculiar standing stones began roughly around 2500 BC and the freestanding structures were probably used for religious, burial and ceremonial purposes. Evidence suggests the large stones were brought all the way from the Preseli Hills in Wales – around 200 miles away. In 1986, Stonehenge was added to UNESCO's coveted list of World Heritage Sites, which must have made the Queen very happy indeed – she owns the place!
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In the heart of Westminster, a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament, lies the nation's venue for coronations and royal weddings, and the resting place of seventeen monarchs, Westminster Abbey. Building was begun by King Henry III (though not personally) in 1245 and the soaring Gothic architecture became a splendid sight to behold. The abbey is also thought to be home to England's oldest door – made of oak, it dates back to AD 1050.
There is nothing so bad or so good that you will not find an Englishman doing it; but you will never find an Englishman in the wrong. He does everything on principle.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAWCHAPTER 4
Selling over one and a half billion records (and counting), The Beatles are consistently regarded to be the most successful and influential music group of all time. Formed in 1960 in Liverpool, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had seventeen Number One singles in only six years – their first, 'From Me To You', was written while on a coach travelling to Shrewsbury in 1963. Rock and roll!
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Since bounding onto British TVs in 1999 with a little show called The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver is now one of England's most popular exports. He has sold over ten million cookbooks worldwide and, most recently, has been on a daring mission to educate Britain about its naughty eating habits (see chapter 6). He was voted the 'Most Inspiring Political Figure of 2005' by a Channel 4 News viewer poll and in 2003 was awarded an MBE.
In truth, no men on earth can cheer like Englishmen, who do so rally one another's blood and spirit when they cheer in earnest, that the stir is like the rush of their whole history.
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No other actor epitomises Englishness like Londoner Michael Caine. Having starred in over 100 films, Caine has been nominated for an Oscar six times and has won twice. Can you name the two films? His famous cockney accent has graced such internationally successful films as Zulu (1964), Alfie (1966), The Italian Job (1969) and, more recently, The Dark Knight trilogy (2005–2012). All together now, 'My name is Michael Caine ...'
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His career now spanning seven decades, Cliff Richard is one of England's most popular entertainers. He has sold over 250 million albums, 21 million in the UK alone. A national treasure, Richard's real name is Harry Rodger Webb. In September 2013, Richard released his hundredth album!
I travelled among unknown men, In lands beyond the sea: Nor England! Did I know till then What love I bore to thee.
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Robbie Williams, one of England's favourite entertainers in recent years, is also the UK's most successful male solo artist ever. Also a member of boy band Take That (twice), Williams has sold over 70 million records and sold out his 2006 'Close Encounters' tour of 1.6 million tickets in a single day – a Guinness World Record, still unbeaten. One of his biggest singles, 'Let Me Entertain You', has been played on radio over four million times.
By this sacredness of individuals, the English have in seven hundred years evolved the principles of freedom.
RALPH WALDO EMERSONCHAPTER 5
Billionaire Richard Branson is one of the world's most high-profile, successful and fascinating entrepreneurs. Since beginning to trade in the music record business in the early 1970s, he has since set up Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Records, Virgin Trains, Virgin Cola, Virgin Active and Virgin Galactic, to name but a few. The latter intends to be the first company to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists. Book your ticket now!
Excerpted from English and Proud of It by William Moore. Copyright © 2014 Summersdale Publishers Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
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Table of Contents
MAKING HISTORY Important Dates in Our History,
WE CAN BE HEROES People We Can Be Proud to Call Our Own,
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER US BY Our Nation's Cultural Highlights,
STARS IN OUR EYES The Entertainers We Love,
THE WRITE STUFF Famous Writers, Poets and Playwrights,
FOOD FOR THOUGHT Our Landmark Dishes,
MAPPING THE NATION Our Weather and Geography,
THE OBJECTS OF OUR DESIRE Iconic Objects and Famous Inventions,
A LAW UNTO OURSELVES The Peculiar Laws that Keep Us Out of Trouble,
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME Famous Places to See and Things to Do,