Great Britain, The United Kingdom. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland- a Kingdom it may be but united it certainly isn’t. With a checkered past of squabbles and warfare between the countries not to mention the barbaric treatment of places they have invaded in the past, Britain has certainly made a lot of noise for such a small island. Yet these days things seem to be much calmer for the country that gave us The Beatles, Helen Mirren and Fish and Chips, things quieting down among the much noisier chest-beaters of the world such as the USA and Russia. But how can a country that once seized over 90% of the world change so dramatically? The answer is, it actually really hasn’t; well not in the way you would expect. The UK is still one of the most powerful nations in the world yet has changed with regards to liberal and westernized attitudes. In fact, the UK is one of the most forward-thinking countries, especially when you look at things like gay marriage, interracial weddings and abortion. Nobody actually cares, and even when they did they soon got over it!
But that’s not to say the UK isn’t still old fashioned. With many laws and legislation’s still around today that are wholly unfair and ridiculous, the UK can be extremely meticulous within a number of things, and that’s not to mention their penchant for class divisions. Throughout history the UK has been known to enjoy widening the gap between the ever so rich and the dastardly working class, especially in its glorious yet preposterously expensive capital, London.
So, for a country that was recently called ‘just a small island that nobody pays attention to’ by Vladimir Putin, here are 15 shocking facts that you didn’t know about Great Britain. Even Putin will be gobsmacked.
15. The Queen Has No Real Power
Known famously for its Royal Family that dates back hundreds of years, the role of head monarch is a far cry from what it used to be. Purely ceremonial, the head of state is there to bring in tourists and look good doing so; I mean did you see Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding? Now that’s not to say she has no purpose. For example the current Queen, Elizabeth II, has the power to appoint and remove Ministers of the crown, issue and withdraw passports and even declare war! However, compared to monarchs of the past, if old Liz did in fact suddenly decide she wanted to invade France, the current prime minister would certainly not allow it and would indeed be listened to.
14. The Queen Has No Passport
Speaking of passports, despite all passports being issued under the Queen’s name, she herself doesn’t even need one. Yes! When the Queen travels to other countries she isn’t just having a wonderfully enjoyable holiday but is in fact on a ‘diplomatic mission.’ Able to skip customs, security and passport control, Queen Elizabeth is able to go anywhere she pleases. However, the rest of her brood aren’t so lucky, all having to ask their highness for identification. No wonder she likes to travel.
13. Queen Elizabeth II Owns A Lot Of Stuff
Despite having no real power, Queen Elizabeth II is in fact the legal owner of one-sixth of the earth’s land surface- crazy, huh? As well as technically ‘owning’ the UK, Elizabeth also possess over thirty other states and territories some of which include Australia, Jamaica and the 2nd largest country in the world, Canada, which really brings in the big bucks. She is only allowed to own each country rather than reign it, but the Commonwealth, as it is known, is loved and loathed all round the world. So much for not doing anything.
12. Underage Drinking Is Perfectly Legal
When asking people to describe a British person, alcohol usually comes into the equation. Famed for being able to handle their booze and the ‘Pint’ becoming a staple part of the British diet, the rules on alcohol can also be rather blurry. While the law states that alcohol can not be sold to anyone under the age of 18, it is in fact legal for a child aged five and above to drink alcohol at home or on any other private property. No wonder they can all drink you under the table.
11. Horse Meat Is a Big No-No
Although normal for many other countries to indulge in a little bit of horse meat, the UK is violently against it and was rocked by a horse meat scandal in 2013, which resulted in huge outrage and embarrassment. To combat such events the UK permits that every horse, pony, mule and, erm… zebra… must have a current and up to date passport able to travel with them wherever they go. With the law stating that every owner or keeper has a legal duty to have their animal correctly identified, the legislation is designed to protect the human food chain and ensure that animals are not slaughtered for human consumption. Crikey!
10. Slavery Was Only Recently Abolished
With the USA notoriously famed for its role in slavery during its history, the UK’s involvement is usually ignored. However, although abolished in the 19th century, slavery was not made a statutory offense in the UK until April 6, 2010, when the UK government needed a law to stop sex traffickers. But it’s not only the UK- both Saudi Arabia and Yemen only terminated the practice in 1962, with Mississippi, USA as late as 2013.
9. Concentration Camps
Inventors of the television, the World Wide Web and the Mini, the Brits have also created some other questionable ideas. Usually associated with the German Nazis in World War 2, concentration camps were actually first used by the Brits during the second Anglo-Boer war between 1900 and 1902. With Lord Kitchener struggling to beat his opposition, he decided to put Boer fighter’s family members into concentration camps in order to stop them from giving food to the Boer fighters. Inexcusably cruel, the practice was just the tip of the iceberg to what the British Empire went on to commit.
8. Three Person Babies
In 2015 the British parliament voted in favor of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man, making it the first country in the world to ever do so. Ever the liberal thinkers, the technique is designed to stop certain genetic diseases passed on from mother to child. Despite a heavy amount of protest that accused the government of ‘playing God,’ the overall attitude was a positive one and a giant step in the advance of technology.
7. Kate Middleton Brings in the Money
Credited with boosting the UK’s economy by over £1 Billion pounds in 2012, Kate Middleton is certainly a favorite among many, especially the Royal Family, whose popularity has never been so high. With the general public opting to look, dress, and act like Middleton herself, it has been reported that the average woman spends over £250 in trying to achieve that Middleton look. “Kate Copycats,” as they are affectionately known, continue to adore the future queen, with each Middleton outfit replicated in stores as soon as she is seen wearing it.
6. Cocaine Baby Changers
In 2011 research found traces of the highly addictive drug, cocaine, in 92% of public baby changing tables. That’s right, a team from Northwest England detected hints of the white stuff in 9 out of 10 tables, all located in shopping centers, churches and even police stations! With the UK recently labeled as the “Cocaine Capital of Europe,” the results hardly come as surprise, but are still both disgusting and terrifying nonetheless!
5. It’s Ridiculously Historic
With a history so far back it makes most other countries look like babies, the UK is famed all around the world for its wonderful, albeit barbaric, history. From Stonehenge to Windsor Castle, even the average family home is about 200 years old. However, one home in particular, which is now dubbed the oldest house in the world, is a humongous 10,500 years old, beating Stonehenge by a gigantic 6,000 years. Located in North Yorkshire by archaeologists, the house was said to protect its inhabitants from the weather during the end of the last Ice Age.
4. A Royal Nazi
Edward VIII, the late uncle of current Queen, Elizabeth II, was said to be delighted when the Nazi’s came into power before the start of World War II. Although it was apparently well known within the Royal elite, it was only confirmed when a picture was released portraying the young prince among a number of German Nazis. Surprisingly, around the same time the picture was released, a video was published that showed a young Queen Elizabeth II and her sister shockingly giving the Nazi Salute in 1933. With German roots running deep, the family famously changed their very German surname ‘Saxe-Coburg und Gotha’ to the more British ‘Windsor’ during World War I to avoid any unnecessary links to the opposition.
3. 1 In 3 Women Have Had An Abortion
Abortion in the UK has been legal in England, Scotland, and Wales since 1967 and is rarely looked upon as immoral or unlawful. In fact, figures recently showed that the number of women aborting their unborn children had risen, from 154,300 in 1995 to just over 200,000 in 2013. With many women using abortion as a backup option to a failure in contraception, it has been said that that number could escalate due to many women now preferring to focus on their careers rather than starting a family.
2. It Is Legal To Kill a Scottish Man
Famed for having a somewhat checkered past, England and Scotland have on numerous occasions gone on to have full on fisticuffs. With a relationship that can only be described as ‘tolerable,’ the Scots and the English are now less likely to kill each other but rather fight over who won at the football. However, it was recently revealed that an old law in the city of York readily allows the killing of any Scotsmen, provided that they are carrying a bow and arrow, that is.
1. The Ugly Truth of the British Empire
At its height, the British Empire was by far the largest empire in history and was certainly an empire not to be messed with. Rivaling the Roman and Ottoman empires, the British at one point held over one fifth of the world’s entire population. Responsible for amazing advances in engineering, medicine, art, and transportation, the British Empire was also to blame for a number of barbaric escapades. With concentration camps, torture, resettlement and apartheid to name but a few, many of the awful deeds committed seem to have been swept under the rug and forever ignored.