[quote]Originally posted by Stroszek:
<strong>This may be another stupid question, but where I come from, the only thing that they teach us about the UK is that you tried to tax us without representation.
If England, Scotland, and Wales are countries, then what is the United Kingdom? Is it kind of like the European Union? Or is it a country too?
The royal family is actully the royal family of Wales, right? But do they rule over all of the UK, or just Wales, and if they rule over all of the UK, did Wales at some point conquer England and Scotland?</strong><hr></blockquote>
<img src="graemlins/surprised.gif" border="0" alt="[Surprised]" /> England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland were originally entirely separate countries with their own governments but they were conquered by the English at various points during the Middle Ages - or to be more precise, by the Norman French who had conquered the native English. (The exception is Scotland which became part of the Union when King James the somethingthe ascended to the throne of England I]and[/I] Scotland in 160something). Southern Ireland won independence in the 1920s (I think), but because the majority of the population in northern Ireland was protestant descendants of Scottish settlers, as opposed to the Catholic Irish, they were allowed to remain under the British government in the province of Northern Ireland - and most northern Irish protestants are still vehemently opposed to integration with the Republic of Ireland, however much the British government might like this.
Nowadays, the term 'United Kingdom' refers, as Jamie rightly says, to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all governed from London although Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions all have varying degrees of autonomy. The situation is similar to the position of the US states in relation to the federal government. The geographical term Great Britain, or just Britain, is a synonym for United Kingdom.
The Royal Family are the royal family of the United Kingdom, although it should be remembered that they are just constitutional figures for the tourists, and have no real power. The official title of Prince Charles is the Prince of Wales, but again this is just a title and has no real meaning.