The full name of the my country of birth and normal residence is complex. More complex, indeed, than seems reasonable for what is – functionally – an oddly-crinkly splat of land off the West coast of Europe.

See, until the Acts of Union 1707, we had the Kingdom of England, and the Kingdom of Scotland (don’t ask about Wales right now, just roll with it). The Acts styled the new, single state thus, in article III:

III. That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament, to be styled the Parliament of Great Britain.

But here’s the thing; at this point in history, capitalisation rules were not the same as they are now, and the word ‘United’ is commonly held to have been descriptive. Thus, the long-form name of the country created by the Acts was the ‘Kingdom of Great Britain,’ or – for short – ‘Great Britain.’ These are the forms used in legislation post-1707.

This does not, of course, tally with the opinion of many Britons, who think of their country as ‘The United Kingdom’. Now, that form came into use with the Act of Union 1800, enacted at the start of 1801. Wikipedia is quite clear and consistent on the issue:

1707-1800: “Kingdom of Great Britain

1801-1927: “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

1927-: “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

(Note that it took five years from 1922 to change the country name. There’s a natural inertia to such things, apparently).

However, clarity and consistency do not imply a lack of dissent, and the Discussion page for the Kingdom of Great Britain article becomes a knock-down, drag-out, even (bizarrely self-styled, by one participant) gladiatorial contest. It’s a cracking read, if only to gain an insight into what rational people have to go through to make Wikipedia what it is.


  1. I’m persuaded by the argument therein that the current (protected) Wikipedia stylings are reasonable.
  2. The distinction between the state from 1707 and from 1801 seems rational and useful.
  3. I’m glad I’m currently in (the Republic of) Ireland, and don’t have to worry about this stuff so much.
  4. Let’s not mention the name of the national flag, eh?