The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is composed of the four countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The largest, England, is the seat of government, a constitutional monarchy; a country of 50, 000 plus square
miles and more than 50 million people.
At its zenith in the late 19th and 20th centuries it ruled one of the largest empires ever known, spreading to all seven continents. Today, the British Commonwealth has replaced the former far-flung empire with a voluntary association of friendly countries- 49 and more than one billion people- with a common language, background and heritage. The strength of the Commonwealth resides in its diversity- all countries equal with fairness to all.
Occupied as long ago as 60, 000 B.C. by Western and Northern invaders, and much later (3, 000 B.C.) by Celts, England’s history is so involved and complex only an overview is possible. The Romans occupied it for almost five centuries, then Angles, Saxons, Jutes and later Danes for another 500 years until the Norman King William I made the last successful invasion of England. Before William there had already been 15 Anglo Saxon and Danish kings. He continued the reign of kings: four Norman, eight of the House of Anjou-Plantagenet, three of
the House of Lancaster, with all three Henrys, IV, V and VI, three of the House of York, including Richard III, five of the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, two of the House of Stuart, Oliver Cromwell and Richard Cromwell of the Commonwealth, four of the restored House of Stuart, seven of House of Hanover, including Victoria, and four of the House of Windsor, including present Elizabeth II, since 1952.
It represents an amazing engineering fest, and for centuries observers have wondered “why” and “how” about the huge oval of lintels and megalithic pillars. The widely-held view of the 18th and 19th century romantic was that Stonehenge was the work of the Celtic Druid cult, but later study indicated the builders predated the arrival in Britain of that group. The latest thinking dates on the Stonehenge from 1850 and 1300 B.C. The monument stands out starkly on the plain of Salisbury, about nine miles north of the city.
A Harvard astronomer put Stonehenge through a computer and concluded: solar and
lunar alignments marked a calendar which men used as a guide in planting and harvesting. The outer ring of 56 holes, some yards outside the outer ring of stone, enabled priests to predict eclipses. They could assemble the people at this awesome shrine for a terrifying spectacle, and they by ritual bring back the life-giving sun!
Today, because of vandalism, the tourist is restrained by a fence from walking inside the remaining circles of stones.
Most first-time travelers from the United States approach Europe through London and England. After a nine-hour plane ride, tourists want to hear English spoken, though they may have trouble with the accent, food they
understand and a culture they recognize. There is so much to see and do in London, many never get beyond that grand city before hiking off to European capitals. The absolutely best feature of travel is that you make all your own rules, for each of us searches for different rewards.