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United Kingdom

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990327.  Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:24 am Reply with quote

About time we had a UK entry.

What is the capital city of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Answer is London. But which London? Is it the City of London - the square mile? If so then the seat of government would be the City of Westminster. Is it the old definition of Inner London (old LCC area) or Greater London (GLC area)?

There appears to be no clear legal basis underpinning London's role and which London is being referred to. Indeed it is unclear exactly when London became the capital city of England (and later the UK). Historically the Square Mile would have been regarded as London and therefore the capital.

Sadurian Mike
990342.  Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:20 am Reply with quote

Zebra57 wrote:
About time we had a UK entry.

Nul points.

Sadurian Mike
990344.  Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:22 am Reply with quote

Winchester was capital for a time, but then the king and court did not used to have a permanent home, so in that respect the seat of government used to move around the country.

990399.  Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:55 am Reply with quote

London is only the capital of the UK de facto - nowhere in statute is it stated so to be. Most countries identify the capital city in their constitutions, but the UK can't do that because it's never bothered to write its constitution down properly.

I think I'd argue that Winchester was the de facto capital until shortly after 1066, and then Westminster became that thing. As for when Westminster came to be regarded as part of London rather than as a distinct place, perhaps sometime around the time of Shakespeare.

990450.  Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:31 pm Reply with quote

Winchester was the capital of Wessex and became capital of England after Wessex gained supremacy. If Mercia had become dominant then Tamworth and later possibly Stafford may have become capital city.

One could argue that Winchester was capital during the reigns of William the Conqueror and William Rufus, as it was the location of the Royal Treasury. From Henry I onwards London becomes more important. It probably succeeded Winchester after a gradual changeover following a time when there were dual capitals.

Westminster's significance as Seat of Government started with Edward the Confessor building an abbey and royal palace there. The location after 1265 of Parliament sealed its importance. London and Westminster only merged politically in 1889. Westminster became a city in 1540 making it distinct from encroacing urban sprawl London and again in 1900 and 1965 following local government reform.

One could argue that historically, like the Netherlands is now, that England and later the UK has had a de facto separate Capital from its Seat of Government.

990457.  Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:18 pm Reply with quote

After the Danes burned down Tamworth in 874, what did become the de facto capital of Mercia?

Was it Stafford, or was it Repton (as they claim in Derbyshire, but probably nowhere else)? Or was it Gloucester - at least until Gloucester became Wessex territory?

990485.  Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:31 am Reply with quote

"In the year 913 Stafford was fortified by Ethelfleda, Lady of Mercia and daughter of Alfred the Great, becoming the new capital of Mercia (the previous capital having been in or near Stone)." (source: Staffordshire CC.)

Repton is often claimed to be a former capital of Mercia, but was the location of its royal mausoleum. The ancient crypt at Repton Church was the resting place of Mercian kings. It had also been a religious centre being the see of the Bishop of Mercia until moved to Lichfield in 669AD.

990543.  Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:20 am Reply with quote

Interesting that discussion of the UK almost immediately starts a discussion on historic capitals of England.

990604.  Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:56 am Reply with quote

Has Edinburgh always been the capital of Scotland, and Cardiff of Wales?

I guess Belfast was invented as the capital of Northern Ireland after partition, but before that was the capital always Dublin?

990606.  Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:00 am Reply with quote

Nope, the capital of Scotland has been Scone and Dunfermline in the past, Dunfermline was capital from about 1070 - 1440 AD, at which point Auld Reekie took over, and is known as the ancient capital of Scotland and I think that's where the moniker of The Kingdom of Fife comes from. Scone is even more ancient than Dunfermline dating up to 1070 AD.

990734.  Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:38 pm Reply with quote

Cardiff became a city in 1905; before that Wales only had one city Bangor. Cardiff was proclaimed the capital of Wales in 1955, before that date Wales did not have a Capital.

Scone was the ancient capital of the Pictish Kingdom which came to an end in 843AD when the Kingdoms of the Picts and Scots were united by Kenneth MacAlpin (843-858) King of the Picts. It was not until the reign of Donald II (889-900) that the term King of Scotland was used. At this time the capital tended to be where the king resided.

Dunfermline became the capital of Scotland under Malcolm III (1058-1093) as a new seat for royal power and he initiated changes that eventually made the town the de facto capital of Scotland until the assassination of James I at Perth on 21 February 1437. His son James was only 6 years old when he was crowned at Holyrood Abbey on March 25th 1437.

Shortly afterwards Edinburgh was considered a safer location for the infant James II to reside and assumed the role of capital city.

Belfast became the capital of the newly established Northern Ireland in 1921, when the country was partitioned in the Government of Ireland Act (1920). The first parliament of Northern Ireland was convened in the City Hall in 1921.

990762.  Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:34 am Reply with quote

I wondered by the Stone of Scone was so important (even though it's now broken).

990953.  Sun Apr 21, 2013 6:44 pm Reply with quote

The Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny had many stories as to its history and origin. However modern analysis shows that the block of red sandstone had been quarried locally in the Scone area.

The less famous Coronation Stone at Kingston-upon-Thames Surrey, was where the Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex were crowned. Whether it was an actual coronation stone is open to doubt.

992511.  Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:48 am Reply with quote

Zebra57 wrote:
Cardiff became a city in 1905; before that Wales only had one city Bangor.

What about St. David's?

992653.  Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:31 pm Reply with quote

"In the 16th century, a town was recognised as a city by the English Crown if it had a diocesan cathedral within its limits, but this link was abolished in 1888. In 1991 St Davids town council proposed that a case for city status should be promoted in respect of the Queen's fortieth anniversary on the throne, and in 1992 the Home Office agreed to refer the matter to Buckingham Palace. In 1994, at the request of the Queen, St Davids was again granted city status along with the Irish town of Armagh, "In recognition of their important Christian heritage and their status as cities in the last century". The letters patent conferring city status, which the residents had long considered it to have anyway, were officially presented by the Queen in a ceremony at St Davids Cathedral on 1 June 1995." (Wiki)


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