Tag Archives: uk

The ‘City Of London’ Is Actually A City Inside London

C.G.P. Grey, who previously educated us to the difference between England, Britain and the U.K., now points out that even more confusingly, there are two Londons: the City of London and Greater London. The latter is what most people think of when they say and hear the word ‘London’, and it is the capital of the UK, has a mayor and about seven million people. However, in the middle of it, there’s an entirely separate city that is much older, is its own county, has its own mayor, police, representative in Parliament, electoral process, and houses most of the area’s financial industry along with only about 11,000 people.

Map of Greater London (pink) with the City of London in the center (red)


The City of London was built by the Romans in the first century AD and, a hundred years later, they also built some very good walls around it. A thousand years after that, when William the Conqueror invaded England, he found it difficult to subdue the city, so he granted it special status and rights that the city still enjoys today. But its boundary has remained unchanged this entire time and as urban sprawl rose up on its perimeter, it became a city within a city. The urban area around it became Greater London but, as Rome has no authority over the Vatican, it has no authority over the City of London.

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From YouTube, via Laughing Squid

The Queen’s Speech

In the UK, the season opening for lawmaking is called The State Opening Of Parliament. The occasion is akin to the American State of the Union Address, but with a lot more pomp and circumstance. It starts out with the queen arriving at Parliament, putting on the imperial robes and crown, going into the House of Lords and sitting on a golden throne. (Her husband, Prince Philip, accompanies her and sits to her left.) Someone whose title is Black Rod then goes into the House of Commons and summons them to the House of Peers, which is the ceremonial name for the House of Lords and comes from “peerage” as it’s used to denote British nobility. (Black Rod has to summon them because the monarch hasn’t been allowed in the House of Commons ever since Charles I went in trying to arrest five of the members in 1642.) The commoners then head into the House of Lords, walking in pairs, line up at the back of the room on the opposite side of the queen, and listen to her speech while standing up.


Chamber of the House of Lords. The throne is in the back.


The Lord Chancellor then presents the queen with a speech written on vellum which she reads, while sitting on the throne, to the combined houses of Parliament. The funny thing is she didn’t write the speech, but rather her cabinet did. The British monarch has little real power, and the government is headed up by ministers which are members of Parliament. The ruling party (or coalition of parties) form a cabinet, led by a minister who is thereafter known as the Prime Minister, and who ceremonially reports to the queen. And officially, the queen is the head of state, which means she is in charge of the government and therefore the cabinet that heads it, so she gives the speech even though she didn’t write it. It outlines the agenda for the legislative session, which amounts to the queen saying that her government will propose such and such laws. At the end, a disclaimer is given that other legislation may also be added.

The 2012 State Opening of Parliament happened today, and Parliament provided a video of the affair. The speech itself runs from about 4:00 to 12:30 in the video, while the rest contains the interesting ceremonial parts.

From Parliament

The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained

Excellent video on why the UK, Great Britain, and England are NOT all the same thing. And why Australia and the UK have the same queen.



Also check out the poster version.