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Flag of the United Kingdom
Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom within Europe.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, the UK or - informally - Britain) is a sovereign state that lies to the north-west of the continent of Europe. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain and the north-east part of the island of Ireland, sharing a land border with the Republic of Ireland. The United Kingdom is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and its ancillary bodies of water, including the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, St George's Channel, and the Irish Sea. It is linked to France and Continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel.

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy composed of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who is also the Queen and Head of State of fifteen other Commonwealth Realms, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica. The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man form a federacy with the United Kingdom collectively known as the British Islands. The UK also has fourteen overseas territories, all remnants of the British Empire which at its height encompassed a quarter of the world's surface and population.

Although Britain was the foremost great power during the 19th century, and a superpower in the early 20th century, the economic cost of two world wars and the decline of its empire in the latter half of the 20th century diminished its status in global affairs. However, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a nuclear power, a member of the G8, the world's fifth largest economy, and having the third highest defence spending, the UK remains an important political, economic and military world power. It is a member of the European Union and the Commonwealth of Nations.

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The double colonnade on the south front of West Wycombe is highly unusual in English architecture.

West Wycombe Park is a country house near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England. Built between 1740 and 1800 as a pleasure palace for the decadent 18th-century libertine and dilettante Sir Francis Dashwood, the house is long and rectangular, and all four façades are columned and pedimented, three theatrically so. The house combines and encapsulates the entire progression of British 18th-century architecture from early idiosyncratic Palladian to the Neoclassical, although anomalies in the design of the house make it architecturally unique. It is in an 18th-century landscaped park, surrounded by smaller temples that act as satellites to the greater temple, the house.

The house was given to the National Trust in 1943 by Sir John Dashwood, 10th Baronet (1896–1966), an action strongly resented by his heir. Dashwood retained ownership of the contents of the house, much of which he sold; after his death, the house was restored at the expense of his son, Sir Francis Dashwood. Today, while the structure is owned by the National Trust, the house is the home of Sir Edward Dashwood and his family. The house is open to the public during the summer months and a venue for civil weddings and corporate entertainment, which help to fund its maintenance and upkeep. (more...)

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Damon Hill at French Gran-Prix in 1995

Damon Hill is a retired British racing driver and the 1996 Formula One World Champion. The son of the late, two time Formula One world champion Graham Hill, he is the only son of a world champion to win the title himself. Hill started his Formula One career with the Brabham team in 1992. He went on to take his first win at the 1993 Hungarian Grand Prix for the Williams team, the first of 22 victories, of which 21 were for Williams.

In 1994 he won the British Grand Prix, a race his father had never won during his own career. In the mid 1990s, Hill was Michael Schumacher's main rival for the Formula One Driver's Championship, finishing runner-up in the German's 1994 and 1995 title seasons. The two had a series of controversial clashes on and off track, including the famous collision at Adelaide in 1994 that gave Schumacher his first title by a single point. Hill was dropped by Williams for 1997 despite taking eight victories and winning his world championship in 1996. He went on to record the Jordan team's first ever win at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix, and came within a few miles of being the only driver to win a Grand Prix for the Arrows team and their Yamaha engine supplier at the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix. (More...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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HenryMoore RecliningFigure 1951.jpg
Photo credit: Andrew Dunn

Henry Moore's Reclining figure (1951) is characteristic of Moore's sculptures, with an abstract female figure intercut with voids. There are several bronze versions of this sculpture, but this one is made from painted plaster, and as of 2007 is sited outside the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (on loan from the Henry Moore Foundation).

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