British nationalism and patriotism

How proud and patriotic are the British?


Patriotism: a complex issue


Patriotism is one of the British aspects that most explains the complexity and facets of Britishness.


While many Brits are proud to belong to Great Britain, they are perhaps even more proud to belong to separate regions such as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Indeed, for the Brits there is nothing strange about feeling proud to be both British and Welsh, Scottish or English at the same time.


This difficulty can be understood through the words of Baron Peter Goldsmith: "There were undoubtedly issues raised about how a national day would be received in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. But the important point to stress in this regard is that there ought to be nothing in the framework of the national day to prevent particular areas from creating events that celebrate other shared identities alongside our bond of shared citizenship.


“People have multiple identities and it would be false for events organised for a national day not to be responsive to that."


British National days


In spite of the lack of an official day dedicated to the Britishness, British people celebrate different national days that are related to the constituent countries or to the Royal Family.


For instance, England’s national day is on St George’s Day, while in Scotland it is on St Andrew’s Day, in Wales it is on St David’s Day and in Northern Ireland it is on St’s Patrick Day.


As far as the Royal Family is concerned, the Queen’s Birthday is celebrated nationwide as a national day as well as in some of the Commonwealth countries.


However, many other days are seen as British national days, even if they are not celebrated annually. For example, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the wedding of the Prince.


During previous decades, governments have established numerous days that British celebrate as national days. They are the Bank Days or the Veterans’ Day.


Yet, the discussion about whether to introduce an official national day is still ongoing in UK Parliament.


A calendar of British national days

Below is a useful calendar illustrating the various national days in Britain.


Bear in mind that those days are linked to some Saints and are therefore celebrated in other countries around the world.


1 March: St David’s Day in Wales
Flickr / St David: Guardian Cardiff


17 March: St Patrick’s Day in Northern Ireland
Flickr / St Patrick: Giuseppe Milo


21 April: Queen’s Official Birthday
Flickr/Foreign and Commonwealth Office


23 April: St George’s Day in England
Flickr/Tamworth Council


11 June: Armed Forces Day


11 November: Remembrance Day (or Poppy Day)
Flickr/Mark Tisdeale


30 November: St Andrew’s Day in Scotland
Flickr/Mark Tisdeale


The symbols of British patriotism


British nationalism and patriotism is deeply rooted in the Royal Family.


Since the battle of Hasting in 1066 when William the Conqueror occupied England, royal families have ruled over the land.


Since 1917, the Windsor family (formerly named Coburgo-Gotha and Saxe) is ruling the United Kingdom.


The current Queen, Elizabeth II, is the warrantor of the British unity and the supreme symbol of the patriotism.


Great Britain, the political entity that embraces England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, was officially established in 1707 with the Act of Union passed by the Parliament.


In the same year, the renowned Union Jack became the flag of Great Britain.


Flickr/Jerome Briot


The empire is also another relevant aspect of the British patriotism.


Even if almost no one nowadays wants to build the empire again, it was a constituting part of Britishness in the 19th and the first half 20th century.


In the period of its maximum extension, in 1921, the Royal Crown controlled directly or indirectly the East and South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria, the Indian peninsula plus Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Myanmar, Australia, Canada, Iraq, Palestine, Oman Yemen, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, the West Indies and several strategic islands in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.


People representing Britishness around the world


Throughout history, there have been people whose work has made people proud of being British. These are people that, as soon as they are mentioned, make you think about Great Britain.


William Shakespeare


Shakespeare lived in the Elizabethan period and he is one of the most important and talented writers of all time. His plays and sonnets are still widely translated in many languages and almost everyone in the world knows him.




Winston Churchill


The UK Conservative Prime Minister during the World War II, Churchill is mainly known for his resistance against the Nazi Germany’s occupation attempt.


He carried Great Britain to defeat Nazi Germany and re-established peace in Europe. He is a recognised symbol of freedom and democracy, values he always defended throughout his life.


In a survey conducted in 2002, Winston Churchill was voted as the greatest Briton of all time.


Isaac Newton


Famous scientist and mathematician who lived in the 17th century, Newton revolutionised astronomy, and the third law of motions.


He represents the scientific dominion that the Great Britain was exerting during the modern era.


Flickr/Gafa Kassim


The Beatles

The band from Liverpool, consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, was the first rock band in mass culture that sold albums almost everywhere around the world.


Time magazine referred to The Beatles as the “best-selling band in history”, with more than 600m certified records sold around the world.




David Beckham

Known as one of the most handsome football players in the recent decades, Beckham represents the UK everywhere.


He is the wife of former Spice Girls’ singer, Victoria, and holds sponsorships with leading brands such as Armani, Adidas and Gillette.


Forbes estimated his assets for £190m and People magazine placed him as the world’s most beautiful man.


Flickr/Kelvin xujun HU



Header image: Flickr/Robert Smith


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