To treat the governments of Europe individually, it is necessary to confine ourselves to the briefest statements of facts as gleaned from available statistical material.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland comprises England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and other British isles, amounting to about 500 in number, one-half of which are inhabited, and all lying just west of the main continent of Europe in the Atlantic Ocean. The total area of the United Kingdom is 120,973 square miles, with a population of 37,888,439. Originally England stood alone. In 1172 A.D. she took Ireland by conquest. In 1282 she conquered and annexed Wales. In 1603 Scotland was induced to join her.
The government is an hereditary limited monarchy, with the sovereign as chief executive. The legislative department embraces the sovereign and the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is composed of 540 members of the titled nobility. There are 670 members in the House of Commons, elected by the people, 465 representing England, 30 Wales, 72 Scotland, and 103 Ireland.
England and Wales form the southern and larger part of the island. Scotland forms the northern and smaller part. Ireland forms an independent island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on all sides except the east, where it is separated from Great Britain by St. George's Channel, the Irish Sea, and the North Channel.
Religiously the inhabitants of the United Kingdom are divided as follows: Roman Catholics, which predominate in Ireland, about 6,000,000 ; Episcopalians, which predominate in England, about 14,000,000; Presbyterians, which predominate in Scotland, about 1,400,000. All other branches besides those mentioned and Jews, are classed as Dissenters, of which there are 6,000,000. The Jewish faith numbers 60,000.
London, the capital of the British. Empire, is the largest city and chief commercial emporium of the world, with a population of nearly 5,000,000 inhabitants. In commerce, industry and finance, as also in art and literature, London stands as the chief centre of the world. It also ranks first as a seaport and in manufacture. Among its numerous and magnificent buildings, the most important are Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the Tower.
The reign of Queen Victoria, who ascended the throne in 1837, was in all respects the golden age of British history. She died January 22, 1901, and was succeeded by her son, the Prince of Wales, as King Edward VII.