Retrouvez un cours d'anglais de Terminale ES à propos du thème The British Monarchy, de la notion Lieux et formes de pouvoir.
Dans ce document, vous pourrez comprendre l'évolution et l'histoire de la monarchie britannique. Vous rencontrerez tous les personnages politiques importants jusqu'à aujourd'hui.
Téléchargez gratuitement ce cours pour le Bac ES Anglais sur Places and forms of power.
The British monarchy is the most famous monarchy in the world. Everybody knows the royal family and we hear about them very often: Queen Elizabeth II and her very long reign, Prince William and his marriage to Kate Middleton, followed recently by the birth of their two children.
But the British monarchy is not just about glamour: this system of government has been in place in the United Kingdom since the 9th century. It has changed a lot over time, as we are going to see by studying the history of the British monarchy from its origins until our present time.
In the UK, today, the monarchy is a constitutional monarchy. It means that the monarch, king or queen, is the head of the state, but they rule according to a set of laws and the executive power is left to the hands of established institutions of government – in the United Kingdom, it is Parliament. The monarchy is based on family tradition: the Windsor family is ruling today, and the title of king or queen is passed from generation to generation.
La monarchie britannique est l’un des symboles les plus importants du pays. C’est un système politique qui, s’il est en place depuis la création du royaume, a beaucoup évolué dans le temps. Au fil des siècles, le rôle et les pouvoirs du monarque ont changé, allant vers une diminution progressive de l’influence du seul roi ou reine sur les décisions politiques du royaume. Ainsi, si au XVIème siècle le roi Henri VIII a pu complètement changer la religion officielle de la Grande Bretagne et se déclarer à la tête de cette religion, aujourd’hui la reine Elisabeth II n’a qu’un rôle réduit et n’utilise aucun pouvoir de contrôle politique. On est arrivés à une monarchie constitutionnelle, où le pouvoir politique est exercé par le Parlement, élu démocratiquement, et où la monarchie possède un devoir de représentation et de soutien au peuple britannique.
The formation of the original kingdom of England: It would take a whole encyclopedia to cover the complete history of the monarchy, so we are going to focus on some important points to define the monarchy and its impact throughout History.
The monarchy in England started in early medieval times, after the Viking conquest, with King Alfred the Great, who gathered the different territories of England into one kingdom. At this time, the monarchy was not the monarchy we know today, as for example Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were not yet considered part of the United Kingdom. The rules and principles of the monarchy only came later in History.
Alfred the Great, « King of the English »
The Norman conquest: in the 11th century, William the Conqueror won the throne of England at the battle of Hastings, in 1066. He was from Normandy in France, and as he claimed the throne, he introduced French at the court, and this is one of the reasons why we can find some words derived from French in the English language. William the Conqueror also created the first census in England. It was a very important step because William recorded the whole territory, which allowed him to know exactly the limits of his kingdom, he knew who his subjects were, how wealthy they were and he established a tax system based on this census. It was the first form of written evidence of the people of England and their economic situation.
The English monarchy has been the subject of many conflicts to win power, and different families reigned over the centuries: the Plantagenets (from France, with Henry II (1154-1189) who ruled over France and then England), or John Lackland (Jean Sans Terre) who faced rebellion from his barons and signed the Magna Carta, the first official document which gave rights to the subjects.)
Another famous royal house is the house of the Tudors, with King Henry VIII and his six wives. To get a divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII (1509-1547) decided to become the Head of the Church of England. Religion changed: England separated from the Pope and the Catholics, and the Church of England (Protestantism) was established. Under the Tudors, Elizabeth I (1558-1603) reigned over a prosperous England. Her reign was an important time for the arts (with Shakespeare) and the exploration of other continents (in particular the colonisation of Virginia, in America).
Elizabeth I of England
The integration of Scotland and Ireland: even though the empire started only with the territories of England (and Wales in the 16th century), Scotland was added to the United Kingdom with the Acts of Union of 1707, which linked the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England together. Scotland has always had a separate, individual identity and culture, but this law united the two kingdoms under one monarch.
Finally, with the 1800 Acts of Union, Ireland joined the kingdom. The English government took power in Ireland after winning against an Irish rebellion. By that time, the official name of the kingdom became: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
The Victorian Era: this period of British History takes its name from Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. This whole part of the 19th century is the Victorian period, which was characterised by a big colonial expansion: Britain was a vast empire with territories all over the world, and Victoria received the title of Empress of India. Her husband, Prince Albert, promoted the arts was at the origin of several museums in London which are still open today, like the Science Museum. At Queen Victoria’s death, at the very beginning of the 20th century, the United Kingdom had reached its highest point in terms of world power. During the Victorian era, a lot of progress was made in science and medicine (notably with the theory On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin).
Queen Victoria (reigned 1837-1901)
In the 20th century, the house of Windsor, which is still the reigning house today, started with King George V (1910-1936), who was king during the First World War. At his death, Edward VIII became king, but only for a few months: he wanted to marry an American woman, Wallis Simpson, who had divorced twice. He wanted her to rule with her, but the Church did not allow that. As a consequence, Edward abdicated and chose to abandon his title to marry her. He ruled from June to December 1936, and after his abdication, his brother became king under the title of George VI. He was Queen Elizabeth II’s father, and was really appreciated by his people. With his wife and his daughter, he showed a lot of courage and solidarity during the Second World War. The king worked closely with his Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill, to organise the country to fight and resist the enemies.
George VI and Winston Churchill, his Prime Minister
When he suddenly died in 1952, his elder daughter Elizabeth inherited the throne of the United Kingdom.
Today, the Head of State of the UK is Queen Elizabeth II. She has been on the throne since 1952, and has established the record of the longest reigning monarch in the History of England and the longest reigning monarch in the world: she has been queen for 65 years! As the monarch of the UK, she works closely with her Prime Ministers and keeps track of all the political, economic and social affairs of her country.
In our modern society, the queen only has a role of representation: she doesn't use her royal power, and is not governing the country. All the big decisions are taken by the government and Parliament, in fact the queen is not allowed to show her political preferences and has to remain neutral, especially during elections.
Elizabeth II and her current Prime Minister, the conservative Theresa May
The royal family also has that important role of representation. For example, Prince William and Kate Middleton, who have the title of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are often invited to events, where they get to meet the British people, visit charities, schools or hospitals and show that the monarchy supports the initiatives taken in the country. The royal family is a favourite of the media, and their public appearances are followed by the press in the whole world. In public events and ceremonies, the royal family is particularly interested in education, and in the promotion of equality for all. Moreover, they support many different charities and organisations to contribute to their development.
Today, the heir to the throne (who will become the monarch after Queen Elizabeth II dies) is Prince Charles. The next on the list is his son, Prince William, and after him, Prince George. The rule is that the oldest child of the current monarch becomes the next king or queen, no matter if they are a man or a woman.
Prince Charles, the heir to the throne
Today, the British royal family is still very popular. They sometimes face criticism from people in the UK but also in the rest of the world, who are against the principle of monarchy and are favourable to other political systems like the Republic. The main aspects of criticism are :
Monarchy is an old system that is not adapted to our society today. Some people see it as an unjust way of governing, that is attached to a history of inequality and privileges.
Some think that the royal family is not necessary and that the UK doesn’t need them to be governed efficiently. They see them as a waste of money, and an unjustified privileged family.
However, most people in the UK, according to polls, still love the royal family and their monarchy. That majority argue that the British royal family is part of their history and identity, and that they represent an important tradition that distinguishes them from the rest of the world (just like with France and the important tradition of the Revolution).
People in favour of the monarchy also think that having a king or queen as the Head of State gives a good example and model to the citizens. The monarch also represents the country to the rest of the world at events, international meetings and ceremonies.
Today, we can see the popularity of the royal family at public events and celebrations: a lot of people go in the streets to get the chance to exchange a few words with the members of the royal family, and during events like the birth of a baby or the birthday of the queen, people celebrate to show their support. It makes them feel like a part of that family, and it makes the royal family appear closer to their people.
Census : recensement
wealthy : riche
empress : impératrice
charities : associations
heir to the throne : héritier du trône
against : contre
efficiently : efficacement
waste of money : perte d’argent
polls : sondages
closer to : plus près de
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